Yujie Jiang '17 is in perfect chemistry with Brandeis
Believe in yourself, embrace change and take a chance on a new adventure.
That’s precisely what Yujie Jiang '17 did as a high school student in Beijing when she decided to move to the other side of the world and make Brandeis University her new home.
Today, Jiang is happy she listened to her high school English teacher, who recommended Brandeis for its academic excellence and accepting environment. Now a senior, Jiang has come to love and cherish the warm, tight-knit campus she’s joined, and has enjoyed getting to know the United States and its rich blend of cultures.
She is the Undergraduate Departmental Representative (UDR) for chemistry, which is funny to Jiang now, as she initially considered pursuing the liberal arts. It was her curiosity for science, plus encouragement from chemistry professor Claudia Novack, that played a pivotal part in Jiang choosing a different path.
“Professor Novack is such an amazing teacher, she inspired me and made me fall in love with chemistry,” says Jiang, whose first class with Novack was General Chemistry. “She has been a real mentor to me. Her personality is so charismatic and I knew when I first met her that I would do well because I really loved her as a professor.”
As a chemistry supplementary instruction leader, Jiang now spends time helping other students navigate what can sometimes be a tricky discipline to master. She is also conducting research in the Xu Laboratory for her senior thesis on designing a retro-inverso peptetic hydrogel, which protects cells against microbial infection, and has maintained her close friendship with Novack, her faculty advisor.
“She’s an outstanding student, one of the most capable I have ever had,” Novack said. “She was not reticent when she first came to my office—she was very comfortable exploring her English. She just came off as a dynamo, and she’s been incredible as a supplemental instruction leader.”
“I’ve fallen in love with chemistry,” added Jiang. “It’s not just about the subject—I love how the classes are laid out—how you look for connections between everything you learn to solve more complex problems.”
Jiang also feels like she’s struck a nice balance outside the laboratory. She plunged headfirst into her American experience, doing whatever she could to practice her English and learn more about the people around her and their culture and history.
Though Mandarin Chinese is her first language, she has excellent command of English and speaks with great fluidity. She credits the Brandeis Gateway Scholars Program—which is designed to give non-native speakers of English critical thinking, analytical writing, and academic oral communication skills—for helping her along the way.
She now pays forward her appreciation for being a Gateway Scholar by serving as one of the program’s lead mentors. She’s also a Gateway liaison for the Brandeis Health Center and has taken on a role with the International Student Experience Project (inSTEP), a newly created Brandeis organization that promotes greater inclusion of international students into the overall campus community.
Jiang says her role is to encourage international students to branch out, take chances, and get to know their new surroundings. She reminds incoming international students that Brandeis is a place of endless possibilities thanks, in large part, to its welcoming community.
“There’s no reason for a student who comes to Brandeis from abroad to be fearful,” Jiang says. “I would say, based on the conversations I’ve had with students and faculty here, that anyone can see how welcoming and friendly we are at Brandeis, especially with the international community on campus.”