Tribune photo by Chuck Berman
April 26, 2011
Patrick McQuade comes by his passion for science naturally.
The son of chemical engineers, McQuade hopes to study chemical engineering himself at the University of Virginia, with an eye toward researching new technologies to help treat illnesses like cancer. The senior at Oak Park's Fenwick High School, with an off-the-charts grade point average and reams of academic honors, has already scouted out courses in nanomedicine.
McQuade, 17, of Burr Ridge sees in his surroundings an equation to be solved.
"To me, it gives you a more appreciative view when you understand more of the world around you," McQuade said during a break from his chemistry lab class shortly after he was notified of his selection to the 26th annual Chicago Tribune Illinois High School All-State Academic Team.
Judges who reviewed 257 applications from around Illinois ranked McQuade as the top student. He and nine other team members will receive $2,000 college scholarships from the Chicago Tribune Foundation.
In April, he was lauded as one of the state's top chemistry students by the Illinois Chemical Education Foundation and advanced to the semifinal round of the U.S. Presidential Scholars program. He netted perfect scores on both the college entrance ACT and SAT exams and earned the highest mark possible on every college-level Advanced Placement test hes taken. He has earned only A's since he began high school. The record still startles McQuade.
"To achieve that standard blew me away," McQuade said. "I just always wanted to do the best by myself ... so I wouldn't leave anything with regrets. I wasnt going for anything special."
Fenwick chemistry teacher Ramzi Farran described McQuade as "amazing."
"He's the most talented kid I have had in the last 41 years of teaching," Farran said. "Hes just so humble."
McQuade's skills are not limited to the science lab. He captained Fenwick's Junior Engineering Technical Society, debate and math teams. He's teaching himself to play the bass. He relaxes by cheering for Fenwick's ice hockey team. He and his friends bought vuvuzelas made famous during the 2010 World Cup to amplify their cheering rinkside.
"Theres no face paint," McQuade said, laughing, but "my friends (and I) are the superfans."
By By Tara Malone