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I Am a Researcher

AliceProfile.pngJingyi Chen

Major(s): Political science (data analytics)

College: Thurgood Marshall College

UC San Diego graduation year: 2026

Which research programs/experiences have you been a part of (Names and Dates)? 

What are you researching (or did you do in the past)?  

During my time as a TRELS Scholar, I focused on 19th-century English philosopher John Stuart Mill's liberal and feminist theories. Analyzing Mill's key works, I examined the intersection of his criticisms of self-slavery and Victorian marriage. Transitioning across disciplines, I delved into a contemporary issue — the impact of social norms in shaping the police's response to domestic violence in China — through the UC Scholars program. Building upon this project, I am currently researching the legal frameworks and social attitudes towards domestic violence in Qing and Republican China. 

Why and how did you decide to get involved in undergraduate research?

My journey into undergraduate research initially stemmed from personal motivation, but the invaluable support from my mentors and the URH was vital in sustaining this journey. During high school, I raised funds for underprivileged girls in China, who aspired to pursue education while confronting challenges. As a first-generation college student who shared some challenges with them, I felt motivated to assist. Despite progress made in providing resources, I came to realize that deeply rooted gender norms contributing to systematic discrimination against women continue to be a barrier to their access to educational opportunities, with some also suffering from domestic violence. Recognizing the limitations of merely providing resources to address this problem, I aspire to be a researcher who can drive positive changes in gender and social norms. 

The first course I ever took at UCSD, "Power and Justice," taught by Professor Fonna Forman, introduced me to essential philosophical and political theories, inspiring me to apply theoretical frameworks to my research. Then, I had the opportunity to research John Stuart Mill's feminist theories, which I initially encountered in this course, with the guidance of Professor David Brink, an expert in Mill's theories. After developing a more solid understanding of the philosophical aspects, I researched domestic violence in China with Professor Forman as my mentor. Motivated by this foundational project, I delved into the historical study of domestic violence with the mentorship of Professor Weijing Lu, who specializes in Chinese women and family history. Reflecting on my experiences, I attribute my sustained commitment to undergraduate research to my professors’ mentorships and UCSD's undergraduate research programs. It was my mentors and URH staff's support and encouragement that solidified my courage and determination to do undergraduate research.

Alice outside holding sign.jpg What has been the most exciting/interesting thing you've discovered through your research?

For me, the most exciting discovery in research is a new question. During my summer research as a UC Scholar, I found evidence supporting the impact of the social norm of treating domestic violence as a "family affair" on the police's reluctance to intervene in domestic violence incidents. This sparked my curiosity about the historical roots of this norm, prompting me to explore social attitudes and legal landscapes of domestic violence in pre-contemporary China. The deeper I delve into a question, the more my curiosity drives me to uncover new layers, making doing research truly enjoyable.

What did you gain from this program/experience?

There are many things I gained from my experiences: I developed research skills, built connections with my mentors, URH staff, and passionate peers, and strengthened my desire to pursue a research career. Also, as a first-generation college student, navigating a research path was particularly challenging initially. However, the URH programs offered me the opportunity and resources to start my research journey as an undergraduate, bringing me closer to my aspirations.

What advice would you give to students starting research? 

Sometimes, students wanting to start an independent study may worry about determining a specific research topic and finding a faculty mentor. I would give two pieces of advice: Don't be discouraged because you lack a specific research topic. Finding a compelling research question can be an important part of your undergraduate research journey. Just follow your curiosity! Also, sometimes, a professor willing to work with a student might be too busy to be their mentor. Often, a student needs to approach multiple professors to find a potential mentor. Don't be afraid to share your curiosity with faculties!

What are your future plans? 

I aim to enhance my research skills and consolidate the research projects I have undertaken into a Senior Honors Thesis by the end of my undergraduate study. Furthermore, I am eager for a Ph.D. and a research career dedicated to addressing social justice issues affecting women in China and amplifying their voices.