Ying-Ja Chen

Current Position: Scientist at Pronutria
Ying-Ja Chen
Highlight Engineering is about solving problems to make our lives easier
September 19, 2007Her job: Graduate Student, UC San Diego
Describe what you do in your current work situation? Being a graduate student in bioengineering, I conduct research projects that takes 1~3 years to finish. My project involves writing computer programs, doing chemical reactions in the lab, and sometimes buying/fixing/operating machines like automated microscopes. Of course, a big portion of my time is actually spent on talking to my labmates and professor so we can come up with better methods to accomplish our project goals. I like what I am doing because the final result of the project sounds very cool.
Why did you choose engineering? In high school, I only knew that I liked math and science and did better in those classes than other classes. Engineering seemed like what a smart kid would choose, so I jumped in. Turned out, engineering required a lot of mathematical and analytical training. My friends and I enjoyed all those moments trying to think of better solutions. I also enjoyed hanging out with my engineering friends because their minds are straightforward and logical so there is no pressure when trying to make friends with them. As we graduated from college we realized how solid engineering training allows us to enter a wide selection of industries with an advantage. So whether it was the career lying in front of me or the actual materials that I have learned both make me believe that it was the right choice.
Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have? B.S. Electrical Engineering, National Taiwan University, Taiwan. Now pursuing my Ph.D. in Bioengineering in UC San Diego.
What do you like best about being an engineer? Engineering is about solving problems to make our lives easier. Even in school we solve real world problems that you can see, hear, and touch. It is most rewarding for me when I successfully build something with a function that is related to our lives. I can proudly show it to my friends and family and everyone will be able to appreciate it and play with it.
What are your short-term (1-2 years) and long-term (10+ years) goals? My short-term goal is to graduate and get my Ph.D. After that, I am considering 2 options: 1. Go to another university lab or a company for a couple of years of postdoctoral training. This will provide me with more training in a different specialty from what I have now. After that, I will be ready to start my own research lab as a professor or an industrial scientist. At that time I can come up with cool ideas or discoveries and lead a group of people to make those things. 2. Find an engineer or scientist job in biotechnology, medical device, or other industries. I hope that after working as an engineer or scientist for a while, I can gain managerial powers and become the person who can make decisions for a company.
What (or who) had/has the greatest influence on your life choices? My parents had always encouraged me to try out different things as well as providing guidance for life choices. They believed that I can do whatever I wanted. That helped me in establishing confidence in myself even when I failed an exam or was rejected by some prestigious summer camp program. When there were new things that I want to try, they will urge me to go for it. That is how I had the courage to actively pursue many things such as university collaborative science fair projects. These are the things that made my life fruitful. If you do not have a person that will encourage you like this, try to listen to the voice in your heart and be your own influence. Set aside all your fears and just go for your dreams!
What advice would you give to a young woman considering a career in engineering? Find your own pace in life, and stick to it. That can include how fast you are comfortable with reading and learning things, how much you want to sleep, exercise, eat, or how you want to pursue your hobbies. Then, just be there and enjoy it! You can get most of the things you want!
Describe something about your life outside of work: your hobbies, or perhaps a favorite book. I like to travel to somewhere far at least once a year to get away from work. That makes me refreshed. On a weekly basis, I like to swim, play the piano, play volleyball, and dine out with friends. Those keep me happy and motivated to do more things during work time.