My Experience at UM
Bryant HuangClass of 2012
Majors: Neuroscience & International Studies
A small, beautiful campus, a diverse student body, Sebastian the Ibis, competitive athletic teams, and the chance to wear orange, green, and white were all reasons I considered attending The U. The vibrant, cosmopolitan UM community that tempers extracurricular activities with academics, however, made me realize that coming to Coral Gables would be the right choice. Also, the opportunity to wear flip-flops and shorts in December was just too tempting to pass up. Commencement is several months away, yet it feels like just yesterday that I was a freshman making my way to class while learning the difference between the LC and the UC.
I entered UM as part of the inaugural class of the Advanced Program for Integrated Science and Math (PRISM). Featuring courses taught by some of the most respected faculty in the math and science departments, PRISM is built around an innovative curriculum that encourages collaboration, integrated critical thinking, and active involvement with research. As a PRISM student, I have had countless opportunities to interact with my professors during field trips, lectures, and various informal, social gatherings. Even after three and a half years, I am still amazed every time a professor takes time away from research or teaching to chat with me over a cup of coffee! These “coffee chats” always remind me how lucky students at UM are to have access to faculty who are engaged in ground-breaking research and also willing to share their experiences with undergraduate students.
At the beginning of my sophomore year, Dr. Athula Wikramanayake, one of my PRISM mentors and a professor in the Department of Biology, introduced me to Dr. Isaac Skromne and suggested that I try several weeks in his developmental neuroscience lab. It was the perfect fit and since then, I have been working closely with Dr. Skromne, studying cellular and molecular determinants that establish the different classes of neurons in the spinal cord. Also, having lost two grandparents to cancer, I decided to join the UM Relay for Life committee as a way to contribute to the fight against cancer. As the accounting and registration chair, I oversaw fundraising of over $50,000 to help support the American Cancer Society.
Junior year presented me with more new opportunities. I was selected to serve on the UM Appellate Board, along with Ricardo Hall, the Dean of Students, and another undergraduate student. As a component of the University of Miami Judicial Affairs System, the Appellate Board reviews incidents related to student conduct, in an attempt to maintain a safe and tolerant college environment. In the fall semester of my junior year, I applied for and was selected as a chemistry lab teaching assistant. As a TA, I instructed a weekly three-hour general inorganic chemistry lab. The most exciting period of my undergraduate career occurred during the spring semester of junior year, when I studied abroad in Hong Kong. My parents are both from Hong Kong and Cantonese was my first language. Yet, growing up in the U.S., I have always wanted greater immersion in Chinese culture. At the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), I was able to take finance and global health courses taught exclusively in Cantonese, an opportunity not available in the U.S. Beyond the classroom, I became friends with many local and international students and traveled extensively across Asia, visiting Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Macau, and various cities in Mainland China—Beijing, Guilin, Yangshuo, and Hangzhou. More than just adding another stamp to my passport, studying in Hong Kong allowed me to bridge the gap in my scholarly knowledge of Chinese culture with actual interactions in Chinese society.
In my senior year, I have chosen to write two senior honors theses—one for each of my majors. I am continuing my research with Dr. Skromne and have started examining the effects of globalization on obesity in China with Dr. Sherri Porcelain, a professor in the Department of International Studies and an instructor in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at the UM Miller School of Medicine. I am also serving on Elections Commission, a branch of Student Government that oversees the elections process. Despite my heavy workload, I have found time to hone my culinary skills in my University Village apartment kitchen, and have been told that my lamb chops with mint chutney are not too shabby.
After graduation, I will return to Hong Kong for a research fellowship at the CERT-CUHK-Oxford University Centre for Disaster and Medical Humanitarian Response. With my interests in neuroscience and global health, who knows what the future holds. One thing, though, is for sure—“You got a dream…you gotta protect it…If you want something, go get it. Period.” (The Pursuit of Happyness). I am confident that my four years at UM have given me the necessary knowledge and skills to go out, pursue my dreams, and tackle challenges that await in my future.