Concordia Shanghai Mar 30 2021

Road to College: STEM, Satire and Squats

In this Road to College installment, we hear from a student with eclectic interests. With preoccupations that range from conducting his own scientific research and writing computer programs to thinking up literary puns and weightlifting, it's a good thing his college of choice has so many options to fit his wide-ranging passions.




Ivan Lee, Concordia student since 2016

Accepted to

Harvey Mudd

Intended field of study

Math and Physics or Math and Computer Science

How did you feel when you got the news that you were accepted?    

I was thrilled! I remember the first thing I did was tell Mr. Love and I think he might have actually shed a little crocodile tear.  

Do you know already which school you will attend, and can you tell us what makes it a good fit for you?

At Harvey Mudd, I can really have my cake and eat it too. I get to interact with and form intimate friendships with my professors in a uniquely small-school fashion while also being able to access the resources of a mid-to-large sized research university through the other five schools in the Claremont consortium. Despite its reputation as a STEM institution, Harvey Mudd is, at heart, a liberal arts college. As someone who enjoys the humanities as much as the sciences, I love how the college imparts a holistic education and culture. There’re no other tech schools where my Dostoevsky jokes will be safe from crime and punishment.   

In your opinion, what made your college application(s) stand out?   

I think my eclectic mesh of passions set me apart from the other applicants. There’re not many biologists who enjoy competing in bodybuilding shows as much as musing over Nietzsche’s aphorisms. My essays did a good job of demonstrating my different quirks and connecting them together. The cheesy puns probably helped too.  


Is there a particular program or field of study you want to pursue at the school(s)?    

I see myself perusing a joint math and physics or math and computer science degree. One of the coolest things about Harvey Mudd is that all students gain industry experience while still in college through the Clinic Program. Essentially, kids work in teams during junior and senior year and help companies like Google, SpaceX, and Disney solve real-world problems. These companies actually pay Harvey Mudd for the work and the students' teams even get a corporate liaison, a budget, a deadline and everything. It’s all very *real*.   

Which classes, programs, and/or faculty at Concordia helped support your interest in your planned field of study?   

Mr. Barrientes and his Independent Research class helped me discover and cultivate my passion for scientific research. Lab work was really hard, especially for a noob like me, and my entire junior year project basically failed (I blame COVID too). Yet the whole time Mr. Barrientes cheered me on with well-timed roasts and tiktok dances and devoted his personal time to opening the lab on holidays and helping me troubleshoot.   


Without his infectious enthusiasm I’d probably have given up on science and become a P.E. teacher instead. Thanks to his help, my project this year won the Sichuan Science fair and qualified me to compete in ISEF as a finalist.  

P.S. Huge shoutout to Cindy for being an INSPIRATIONAL (and weird) lab partner.  

Are there any other activities (clubs, teams, projects) that had a significant impact on you during your time at Concordia? 

High school basketball. I wasn’t actually very good. I never made varsity. I rode the bench and, when I finally did step onto the court, I would always injure something. In three years, I’ve torn my meniscus and ACL and dislocated my kneecap. Enduring this cycle of rehab and reinjury instilled in me the value of perseverance, and perhaps more interestingly, helped me develop an interest in computer science.  


Being the nerd that I am, I wanted to rehab in the most scientifically optimal manner. So, I mustered some friends and we developed a site that collects quantitative movement data with machine learning to provide feedback on rehab exercise execution. Yah it’s a mouthful. Computer science became my cardio-free way of scoring buckets, and, who knows, I might even study it in college.