Interview by Joan Wu, Concordia International School Shanghai
Congratulations to Concordia alumna Dakota Chen Ma, who has been inducted into Dartmouth University’s Alpha Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, America’s most prestigious academic honor society. Ten percent of U.S. colleges and universities have Phi Beta Kappa chapters, and these chapters select only about 10 percent of their arts and sciences graduates to join.
Dakota is now a Class of 2022 undergraduate at Dartmouth, double majoring in biology and psychology.
Recently, we caught up with her to celebrate her latest accomplishment and look back at the opportunities she had to fuel her passion for science at Concordia International School Shanghai.
How do you feel about being inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa?
I’m extremely honored and grateful. I’ve put in a lot of hard work over the past three years, so it feels validating to see my efforts acknowledged, especially on this scale!
Why did you choose biology as your major in university? Did the College Counseling Program at Concordia help you in choosing a best-fit university?
I actually applied to college intending to major in biology as I was intrigued by the scientific basis of life and how our bodies “work”. The counseling program was very helpful throughout my college application process. When I was choosing which college to attend, my counselor Mr. Compton put me in contact with alumni and his former students who attended my prospective schools. I was able to ask questions about their experiences directly to gain honest perspectives on both the pros and cons of the school. Furthermore, they were able to share their own struggles with transitioning to college and the resources that were available to ease that transition, which validated my concerns as an anxious high school senior.
You’ve been quite successful during your time at Dartmouth. Why do you think this university has been a good fit for you?
What drew me to Dartmouth specifically was the smaller campus. I enjoyed the level of contact and support I received from teachers and the close friendships I formed at Concordia, and I wanted to attend a college that could provide the same level of community. The Dartmouth students I spoke with all brought up how the size and location of the school meant that they could build strong connections with their peers and easily reach out to professors, but still access significant research/internship opportunities.
During your time at Concordia, how did the school help you develop your passion for science, especially biology?
I’ve always been interested in science, but I developed my particular interest in biology during my junior and senior years at Concordia. Mr. Gordon’s AP Biology class cultivated my basic understanding of biology and provided an overview of the many sub-areas within the field. Mr. Barrientes’s Independent Research class allowed me to then apply my biological knowledge to experimentation – I conducted microbiological research* on H. pylori while also exploring medicine and organic chemistry.
In 2018, Dakota, together with two other students at Concordia (Yoonhyun J. and Anna W.) earned the opportunity to present a joint research work to the 69th annual Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. Out of the 1,400 submissions at the competition, the project “The Nutmeg-ical Solution: Investigating Bactericidal Effect of Myristica Fragrans for Treatment of Heliobacter Pylori Infection” conducted by the trio won the fourth place.
Any memorable stories from your time at Concordia you want to share?
In this way, I loved the opportunities Concordia provided to advance the learning experience outside the classroom, from Intel ISEF to TrIBES trips and APAC. My most treasured memories at Concordia stem from shared experiences, like the weekends we spent in the chemistry lab, the late-night musical rehearsals, or the time we decorated a classroom with balloons.
Is there any message you’d like to share with the Concordia community?
My time at Concordia helped me discover my passions and foster lifelong friendships that still act as a key source of support for me today. Therefore, I would encourage students to cherish their time at Concordia and take advantage of the opportunities/support the school provides.
What is your future plan after graduation from Dartmouth?
I will be taking a few gap years and then applying to medical school.
Congratulations, Dakota! We know you have many more amazing accomplishments in your future!