Write an essay where you tell us about what drives you in your pursuit of your graduate degree.

When I meet new people, some still ask me if I am 16. I'm 24. In my social life, I don't mind so much. After all, seeming youthful on the first impression does not inherently have many socially negative consequences. Not many people would really correlate looking young with, say being boring or being a bad friend, for example.
In the workplace, however, the words I most dread hearing when meeting new people are, "Oh, I thought you were just an intern." When I hear those words, I am reminded that looking youthful on top of being female has consequences on perceptions of my competence and even what level of leadership on a team. Being an intern is not bad, but being assumed to be an intern without any additional information other than appearance carries with it a harmful assumption: that because I looked young and female, I am probably not an established member of the field. Instead, I'm probably "just an intern."
This is especially common in academia, where tenured faculty and positions of leadership are still dominated by older males. It doesn't come as a surprise for people to assume that the short Asian lady is probably not the boss if white, older men in leadership are the norm in the field. Sure enough, most labs I worked in during undergraduate study often had men in the highest leadership positions, even if women made up a majority of the lab itself. I bonded with many women across many professional and educational levels over being mistaken as an intern at work.
For this reason, I pursue graduate school to establish myself as an academic. I want to change what that norm looks like in academia and foster an environment in which other female and minority ethnic researchers can do the same.

Maiyi from California
San Jose State University