A Case Western Reserve undergraduate taking a May term class in Israel died Wednesday after being pulled from a natural spring in one of the country’s national parks.
Lifeguards on site immediately contacted emergency services and performed CPR, but were unable to revive Xinling Yuan. He was 20 years old.
A 2017 graduate of Queens High School for the Sciences, Yuan was pursuing two majors, one in applied mathematics and the other in economics. This week’s course focused on Israel’s innovative entrepreneurial ecosystem; this summer he had planned to conduct economics research in South Dakota as the recipient of a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) award.
Assistant Professor of Economics Jenny Hawkins taught Yuan in three of her courses, and also served as his major advisor for economics. He often sought her guidance in selecting courses, and was eager to begin work to decide the topic for the independent research project required for the economics honors program.
“He knew he wanted to get a PhD and was always preparing himself to succeed on that path,” Hawkins explained. “He just loved to learn and knew he wanted to do research and spend his life learning.”
As a high school student Yuan repeatedly won mathematical science awards in the annual New York City Science and Engineering Fair, which regularly draws about 700 participants. At Case Western Reserve, he was known among faculty for his intelligence, diligence and kindness.
“He was absolutely dedicated to his studies and worked incredibly hard,” recalled his applied mathematics advisor Mary Ann Horn, professor and chair of the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics. “He was a truly sweet young man, and I find it hard to believe he is gone.”
This year, the economics department awarded Yuan the Marvin J. Barloon Award in recognition of outstanding performance in the major during the 2018-2019 academic year. In a letter recommending Yuan for this summer’s REU award, Hawkins praised her student’s “motivation, retention of knowledge, ability to apply concepts to the real world, excitement for mathematics and economics, and his wonderful personality.”
Yuan was so excited to see ways that economic theories played out in daily life that his talks with Hawkins often included references to news articles he had read that featured examples of class lessons. At the same time, she noted, he enjoyed engaging broadly in the campus experience. Last month, for example, she encountered him while walking toward the Case Quad; he was heading to a painting fundraiser celebrating the artist and television host Bob Ross.
“He was one of the brightest and most enthusiastic students I’ve ever come across,” Hawkins said. “To teach and in turn learn from him was truly pure joy. I’ll really miss him.”
The Daily will provide updates regarding planned remembrances and other information as it becomes available.