The humanitarian researcher

Yingxi Cimo Chen (MPubH ‘13, PhD ‘17)
29 September 2021

In May 2021, Yingxi Cimo Chen worked as a medical volunteer helping migrant children detained in camps at El Paso, Texas on the US-Mexico border. Her humanitarian efforts made her realise the harsh reality of the situation.

"We are facing one of the most serious socio-economic and health crises in recent times," says Cimo. "My experience made me realise we are not all born equal."

"But I was also encouraged to see so many kind people there. The people I worked with at the border are why I still believe in the goodness of people. I always know that together we can do this, and I'm glad I was able to help at the border."

Cimo is a scientist with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United States. A part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, NIH is America's primary agency responsible for biomedical and public health research. She is currently focused on cancer research.

"Becoming a researcher has always been my dream," says Cimo. "I came to ANU to pursue a Master of Public Health."

"Professor Martyn Kirk, who later became my PhD supervisor, was one of my lecturers in my Master's degree. His research was so interesting I decided to extend my study for one more year to do a research project with him."

This project helped build Cimo's interest in epidemiological research. She then applied for a PhD in the Research School of Population Health at ANU. She was the recipient of the Prime Minister's Australia Asia Endeavour Award and the ANU Tuition Fee Scholarship, which supported her PhD in epidemiology.

"I think ANU is one of the best universities to do research," says Cimo. "During my five years at ANU, I was exposed to world-renowned research and developed essential skills that prepared me to be a qualified citizen in science.

"In addition, I was able to build domestic and international collaborations. I received the Vice Chancellor's Travel Grant to present at a conference in the United States. Towards the end of my PhD, I visited the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, and Emory University for research projects. These experiences ultimately prepared me for a global career in academia."

Being an international student however did make Cimo feel culturally and linguistically challenged during her time at university. But the support she received from the ANU community, including from Professor Martyn Kirk, encouraged her to navigate these challenges.

"I also joined ANU student associations and sat on various committees to voice for students and minority groups," said Cimo. "I learned to interact with people from diverse backgrounds. These experiences prepared me to work efficiently in diverse global communities."

She counts her mother as her biggest personal inspiration, who taught her to be an adventurous person and to cherish every moment of life.

"My postdoctoral mentor Dr Amy Berrington de González is my career inspiration. Amy showed me that women can do extraordinary things.

"My volunteer experience has taught me that life is short and unpredictable, and we are not born equal. I always remind myself to make the most of life and to help others who are less fortunate.

"To all the recent ANU graduates, I say this -- stay connected and make good use of the alumni network and resources that ANU offers."

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