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Student Spotlight: William Bai

Publication date

November 25, 2020 5:30 PM


Julia Prager-Hessel

Between his first-year colloquium, working in a research lab, and living in Wall Residential College, STAMPS scholar and first-year student William Bai has plunged into Newcomb-Tulane College in his first semester at Tulane.

William says that his first year colloquium, “How We Learn About the Past,” got him thinking about connections between different fields immediately. The course is taught by three different professors in three different fields: Professors Susann Lusnia in the Classics Department, John Verano in the Anthropology Department, and Scott Grayson in the Chemistry Department. William says this combination of professors helps him “get to see how different fields intersect to answer similar questions.”

Living in Wall this past semester, William says it can be compared to the lessons he’s learned in CELL1010: Introduction to Cellular and Molecular Biology: “one of the key concepts in evolution is unity and diversity.”​ ​He says that this theory is analogous to the dynamic of Wall in the sense that he knows so many residents with various interests– from linguistics, to homeland security, to architecture– that are “united by a passion for what we do, and ability to share that passion.” The study rooms, common rooms, and open-air gathering spaces on the breezeways help facilitate those multi-disciplinary conversations and friendships.

This diversity of ideas in Wall has, in part, inspired his continued pursuit of an interdisciplinary education. Though far from his pre-medical track, William plans to pursue a minor in philosophy. He says that there is no better time to ask “the liberal-arts oriented questions,” like what the meaning of life is, than in the undergraduate years. In addition to satisfying some of his curiosities, William also thinks an interdisciplinary undergraduate education will help him build a broader perspective, and help him “understand how the liberal arts and the sciences can work together, and how we can use liberal arts perspectives while we’re doing science.”

William’s passion for asking questions in philosophy has also translated into his plans to write an Honors Thesis as a senior. He says that, in classrooms, students typically ask questions and professors typically answer them. William wants to pursue an Honors Thesis, though, because it​ ​“allows you to ask questions and, not only just ask them, but find the answers to them.”

This passion for asking and answering questions contributes to his long-held passion for research began even before coming to Tulane; for the last two summers, William has worked as a paid research intern at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. There, he worked on research surrounding computational simulations and ballistics. In the summer of 2018, William was also a part-time student, part-time research assistant at the University of California at Davis. In studying and researching the computational modeling of DNA topology, he said that it was interesting to see it all come together: “It's so interesting how you see different things come together,” William says. “You see these complicated topics you learn in the classroom come together in your research and you get to finally see how it all pieces together, and make a research discovery or come to a conclusion about a certain phenomenon.”

William has already secured a place as a research assistant in the Tulane School of Medicine. There, he works under Dr. Elizabeth Norton, researching microbiology and immunology. With all of his achievements in only his first semester, William surely has a bright future ahead of him at Tulane, with his passion for research placing him at the intersection of science and the liberal arts.