15 Most Interesting Seniors: Winston X. Yan

Wilson Yu

Fastidious, creative, and brilliant: these are the three words that Winston X. Yan’s close friend and business partner Alexander G. Bick ’10 would use to describe the Adams resident. As a member of the Varsity Sailing Team, a co-founder of the start-up Rover, and a researcher at a lab attempting to create smaller and less expensive MRI machines, this physics major certainly seems to live up to such descriptions.

Rover, which brings travel information and guidebooks straight to your iPhone, was inspired by a travel experience after his freshman year with Bick.

“I was working north of London and he was working in France and we decided to meet up in London. We were using the ‘Let’s Go’ guides, and we were literally ripping pages out of these guides because we didn’t want to take the whole book with us,” he says. “We thought, ‘Could we put this information into something smaller, like a phone?’”

Their pragmatic idea ended up winning them first place in the I3 Innovation Challenge, a contest organized by Harvard Student Agencies, The Technology and Entrepreneurship Center, and The Harvard College Entrepreneurship Forum. They received a cash prize and, more importantly, support from HSA. With this help, Yan and his team have been expanding the company, and they plan to broaden the iPhone app’s scope even further after they graduate.

In the long term, Yan hopes to apply to an M.D./Ph.D. program. “It’s a big focus in my life to do something that’s good for people, and something that’s helpful for society,” he says.

The co-founders’ close friendship and dedication to their project is evident from their enthusiasm. Bick describes Winston as a director who leads by example. “At every point, Winston’s always trying to come up with a bigger and grander vision,” he says.

Despite his serious business experience, Yan has a comic side. Along with his and Bick’s successes together, they have also had a few mishaps. Alan C. Palmer ’11, a fellow member of the sailing team, remembers Yan and Bick tipping over their boat two years ago on the first day of practice. “Our coach was yelling at them,” he recalls. “That’s how I got to know their names.”

It doesn’t seem like playing a varsity sport, running a company, and working to advance medicine have forced Yan to mature at all. “I think that the peak of my maturity might have been when I interviewed for Harvard,” he says, grinning.

Even with his accomplishments and his future prospects, Yan is humble about his talents. “To be honest, I’m not brilliant. I’m not that genius physics person that can just sit around and know everything,” he says. Maybe so, but that sure hasn’t stopped him before.