Student Spotlight Q&A

SPECIAL:  Heather Higdon, Director of Communications

INDIAN HILL, OH (March 1, 2022) – Indian Hill High School junior Vivian Xu just completed an independent research project with the University of Cincinnati Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program in chemistry.

Indian Hill High School student Vivian Xu at the University of Cincinnati Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) poster presentation with Professor Hairong Guan (left) and Professor Anna Gudmundsdottir (right) on August 5, 2021.(Provided)

AND she was trained as an Engineering Explorer with GE Aviation. AND she is currently doing her Indian Hill High School AP Seminar Research on Chinese immigrants into the United States. OH! – Did we mention she is an award-winning dancer, and she is a cellist in the Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra?


We sat down with this standout student to learn more.

Indian Hill School District (IHSD): Vivian! You have been busy! First, tell us how you became involved in the UC REU chemistry program and why you pursued it?

Vivian Xu (VX):

Thank you for having me!

The advanced chemistry class I took in my sophomore year with Mrs. Blankenship sparked my interest in chemistry. At the end of the school year, I reached out to Professor Hairong Guan at the University of Cincinnati and fortunately got the opportunity to work with him and his research group in the chemistry lab for the whole summer. With Professor Guan’s daily coaching, I successfully synthesized two new nickel complexes and characterized their properties through NMR, IR, and crystallographic analysis. In the early stage of my research, I had the opportunity to meet and discuss my project with Professor Anna Gudmundsdottir, program director for Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) in chemistry. She graciously invited me to join REU, which offered me excellent training in presentation skills, scientific writing, and career development. Beyond the weekly workshops, I had a great time with the college students who joined the program from across the country and even overseas such as the University of Cambridge. We all worked hard to deliver a mid-term oral presentation and a final poster session. I am very grateful for the unconditional support from the professors, scientists, and friendship from UC graduate students and REU friends! 

(IHSD): Let’s transition to your experience with GE Aviation – how did you get involved and what was the most significant lesson you learned?


I learned about this Engineering Explorers program sponsored by GE Aviation from my AP Physics teacher Mr. Debbink. It was a great opportunity to witness first-hand what it is like to work in the world of engineering. Through the 12 weeks’ activities, I learned a wide variety of technical career options, such as jet engine design, materials and processes, manufacturing, and Six Sigma quality. The most significant lesson I learned was to keep an open mind on all sorts of possibilities. Before joining the program, I had a minimal understanding of aerospace engineering. This experience opened up additional paths of engineering for me. It was fascinating to see and learn how a jet engine works and all of the various components that support its function. I also got to know many passionate students from other high schools in the Greater Cincinnati area.

(IHSD): Currently you are taking AP Seminar Research at IHHS; while that class is in progress, can you tell us the most exciting part to you so far?


The AP Seminar class I took in my sophomore year greatly improved my critical thinking and academic research skills. This led to my decision in taking AP Research this year to continue this rewarding learning journey. My research topic is about the well-being of Chinese seniors living in the Greater Cincinnati area. I want to use data-supported research to find ways to improve the life of this underrepresented population. The most exciting part of this project so far is to be able to overcome challenges in collecting data on this small population in the middle of the pandemic and winter season. Since the release of the online survey on New Year’s Day, I have received tremendous support from my teachers, mentors, and the Chinese community including the Cincinnati Chinese Church, two Cincinnati Chinese schools, Chinese class teachers at nine public and private schools in Cincinnati. As of today, I have collected 114 survey responses! I am looking forward to completing the data analysis and leveraging the knowledge I learned from the AP Statistics class with Mr. Siebenaller last year. Based on the finding of the current status and the needs of our Chinese seniors, I hope to start the first social and learning event by the end of March.  

(IHSD): Finally, what would you share with your peers to get them involved in opportunities like these?


Indian Hill offers plenty of high-quality classes and has many external connections to out-of-school opportunities. I would say that finding your interests would be the first step to take. This could be achieved by taking a range of classes to discover what you may like. You don’t have to go far to learn that the school and our city have a lot to offer. Just keep an open mind and embrace new challenges. 

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