Huaxuan (Helen) Chen


Toronto, ON, Canada

Academic Interests

Statistics Major and Chemistry Minor

Fun Fact

I was the first sixteen-year-old to moderate an official UN panel.

STEM, now STEAM, achieves the Goldilocks zone of subjectivity and objectivity. While STEM subjects are largely objective, the process to getting to an answer and the implications of a study are subjective. This subjectivity gives STEM a degree of flexibility and makes it endless like the Milky Way galaxy. That is why science has fascinated me since I was a six-year-old who experimented with junior science kits, incessantly asked questions about the scientific mysteries at and beyond my fingertips, and invariably dreamed about living on Mars.

Those experiences have caused a ripple effect on my life, and my passion for STEM has grown ever since. When I worked with Dr. Bass at the University of Toronto and with COBWEB, a computer simulation software, to study the Zika virus, KRAS genes and CRISPR, and hypertension, I discovered the practicality of data and was inspired by how data science can be used to solve many global problems. That experience and the statistics-related courses I’ve taken at Duke have motivated me to major in statistical science and data science here. I’m also looking forward to engaging in pathology machine learning research at Duke.

At Duke, I’m a Dzialga Women in Finance Fellow, the Internal Affairs Executive Officer for Duke Investment Club, and VP of Alumni Relations for Duke Business Oriented Women. Career-wise, I will likely start off in investment banking, hopefully in the healthcare realm, as I would like to apply my STEM skills to better understand healthcare companies and the industry. In my freshman year, I participated in the “Science and the Public” FOCUS, which was an interdisciplinary program that explored how the worlds of the pure sciences, public policy, social sciences, and the humanities collide.

In my spare time, I enjoy listening to Broadway musicals and singing classical opera. I also love the challenging and strategy-filled, but fun card game of contract bridge.

What do you like about being a SPIRE Fellow?

Through interviewing Dr. Frances Arnold, a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2018, I learned that success in STEM is achieved through collaboration. No one achieves greatness alone, and great ideas, discussions, and projects precipitate from collaboration; as Henry Ford puts it, “Coming together is the beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” SPIRE in this way perfectly captures the essence of what it means and takes to become successful in STEM - it brings together students from a wide range of backgrounds, all of whom have unique experiences and passions, and creates opportunities for students to collaborate on projects, to support and learn from one another, to innovate, and to discover and shape their paths in STEM. Furthermore, SPIRE recognizes the evolving, transformative, and interdisciplinary nature of STEM and provides students with continuous support, mentorship, and guidance to prepare them for the future of STEM; SPIRE also accepts students from a plethora of STEM fields so they can gain insights into other emerging fields in STEM that they may not have considered otherwise.

Huaxuan (Helen) Chen