When Suoyi Feng first arrived as a freshman at John Carroll School in Bel Air, Maryland in 2018, he set two goals for himself – first, he was going to use every moment of his international student experience to try to improve himself and benefit his community and, second, he was going to apply what he learned in the classroom to his everyday life. Academically, Suoyi was quickly accomplishing both of these goals. His love of science and all things related to biology fueled his curiosity and made Suoyi an exemplary student at JCS.
For Suoyi, the field of biology captured his every imagination and attention:
“In my mind, biology is the fusion of science and art: biology takes a closer look at the beauty of nature and life, and learning biology provides me with an opportunity to decipher the most beautiful phenomenon that sustains this living world. By studying the basic mechanism of life such as cellular signaling and molecular basis for evolution and genetics, I could gain a deeper knowledge of myself as a human being and starts to view myself from a brand-new philosophical viewpoint.”
Suoyi applied this level of rigor and detail to his pursuit of biological knowledge both inside and outside the classroom. After taking biology at JCS during his freshman year, Suoyi got a summer internship at the Chinese Sturgeon Research Institute to learn artificial breeding of endangered fish species in the Yangtze River. He got the opportunity to work with experts to study the Acipenser dabryanus or Dabry’s sturgeon, a popular commercial food fish in China before its population drastically declined in the 1980s and became endangered. Suoyi helped conduct studies to artificial inseminate the fish to increase their population. He also worked on a project studying researching optimal conditions for the hatching of Coreius guichenoti embryos, another endangered fish species native to the Yangtze River. Suoyi’s research on key stimuli of Coreius guichenoti embryonic development contributed to its potential large-scale breeding. It resulted in his authorship on a publication in the Scientific Fish Farming journal, titled “Artificial Breeding of Domesticated Round-Mouthed Copperfish/驯养圆口铜鱼人工繁殖的几个细节问题[J] 科学养鱼” (read the article here).
In his sophomore year, Suoyi took AP Biology and AP chemistry at JCS. With the knowledge and inspiration he gained through his classes and summer internship, he started his own independent research. Suoyi kept his goals in mind when he decided on a research topic. He was going to apply everything he had learned to make the most of this opportunity to benefit his community. So, he decided on studying allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever or seasonal and perennial allergies, which affects 10-30% of the world’s population (data from world health organization). In the following summer, Suoyi, with the help of Dr. Ming Liu from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which has been ranked as the top research institute in the world, conducted researching using mouse models on therapeutic effect of a G-protein coupled receptors, more specifically, C-C Chemokine receptors, a cell membrane structure that detects molecules exterior to the cell and activates internal cellular responses. Suoyi would write a thesis regarding the results of this experiment and present his work at the Maryland BioGENEius Challenge, an international competition for talented high school students to showcase their original research in biotechnology. By drawing inspiration from his studies and his community, Suoyi placed as a 2nd place finalist in the competition (click here to learn more about this story). Suoyi also participated in the 2019 University of Toronto National Biology Competition, an international exam competition with 4,000 contestants, where he was recognized as the “International Biology Scholar”, having placed in the top 5%.
Despite his academic accomplishments and intellectual curiosity, Suoyi still struggled to integrate himself into American culture and make genuine connections with his American classmates. “Because of cultural differences, I always feel that I cannot understand local students in the school, and they had a hard time understanding me even though my English is really good.” Suoyi tried to apply his using the same scientific and detail-orientated approach that made him successful as a student to fit in with American tradition and culture but found that he wasn’t true to himself:
“I hated trying to pretend that I am interested in American football. I hated having to pretend that I do not like Chinse food such as salted fish, pig trotters, and chicken feet. Finally, I stopped to fit into American culture. I wanted to be true myself, and I believed that being oneself is the best.”
In being true to himself and his passion for science, Suoyi joined the science fair, science Olympiad, Enviro-thon, and Chema-thon. Through these extracurricular activities, Suoyi found like-minded students with shared interests: “In these activities, I overcame the loneliness by getting to know a lot of great friends with diverse cultural backgrounds who were joined together because of the same passion in science.”
While Suoyi is still working hard to accomplish his goals, he also appreciates how his international student experience has helped him grow has an individual, “The study abroad experiences through Cambridge Network provided a platform for me to better pursuit
my personal and academic goals”. For international students interested in studying abroad, Suoyi had these three pieces of advice:
“First, do not try to subjectively or intentionally fit into another culture because the culture where you come from is best for you. Be proud of your own culture!
Second, if you are studying abroad, do not be afraid of loneliness. Try to participate in more activities to combat loneliness!
Third, do not forget who you are, where you come from, and why you come to study abroad. Never, never give up your personal and academic goals!”
Suoyi will be a rising senior in the fall, and he hopes to get into his dream school, Stanford University, in the near future.
“When Suoyi first arrived at JCS, I could feel his enthusiasm and positive attitude towards learning. He actively participated in extracurricular activities in the school, whether it was a chemistry competition, robotics, or a sports activity, he was there. He also helps many of our Cambridge international students in his spare time. Suoyi is a very conscious student. I think he quickly adapted to American campus life. It is his hard work that has made his achievements possible.” – Jessie Liang, Cambridge Network Student Development Manager
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