A 16-year-old Filipino student has been named among the top 11 winners of New York Times STEM writing contest.

Natalia Araña, a student at Philippine Science High School, bested nearly 4,000 entries with her essay on Stradivarius, the most famous violin, and the possibilities of remaking its majestic sound through science. 

The New York Times STEM Writing Contest invited students aged 11-19 to “turn complex ideas” about science, technology, engineering, and math “into easily graspable concepts in 500 words or less.”

In her essay, Araña said only a few hundred Stradivarius violins existed and these were hard to replicate due to global warming.

She said with the increase in global temperature, spruce trees grew wood with greater density, which affected the sound coming from an instrument.

“This negatively affects the properties of an instrument’s vibrations, which are also known as sound waves,” Araña explained.

In an interview with GMA News Online, Araña said she was still “in shock” after learning that she won.

“I didn’t realize that the impact of it would be a huge thing but then I really have to let it be because it’s reaching a lot of people,” she said in Filipino.

“I was able to make it especially since most of the winners are from the United States,” she added. “I was able to make [everyone] happy by talking about those topics.”

Araña revealed she had been a violinist since she was six years old, which motivated her to write the essay.

“It’s something that has been with me for a lot of time and I think I was fully a music lover, like it’s a huge part of my personality,” she said.

“When I heard about the contest, I was thinking, ‘I want to write about something I’m passionate and interested about,’” she added.

Apart from taking an interest in music and science at such a young age, Araña also loved reading and writing.

Her experience in student publication, plus the guidance of her mentors and friends, helped her write the 500-word essay in only two days.

While she already had the topic in mind even before learning about the contest, Araña said she still had to do a lot of research about it.

“I had to review more about the topic so I would be able to explain it to the audience. I read through the articles and selected the parts that were important,” she said.

“I also thought of how I can connect music and violin to biotechnology. That’s how I connected it with environmental issues.”

Citing global warming as the culprit to having only “a few hundred of these million-dollar violins” left, Araña said she hoped stories such as hers could be instrumental in finding a solution.

“I can’t do it alone so if we inspire more people then I think that’s enough to [advocate] for change,” she said.

According to Araña, although it’s not definite for now, she wants to become a biotechnologist and try to replicate the Stradivarius sound herself.

“I think it’s an interesting topic,” she said. “It’s something that I would definitely consider.”

Now close to graduating, Araña said she was doing her best to pursue music, science, and writing.

She said she had been taking online music classes, attending science webinars, writing for their school publication, and doing art in between.

Araña said she hoped the younger generation would realize that humanities and science could go hand in hand.

“There’s always a way to integrate the fields. Everything has a connection. You just have to find it,” she said. – RC, GMA News