age 19, junior,
I don't know if my story is all that extraordinary. I was born in Seattle. Both of my parents are from China. They came here in the 1960s. I never asked them why they immigrated to the United States. They speak Cantonese. I used to speak it too, but I don't speak it very well.
My parents used to tell me to do well in school, but after a while I learned to push myself. My teachers used to say that diversity contributed to what makes up a great education and I think they were right. As a student at Franklin High School in Seattle, it was very natural for me to hang out with all different kinds of people, and to grow up in a very heterogeneous environment. I was very lucky to be raised in that kind of environment, because it exposed me to all different kinds of people, cultures and ideas, all of which can expand your perspectives of the world.
Michael Look, age 21, sophomore, Bioengineering. Photo by Mary Levin.
I learned about the Gates scholarship through my high school counseling office. In the application essay, I wrote about a number of topics: my volunteer experiences through the Key Club, books I read and my senior project of working in a biology lab. Additionally, my U.S. history teacher and a faculty adviser wrote recommendations for me, both of them were aware of my academic ability. The summer I graduated from high school, the Gates Foundation sent me a letter saying it was awarding me a scholarship. I was excited.
The Gates scholarship is great because it recognizes potential in people. And it's definitely flattering to have this sort of honor awarded to you. What it did for me was sort of validate my efforts, by saying that you have this promise and that you have that potential. But I believe there is definitely a lot of expectation with receiving such an award, as if the Gates Foundation is also saying, "You should live up to the potential we think you have, which starts with doing well here at the University."
I really appreciate what the Gates Foundation is doing. It will have lasting improvements in society in terms of representation in sciences. This scholarship is very encouraging to people to go into science, which provides a deeper perspective into the way the world works and why it works this way. I am in the bioengineering department. I've always liked biology and I joined the UW bioengineering department because it has a truly interdisciplinary approach to answering complex questions in biology. Its research and education draws across diverse fields to address biology questions in a way that is great and unique, and cannot be done through a one-sided view. And there is a strong recognition of diversity. They recognize people as people.