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Life as a Microbiology Major: Amy Peng’s Journey from Dublin High School to UC San Diego

January 8, 2018

SAN DIEGO, CA—Dublin High School Class of 2017 graduate Amy Peng is a freshman at the University of California, San Diego currently studying microbiology, and the latest profile in our popular Life in College Series. After completing her major, Amy hopes to attend medical school and possibly specialize in women’s health or pediatrics.

Amy credits her ROP Medical Occupations class, which she took during her senior year at Dublin High School, as the course that most influenced her to pursue this field. At DHS, she also participated in lacrosse, orchestra, and art club, and was an FMP mentor during her junior year.


During the break, I had the chance to catch up with Amy, to learn more about her experiences so far at UC San Diego and how she is working towards a career in STEM. Amy also shared some valuable advice for DHS Gaels hoping to pursue a similar path.

Neha Harpanhalli: When did you decide that a career in STEM was the right choice for you? Why did you choose to pursue microbiology in particular?

Amy Peng: “I actually decided to pursue a career in STEM very early on. When I was in elementary school, I just thought how my doctor ‘magically’ helped me feel better when I was sick and I wanted to emulate that same feeling. I just knew that I wanted to help others. I’m still not completely sure that STEM is the right choice for me, but it’s the path that I’m on right now and it seems promising in terms of what I have experienced so far.

“I chose microbiology because I knew that if my end goal was to go to medical school, then I had to pick a major that would fulfill those course requirements. Originally, I was going to pursue general biology, but at UCSD, it is a capped major [limited enrollment] so I decided to go with microbiology instead.”

Harpanhalli: What courses or experiences at Dublin High further fueled your interest in biology?

Peng: “The course that influenced me the most at DHS was probably ROP Medical Occupations (MedOccs). I learned so much about myself and life in general in that class. While the traditional classes were based on facts and logistics, MedOccs taught me more about life skills, professionalism, how to get a job, etc. Through this class, I was able to intern and eventually work in a gastroenterologist’s office as a medical assistant. This class also gave me the resources to become a certified medical assistant.”

Harpanhalli: Who were some of the Dublin teachers who impacted you?

Peng: “Ms. [Tina] Lawson, Ms. [Jennifer] Angel-Diaz, and Ms. [Rebecca] Briggs. All of these Dublin High teachers were so passionate about what they taught and it inspired me to find that same passion in my field.”

Harpanhalli: Why did you choose to attend UC San Diego? How has the experience been so far?


Peng: “I chose to attend UC San Diego because I knew that it was a STEM research facility, has many opportunities for study abroad, and has a lot of resources regardless of major. So far, the experience has been really exciting because there are so many things going on around campus and there is always something to do. I also like being on my own but still being able to go home if I really wanted to.”

Harpanhalli: What activities and/or organizations are you involved in at UC San Diego?

Peng: “At UC San Diego, I joined the Medical Education Missions Outreach Club, or MEMO. Throughout the year, we hold fundraisers, socials, and public health fairs in under-served communities. In the summer, we have a mission to Vietnam, where we bring in surgeons to help children with congenital heart disease. MEMO is really the only organization that I have joined so far, but I love being a part of it because the people are very welcoming and it is almost like a family.

“I am also looking to join an orchestra to continue playing viola and possibly join an intramural lacrosse team.”

Harpanhalli: What is your favorite thing about being a UCSD Triton?

Peng: “The Tritons are a diverse and large community. The opportunities for meeting other people and joining organizations are endless! We have six different colleges within UCSD, and it’s always interesting to meet people in other colleges.”

DHS_orchestra_violaHarpanhalli: What advice do you have for Dublin High students who hope to pursue a STEM field at UC San Diego?

Peng: “In UCSD, STEM is very prevalent. Many required courses are already geared towards this field, so pursuing STEM in terms of coursework won’t be difficult at all. However, this also means that you would be in the same field as many of your fellow classmates, so be sure to stay motivated and work towards your goals, especially if you are looking to go into graduate school.

“I’d say that San Diego does a pretty good job at balancing STEM courses with humanities or the arts. Even if it’s not required, I would still recommend that you explore courses outside of your major because you never know if you’ll find something you’re passionate about unless you give it a try.

“In high school, I’d recommend taking more STEM AP courses because it generally knocks out a lot of the GE [General Education] requirements here. The most important advice (it’s always said, but it’s true), is to find something you’re passionate about or interested in, even if it’s ‘small’. All that matters is that it’s important to you.”

Harpanhalli: Although it’s still very early, have you already started planning for your future?

Peng: “Ideally after I graduate, I’d hope to get into medical school and possibly pursue a career as a women’s health doctor or a pediatrician. If this whole med school thing doesn’t work out, then I’d consider teaching as a profession.”

At the Dublin High School 2017 Senior Awards Night, Amy Peng received the President’s Gold Award for Educational Excellence and Biliteracy Seal, and was named a CSF Life member, National Honor Society member, and Gael Scholar. She also received the MVP Defense Lacrosse and earned Dublin High School’s Advanced Scholar Diploma.



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