- Biomechanist: enjoys making cool things to study how mechanical signals influence biology
- BS in Mechanical Engineering, Mechanical Design Concentration, San Jose State University, Class of 2014
- Hobbies: riding bicycles, climbing rocks, running, & nerding out over music, art, food, countrysides and cityscapes
The question I get most often, and likely the one most that most polite people are too polite to ask, is, “So what were you doing for all of your 20’s?” It’s an understandable question since on paper it may seem like I woke up one day and decided to go to Stanford. Since nothing could be further from the truth, I’m choosing to use this question as a basis for this self-bio.
The only thing I knew for certain when I graduated from high school was that I wanted to be a creator. Art. Poetry. Whatever. I liked making things. An unfortunate side effect of this was that I had no support or direction for collegiate endeavors. At 18 years young I moved out of my Dad’s house and started working at an oral surgery office full time. For a few years I dabbled in various jobs and tried to take community college classes with the goal of transferring into a four-year university. But eventually it just became too much to fully support myself financially while taking classes and paying out of pocket for college expenses without any aid.
Meanwhile, one of these jobs had been working at a gym where I met a guy who owned a bike shop. He introduced me to the Oakland bike polo scene, racing on the velodrome, and participating in unofficial bike races called “alley cats.” I was hooked. It wasn’t long until I was working full time at a bike shop, doing custom bike fits, and devoting all of my energy into training for cross country mountain bike races.
Then one night, while having a conversation about bike builds and geometry with friends, a good friend and mentor told me, “Joy, you really need to go back and get your degree.” She was hinting at some untapped potential that I’d cast away into a closet long ago. But she was right. Deep down inside I knew that though I was very happy racing bikes and working in a bike shop, it would never be enough.
So I went back to school. This was in 2010 and I had just turned 26. I already knew that Mechanical Engineering was my jam (the how of this is another story best reserved for another time). But it was during a bike race—while I watched a racer with a prosthetic lower leg push his bike up a steep grade against the sliding mud in the pouring rain—that I decided to pursue the PhD. Being pretty much from the Bay Area, I knew that Stanford was the best school in the world and so I aimed high.
The rest is on paper. Of course, there are many many more details than what I’ve listed here—like being a Magic Princess, teaching math to grade school kids, and being a certified personal trainer—but the overall picture is painted. The point is that from 18 to 26 I was learning about myself, the world, and my place in the world. Though it doesn’t seem as impressive on paper I would not be where I am today without having gone through that process. In the words of Edith Piaf, je ne regrette rien.