Sherry Li

Biomedical Engineering, 4th-year undergraduate student

Li stands on a log near the shore of a Vancouver beach on a wintry day, with her arms open wide.
For her first co-op Sherry Li worked at Zymeworks in Vancouver. While there, she spent time at a local beach, keeping cozy by wearing a jacket that was a gift from the company.

Leadership skills, along with a passion for construction and engineering, recently earned Sherry Li an invitation to a prestigious seminar from construction giant Kiewit Corp.

Li was one of 115 young women from post-secondary schools across the U.S. and Canada who attended the event which focused on networking, leadership development, career advice, and expanding one’s knowledge of the construction industry.

In past years, students were flown to Kiewit’s Women in Construction and Engineering Leadership Seminar. However, because of the pandemic, the December event was hosted online.

“The seminar taught me about the importance of communication and empathy as a leader and what working relationships could look like with a large construction firm,” said Li, a fourth-year biomedical engineering student. “I learned that a team’s achievements are directly proportional to the strength and cohesion of its team members.”

Co-ops and volunteering provide hands-on experience

UVic Co-op Coordinator Calvin Tripp, who nominated Li for the Kiewit seminar, says her work terms gave her insight into using new technologies and diving into new challenges. Li worked on the molecular simulations team researching cancer treatments during a co-op at Zymeworks and as a research assistant studying molecular detections at the bio and nano photonics research lab at UVic.

“Sherry has demonstrated a very positive outlook, natural curiosity and incredible leadership skills,” said Tripp. “She contributes greatly to those around her, all while being independent in a foreign country and studying full-time towards her engineering degree.”

Li works in a lab, wearing a lab coat and a protective mask and gloves.
Li performs gene-cloning work on a plant that has drought-resistant characteristics during her time at the Kunming Institute of Botany

Tripp said that he’s been impressed that Li has volunteered at the Willerth Lab on campus, as well as at the Kunming Institute of Botany in China, developing her own connections and roles within these groups.

“I expect Sherry will be the catalyst for many positive changes in the lives of others as her future unfolds,” said Tripp.

Li has a particular interest in machine learning and artificial intelligence – and ways these areas can intersect with other fields.

“My goal is to contribute to human health by applying artificial intelligence to the biomedical and, potentially, the construction fields,” said Li. “After graduation, I’m considering working with a friend in Civil Engineering on an AI machine vision start-up that would monitor construction site activities to improve safety and identify excessive labor, equipment, and materials costs.”

Adjusting to life during the pandemic

Like many students, Li has found the COVID-related restrictions quite challenging.

“As an international student, I enjoy UVic a lot and I’ve missed being on campus during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Li, who is from Kunming, a city in China’s Yunnan province.

Still, Li said she has appreciated the welcoming environment at UVic and has received a great deal of support in improving her English-language skills from resources both on and off campus.

“I’m happy being a student at UVic because I’ve been able to fit into a good group of driven and like-minded people of cultures from all around the world.”

Li spends much of her spare time outdoors, reading or socializing. But the quieter days forced on everyone by the pandemic have also given her the chance to work on areas of personal development.

“I’ve learned to listen to others and express myself more efficiently, I’ve learned how to deal with my and others’ emotions in a more mature way, and now I’m able to adapt more efficiently to both the positives and the negatives of this dynamic world,” she said.

2021Feb16 AT

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