March 2024 BME Blaze: Xiang Ji

Mar 27 2024

In this monthly spotlight, get to know the alumni and students of Columbia's Department of Biomedical Engineering. Read what our BME folks are up to, from our labs' latest research, to our students' plans for the future, to our teams' innovations, start-ups and other career successes. We enjoyed catching up with Columbia BME MS Alumna, Xiang Ji as she discussed her experience at Columbia BME. Read below to get to know Xiang!



BA, Biochemistry, 2022, Barnard College

MS, Biomedical Engineering, 2023, Fu Foundation School of Engineering

DVM, Veterinary Medicine, 2027, The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine


Where are you from? 

Beijing, China. But I say I’m from New York now since I did so much growing during school!


What drew you to the field of Biomedical Engineering?

I was the kid who would trap bugs in a jar, poke holes in the lid, and feed them fruit. I was not a good bug farmer, but I’d spend hours watching the bugs crawl around the clear container. I became very familiar with the many joints on the insect body. The desire to know how biological systems work—from metabolism to biomechanics—is the start of my interest in biomedical engineering.  


What is your current role?

I am a first-year student studying veterinary medicine at Ohio State. I am also the AV student technician for my class, meaning I troubleshoot the projectors and microphones during classes!

Why did you choose Columbia BME?

Growing up, I assumed engineering wasn’t for girls. I went to Barnard College for undergrad and learned of the 4+1 BA/MS program with Columbia SEAS. I thought of how I earned good grades by working hard and wanted to show my younger self that she could study engineering and tackle “boy stuff.” I had faculty and classmates who looked like me and ones who didn’t. The diversity of experiences in the BME department made me feel safe to ask for help and build my support network.


What were some of your favorite projects/memories from the program?

My favorite memories are from transitioning between BME student and dancer. I relished expressing my different identities on the same day. In fifteen minutes, I would stay after the lecture to clarify with Dr. Nerurkar the different stress formulas, ruminate on the Greek letters as I cross Broadway, and lace up my tap shoes to start dance class at Barnard. I loved that the resources and mentorship for everything I wanted to do—performing arts, research, lecturers from guest speakers—were readily available.


What was your proudest moment at Columbia?

While sitting in Dr. Elizabeth Olson’s lab space, I received my first acceptance letter to veterinary school. Dr. Olson was my first mentor at Columbia before I was even part of the BME program. She taught me how to communicate research results, manage my time, and handle setbacks. It was not easy to study for my classes while doing research, working two veterinary assistant jobs, TAing chemistry, and leading a student organization. Thank goodness for MTA public transit for getting me to places!  

When the schools and scholarship programs rejected me at first, I was afraid of letting down mentors, colleagues, and friends who helped me. At Columbia, I had mentors from BME, the Professional Development and Leadership team, and the Columbia Institute of Comparative Medicine. I convinced myself to be thankful that I had all these resources and supporters even if I didn’t accomplish my goals at first. I was overjoyed with my first vet school acceptance because I had something to show everyone to thank them for believing in me. I never walked alone.  


How has your experience with Columbia BME contributed towards your goals?

I learned to ask for help when I cannot overcome challenges on my own. With every single problem set, there’d be a question that stumps me. I’d eventually go to office hours with the TAs or the instructor. I started with an All-or-Nothing mindset when it came to assessing how well I was performing in school, which made it hard for me to ask for help. The communication and teamwork skills I gained made me a better student leader and colleague.  

Another example where I asked for help is through the Professional Development and Leadership team. I didn’t know how much mock interviews would help with my confidence for actual interviews. Gabby and Kaitlynn gave me constructive feedback during mock interviews so that I can confidently discuss my credentials as a Columbia BME student in my DVM admissions interviews. Having PDL integrated into my curriculum made the career development resources accessible.  


What are your thoughts on the strength of Columbia BME's alumni network and how has that influenced your career path?

Hearing Nina Tandon’s address on Class Day was rewarding. First, I understood the references she used about biomaterials and scaffolding (Yay! Thank you, Dr. Lu and Dr. Hung!). Second, Dr. Tandon stated that we, like the cells that make us, are “diverse collaborators.” This means we will be working with alumni in other disciplines to build the world we want to live in. Dr. Tandon’s speech is a reminder of the power of interdisciplinary collaboration, and I am inspired to network with alumni in the future. My classmates are joining industries, going to graduate and professional schools, and taking time to re-orient themselves between challenges. I can’t wait to use my skills as a biomedical engineer to become a better veterinarian, and then find other Columbia BME alumni to see what we can do!


Any words of wisdom or tips for prospective BME students?

Find challenges, cry, figure it out, happy dance, and find more challenges. I don’t have a cheerful way to articulate that. So long as we seek to better ourselves, we will repeat that cycle. 


What are you excited about?

I am excited about my vet school research project about deafness in horses! This summer, I will figure out how to collect BAER (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response) measurements from horses. I know horses kick very hard, and I can’t wait to learn more about them!


1. Xiang in Columbia regalia stands next to Dr. Elizabeth Olson, both smiling, in front of pictures of the cochlea. Xiang holds her diploma and Dr. Olson holds an inflatable Barnard ”B.”

2.Xiang performing an Arabesque in her Columbia regalia under a banner that reads "Congratulations Class of 2023” on the medical campus on 168th street

3.Xiang, Natasha, and Lauren smiling through their masks for this selfie on the shuttle to the campus on 168th street

4.Xiang looks up from the microscope. She is dissecting a tissue specimen and is wearing a blue face mask.



The communication and teamwork skills I gained made me a better student leader and colleague.


Xiang Ji
MS, Biomedical Engineering '23

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