A Profile of Eva Xie ’20: More Than a Regeneron Science Talent Search Finalist

Eva Xie ’20, an immigrant from China, tells her story of emigration and how she became Bronx Science’s first Science Talent Search finalist in three years.

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Montana Lee

Eva Xie ’20 proudly shows her Regeneron Scholar Certificate. “I joined the research program because I believed it would provide me with the chance to step into my dream career. Here in New York, merely embracing and pursuing any possibility can lead to breakthroughs,” she said.

Eva Xie ’20, who emigrated to the United States four years ago, is Bronx Science’s first Science Talent Search finalist in three years. Her work, which is covered here, centers on using genomics to improve treatments for heart disease. Behind her groundbreaking research is incredible grit, allowing her not only to read countless papers and agonize over experimental design but also to overcome adversity. Xie is an immigrant; she came to the United States four years ago after what she calls an “overnight decision” to leave Shanghai, China.

“I moved here because of some serious issues in my home country—actually, political persecution. I wasn’t able to see my grandparents during these three, four years. My grandpa passed away last year from cancer, and we were unable to go back,” she said.   

Xie is quiet, but her shy facade crumbles when she talks about her life beyond research. Her first year here was “really hard”—the bit of English that she knew was not good enough for conversations. “I told all my teachers, ‘I probably won’t understand what you will talk about.’ Mr. Chomet was my biology teacher during the first year. He knows all about it. He gave me a sheet with all of the vocabulary and translations during tests,” she recalled.

She is passionate about preserving her heritage in a new country. She volunteers for an organization in Chinatown, where many immigrant parents don’t teach their kids Chinese on purpose to aid assimilation. The kids can lose their sense of heritage as a result. “Since they’re second-generation immigrants, they need to choose between their home countries and the American side. I know my home country and my heritage really well. At the same time, I’ve had the time to adapt here, so I can help bridge the culture between different communities.” 

People approached her differently because she couldn’t speak fluent English when she came here. She said, “Once I tell them I’m a recent immigrant—well, no one is rude to me—but I can feel the difference. So these three years have been tough. Also, [because of my language barrier,] I don’t think many people around me thought I would be a Regeneron finalist.” 

Even though some didn’t think much of her at first, Xie emphasized that “most people are very kind to me. The U.S. gives me all the opportunities to do research, to give back to my community, to pursue my passions in everything. Here, if you are brave enough to step out of your comfort zone, you can definitely achieve something.”

Her interest in STEM extends far beyond school and research, and she is extremely passionate about combining it with art; she has been drawing since elementary school. Xie is the editor of production and graphics for Reactions, Bronx Science’s science journal, and she is director of marketing for TeenHacks LI, a hackathon for teenagers in the Northeast. “I think art and science are connected because it’s very important to educate the general public about science and social and technical problems. Art is a comprehensive way to achieve this goal and engage people.”

Just like art, she has loved science since childhood. “Since I was really, really young, I’ve had an untypical dream to be a superhero, and that, to me, is equivalent to being a scientist. I remember that my elementary school teacher asked us to write about what our dreams were, so I wrote an essay about that dream.”

Xie is thankful for the opportunities and the teachers who enabled her to reach her full potential. “I am grateful for Mr. Chomet,” she said, “because he’s the one who inspired me to do research. Biology is the first class I had here, and I still remember the first ‘do now.’ It was to draw a scientist in your mind. Everyone drew very old and wise scientists, like Einstein,” she said. “Mr. Chomet showed us a picture of young scientists. He said, ‘this is what scientists look like nowadays, and you guys all have the potential to be that.’ And that really inspired me.”

“Of course, I’m also grateful for my parents because it’s tough to be here. Moving here was so sudden, and my parents aren’t good at speaking English, so they needed to work very hard and do things they didn’t have to do when they were in China. I’m so thankful that they went through all this so that I could have the opportunity to pursue my dreams.”

Through her hard work and good fortune, Xie has seized those vital opportunities. As a Regeneron Science Talent Search finalist, she will meet many other bright student scientists this summer in Washington, D.C. They will compete to win the overall Science Talent Search and the accompanying $400,000 scholarship. We all wish you good luck in D.C., Eva!

The interview has been abridged for clarity and concision with Xie’s approval.

“Here, if you are brave enough to step out of your comfort zone, you can definitely achieve something,” said Eva Xie ’20.

 

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