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Tracy Frank, Published December 29 2013

Where Are They Now? Moorhead whiz kid still wows

EDITOR’S NOTE: As a new year begins, The Forum is checking back on former subjects of stories who’ve made us cry, smile, laugh – or all three. They’re people who made a mark on the region in one way or another. We’ll tell you where they are now.

MOORHEAD – As a high school student, his name was all over the place.

Andrew Chen was a National Merit Scholar, 4.0 grade-point-average student, and was one of five senior high students in Minnesota chosen for the Department of Education’s Scholars of Distinction in Mathematics in 2006.

He played violin for the All-State Orchestra, was on the homecoming court, played tennis, served on the student council and scored top rankings both as an individual and with a team in competitions such as Math League, Science Olympiad, Business Professionals of America and Knowledge Bowl.

The Forum wrote a story about Chen and his prowess for numbers in 2005, and in 2007 – the year he graduated from Moorhead High School – Chen appeared in a story called “Whiz kid wows,” about what it’s like for educators to teach stellar students.

Though he’s no longer a kid, Chen’s achievements continue to impress.

Between high school graduation and college, he worked as a business analyst intern for Microsoft.

He went to college at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, where he graduated in 2011 with bachelor’s degrees in computer science and engineering and management science. He also minored in economics.

Chen said he loved college and took as many classes as he could.

“It was such an opportunity,” he said. “I wanted to take advantage of that before I left.”

While in college, he worked as a research assistant in the MIT Media Lab and interned for Weiss Asset Management, HubSpot and Google.

After graduation, Chen worked as an associate technology manager at Google until last April when he became product manager for a startup company called Room 77, a hotel search engine that helps consumers find and book the best prices on more than 200,000 hotels worldwide. The site lets people compare rates across travels sites such as Expedia, Priceline and Orbitz.

“It seemed like an interesting problem to solve,” Chen said. “It’s always kind of a headache to find a hotel.”

Chen, who now lives in Mountain View, Calif., said when he went to college he didn’t know what he would pursue for a career. He considered something in biological sciences or applied statistics but kept an open mind.

“Computer science really is applicable in most every field,” he said. “I just saw endless possibilities with it. It certainly didn’t hurt that well over 70 percent of companies hiring at career fairs were looking for computer sciences majors.”

Missy Eidsness, Moorhead Area Public Schools director of school improvement and accountability, was Chen’s high school math teacher and Mathematics League coach.

Eidsness says she remembers Chen as a kind, well-rounded student who found new ways to challenge himself.

“He was someone who never looked at failure as a bad thing,” Eidsness said. “He found a way to tackle whatever obstacle was in front of him.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526