International Alumni News - Keeping in Touch

Important Information Issue No 3 | Fall Quarter |Oct/Nov 2010


Alumnus of the Month

Julia Chin Chee Jia - Malaysia

Transfer students with GRCC VP and UW President

Julia Chin won a competitive graduate fellowship from a groundbreaking research institution in Saudi Arabia called King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).

Vivid images of exotic rainforests, chubby pandas and red sand dunes flashed through my mind as I wrote this autobiography. Having lived in four countries, I am shaped by a mosaic of cultures across the globe. Even though the learning environments vary a lot, they have all provided me with amazing and rewarding experiences that helped unify my goal into becoming a women scientist.

Born in Malaysia, a country with rich and colorful heritage, I enjoy eating Indian food, visiting Malay friends during their Islamic festivals and celebrating the joyous Chinese New Year with my families. Due to my fatherís career, our family moved between Malaysia and China multiple times. My high school education was split between these two countries. Both education systems emphasize stringent academic standards and active co-curriculum participation. Among the arrays of classes I took, I was always most interested and passionate about biology. Intrigued by the delicate protein machineries packed within a tiny cell, I eagerly sought opportunities to explore biology in settings beyond the classroom. When I joined the Red Cross and volunteered in my schoolís clinic, I began to see how knowledge from the life sciences can transform and touch upon our daily lives.

With a dream to pursue top-notch education in biomedical science, I came to the United States in 2005. At first, I had a deep culture shock in face of the unfamiliar environment and foreign cultures. Every assumption about how things work, what people care about and the way they think turned out to be wrong. When I was confused and frustrated, my friends and International Program advisors here at Green River Community College offered me much inspiration and support. Their advice and companion was the powerful driving force that led me to discard my bias and to step out of my comfort zone. As I began to participate in community services and student organizations, I realized the unlimited opportunities that awaited me to cultivate new skills and leadership potentials. Therefore, I strove to become as an active community member while maintaining academic excellence. Serving as the international student ambassador and becoming the president of Phi Theta Kappa were among the highlights of my college life.

The momentum I gained from community college fueled strong determination in me to thrive and succeed as a transfer student in University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). As soon as I transferred to UCLA, I seized the opportunities to intern at the UCLA Medical Center as well as getting hands-on training in biomedical research. My experience of shadowing doctors and observing surgeries have created a long-standing fascination in me towards the complexity and varied nature of disease processes. On the other hand, completing an honor thesis in the field of stem cell biology has been the most satisfying component of my undergraduate experience. My research in stem cell biology has bred strong curiosity in me to delve into regenerative medicine and explore its therapeutic and clinical application. With the goal to become a researcher, I decided to use the gap year following graduation to gain more research experience and to further prepare for the rigorous training of a PhD program.

An opportunity knocked on my door towards the end of my junior year. I won a competitive graduate fellowship from a groundbreaking research institution in Saudi Arabia called King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). As soon as I graduated from UCLA in August 2009, I embarked on an exciting voyage to Saudi Arabia to pursue my Masters in bioscience and to explore part of the world that I would not otherwise have seen. It has been nine months since I joined KAUST as a member of the founding class. Besides having an amazing cultural experience, I am working toward a thesis-based research at Dr. Jasmeen Merzabanís stem cell lab. Through hands-on research in both my undergraduate and graduate studies, I discovered the open-endedness, the intellectual exchanges, the frustrations and the excitement of scientific inquiry.

My study abroad experiences in China, the United States and Saudi Arabia have instilled in me a deeper cultural awareness along with a spirit of adventure. These experiences have prepared me well to adapt quickly when I immerse into a new culture. Although the cultural environment around me has changed in each place, my interest in biomedical science has persisted and grown with time. With stronger preparation in research, I look forward to the excitement and challenges that await me during my PhD training.

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