GRADUATE & LIFE SCIENCES EDUCATION

Linwen Huang, Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology

Linwen HuangLinwen Huang Being a leader is not as simple as writing a midterm, it is not something you can learn from a textbook. It
is gained from years of trial and error and learning from one’s mistakes. When I look at those in my life
who I consider to be leaders, they are not always the most charismatic, or the loudest speakers. Instead,
they are willing to take a chance on those they believe in, to lay out the groundwork to allow for other’s
success and always possess a drive to improve. Their decisions may result in failure, but they reflect on
their actions to ensure continual development as a leader. Throughout my undergrad, I have strived to
learn what it means to be a leader and to develop the skills I admire most in my mentors.

In my second year, I chaired a UofT engineering conference, UNERD, that promoted undergraduate
innovation and research. Under my leadership, we had the largest attendance in 10 years, of 200+
attendees. Retrospectively I realize many areas I faulted in, such as focusing too heavily on meeting
deadlines and overloading team members. However, these past opportunities taught me lessons that I
consistently applied in later leadership roles. For example, as Editor in Chief of the Journal of
Undergraduate Life Sciences (JULS) I check in on workloads and meet one on one with members who
are struggling and provide guidance. These interactions with my team have created open channels of
communication to continue to improve JULS. For example, based off a meeting with a member, and
constructive feedback from the team, this year marked a huge push to integrate sciences outside of
biology, leading to the largest and most diverse submission pool to date. I also spoke to members at UTM
and noticed a disparity in the number of publications from different campuses. Accordingly, this
prompted me to develop a JULS UTM branch which is essential to foster the development of junior
researchers across UofT.

Beyond student governance, I am fascinated by the interface of engineering, medicine and computer
science. I have worked on various research projects involving cancer interface devices and software that
uses neural networks to identify brain tumours. It was thrilling to present at conferences, and eventually to
be able to design my own experiments. I will also have the incredible chance to be involved in coauthoring
a paper. However, when I look at my research career, I realize how important my supervisors
were in leading me to where I am today. Their willingness to take a chance on a first-year student with no
research background and their support in my independent projects have allowed me to succeed. As such,
when I had the opportunity to mentor a student, I ensured that I fostered an environment that allowed her
to feel empowered and provided her with the space to develop as an independent researcher. For example,
I was always willing to teach her translatable skills such as microfabrication and would ask for her input
on projects to ensure she was always thinking critically about how to solve design flaws.

Outside of research, these experiences motivated me to work on providing opportunities for others to
succeed. For example, I volunteered in a shelter where I tutored youth from low-income families. There I
worked to engage and develop a support network for the youth. For instance, I encountered a high school
student who was very doubtful of her skills. However, I encouraged her to continue pursuing her interest
in science and showed them the types of research undergraduates had done, as well as those of senior
level researchers. Over the year I saw her confidence in her skills improve, and she developed the desire
to continue her education, eventually going to UofT. Motivated by this experience, I started working as
part of the main executive branch with a non-profit, Project Include, where I helped run workshops for
3000+ youth to bring computer science education to low-income areas in Toronto.

To me, being a leader involves constant improvement and learning on one’s own part. Through my
experiences at the University of Toronto, I have constantly strived to learn, and have matured both as a
person and a leader. As such, I have led and mentored many incredible teams to make lasting
contributions to neighbourhoods in the GTA, the undergraduate research community and various UofT
organizations. I have also seen team members and lab mates flourish and share the same passions I held
when I first entered university. As I continue with life after my undergraduate, I will continue to
endeavour to learn, to empower others, and to provide change to the communities around me.