Buchholz High senior Jonathan Mei has this school thing down pat.

For Mei, 17, the past two school years have brought a massive haul of state and national academic awards.

January, Mei was one of two Florida students to win the prestigious
Siemens Foundation Award for Advanced Placement, which recognizes
outstanding scores on math and science AP tests.

Last weekend,
Mei won the Sunshine State Scholar program competition in Tallahassee,
which makes him the state's best science and math student.

The accolades don't go to his head.

feel lucky I get to be here at Buchholz and have supporting teachers
and supporting parents who made all this possible," he said. "I guess
hard work played into it as well."**

Buchholz teacher Marilyn
Booher, who taught Mei honors and AP chemistry, said that's Mei –
"confident but never arrogant, never full of himself."

"Academically, he's off the chart, probably in my 34 years of teaching one of my top 10 students," Booher said.

Mei sat in on Buchholz math teacher Will Frazer's geometry class
Thursday, Frazer grinned and acknowledged he was now "the second best
guy in the room."

Frazer coached Mei on Buchholz's math team.
Frazer said Mei's the best math student he's seen in 12 years of
coaching county competitions.

"A lot of math scholars are wired
as social misfits," Frazer said. "Johnny's a regular guy. You wouldn't
know it when you talk to him that he's one of the best math and science
scholars you'll meet … He's just a first-class young man – never
arrogant or cocky."

Winning the Sunshine State Scholar competition was more difficult than passing a quiz in earth science class.

had to write a 15-page research paper on the science, practical
applications and the future uses of lasers. In Tallahassee, he took a
three-hour, 11-question test on math and science and a then made a
20-minute presentation on lasers before a panel of professors and

Mei also is a National Merit Scholarship finalist and
a semi-finalist for the American Association of Physics Teachers
Physics Olympiad.

As a junior, he won math national honor society Mu Alpha Theta's award as the country's best calculus student.

all that is not enough, Mei's not a shabby musician. An accomplished
violin player, he is the Alachua County Youth Orchestra's co-concert
master and he played in the Florida Music Educator Association's All
State Music Concerts, a showcase for the best high school musicians in
the state.

When Mei talks about a well-crafted math problem, it is as if he's passionately describing his favorite painting or poem.

have to have an elegant method instead of brute forcing it and using a
calculator," he said. "You may be able to find some symmetry and solve
it that way. There's a good deal of art in math I find."

math skills started to take shape when he was young child. His mother
taught him numbers as he was learning to speak. He credits his parents
with much of his success.

His mother, Jingjing Zhuo, was a member
of China's 1980 national gymnastics team, who missed out on the
Olympics when the country boycotted the Moscow games.

He said she's passed down to him an athlete's "perseverance and dedication."

father, Renwei Mei, is a mechanical engineering professor at the
University of Florida, who helped teach his son science and, to a
point, math.

"I think he's already given up on teaching me the harder math," Mei said.

ahead to college, Mei has already been accepted by the California
Institute of Technology and UF, where he's already been enrolled in
math and science classes since his junior year.

He'll get word back soon from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

plans to major in biomedical or biological engineering, go on to
medical school and, as a doctor, treat children with neurological
disorders, such as cerebral palsy.

Buchholz Assistant Principal David Shelnutt said Mei has good things ahead but it will be a shame to see him leave campus.

"He's the cream of the crop," Shelnutt said. "He's a brilliant young man and he's just as nice and humble as he is intelligent."

Source: Gainesville Sun – http://tinyurl.com/d957np