When I was six years old, my family moved from China to the village of Shorewood, a small town in Wisconsin. Growing up in the Midwest, I had always imagined MIT as this big institution full of nerds and programmers in every corner. I wasn’t sure I could ever fit in. It wasn’t until I first came to campus, after staying up until 4 am that last night of Campus Preview Weekend with friends I had just met, that I realized I had truly found paradise.
In the summer of my freshman year, I joined Professor Paula Hammond’s lab to create novel dressings to heal chronic wounds. I went to her lab because I had always loved biology, and it was in her lab that I discovered how powerful engineering can be in advancing medicine. So I chose to major in chemical engineering, Course 10, because I wanted to be challenged in ways that I had never been challenged before, and MIT was that perfect place to take risks and really push my intellectual boundaries.
I’m not going to lie: Course 10 is incredibly challenging. We somehow start off with the foundations of engineering, like mass and heat transfer, kinetics, fluid dynamics; and we finish senior year by designing two full manufacturing plants, complete with a gauntlet of reactors, distillation columns, and filtration streams. In my four years in Course 10, I not only gained this incredible wealth of knowledge, but I had discovered that I developed this courage and confidence to seek out ever newer and riskier challenges. Part of what made this transformation possible was that I received financial aid during all my years at MIT. And the generosity of my scholarship donors made it possible so that I could fully immerse myself in my scholarship and follow my dream of creating game-changing innovations in medicine.
My MIT education gave me this sense of momentum, of urgency and desire to give back and help those around me. I worked hard to champion STEM programs for middle school students. I traveled across Asia, through the MISTI program, to introduce MITx courses to students in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, so that they, too, can be empowered in the same way that MIT empowers all of us. And that empowerment is why I moved to London to pursue my dream project. At Imperial College London, as a Fulbright Scholar and PhD student, I’ve been asked to lead an incredibly challenging and ambitious project that could fundamentally change how we understand the brain.
Using bioinspired nanoparticles, I’m working to visualize the communication between neurons in our brain in a way that isn’t possible with today’s technology. So, on a daily basis, you can find me in the London Center for Nanotechnology, using state-of-the- art equipment to fabricate nanoparticles so small that they’re invisible to the naked eye. But outside the lab, these physically minuscule nanoparticles have this enormous potential to help us discover new cures for millions of patients with neurological diseases around the world. MIT has been this critical element in my journey from that small Midwestern town to London’s Nanotechnology Center. And just like my nanoparticles, I’ve been empowered with this potential for exponential impact. Because of MIT, we all have this enormous potential to create something truly extraordinary for the world.