“The biggest challenge for me over the years is really convincing people that at an early age I can do research. When you start to email professors about your crazy ideas as a teenager, they are bound to be like, ‘Great, but you’re only 13.’ So overcoming the age barrier is what motivated me to continue on even though I was met with this challenge. I knew that if I contacted enough people at least one person would respond.”
“How did you become so interested in STEM research?”
“It all started in grade 8, when I was 13. There was a science fair club at my middle school. I’ve never heard of science fairs and I wanted to explore something that I haven’t done before. Along the way, I discovered that I had an interest in immunology and studying the human body. That kick-started my interest in pursuing research, and then from there on, diabetes became a focus of mine because I learned that so many people are affected by this chronic disease and I really wanted to find a way to make people’s lives better.”
“How has the age barrier and being looked down upon affected you personally?”
“I think to this day as an undergraduate, it’s hard to find opportunities to do research, especially when you’re not in graduate school. For me it didn’t really bog me down, it was more of, ‘Okay, I guess I will need to find more people and continue emailing different professors until I find a place that will accept me.’ It’s more about not giving up and it has taught me that patience is very important.”
“What was the scariest thing you’ve done?”
“I guess facing failure in my research. For example when I was trying to find an early biomarker for diabetes, which I am still continuing to work on to this day, I would often say, ‘Okay let’s see if this will happen if I did this in my experiments…’ Even though for majority of the things that happen in research, I realized that maybe 98% of it is failure and that can be very daunting at first, especially when you’ve done all this work for months.”
“What motivates you everyday to do you do what you do?”
“I do what I do because I know at the end of the day no matter how hard the journey might be, no matter how many obstacles that I might come across, I know that I will be satisfied if I’ve given 110% effort into everything I do. If I’m able to make a difference in other’s lives that is what will make me happy because that’s my ultimate goal of doing science and pursuing that.”
“Do you have any role models?”
“Everyone in the STEM field really motivates and inspires me to do the work I do. It’s exciting to find out what others are doing. For example having competed nationally and internationally at science fairs, I was able to see a breadth of different people like me in highschool trying to make a difference and discover something cool. I think that really stood out to me and has motivated me to continue on within my field.”
“What is the most important take away you want to share?”
“Out of everything that I’ve done, I would tell people it’s important to enjoy the experience. Your work might be recognized with something along the way, but never forget the experience that you’ve had. That’s what you will remember the most in the future. Also if you give 110% of everything you will do, whatever happens in the end, it will be worth it and you won’t be disappointed whether or not you came first in something or not. Just enjoy the experience.”
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