Tyler Chen – Berkeley’s 2019 University Medalist

Tyler Chen – Berkeley’s 2019 University Medalist

August 26, 2019 4 By Kody Olson


(uplifting music) – Berkeley, in general, is
a super challenging place. It challenges you academically
and socially and morally, but I think that’s the
best thing about it. When I first came here, I was so sure that I wanted to do nanotechnology and then Berkeley changed all of that, and it’s given me the
chance to jump around through electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, bioengineering. So being able to touch on each of those has been such a great opportunity. I love tinkering, it’s like Legos. I’ve always loved Legos, and I think I’m still playing with them. Atoms are pretty much just mini Legos. DNA is definitely Legos. Mechanical engineering is
pretty much also Legos. It’s been super fun just to build so many different cool devices, and it just gives me joy just
seeing things come together. Is this one actually
different from the others? At the end of my sophomore year, a couple friends and I got
together and formed a team for the TOM:Berkeley
Makeathon for disability. We were partnered up with a Bay Area woman with quadriplegia. We had designed this gripper to help Bonnie pick up
objects from the floor, and it was just a really
incredible experience to have her on our side
designing things with us, late nights in Jacobs Hall. (mellow music) I just got so much joy from seeing her pick up all these different-shaped objects and little coins off
the floor and everything and looking at my teammates’ faces and seeing how excited they were about it. That was a really big moment for me. It was when I realized why
I want to build technology. I want to help people get the chance to live out their own dreams, give people the freedom to do
things under their own power. I started doing TaeKwonDo when I was five with my whole family. We did it all together, and
when I came to high school, my brother and I started doing this sport called martial arts tricking. The feeling of being in the air and being upside down and
moving and being free, it’s exhilarating. It’s been so fun just to
have that as an outlet. I’m gonna be starting a PhD
in bioengineering at Stanford, and I’m super, super excited for that. There are a lot of people out in the world who are paralyzed or
have locked-in syndrome, something like ALS like
Stephen Hawking had, and they can’t communicate, and that’s, I think, a
fundamentally human problem, and that’s something that’s really, really important to solve. I hope to build new devices
to interface with neurons and allow people to communicate
with just their thoughts. What I really love about Berkeley is just that everyone cares
so much about the world, and they each see the world
in their own unique way, and they want to solve different problems whether that’s socially or
academically or technically, but they all care so much, and I think that’s really beautiful, and I hope it’s rubbed off on
me a little bit, I guess, too. (laughing)