Jerome High School senior Sarah Yu didn't know the Siemens Award for Advanced Placement existed until she got a letter informing her that she was one of two winners in the state.
The awards are given out each year to recognize the top achievers in the country in the Advanced Placement tests for science, technology, engineering and math, and come with a $2,000 college scholarship.
The award isn't something Yu applied for, but rather qualified for with top scores on several AP tests.
"It's really cool. I was really surprised," she said. "I kind of knew it existed, but it's not something I tried for.
"I got a letter. It was a nice surprise."
Yu has taken 11 AP courses, several in science and others in required areas such as world history and English. Science classes have always been her favorites.
"Chemistry was my favorite course," Yu said. "Well, it was a tie between chemistry and biology. ... I've always been good at it. As a younger kid I wanted to do things I was good at and I got better. I found chemistry and biology really interesting.
"I've been really fortunate to have good teachers in science and math that made me like them and want to pursue more."
In fact, Yu's pursuit of science led her to present a paper at the 2012 American Society of Emergency Radiology convention.
The opportunity came about when Yu and other students were looking for labs and research projects to observe.
"My dad is a radiologist and a professor of radiology at (the Ohio State University)," she said. "He does research projects and has several projects on the back burner and gives them out to graduate students."
Instead of observing, Yu got a research project from her father that she completed and submitted to the American Society of Emergency Radiology.
"I got to present (it) last September at a conference," Yu said. "It was a lot of work, but a great opportunity. I also won a young scientist award (with the research)."
Yu's research focused on stress fractures in the cuboid bone, which is in the foot.
"It's pretty rare," she said. "There's not a lot of research on it.
"I didn't think it would be as interesting as it is. I really enjoyed it."
The hard work Yu applied to the research project is also the key to the AP test scores that won her the Siemens award and scholarship.
"It's different for every class," she said. "I sit down and do the work. There's no cramming at the last minute. That doesn't work.
"Just do the work. There's no secret to scoring well. I have prep books for most classes. I go to class every day."
Yu isn't all about classroom work, though. In addition to being part of the mock trial team, model UN, lacrosse team and president of the Chinese Club, she also loves riding horses.
"I own two horses and show them individually," she said.
Yu has been riding for 10 years and finished 11th in the 2012 National Reining Horse Association world for youth competition in the 14-18 horseback riders category.
Although she hasn't decided what school to attend next year, Ohio State holds an advantage because of its horse-riding team, based at Autumn Rose Farm in Dublin.
"I applied to different schools all over the country," Yu said. "I'm considering (Ohio State). There are lots of perks. They have a good riding team."