Most would be surprised if they heard Steven Lang ’16 in the shower, belting out “If I Were A Rich Man” from Fiddler on the Roof
or “I Believe” from The Book of Mormon
, in his honeyed tenor. The 17-year-old senior has kept his fondness of musical theater under wraps.
However, there was no flutter of surprise when Lang dressed as a DNA molecule, although many might have missed the joke. Nor was it unusual for the atheist to trick out as Pope Francis for Halloween. He likes his humor dry, almost arid.
Lang is the Energizer Bunny in human form – he is irrepressible, sharp as a pin, running on high test. If he were a beverage, he would probably be an artisan ginger ale – bubbly and slightly sweet with rooty notes.
At 14, he created his YouTube channel – StevenLovesScience – to teach himself how to deliver highly scientific information to a non-scientific crowd. He has already populated the channel with over 60 shows. It helps him stay organized, he says. When he was a 15-year-old, he interviewed Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist and author of The God Delusion; his questions remarkably grounded – his devotion to science outweighing his idolatry.
"I have an innate curiosity," he says. "And as Dawkins said to me – and I think many scientists feel that way – the universe is an incredibly mysterious place with life being one of the most mysterious things about it. That is what drew me to biology, and to the life sciences in particular."
Lang works as a bioinformatics intern doing computational analysis of next-generation sequencing data for use in family-based disease studies at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine John T. Hussmann Institute for Human Genomics. He will present his paper, “Association analysis of multiplex orofacial clefting families identifies likely pathway underlying etiology,” at the 13th International Congress of Human Genetics, in Kyoto, Japan, in April 2016. Oh, and he speaks Chinese.
Lang has attended Ransom Everglades School since sixth grade where being partial to Chinese food pointed him toward studying Mandarin. He could not imagine himself at any other high school.
"I am so grateful to my teachers," he said. "They have not only given me a wonderful education here, but they have also enabled me to learn and grow outside of school."
Acting Head of the Upper School and Science Department Chair Ken Mills says all the credit goes to Lang. “I have aimed him in the right direction here and there. As much as I would like to take credit, it is 98 percent Steven. He has a love of science and a love of the process of doing science and he follows his passion.”
The son of a South Beach real estate mogul, Steven struck out on a different path, despite his father's hopes that he would someday seize the reins. His mother's struggles with depression and anxiety would inspire Lang to devote his life to a search for the genetic key to unlock the secrets of psychological disorders.
“Although we’ve come a long way from using freezing ice baths and sensory-deprivation as a way to the treat mentally ill, we still understand frustratingly little about the brain and the biological basis of its disease states,” he says. “Fortunately, we have reached a point were rapidly advancing technology is allowing scientists to investigate the full array of genetic architectures involved in the complex etiology of most psychiatric disorders. These insights will be critical/crucial in paving the way for the eventual development of effective therapeutics.”
Lang wants to study science and medicine in college, toward a career in medical research. He vows to engage his musical theater side as well as higher education. He might be singing “I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire” in the shower, but in reality, he is one to watch.