Fung Fellow to MEng student: Louis Huang on a lifelong journey in engineering

By Caroline Osterman

Over the past eight years, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and Berkeley alumnus Coleman Fung has provided students of the university a significant platform in innovation and engineering. Since founding the Fung Institute for Engineering Leadership in 2010, Coleman has collaborated with the School of Public Health and the College of Engineering to contribute to the undergraduate experience as well. Together the university launched a new program in 2016: The Fung Fellowship for Wellness and Technology Innovations, which encourages juniors and seniors to create cutting-edge, breakthrough solutions in sustained health and technology for our oldest and youngest populations.

Having just concluded its second year, the Fung Fellowship saw its first cohort graduate this May. One of these fellows, Louis Huang, accepted an offer to the Master of Engineering program — the first Fung fellow to do so. In taking this leap to further his passion in engineering, Louis has also realized Coleman Fung’s vision in bridging Berkeley’s undergraduate and graduate studies in innovation and engineering.

I spoke with Louis about his background and experience as a Berkeley undergrad, as well as what he looks forward to next year as a Master in Engineering candidate.

Louis credits his love of engineering to a childhood full of science-fiction novels and scientific animations. Originally from Shanghai, China, he and his parents immigrated to Irvine, California in 2013 halfway through high school — but he’d known what he wanted to do in life much earlier. At 10 years old he was introduced to the world of artificial intelligence (AI) and computer science when he helped design a robot in elementary school and represented the team in a tournament. Growing older as he graduated middle and then high school, he became captivated with the problem-solving potential of computer science. To Louis, engineering offers the infinite possibility to make things happen.

“I’d like to be part of the process to create technology and products that make our lives easier.”

After earning three associate’s degrees at Irvine Valley College in the honors program, Louis transferred to UC Berkeley to continue his undergraduate studies in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences (EECS) with a minor in Statistics. The city of Berkeley was an entirely different culture from Irvine: the diverse food, the 10-minute walk to downtown, the proximity to bustling San Francisco and the breathtaking Yosemite National Park. Louis lived close to so much excitement of California, while still being able to comfortably study. He also enjoyed UC Berkeley’s beautiful and historic campus — although as an engineering student he was required to take some lengthy hikes to the science buildings on north side! Louis was also a volunteer for CS Education Day, a course staff in an electrical engineering class, and a research assistant at the Berkeley Institute of Transportation Studies. In his free time he enjoyed swimming and hunting for new places to eat in the Bay Area with his friends.

There were many reasons that made Louis apply to the Fung Fellowship, but he was most interested in working with faculty, staff, and peers who all wanted to use technology to impact the wellness of their community. His first impression of the fellowship was how diverse the cohort is, and that each fellow had unique values to contribute to the whole group. “Being part of this diverse group is a great experience, and there are just too many points from other fellows’ diverse backgrounds that are meaningful for us to learn,” he commented. As a fellow he both improved his technical skills and learned to leverage them to build projects that improve the health and wellbeing of others.

“Being a part of the Fung Fellowship not only makes us a well-qualified product innovator and public wellness pioneer, but also a team player, even under a complex problem setting.”
Louis (left) and Nicholas Kao (right), two team members on the Fung Fellowship’s Virtual Tutor project

Throughout his two-year fellowship, Louis helped design projects for young college students, children with PTSD, and senior citizens. One project was an online platform that connected newly discharged veterans with mentors to guide them back to civilian life. Louis’ team did market research, measured customer engagement, and conducted interviews all as a part of their business analysis. By senior year he was determined to continue his CS and engineering education in an equally innovative and interactive environment.

Louis knew there are a lot of great graduate programs across the country — he also knew the Berkeley Master of Engineering program is unique in that it accelerates both engineering leadership and technical classes in one year. After his two years as part of the Fung Fellowship, Louis applied to the MEng program under the EECS department, and got accepted.

“I was really excited to survive the selective admission process and be accepted to the MEng program!” he said. When asked what he’s looking forward to the most, Louis shared a lot to be excited for — particularly the coursework and the cohort. “While the program provides access to world-renowned faculties and resources, the student group itself is also great, no matter in terms of the diversity or the technical depth,” Louis said. “Being a part of the program will provide us the necessary technical expertise and engineering leadership skills to run successful projects.” Louis also looks forward to the Capstone project and working with other students under an advisor, to use technical knowledge and initiate our technology ventures.

“Being part of the MEng Program will train me technically and the business side, as well as provide opportunities to work directly with Berkeley faculties, staff, and other students.”

Both the Fung Fellowship and MEng teams are enthusiastic for bridging the two programs, and the pathway being laid for fellows like Louis hoping to further their education in engineering. “Louis is exceptionally hardworking, kind, positive, and considerate of his teammates and the communities he works with on every project,” commented Adrienne Greer, Program Specialist for the Fung Fellowship. “He has flourished in the Fellowship and we are thrilled for him to continue innovating and growing his leadership skills in the MEng program!”

“We are thrilled that Louis has chosen to stay at the Fung Institute for his masters degree in the Berkeley MEng,” added Beth Leven, Director of Academic Affairs at the Fung Institute. “His experience in the Fung Fellowship provides a great foundation for continued experiential learning and work on technology for social good in diverse teams, that will benefit both Louis and his peers going into the new MEng cohort. We are excited to see his journey in the program and what direction his career will take upon graduation.”

“His experience in the Fung Fellowship provides a great foundation for continued experiential learning and work on technology for social good.”

I asked Louis to conclude with his advice for Fung fellows hoping to continue as a Master — he recommends doing extensive research to figure out whether the Berkeley MEng program is right for you. As a prospective applicant, your best method is to utilize the Fung Institute’s many online resources regarding program’s structure, coursework, and project opportunities. Louis’ advice on crafting your application is to highlight not just your academic achievements, but your leadership and extracurricular activities as well. The MEng program values applicants with a passion for both engineering and leadership, and the curriculum reflects it — so be prepared to showcase a well-rounded background and convince the admissions committee that you’re a good fit for the program as a whole!

Louis extends his thanks to the Fung Fellowship lead faculty Jaspal, program staff Adrienne, Jennifer, and Joni, and the GSIs (Graduate Student Instructors) Bina, Rohit, and Orianna, who brought their past experience in entrepreneurship, technology, and public health to mentor Louis throughout his first two years at Berkeley and make his fellowship experience a great one.

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