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Five Questions with Science Hill student Luke Barnes, cancer survivor and MIT hopeful

Brandon Paykamian • Oct 4, 2018 at 10:58 PM

Today, Science Hill High School sophomore Luke Barnes, 15, spends his time much like many other high school students — he attends his local church, spends time engaging in extracurricular activities and is now thinking about his plans for college.

But for Barnes, it wasn’t always that simple. He was diagnosed with leukemia when he was in the fourth grade. After nearly three years of treatment, he beat cancer and began to immerse himself in a new passion — technology.

On Wednesday, the Johnson City Press emailed Barnes, who talked about his experiences, interests and the challenges faced by students today.

Barnes Briefly: 

Extracurricular activities: Swimming, Mu Alpha Theta, Ultimate Frisbee Club, FBLA and North Ridge Community Church membership

Recent Netflix/TV binges and favorite TV shows: Sherlock, Lost in Space, The Office, Man in the High Castle, Stranger Things and The Crown

Favorite musicians: Coldplay

Biggest pet peeve: “When you can just barely hear someone’s music from their earbuds.” 

Favorite pet/animal: Dogs and turtles. 

What's your favorite subject and why?

My favorite subject is math because it is all completely logical and requires the least memorization. Also, it is applicable to so many fields. I enjoy the way it builds on itself so that everything you learn comes from something you already know. It is very good at providing explanations to much of the world in a precise way.

What are your plans after high school?

I plan to go to college after I graduate from high school. I would love to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but I am also exploring other colleges. I would love to study computer science so I could get a job as a software engineer or in a similar career. The reason I am so interested in MIT is because of all the research they do and discoveries they make.

What do you think the biggest challenges are for high schoolers today and why?

I think the biggest challenge for high schoolers in today’s world is stress. There is so much pressure for students to excel academically, athletically and socially. A way to overcome this stress is for students to realize that their whole life is ahead of them and that their performances in high school will not completely determine their fate. More emphasis needs to be placed on growing up and maturing rather than pursuing perfection with no regard to a balanced life.

Who is your biggest inspiration?

My biggest inspiration is my doctor at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Dr. Ching-Hon Pui. I admire the way he dedicated his life to treating childhood leukemia and how he has impacted the lives of millions all over the world through his work. In addition to all that he does to create a better cure for cancer, he also takes time out of his busy schedule to get to know each and every one of his patients.

What's an interesting fact about yourself many might not know?

One thing a lot of people may not know about me is that I am a cancer survivor. I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when I was in fourth grade. For the entirety of the two-and-a-half-year treatment, I was homeschooled and was not able to see very many people. I tried to spend my time on meaningful things while I was sick in spite of my circumstances. That was when I started learning a lot of useful skills involving technology, since I could not take part in so many other activities.

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