Hello, my name is Wilson. I am a senior at the University of Washington majoring in bioengineering with a minor in mathematics and on track for a college honors degree. This website is to showcase my learning and experiences throughout my college career in the UW Honors Program.

Finding Meaning Within Chaos
A Portfolio Learning Statement

Combinatorial Chaos Mixer: a microfluidic mixer that outputs sixteen combinations of four titrations of two dyes in continuous flow 

I came into the university with only one certainty: I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. I did not have the slightest idea who I was going to meet over the next four years, what I was going to major in, where the best places to study were, how to maneuver the Health Sciences Building, and most importantly, how to handle the ridiculous grading curve. As a person who functions on the ability to predict and plan for the future, I struggled desperately to just settle down and find some familiarity among the chaos.

Throughout my undergraduate career at the UW, I have learned many things about myself as a student, but more importantly, as an individual hoping to make his mark upon an intellectually rich and culturally diverse community. All of my experiences - from working in a research lab, to playing intramural sports, to teaching a classroom full of high school students - seem to point to the idea that it is okay if the path that leads to tomorrow isn't perfectly laid out for us; we have to learn to embrace the unknown. While we may not be able to control every situation that we might find ourselves in on a day-to-day basis, we must be willing to adapt and ultimately learn from every new experience. Taking risks and breaking social norms builds true character, so I try not to limit myself by straying away from things that are difficult or foreign to me. I am no longer hesitant to tackle complex challenges head-on because I know that by asking the right questions and being mindful of my end goals, I will hopefully stumble upon a path that would allow me to learn and grow in the process of finding a solution. Every day is a new opportunity to learn, so instead of being afraid to confront the unknown, overtime I have learned to immerse myself within the darkness with the intentions of building a flashlight.

As an engineer, I learned that developing solutions to problems and improving the quality of life for people is all a matter of finding the right perspective. Instead of creating elaborate technologies that can only be used by a selective few, we must learn to understand the needs of people in order to help communities on a much larger scale. Taking a holistic perspective on engineering and biomedical research, this is the reason why interdisciplinary work is not only preferred, but necessary within any academic or research setting. Working with people from such diverse backgrounds eliminates bias, moves us away from a privileged space, and most importantly, helps us to develop a better understanding of people. Over the past three years, I have had the privilege working with researchers, professors, doctors, and students from many regions around the world. Regardless of age, gender,  profession, or cultural background, all of us come together for the common goal of improving the lives of people through innovation and discovery. There is this beauty that comes with diversity that many people take for granted. It gives students like me an opportunity to decenter ourselves and be a part of something bigger, which is something that I have always been striving to do. 

I have worked in a university research lab with the bioengineering department for over two years. My plan after graduation is to work in industry with a local research facility such as Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research and The Allen Institute where I can directly utilize my critical thinking skills from my engineering background in order to solve problems within the biomedical field. I strive to one day lead a research project focused on developing novel cancer therapeutics, or the engineering of microfluidic technology to monitor the health of cancer patients. Currently, the healthcare system treats every patient with a similar cancer type equally, but we must learn to care for patients as unique individuals with specific needs. The understanding that my research could potentially make a difference in the lives of those suffering from such a disease gives me the motivation I need to pursue a long-term career working within a collaborative research environment. As bioengineers, we must guide our actions towards recognizing and helping those in the world who need it most, and it all starts within our own community. 

Researchers in my lab have invented microfluidic combinatorial mixers (see image above), which may seem complex and chaotic at first glance, but the devices often have a well-defined and simplistic purpose. All the streams within the mixer eventually merge and provide an output that is consistent, reproducible, and amazing to visualize when in combination. Through my four years at the UW, I have met many friends who strive to do great things - to become doctors, lawyers, businessman and engineers, but the best advice I could have given anyone is to develop a stronger understanding of people. We all live in a complex and elaborate system, but community is built only when we open our eyes and see that we are all striving toward similar goals. We are all facing the same struggles and we are all trying to find our place in the world one opportunistic step at a time. Attending a university really illustrated to me that the world does not revolve around a single person or student. We must look at the broader picture, acknowledge the intersectionality of our experiences, and only then will success be in our reach.