Photo: Jessica Ling

In seventh grade, Jessica Ling read Journey to Topaz,  the late Yoshiko Uchida’s novel about an 11-year-old Berkeley girl sent to a Japanese internment camp in Utah. “She does an amazing job of describing the Asian experience,” says Jessica, who is the daughter of immigrants from  Hong Kong.

Now a third-year Ph.D. candidate in English, Jessica was awarded the Yoshiko Uchida Endowed Scholarship, which assists Asian graduate students who want to become writers. With the help of her fellowship, Jessica is pursuing research on the nineteenth-century novel. “My goal is to go into academia and become a professor,” she says.

By focusing on the humanities, both she and her brother, a film  student, resisted the expectations of immigrant parents, who favored a more lucrative path for their children in the sciences. However, the intersection between science and humanities intrigues Jessica, who studied Charles Darwin’s writings in class last year. “It’s the strangest thing to expect from an English department, but Berkeley is a place where the boundaries between disciplines are crossed, and crossing those boundaries can be very fruitful.”

— Janet Silver Ghent

(originally published in The Graduate magazine, Spring 2011)


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About Dick Cortén