Cheng-Yin Eng ’17

Cheng-Yin Eng ’17

Name: Cheng-Yin Eng ’17

Hometown: Johor Bahru, Malaysia (the southernmost tip)

Major: environmental studies and statistics double major

Campus involvement: I have been a student ambassador at the Weissman Center for Leadership and I volunteered at the Berkshire Hills Music Academy. I am the event co-chair for the MHC Scientista Chapter, which aims to empower STEM students with resources and mentorship. I am helping Holyoke Urban Bike School design a brochure. I am a teaching assistant for Geography 205, Mapping and Spatial Analysis. For two years, I have been a student coordinator for the Passport to Chemistry Adventure program, which conducts interactive chemistry workshops for children at local public libraries.

Proudest accomplishment at MHC: I am happy that I have tried a diverse array of unexpected things. I learned to swim — and I even tried diving. I picked up cello, my next favorite instrument to piano. I have slowly overcome my performance anxiety by playing consistently at student recitals. I tried Japanese-pop dance even though I do not consider myself a dancer. I attempted the dual-degree engineering program, but realized that it was not for me. I have gotten slightly better at networking.

I have found Mount Holyoke to truly be an institution that goes beyond carrying diversity as a literal concept: It translates the idea of diversity into real actions by supporting, encouraging and forging a safe space for students to contemplate and act. I am more comfortable questioning my beliefs and being challenged by a dissimilar viewpoint. Mount Holyoke is like a miniature version of every bit of the world — I could not be more grateful for the cross-border friendships I have made here.

Favorite course you thought you might not like: The closest answer might be Research, Ethics and Policy, taught by Catherine Corson. All the security I used to draw from the presumed robustness of quantitative research was dismantled and that felt a little unsettling at first. I learned that quantitative analyses can be as (in)accurate as qualitative, which was a concept I had a hard time grappling with.

Best takeaway from internship or research experiences: My summer research experience at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute during my sophomore year was a total blast, especially since I had an immensely dependable female mentor. Three months of fighting bugs and heat in the Virginia forest, and cleaning and analyzing data in the lab, was a condensed lesson on ownership, dedication and persistence. I learned the importance of understanding statistical analyses to make sense of any data. The internship allowed me to discover my passion in statistics, which I then added as my second major — and heavy-heartedly dropped my music minor.

Professor Martha Hoopes’ guidance in my thesis project has been instrumental in helping me to grow as a scientist and a sharper thinker. I can see my reasoning for certain ideas or statistical analyses crumble down as she probes me to answer the most fundamental questions that I have neglected. If I were to summarize what I have learned from Martha, it is to constantly remember the big picture, which can be a lot harder than one might think.

Future plans: After trudging through 30 job applications, I am joining Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) as part of its three-year data science development program, which cultivates young data scientists and includes a sponsored master’s degree in statistics or computer science at UMass Amherst.