Jingwen Zhang '18 - Introduction

headshot

What: Biology major; editor-in-chief of The Amherst Student, the college's student-run newspaper; member of Amherst Christian Fellowship; member of the biology department's student-faculty committee; Biology 191 lab TA; pre-health (on the pre-med track)

Where: Home is near Columbus, Ohio

When: 2014-present (senior)

Why: (Mostly) to learn! Amherst has made me learn in so many different ways. To learn about the stories of others on this campus. To learn about the intersection of the humanities and the sciences. To learn to love the people that I've met and the friends that I've made. And (very importantly) to learn how to manage my time as a typical overcommitted Amherst College student.

I hope you learn something while you're here, too. Even though I'm already a senior (and that's pretty scary), I still definitely do not have everything figured out. But I'm still trying, still exploring — and still learning — and I'd like to invite you to join me through this honest account of my life here at Amherst.

Reach out to me at jzhang18@amherst.edu if you want to chat!

Nearing Break

There's a busy and nervous sort of energy on campus these days — it's the energy of too many people having midterms, papers, and other assignments due, people trying to fulfill all of their responsibilities before the long-awaited Thanksgiving break next week. For the first time in my undergraduate career, I wasn't one of the people running around and suffering death by classes. As someone who's had 2+ STEM classes and 2 lab courses for five semesters over the past three years, this semester — with only one non-lab science class that had already had its second midterm two weeks ago — was my own long-awaited relief. I suppose it doesn't really count as a lab-free semester, since I'm writing a thesis, and I'm spending more than an entire course's worth of time in lab.

The past week was a rather frustrating one in terms of the wet lab portion of my thesis: while I spent many hours preparing for and running experiments, I gained very little workable data in return. The positive side of the issue was that I finally sat down with my thesis advisor, Professor Jeong, and had a very candid discussion with her about my frustrations. I walked away from that talk feeling a lot better despite my experiments going sideways. As she — and my mom, whom I'd called about this — both reassured me, no one was expecting an undergrad to write a Nobel-worthy thesis, and the most important part of the entire massive year-long project was to learn how to do things and also how to fix things when they go wrong. 

Over the weekend, I watched a record two whole movies (so much free time!!): "Thor: Ragnarok" (highly recommend) and "Spotlight," the 2016 winner of the Oscars' Best Picture, which is about the Boston Globe's Spotlight investigative team and really tugs at my journalism heartstrings (this is my second time watching it, and I suspect I'll have many more to go in my lifetime). I also went to the annual Fall Formal event held by the school, which took place in a rather weird but interesting venue this time — the Beneski Museum, with live music from a quartet of my friends and hors d'oeuvres circulating around the massive statue of a mammoth that's now become emblematic of Amherst College. 

Speaking of fall, the season's brightest colors in New England are drawing to a close. It's one of a long list of things that make me nostalgic and hyper-aware of the passage of time these days — fall in New England is famously beautiful, and with my post-graduation plans up in the air, it may be a while before I see these sights again. Below are some pictures I took of the surrounding mountains from the first-year quad under wildly fluctuating Western Mass weather conditions.

fall

fall

Nosedive into My Week

This is my first time posting this year – my first time posting on the admissions blog as a college senior. Sounds cliché, but time flies! If you’re reading this as a prospective student, I’m getting major senior feels (and also thesis-ing – more on that later), so take my ramblings with a grain of salt, please.

It’s been a long week so far. (It’s also Monday. Well, Tuesday now, technically.) Today, I spent a decent chunk of my time in lab, working on my biology thesis, trying out a new procedure that neither I nor my advisor have done in the past. It didn’t exactly yield the best results, but that’s science! In all seriousness, one major lesson I’ve had to learn (and am still learning) as a student who’s done her fair share of lab research is that one has to get real comfortable with the prospect of failure. Developing this comfort, as well as infinite patience in dealing with assays and samples, is still a work in progress for me.

Between my two periods of lab time, I also attended a really fun event put on by some student leaders of the Asian Students Association. It was a cooking night, where they had set up a ramen bar as well as catering from a local Indian restaurant, and we could build our own ramen cups or pile curry on top of basmati rice. Our dining hall, Valentine (or colloquially just Val), is definitely not the worst of campus dining halls – but once you’re a senior and your brain has already synced to the predictable pattern of Val meal menus, variety is a relief. And this was some really good variety, too. Afterward, students, staff and faculty present were split off into groups to get to know each other and talk about questions pertaining to Asian identity (and Asian food!), but I had to bounce early to get to a film screening for my history class.

This class, which has a really long course title but is just called Therapeutic Transformations for short, is a history seminar taught by a professor here (John Servos) who specializes in history of science and medicine. As a pre-med student who’s also passionate about science, his classes have been really great ways for me to take a look at subjects so familiar to me from a different perspective. We had some pizza (yay, second dinner!) from Antonio’s, a beloved nearby pizza joint, and watched an old black-and-white British film (“The Third Man”). After that welcome break, it was back to lab for me.

In the next couple of weekly entries, I’ll take you through the finer details of what I’m doing: my classes, my thesis, my extracurricular activities, as well as some introspection on what brought me to Amherst and what I’m taking away.