UCL News


Seven Questions with Xinyi Feng

8 November 2017

This week we meet MSc Biochemistry student Xinyi Feng, the Mayor's Entrepreneur Intern.

Xinyi Feng Xinyi is promoting the Mayor's Enterpreneur Competition, which encourages students to come up with innovative ideas to promote sustainability in London and which has a top prize of £20,000

1.    Why are you interested in Biochemistry?

I have always been fascinated by the intricate mechanisms of various organisms, especially at a molecular level. With the passion to investigate the mysteries of life, I developed a particular interest in biochemistry. This subject fulfills my inquisitive nature through the understanding of macromolecules, cells, genetics and diseases. It also has an interdisciplinary nature that allows me to apply knowledge innovatively beyond mere theoretical understanding.
To me, studying biochemistry is rewarding and exciting. It provides the opportunity to get involved in inspiring and groundbreaking research projects that not only fulfills my passion in science, but also benefits society as whole.

2. Who inspires you and why? What do you plan to do in the future?

Of all the people who have inspired me, one of my best friends, Heidy, ranks at the top of the list. Knowing her since secondary school, she is always hardworking and resilient, determined and persistent. Heidy is also a science lover. I really enjoy discussing current issues and the latest scientific breakthroughs with her, because she always has innovative and inspirational ideas. Although we do not always agree we enjoy debating controversial issues, sharing our knowledge and opinions and looking issues from different perspectives.

I would like to pursue a career in academic research in the future. I believe that an academic career not only allows me to commit to lifelong learning, but also provides me with knowledge and skills that are indispensable to both employers and society.

3. What is the most interesting thing you've done, seen or got involved with while at UCL?

I am currently under the Mayor's Entrepreneur Intern and my role is to promote the Mayor's Entrepreneur Competition organized by the Mayor's Fund for London throughout UCL. This involves many collaborations with the UCL Innovation and Enterprise team. The team members have provided a broad range of support to help me reach as many students as possible, such as publicising the competition in their newsletters, webpages, and activities where I can promote the competition to the audience. Through this experience, I have come to understand the networking and personal development opportunities provided by UCL Innovation and Enterprise. I would recommend more students to join its activities because they will definitely gain valuable knowledge and insight into business and entrepreneurship from these events.

I am also looking forward to the BaseLates - celebrating enterprise event on Monday 13 November at UCL BaseKX - UCL's entrepreneurial hub. This event allows students, stuff and alumni interested in business and entrepreneurship to get together and network. It will be a wonderful opportunity for young entrepreneurs or potential entrepreneurs to meet people with similar interests, share their experience and get inspired by each other's ideas.

4. Have you discovered any hidden gems during your time at UCL?

Phineas-during my first year at UCL, my transition mentor used Phineas for our group meeting. Since then, I have found this place a great venue for studying and socialising during the day, or heading along in the evening for nightly events. The seats and arrangement there are comfortable for both formal meeting and informal chatting. It also feels less stressful to study there during exam session than in the libraries. If you want to find a place where you can stay comfortably for a whole day at UCL, I would suggest the Phineas.

5. Give us your top three things to do/see/go to in London:

  • As one of the world's most famous museums, the British Museum is definitely worth going. There are incredible pieces depicting history, fantastic artefacts on display, and amazing exhibitions from time to time. Whether you are a history lover or art lover, or even an architecture lover, you will enjoy a great afternoon there.
  • Tower Bridge-as touristic as it may sound, I still find Tower Bridge one of the most beautiful places in London. Although I have been there for quite a number of times, I never get tired with the views. While walking along the Thames, you will also see a mixture of historical architectures blending with modern skyscrapers. The views are always charming whaever time you visit.
  • Visiting the West End to see a show is an experience that nobody will forget. 'The Phantom of the Opera' has been my favourite musical since I was young. Having listened to the music and watched the film, it was truly amazing to see the actual show. The fantastic orchestra, the beautiful stage and the brilliant performances from all the actors and actresses made the show incredibly wonderful. I would recommend everyone, whether you are a musical lover or not, to watch a show there.

6. What would it surprise people to know about you?

I was a boarding school student at the age of nine and have never attended a day school since then. My parents sent me to a local boarding school during my primary years because the school was far away from my home. I stayed in the boarding school until my secondary years, after which I went to Singapore for my high school and studied there alone as an international scholar. The experience of studying and living alone in an unfamiliar environment has built up my independence and resilience, and personally I really appreciate this. Over the years, my parents' trust in me and the support from my teachers and friends have helped me a lot. Although it is a great challenge for me to take care of myself as a teenager, while at the same time being self-disciplinary with my schoolwork and behaviour, I managed to overcome these difficulties and become a resilient and independent individual who thrives under pressure.

7. You're involved with promoting the Mayor of London's Entrepreneur Competition. Can you tell us more about that, and how you got involved?

The Mayor's Entrepreneur Competition asks university students to come up with innovative business ideas to promote sustainability in London and the winner receives £20,000 to bring their idea to market. The competition has been running since 2012 and has had numerous successes, including Arthur Kay's bio-bean. In addition, we also organise a few workshops based at City Hall to help interested students develop their ideas and prepare for the competition.

The competition empowers young entrepreneurs who may have great ideas but usually lack the support and opportunities to make them come true. By bridging the gap between inexperienced students and true entrepreneurs, young people like us all have the chance to develop our ideas and make a difference to the city we are living in.

As the Mayor's Entrepreneur Intern, my role is to promote the competition throughout UCL using as many platforms as I have to ensure the greatest coverage. I will also be helping at the workshops held in November, December and January as well as the day of the competition. Managing both this and my coursework requires a lot of time management but luckily I have great team supporting me both from within UCL and from other London universities.

The Mayor's Entrepreneur competition and intern are truly wonderful experiences for students to gain workplace skills and improve their future employability. In 2012, Arthur Kay, from UCL's Bartlett School of Architecture, won the Low Carbon Prize for his idea - a bio-bean which has industrialised the process of turning waste coffee grounds into advanced biofuels and biochemical. He is now the CEO of his own company which has received millions of pounds of investment.