My dad, a Canadian citizen, had been hired as a visiting professor. He worked in the pioneering field of transplantation immunology, during the time of Norman Shumway’s historic heart transplant work, while my mom was a biochemist developing immunological diagnostic test methods used in healthcare for a Palo Alto company.
Today it’s come full circle. In my job as the Academic and Visitor Affairs Coordinator in Chemical Engineering, I help all visiting researchers, mostly international, with the logistics they need to get here and do their jobs. That includes supporting their visa applications, travel arrangements, building access, funding approvals, etc. This work makes me feel connected to my parents. My dad passed away when I was little, and I like that I now help researchers like him come here, do good work, form friendships, and maybe even start families. My mom now helps care for my own son, and sometimes lets him wear Stanford clothes that I wore as a little boy.
My job is changing a bit now – I’m working with undergrads too in a more front-facing role. I’m excited to learn this next big piece of the job.
I haven’t always been in academia – though I do regularly draw on skills I learned in my past work experiences and careers. I am a fifth-degree blackbelt in taekwondo. I started when I was 11 and loved it so much that I even got a job mopping floors at a local karate school, ended up being trained to teach, and eventually managed a dozen staff and 600 students across two schools.
My experience running martial arts schools was great for me professionally. I taught students valuable character traits and life skills – how to speak up, say thank you, practice honesty and respect, work with others, be leaders. I also managed customer service, helping parents and students feel heard and understood as they found the best solutions. This way, people want to be there, keep trying, handle intense situations, and develop options so their interactions feel positive, rather than negative. Because of this experience, I’m now able to help students and researchers when they’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
That martial arts background also led me to some interesting work – I was doing motion-capture work for Atari where they capture the movements and use them to create animation for video games. Eventually they realized that this background meant I understood how the animation should look, so they hired me as an animation scripter and taught me how to do it. If you’ve ever played Enter the Matrix, the combat system is my work.
All my past work experience – from the virtues, focus, and life practices inherent in martial arts to the technical development skills of the video game animation process – has helped me be a person who’s versatile, capable of learning quickly, and handling a wide range of situations. And most happily, I’m now raising a family with my wife, a teacher in Palo Alto, while doing exciting work at Stanford on the same campus and town where my parents were first welcomed.