Ying-Ja Chen
Dr. Ying-Ja Chen
Scientist, Pronutria

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Close Up
  • What I Do
    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 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.
  • School Days
    B.S. Electrical Engineering, National Taiwan University, Taiwan. Now pursuing my Ph.D. in Bioengineering in UC San Diego.
  • Best Part
    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.
  • Dreams and 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.
  • Inspiration
    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!
  • Want to be an Engineer?
    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!
  • Additional Thoughts
    Engineering is about solving problems to make our lives easier
  • Hobbies
    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.

I studied bioengineering and electrical engineering in graduate school and undergraduate, respectively. Enjoying math and science is the primary reason why I chose those majors. After completing postdoctoral research, I now work as a Scientist in a biotechnology start-up company. My day-to-day involves analyzing the properties of protein molecules to determine what makes a better drug.

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PhD, Bioengineering, University of California, San Diego. BS, Electrical Engineering, National Taiwan University
Volunteer Opportunities
  • I am willing to answer written interview questions to be posted on the EngineerGirl website.
  • I am willing to participate in a conference call with a group of interested students who would like to know about my career.
Latest Questions
  • Mareka asked Ying-Ja Chen, Pronutria

    Added Sunday, December 16, 2018 at 12:34 PM

    Am I smart enough for engineering??
    Related to Bioengineering/Biomedical, Chemical, Choosing a Degree, Difficult Classes, Preparation for College, Self Doubt
    Answers 1
    Ying-Ja Chen, Pronutria
    Answered Monday, January 7, 2019 at 7:24 AM
    It doesn't matter how well you score on exams to determine whether you can become an engineer or not. However, you should make sure that you understand the math and science concepts you learn in school. You will encounter more of those types of classes ...Read More
  • Ana

    Added Friday, September 29, 2017 at 7:55 PM

    Hi, Im 17 and about to apply to colleges for next year. I'm very very interested in biomedical engineering and i see myself working with prosthetics and hopefully starting my own company in the future. My parents are doctors and are worried that if i choose this field i will end up like all the other biomedical engineers they know, working in a hospital repairing the old equipment or working in a manufacturing job. I just wanted to know how realistic it is for me to not end up working in those ...
    Answers 1
    Ying-Ja Chen, Pronutria
    Answered Monday, October 16, 2017 at 11:11 AM
    Dear Ana, Typical biomedical engineering jobs include designing medical devices, such as prosthetic, implantable devices, or wearable devices, to name a few. A college degree in biomedical engineering prepares you with a solid foundation and is not ...Read More
  • Ashley U

    Added Thursday, April 13, 2017 at 8:59 PM

    I am currently a high school senior and have been accepted UCI under biomedical engineering. It is something I am interested in but I worry I will not be capable of "building" and "creating." I've never built or created anything and I'm not sure I will be good at it. Any advice?
    Answers 1
    Ying-Ja Chen, Pronutria
    Answered Wednesday, April 19, 2017 at 9:09 PM
    I don't think you need to be worried before you try it out. Honestly, I have never built or created anything when I was in high school, either. All I knew was that I liked math and biology more than social science and language. They taught us many ...
    Read More
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