HKIS Shines on the International Stage:
Arthur Zhang's ('24) Silver Medal Journey
by Estelle Park '24
OCT 3, 2023 - 3 MIN READ
Arthur Zhang '24 (far right) poses with team mates as they explore local sites in the United Arab Emirates as part of their itinerary at the 34th International Biology Olympiad (IBO).
"At a young age, I was always interested in plants because bugs and big animals scared me. That's where my interest in botany started." Arthur Zhang ‘24 recently competed in the 34th International Biology Olympiad (IBO) in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. It was the first time HKIS took part in this competition—out of the 10 HKIS students competing among some 1,000 students in Hong Kong, three went on to further selection stages. Arthur received a Silver Medal and placed 33rd in the world with top ranking in Hong Kong.

The preparation process was challenging as IBO is a big-scale competition with individuals competing worldwide. Arthur first discovered the HKIBO, a Hong Kong national version of the IBO, through a Biology Club meeting. Fellow HKIS student, Isabel Lin ‘24, found the competition online and encouraged Club members to participate. Arthur received a Gold Medal in the competition, which opened the path to entering the Hong Kong national team to compete internationally. "The process was challenging for sure. Rigorous training, including 3-hour lectures hosted by professors from Hong Kong's top universities, meant I had to work hard to balance school work during my Junior year," Arthur said.

In addition to the training process itself, Arthur had to overcome the language barrier with his teammates. All from local schools, the rest of his teammates were fluent in Cantonese. Arthur was fluent in English and Mandarin but not Cantonese, so they had to communicate in a mixture of the three languages. "At first, it was hard, but by the end of the competition, we were all very close friends," Arthur says. Despite the various challenges that were thrown at him, what kept him going was his genuine passion for biology.

The team takes the stage at the 34th International Biology Olympiad. Arthur Zhang '24 took home a silver medal, ranking 33rd in the world and first in Hong Kong.
"Always give everything a try. I wasn't expecting to go this far, but I did. It's important to take opportunities in life and act on them."

Arthur Zhang '24
A Commitment to Student Exploration
The topic of biology at HKIS is synonymous with Mrs. Mulligan, who has taught Biology at the High School since 1989. When Arthur mentioned his favorite lecture on C. elegans, Mrs. Mulligan nodded and said "Oh, roundworms." Clearly, this was a conversation between Biologists! "I love Biology. I love sharing my interest, and I love helping students understand," Mrs. Mulligan said. That’s what makes her tick about teaching Biology. Hong Kong is home for her, but what keeps her at HKIS is the very forward-thinking style of the school. HKIS envisions a school where students can explore and study what they are passionate about. Students are introduced to unique opportunities to find what they truly want to pursue and are given the resources to do so. The recent renovation of the High School campus embodies this mission as well. The new science labs enhance classroom learning with more space and resources to support inquiry.

From Curiosity to Success: Arthur’s Story
As much as scientific developments advance, how people approach science also changes. Pure knowledge of scientific theories and concepts was crucial to learning science in the past, but now it is all about the application of these theories. The key to success can be the ability to use information to analyze data, derive conclusions through logical reasoning, and apply the concepts to make connections to real-life situations. Ms. Mulligan's vision of future Biology career paths is all about application. More specifically, fields like biological engineering, the study of GMOs, and material science are crucial to the future of science and making our earth more habitable.

"Arthur's strongest trait is curiosity," Dee Mulligan said. “Determination and resilience in chasing your curiosity is essential to success. Don’t be afraid to fail. Always be curious because you might end up finding yourself in something you never expected yourself to be in. Arthur wasn't expecting such great results at all when he first put himself to compete at the HKIBO. Only when he earned the Gold Medal did he realize the possibility of competing internationally. But what led him to the position he is in now was not giving up, but to pursue his passion.”

One piece of advice Arthur gives to other biology students or anyone who aims to excel in their academic pursuits is to find a specific topic you are interested in and dive deep. If it weren't for his genuine interest in botany, Arthur wouldn't have been able to come this far. Mrs. Mulligan couldn't agree more with this piece of advice. She loved to observe nature from a young age, which contributed to her pursuit of biology.

Arthur's interview ended with the final quote, "Always give everything a try. I wasn't expecting to go this far, but I did. It's important to take opportunities in life and act on them."

A fun photo with fellow biology fanatics. Part of the benefit of competing internationally is meeting like-minded students from around the world.