Coming to Mount Holyoke from Beijing, junior Amy Shiying Wang initially struggled with translating familiar concepts, particularly in her biology class, since her high school science classes had been taught in Chinese. She credits her professors’ patience, responsiveness and encouragement for her success. With their support, she explored her passion for biochemistry and computer science, and was able to combine both of her majors into the perfect internship opportunity: a lab at Baylor College of Medicine, where she used computational biology techniques to analyze RNA sequences. She is also exploring classes outside of the STEM fields. “I also take full advantage of a liberal arts education,” she says. “I think it makes me a better scientist — and definitely a better human being — when I have cohesive learning.”
When you invest in Mount Holyoke, particularly through one of our scholarship aid destinations, you are paving the way for eager, inquisitive students like Amy to grow, pursue their interests and support those who follow in their footsteps.
In Amy's own words:
The professor who inspired me the most is professor Amy Frary from the biology department. I had my first biology class with her when I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do with my life. It was an introduction to biology class called A Green World. It was about plants — and I love plants.
It was really, really overwhelming sitting in her first class learning everything in English. All my high school science classes were taught in Chinese, so I had no idea what was going on. I had no idea what the mitochondria was, even though I know the concept in Chinese super, super well. I didn't know the English and it was very, very hard. But she was super patient with me.
I’d go to her office hours two or three times a week. And whenever I was studying in the library with my notes and my computer, I would write her a question and she would always respond within 30 minutes. She was just super responsive and super helpful. She's definitely one of those people that really impacted me to pursue science. She was always encouraging. She’d tell me I should start looking at labs, trying to find an independent study if I wanted to. Even when I told her that I wanted to pursue biochemistry and would have to leave the biology department, she was also in full support of that.
I worked with professor Sarah Bacon on postpartum-uterus healing for a semester when I was a sophomore. I worked in her lab on an independent study, where I learned how to cut frozen tissues from scratch. She told me all the techniques, step by step and she gave me an idea about being a scientist and working at the lab bench. That was really helpful in terms of making my decisions on my future career.
In the fall semester of my sophomore year, I took my first computer science class. I didn’t know what I was going to do with this class. I was just like, “Oh, this is kind of my interest. I'm going to give it a try.” In the middle of my intro to computer science class, my professor, Lisa Ballesteros, told me that I should really try to participate in HackHolyoke, which is a competition for people who major in computer science and are passionate about coding and programming. I said, “I don't know much about it, but I'll give it a shot.” She really encouraged me, and my team won the Google Scholar diversity prize for the game we made.
This summer, thanks to Lynk funding, I am working at a lab at Baylor College of Medicine. I am focusing on implementing techniques about computational biology to analyze RNA sequences, which is a great way to use my two majors. There's a lot to learn and it's very, very hard but I am just having a lot of fun with it.
I am definitely a science student. But besides taking biochemistry and computer science, I also take full advantage of a liberal arts education. I think it makes me a better scientist — and definitely a better human being — when I have cohesive learning.
Being an international student in the United States, I have very limited ways to gain money for myself. Lynk funding gave me opportunities to learn all the cool skills and explore computational biology, which is a completely new field for me without really worrying if I have to get a job. At this point it has been really reassuring for me in terms of my finances.
—Amy Shiying Wang ’22
Biochemistry and computer science double major
Pictured above: Amy Shiying Wang ’22 performs in the one-act Chinese play, “A Wasp,” presented by the Mount Holyoke Theatre Department in March 2019.