Where are you from and how did you end up at Rice?
I’ve lived my entire life in Singapore, and since I was maybe 15 I’ve always wanted to leave the country but my parents were always very firm on making sure that I could only leave if I were financially independent. So after getting my undergraduate degree from the University at Buffalo, SUNY at their affiliated campus in Singapore, I started working as a corporate researcher for a couple of years until I had enough savings before I started applying to graduate school. Funny enough, I knew about Rice because of an email they sent me about how I should apply and that they would remove my application fees. I applied to about eight Ph.D. programs on different continents. It being the first time I was moving away from home, made me consider the climate that I was living in – was I going to survive there? Because this is long-term. So that was a huge factor. Before I applied, I reached out to Professor Elliott
and I realized that a lot of our broad interests were very much aligned. I think it was Professor Elliott’s candor and kindness that really drew me to Rice.
How would you describe your research interests?
My research interests broadly lie within climate change, environmental racism, urban inequalities, and spatial processes. I’m very concerned with how our built environment interacts with our natural environment to reinforce and recreate social inequalities.
What have been some highlights from your first year and a half at Rice?
The first highlight is just how beautiful this campus is
. I don’t ever feel a sense of dread coming on campus because it is just so beautiful. I enjoy the kind of academic and personal push they have here. I feel like the faculty really push the students hard in terms of academic excellence but they also have such a caring nature here. There are so many great things that have happened in my first year and a half, but I think at the base of it all I appreciate how amazing this department is in terms of how well they take care of their students.
That was one of the top things that drew me to Rice. I will admit that I was skeptical: “Really? You’re going to have this mentorship model? How is it going to work?” But the faculty have proven how this mentorship model is great. One of my biggest fears as I was applying to Rice and coming without a master’s, was: “What if I’m not prepared for this?” But I had constant assurance from the department and that they would go at the pace that I’m comfortable with. And that my progress will be monitored and that they will not push me to do something methodologically that I don’t yet have the capability to do. And I think that it’s worked super well so far. I think it’s so special that we have such a wonderful student-professor ratio here, and I really appreciate how much time I get with my advisor. It makes me feel like I’m not alone in this and that my work always has direction.