Sat, Oct 19, 2019 - Page 4 News List

Special admissions get teen experts in

CHANCE AT A DEGREE:Special talent and motivation to learn have gotten 140 high-school graduates into National Chung Hsing University over the past five years

By Su Meng-chuan and Sherry Hsiao  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Entomology student Wang Yuan-teng, left, holds a praying mantis while fellow student Chen Ting-yu holds a butterfly in Taichung on Tuesday.

Photo courtesy of National Chung Hsing University

Special admissions have permitted two students fascinated with insects since childhood to study this semester in the entomology department at Taichung’s National Chung Hsing University.

Not finishing in the upper percentile when they graduated from high school, Wang Yuan-teng (王遠騰) and Chen Ting-yu (陳亭予) would likely not have had the opportunity to attend a public university if they applied through regular admissions, the university said on Tuesday.

However, special admissions at the university accept students based on a portfolio or interview, rather than the results of their college entrance exam, the university said.

A student’s special talents and motivation to learn are what matter, it said, adding that 140 students over the past five years have been accepted through special admissions, with all going on to perform well.

Wang’s interest in praying mantises began when he was just three years old. In elementary school, he read all of the books on insects in his school library.

Wang learned online how to preserve praying mantises and before moving on to junior-high school, he prepared 10 common insect specimens for future students at his school to use in their natural science classes.

Since he was five years old, Wang has kept 18 of the roughly 20 species of praying mantis native to Taiwan as pets.

In his second year of high school, he caught a Tenodera angustipennis — a species rare in Taiwan — near his home in Hsinchu, which motivated him to study them more.

Over six months, Wang compared the habits of the Tenodera angustipennis and the Tenodera aridifolia and wrote an essay on them.

That essay was presented last year at the annual meeting of the Taiwan Entomological Society, an accomplishment that cemented his dedication to praying mantis research.

In Wang’s second year of high school, he met Yang Jeng-tze (楊正澤), an entomology professor at National Chung Hsing University.

Yang advised Wang to organize his specimen collection and to follow more comprehensive rules for keeping data.

After enrolling at the university, Wang joined Yang’s lab, where he has been learning how to collect insects, examine them and draw them as seen through a microscope.

Wang said that his next goal is to get a book of praying mantis illustrations published so that others in Taiwan can learn about the mysteries of these insects.

Chen’s interest in insect research was influenced by her father, who is an expert on herbivores.

When she was in the fifth grade, her father bought land in the mountains to grow “honey plants” and restore a butterfly habitat.

Nearby farmers laughed when they learned about the family’s conservation project, joking that “there must be something wrong with their heads,” Chen said.

However, over the years, the farmers have witnessed a change in the environment and gradually joined the family’s conservation efforts by eliminating the use of pesticides from their cultivation practices, she said.

Chen, who knows a great deal about butterflies and has led tours at the Insect Museum in Chiayi City, where she is from, said that she hopes to learn more about insects at the university and to devote her career to promoting learning about natural habitats.

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