Cherry Chen's Long Journey to Academic Success

It’s decision time for Cherry Chen ’07 CBE!

Growing up in Tianjin, China, Cherry Chen never dreamed it would come down to this: a choice between Johns Hopkins and Columbia University to continue her postgraduate education. An enviable position for a young lady who just a few years ago spoke little English and had no idea where she would be attending college. But college was a long way off when Chen, just 16-years-old, left her mother in China and traveled halfway around the world to Queens, New York, in search of an education. Living with her grandmother, Chen studied at John Bowne High School, enrolled in after-school English classes and immersed herself in a new culture. It was at Bowne that Chen had her first exposure to Poly. “I met an admissions representative from Poly at an open house,” she remembers. “I always knew I wanted to study engineering, so Poly was of interest to me.” Learning that Poly was about to introduce a new degree program in chemical and biological engineering, Chen did her homework on the school and was convinced the University was right for her. In May, she will march in Commencement at City Center as a member of the first graduating class of Poly’s chemical and biological engineering program.

Mary Cowman, director of Poly’s Othmer Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies and associate professor of biochemistry, marvels at Chen’s courage and stamina. “I predict Cherry will be a leader in her field,” she says. “She is one of the top five to 10 students I have seen in 25 years at Polytechnic. She has the brilliance we find in the very best students, but also the fire of intellectual curiosity and a wonderful work ethic.” Jovan Mijovic, head of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, calls Chen a rare jewel. “She is very bright, very energetic, enthusiastic and responsible,” Mijovic says. “She has proved to be equally adept at experimental and computational work and has been on the Dean’s List throughout her studies.”

Chen, a Promise Fund scholar, works in a local doctor’s office to support herself and as a research assistant in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering. This experience has her thinking about a career in academia or pharmaceutical research. But for now its decision time and Chen has decided to stay in New York City and pursue a joint master’s/PhD program in chemical engineering at Columbia University. “Poly gave me a solid foundation in chemical and biological engineering,” Chen noted. “What I learned here will be invaluable as I move on to graduate school and my professional life.”