Brian Gao is a senior in UW BioE pursuing the team design capstone track. As a member of Associate Professor Xiaohu Gao’s Lab, he researches the application of polydopamine and bioconjugate techniques in enhancing the detection limits of existing immunoassays. For his team design project, he is improving upon the current instruments used in pediatric laparoscopic pyloromyotomy under the guidance of a surgeon at the Seattle Children’s Hospital. Brian is also a member of the BioE Mental Health Initiative – an honors project focused on improving the state of mental health in the department through grassroots community-building. Outside of school, Brian shadows at the UWMC, volunteers at the Seattle Children’s Hospital and Swedish, and is an active member of the PhiDE Medical Fraternity.

“Over the course of my time in BioE, I feel that I’ve grown significantly as an individual. BioE has taught me to (somewhat) digest large amounts of material in small amounts of time, to (somewhat) persevere through seemingly endless deadlines, and most importantly: to actually appreciate the strength of companionship.

Some people know me for my charisma and personality, some know me for being a pretty hardworking student and some know me for my ability to play League of Legends at a high level. However, few people know that I wasn’t always the confident, happy-go-lucky type of guy. During my first quarter of BioE core classes, I lost a lot of self-confidence in a short amount of time. I’d consider myself worse than my intelligent, high-achieving cohortmates and upperclassmen, and I’d constantly criticize myself in a deprecating way. By the time I reached the end of my junior year, life and college stressors were getting the better of me and I was quite unhappy; I even considered taking some time off from school. I figured that I’d bottle everything inside of me; after all, I didn’t want to burden my family and friends, who seemed preoccupied with their own busy lives. I sat in my dark pit for a long time until one day, a certain faculty member reached out to me: Dianne Hendricks. Dianne was incredibly receptive and respectful; she helped me realize that my peers sincerely cared for me, and that friendships exist for sharing both the happiness and the sadness in life. As I reopened the support system that I initially closed, I was ecstatic to have found so many people that empathized with me. I realized that although it’s impossible for one to fully understand the experiences of another, we can all connect on the basis that everyone has suffered pain or misfortune of some sort. I realized that the people who I thought were robots programmed to change the world, were sometimes the most human of us all. Most importantly: I realized that I was not alone.

Since then, I’ve been steadily on the upswing. I found a couple outlets that work for me, such as jogging through Magnuson Park, practicing the violin, and livestreaming on Thanks to encouragement from our previous biomechanics TAs, Uyen, Namratha, Nina and Julio, I applied to and was accepted as one of their successors in the fall of 2017. Being a TA for Dr. Wendy Thomas has been by far the most emotionally fulfilling experience of my life. Sure, I loved teaching quiz section and being an integral contributor to student learning, but I especially cherished the opportunity to bond with the cohort below. I hope that outside of the course material, they’ll remember me for my gung-ho pep talks and sappy words of wisdom.

In an ideal future, I’d like to become a physician, teacher, motivational speaker, and content producer. Obviously, I don’t know how feasible those goals really are… but I’d like to think I’m making progress. At the end of the day, I just want people to be happy. It really is so easy to disconnect from this competition-driven society and to ignore those around us. But when we open our eyes and look out for each another, we’ll discover new worlds and we’ll come to truly appreciate the relationships that make us human. For those who are struggling today, I just want to say that as long as you’re earnestly trying your best given what circumstances you may have, that’s all you can do. That’s all that really matters.”