This week, we met up with Ruby L. (’23), HongJu L. (’22), (Grant) Kunwoo L. (’25), Pedro OV. (’24), and Rika S. (’24); who make up the incredible Bioverse Team!
The group of passionate and ambitious students came together for the love of science to create a global conference focusing on the subjects of biology, chemistry, and medicine. Their project, Bioverse International, has now reached students in eight countries worldwide, inspiring others to band together in the interest and curiosity of the sciences.
Here is their story.
Ruby: Hello! My name is Ruby, and I’m a Junior. I’m from South Korea, and Malaysia is the first country that I’ve moved abroad to. I joined ISKL in the middle of Grade 7.
HongJu: Hello, my name is HongJu, and I am currently a Senior! I joined ISKL when I was in Grade 1, so you could call me a lifer here.
Grant: Hello! My name is Grant, and I am a Freshman this year. I am from South Korea and lived there for 12 years before joining ISKL during the second semester of Grade 5.
Pedro: Hello, my name is Pedro, and I’m currently a Sophomore at ISKL this year. I’m from Spain and had lived there for 11 years before moving to Malaysia. I joined ISKL in Grade 6.
Rika: Hello! My name is Rika, and I am a Sophomore at ISKL. I’m half Japanese, half Indian, and I was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I moved to Kuala Lumpur when I was five years old and joined ISKL at the start of Grade 4.
How did you come together as a team to organize this event?
Ruby: As a passionate young scientist who has taken advantage of the science courses in ISKL, I spent last summer designing and envisioning ways I could initiate a club. I imagined something that reaches beyond our science curriculum and provides ISKL students with more opportunities to expand their knowledge in the field of science. After various meetings and emails with Ms. Brems and Mr. Huang over the summer, I was finally able to settle on the idea of creating an initiative called Bioverse International. Another piece of advice from Ms. Brems and Mr. Huang, other than the idea, was to create a team of students who hold the same aspiration as me. I remember calling HongJu and Grant one night during my quarantine in a hotel, sharing with them my first draft, and envisioning so many great ideas we could go forward with this initiative. Soon, we all dove into the process of contacting our friends around the world and inviting them to join our project to make unique “Bioverse Councils” at their schools. We already knew Pedro and Rika from band class and the Student Leadership Team (SLT), so we emailed them immediately as we could see the fantastic contributions they would bring to our initiative. So here we are with a team across all grade levels!
HongJu: Ruby’s inspiring ideas to begin a project where scientific research could be explored and uncovered with like-minded individuals immediately intrigued me! Quickly jumping into the planning process, I involved myself in reaching out to my peers all across the globe to create various “chapters” of our project internationally. The help from dedicated High School (HS) teachers like Mr. Huang and Mr. Naughton truly made our simple plans come alive into a meaningful project.
Grant: I joined the team immediately when Ruby asked me to join her Bioverse event. Though I am a Freshman, and everything was new, I was interested in biology-related events. The Bioverse event seemed to be such a valuable opportunity as it guided me into indulging in the beauty of life and gave me opportunities to pursue my future dreams. Students worldwide also recognized the value of our events, thus making the Bioverse event an INTERNATIONAL event.
Rika: Ruby and HongJu sent out an email to a few people outlining their vision for this project and were looking for a Sophomore or two to join the council. I immediately replied, saying I was interested, and after a few days, Pedro and I were meeting with HongJu and Ruby to start planning! I wanted to get involved because biology is something that I am passionate about, and to me, sharing knowledge and ideas with like-minded people is the best way to further my love for a subject. I also love finding new opportunities to meet new people and work in leadership roles, so this role on the Bioverse team checked all of my boxes!
What was your role in organizing this event and how did you feel about organizing this event?
Ruby: As the founder of Bioverse International, we all felt immense responsibility to make a great kick start of the Bioverse event and set an example for the other councils. But as an initial founder of Bioverse International who has been longing for the event to happen, every single step, from rigorous planning and meeting with our guest speaker, Dr. Elena Azizan, and distributing certificates for the event – it was all just breathtaking and energizing for me.
HongJu: As a founding member of this initiative, I felt that our team indeed had to set an example! As these science seminars involving professional researchers were to be conducted bi-monthly, I hoped to organize our first seminar with Dr. Elena Azizan with great detail and care so as to organize future seminars just as successfully.
Grant: As one of the founders of Bioverse International, we have tried our best to organize our first meeting as an epitome. It was a huge task – with responsibility and management – for the other founders and me to create and manage the conference. To see the next international Bioverse meetings happening, it seems to be paying back our hard work.
Pedro: I was neither the organizer of this club nor the main organizer of the first Bioverse event, but what I did do was help in the organizing and planning of how the first Bioverse event with Dr. Elena Azizan would look and how it would play out. Planning it out was an exciting and interesting time, in which I learned a lot of new things.
Rika: As HongJu and Ruby initially led this event, my role was more of a logistics helper. I attended all of the meetings with Dr. Azizan, had conversations about the available times, the number of participants, and the structure of her content. Organizing this event made me feel empowered, as the team and I could bring people from around the world together with the shared love of biology!
What have you learned from this experience?
Ruby: Definitely to turn a crisis into an opportunity. If it weren’t for COVID-19, I wouldn’t have imagined taking advantage of the virtual platform. One important skill I acquired is the ability to practice and display leadership in a virtual environment. I have witnessed various leadership styles of each council, which helped me become a more malleable and virtual-specific leader.
HongJu: I’ve realized that there is always a way to make lemonade when life gives you lemons! Although the COVID-19 pandemic did restrict most social interactions, understanding the power of virtual platforms to kick-start collaborative seminars has taught me some essential problem-solving skills.
Grant: Organizing Bioverse meetings has taught me leadership and management skills. Such meetings that had lots of participants helped me develop managing big groups. The Bioverse event also let me learn new science-related ideas like hypotension and ‘Human Heart Organoids’.
Pedro: Based on our first event, I learned a lot about the path that can get you into research, and about the American Psychological Association (APA), how a research paper plays out, and the journey of conducting medical research.
Rika: Being in a large group call with people from different countries is intimidating, and sharing your ideas or opinions can be nerve-racking, but having to do these things as a part of the Bioverse initiative, I was able to realize the power of discussions. Several times, a handful of people shared unique ideas, which led to a discussion that produced a new idea that worked for the best. I understood that the best ideas come from meaningful conversations and the integration of several thoughts.
Do you have any thoughts on your career pathway?
Ruby: I want to compare myself to an electron; I will always be attracted to the nucleus of the Bioverse, but I never know where I would actually be inside the orbitals. There are innumerable possibilities that I can choose to take as my career pathway. Still, I will see where I am eventually headed to, whether it be developing new medicine in a laboratory or working for the World Health Organization (WHO).
HongJu: Although the future is full of possibilities, I do feel like my interest in the natural sciences will never fade. Whether I find myself to be a biochemist or diplomat, I am sure that the universal love for biology, chemistry, and physics that I have been able to share through Bioverse will manifest itself in my work.
Grant: I still have time to choose my career pathways, but biology – finding secrets of life – has been fascinating nowadays. I don’t want science kept in one specific field; I want blended scientific fields in my career to chase what I want to be/do.
Pedro: One of the main reasons I chose to join this passion project was because it involved topics of chemistry in biology that interested me and are some things that I would look for in a career.
Rika: While it sounds generic, I’ve always known that I want to become a doctor. My parents told me that I first announced my hopes to be in the medical field at the age of two. The specific area of medicine that I want to pursue has jumped around a bit, but at the moment, it is pediatrics. My aunt is a doctor, so seeing her work and hearing about it inspired me back then, as she still does today. My anticipated career pathway sparked my passion for biology, which is how I found myself so eager to participate as a council member!
What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
Ruby: I hope to spread the passion I have to the world. Just like our Bioverse International council, when people with passion come together, unimaginable things happen with incredible synergy. I hope my small yet unremitting passion can spark others’ hearts and motivate all of them to be better and change the world.
HongJu: Being able to stimulate change no matter how small or big! (Especially if it can positively impact my community.)
Grant: I hope that anything I do in the future can have a positive impact on humankind.
Pedro: My hope for the future is to have a successful career with a job that I like and look forward to.
Rika: My hope for the future is to offer help and support to anyone, whether as a practicing pediatrician or just as a friend.
What does “Be All You Are” mean to you?
Ruby: Being all you are means having the passion and bravery to live out your dreams. I feel true to myself when I seek my passion and live out my dreams, making them my reality. More than anything, the true beauty of being all you are doesn’t just end in yourself. By being all you are, you inspire me to be all I am, and together we inspire ourselves to dare to be all we are.
HongJu: Ever since I witnessed how fleeting and finite life can be, I vowed to always live in the moment. To me, being all you are means that you have the courage to pursue dreams that others label as “unrealistic” and stretch the boundaries of everyday life to better fit your goals and aspirations. I find that life is too short to waste time regretting what I could have achieved if I had given it my all!
Grant: “Be All You Are” has been a key phrase in my life ever since I entered ISKL. For me, being all I am means to be myself, be self-directed, and never lose my self-confidence and self-esteem no matter what. This phrase always becomes my centering bolster whenever I have hardships.
Pedro: Even though this phrase is simple, it packs a big message about staying true to yourself and pushing your limits. This phrase tells everyone that no matter how other people may view it, you have to pursue the things you love with passion. Also, this means pushing yourself to be the best version of yourself and truly be all you can be.
Rika: For me, “Be All You Are” means doing everything you know is you and not letting anything categorize you. In a school where there are so many different opportunities to explore who you are, the phrase “Be All You Are” rings truer than ever. Here, you don’t have to be just a musician, an athlete, or just a debater. You can be all of those things and more, which is why this phrase motivates me to pursue all of my interests, not just one, regardless of how contrasting they are. With this phrase, I get to witness myself develop and improve in all aspects of my life, making me the person I am today!
Do you know a student, faculty, staff, or alumni with a story to tell? Nominate them to be featured in our Panthers of ISKL stories by sending in your submissions here.
To find more inspiring stories of our students, read about The Colour Away Covid Brand Ambassadors Aditi, Ira, and Sana or The Cheerful Peer Helper Avae!