My science courses changed what I thought I was capable of | Duke Kunshan University

My science courses changed what I thought I was capable of

Students in Duke Kunshan’s undergraduate degree program declare a major toward the end of their second year, providing them time to explore a diverse range of interests. Haitong Lin ’22 from Guangzhou, China, explains her reasons for choosing data science.


Haitong Lin took science classes to get out of her comfort zone

What major did you have in mind when you enrolled at DKU?

I thought about majoring in media and arts when I first entered college. It wasn’t something I’d studied at high school, but I was very interested in journalism and performing arts such as dance, so I thought the major was worth exploring.

What DKU courses do you feel had the largest impact on you?

I have many interests, but I wanted to start from the basics before going into a particular area. When I was exploring, I’d keep an eye on the intersection of foundations and the areas I was interested in. I ended up mostly taking foundational courses in different disciplines before I declared my major. Some of the courses I think had a significant impact on me were China in the World, Integrated Science (IS), and Introduction to Programming and Data Structures. All three courses are great, but I choose these because I didn’t expect myself to like them.

China in the World is a must-take common core. I met great professors and teammates with different cultural backgrounds, making it an enjoyable experience that has changed my perspective on how I see world. I was not a typical science student in high school and never saw myself choosing a science major. I’d never typed a single line of code before entering college. IS and computer science were the courses I chose to push myself out of my comfort zone. Surprisingly, I ended up liking them, and they changed what I thought I was capable of.

When did you start considering alternative majors?

Soon after taking my first media and arts course, because I realized what the major offers is different from the areas I’m interested in. Then, after taking some science courses that I (surprisingly) enjoyed, I decided that I wanted to take an interdisciplinary major that will connect science to art and humanities or social studies. The majors I had in mind were environmental science (public policy track), applied mathematics and data science. Then I took courses in these related fields and finally decided on data science.

It was a gradual process. My professors played a very important role to my decision. I had conversations with many professors, listening to their career paths and seeking suggestions. In particular, professor William Winner, chair of the Natural Science Division, had many conversations with me and gave great advice on many issues. The extracurricular seminars were also inspiring. For example, I recall professor Haiyan Gao, the inaugural vice chancellor for academic affairs, encouraging girls to pursue an interest in science at the Women in Science event in March 2019.

What were the main reasons behind your decision to major in data science?

I declared a major in data science because I think it’s a subject that connects science to other academic disciplines. The major’s “data+X” concept encourages students to connect technology to what we’re interested in. I will probably apply for a higher-level academic program after graduation, but I won’t say no if other great opportunities turn up. I want to keep my options open.

What do you feel are the benefits of a liberal arts education?

One of the most outstanding benefits of a liberal arts education is that you get to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Another great advantage of DKU, in particular, is that since our class sizes are pretty small, you have the opportunity to have conversations with all your professors.

Find out more about Duke Kunshan’s undergraduate degree program.