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First-Year Investigations: Tienju Wang

Illustration by Joel Kimmel
Illustration by Joel Kimmel

Tienju Wang
Dallas, Texas
Biological Sciences

It took nine hours of studying for an advanced placement biology exam and a touch of delirium for Tienju “Nikky” Wang to make up her mind.

At a young age she aspired to help others, but it really was that long night of studying that propelled Wang to realize her calling.

When she was still burning the midnight oil at 2 a.m., her mom checked in on her.

“I told her chloroplasts are cute,” Wang said. “My mom said I should major in biology.”

Now 1,440 miles away from her parents, Wang relishes the freedom to lay out her own academic path as she pinpoints an area of practice. Jo Ann Farver’s FYI seminar captivated her for the guidance it would offer and the opportunity to study psychology — a subject she’s always been intrigued by, but couldn’t take in high school because of her heavy workload.

Wang is driven to help others, but is worried her skin might be a bit thin to work directly with patients who are terminally ill. She is considering radiology and echocardiology, which will allow her to diagnose without having to deliver any bad news directly.

At the same time, she doesn’t want to cut herself short.

“I hope to get a better understanding of what I can do with a biology degree,” Wang said. “If I decide not to go to medical school what can I do then? I hope FYI will help answer that question.”

In the meantime, Wang is building friendships and getting to know her peers and professor-mentor through class discussions. She is also taking time to nurture her interests for music and martial arts by joining clubs on campus and seeking out information on additional volunteer and travel opportunities. The 18-year-old also has her eyes set on exploring a new country, possibly China or Spain.

In her free time, she is finding her way around Los Angeles with some help from family members who live close by.

“If Professor Farver suggests something, it really helps because it’s coming from someone who really knows you,” she said. “I definitely want to build connections with professors. FYI is the way to do just that.”

FYI Class: Why Do People Believe Weird Things …
and How can Psychology Help Us Answer This Question?

“There are many biases in our thinking. We connect dots that aren’t connectable and connect things that are mere coincidences. In this class, we examine the root of superstitious and magical thinking.”

- Jo Ann Farver, professor of psychology

Is Elvis still alive? Will an athlete play better if he wears his lucky socks to the game? In this FYI seminar, students think critically about the world around them while considering what standards to apply to decipher fact from fiction. They employ psychology principles and research to examine how reasoning abilities work and learn to develop a more logical view of the world.

Read more articles from Dornsife Life magazine's Fall 2011/Winter 2012 issue