Uncovering Discovery

An undergraduate student's introduction to research

Billy Zhang 11C

Courtesy Billy Zhang

Growing up under stereotypical circumstances as an Asian American whose parents owned and worked in a local Chinese restaurant, I felt the pressure of race and ethnicity daily. Customers would routinely question if I was going to “take over the business” from my parents. They would also compliment how well I spoke English and ask about my future.

At the time, I did not think much about those circumstances, but as I grew older, I began to understand how race and stereotypes were impacting not only my own life, but also my parents’ lives. It was not until coming to Emory and taking a sociology course on race that I really began to explore race in both a theoretical and practical sense. These beginnings helped to form my growing interest in the place of race in a community, especially a community of college students.

Even before coming to Emory, I knew I wanted to do research, but didn’t know where to start. After talking with faculty and staff, I landed a position at Yerkes National Primate Research Center, working in a lab with DNA.

I maintain interests both in the sciences and sociology. Research has importance in terms of social impact, and for me, this is where the ORDER research class came into play.

I wanted to gain an understanding of the international student population and interactions within this group.

The ORDER class has helped to take my initial and current interests and mold them into a project worth exploring: “International Student Experiences Inside and Outside the Classroom: Barriers to Assimilation.”

This research could have serious implications in terms of college campus resources, because it would help colleges better assist international students as they adapt to a new culture and system of doing things.

I have heard numerous times from my international student peers that they felt they were not able to fit in because the college did not provide these resources for them. Having the chance to understand where these gaps are and where there is miscommunication would be an invaluable pool of information.

For the future, I can envision myself in both science and sociology research settings throughout graduate and professional school.

Research, to me, is an adventure, and the allure of expanding knowledge for not only myself but also the world is extremely tempting.

Regardless of the career path that I choose, I know that Emory has set me off on the right foot with experienced faculty and goal-oriented classes, and has imprinted a message for me about the importance of research; a message that I will forever pass on to others.

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