Anne Feng

By Emily Hagstrom

She’s a fast-talking biology major from Cary, NC, who can explain complex scientific processes in a way that even a five year old could understand.

I remember requesting her help during a monstrous physics class I was taking at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. I tentatively knocked on her door, embarrassed that I couldn’t figure out yet another problem. Anne was, as usual, sitting at her perfectly organized desk, diligently working on some science homework. She welcomed me in, looked at my book and somehow used a cookie metaphor to explain the problem—a cookie metaphor. This was my first glimpse of the incredible, humble intelligence that Anne possesses.

Anne never puts her talent to waste. She’s a Buckley Public Service Scholar, so by the time she graduates, she will have completed 300 hours of community service. Part of her service includes being a Supplemental Instruction Leader (an SI) for a biology course—a position that allows her to use as many metaphors as she wants. (She particularly enjoys using Lego metaphors.) As an SI, Anne helps facilitate conversation during lectures and gives tutorials each week for students who want to go over concepts in a smaller setting than the main lecture. Just recently, a student emailed Anne to tell her how much they appreciated her lectures.

Anne is a much admired woman, and for good reason: she is amazing at what she does. Anne also volunteers for three hours each week at UNC Hospitals, spending time with Cystic Fibrosis patients. She says she has learned a lot from the experience, especially about interacting with patients. As she likes to say, “They deserve your best side.” When Anne goes to visit patients, she leaves behind whatever’s going on in her personal life and directs all of her attention toward bringing positive energy to those around her. According to Anne, this is often as simple as smiling and having a pleasant conversation with the patients she meets. Anne’s passion for helping patients along with her curiosity make her an amazing researcher.

Anne started doing biology research as a high school junior; she continued working in labs when she got to Carolina. She is currently a Research Assistant at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. It seems that there is never a moment when Anne isn’t doing something to make the world a better place. She is the co-president of SUCCEED, an organization on campus dedicated to bringing free science experiments to kids at local middle schools. They repurpose leftover lab supplies and convert them into kits that students can use to demonstrate scientific processes. Anne is extremely passionate about this work, not only because it gets kids excited about science at an early age, but also because STEM education promotes medical literacy.

An aspiring doctor, Anne wants everyone to have access to the tools they need to make informed medical decisions. One of the most important things Anne has learned in her experience working with a variety of patients is that she needs to gain their trust. As she says, “It’s my job to make sure they don’t have to worry about their health.” Last spring break, Anne went to Panama with UNC Global Brigades, a student-led organization that works to implement sustainable healthcare, economic, and education programs in communities in need. As a volunteer, she was part of a brigade that worked to build trust with members of the Panama community. Anne spent time teaching about sanitation, specifically working with kids on how to brush their teeth and eat a balanced diet. She believes that no one should have to worry about getting sick all the time. Everyone should be able to focus on supporting themselves and doing what they love. That is why Anne wants to be a doctor.

Though she is incredibly humble about it, Anne breaks glass ceilings. She is the only woman at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics to ever have been on the Science Bowl A Team (the top group of students). She spoke to me about how, in that position, she didn’t spend time worrying about her gender. She was just at the competition to have fun. Anne works well under pressure, and her confidence, along with her amazing intelligence, are what make her such a valuable teammate. At one point, Anne was sitting out during a round of the Science Bowl competition, and she saw one of her teammates becoming too stressed to compete effectively. She immediately got up and asked him to switch places with her. Anne does not doubt herself, especially in high pressure situations; rather, faith and courage are defining characteristics of her personality. The Science Bowl team ended up advancing to nationals, where they placed in the top six.

Anne Feng—a Colonel Robinson Scholar, a cancer Research Assistant and basically my hero—understands the importance of self-care. She enjoys reading and baking in her spare time, and tries not to get too caught up in the ideals of prestige in academia. Anne spends a lot of time with her family, and whenever she gets stressed, she calls her mom.

When Anne is confronted with decisions about her future, her mom always asks her, “Will that make you happy?” Anne remembers to follow her heart and doesn’t do things simply because they look good on paper, but because they are truly things she wants to do.

She is my personal hero and a woman whom I know will do great things—on her own terms, in the context of her own dreams