Alumni Spotlight – Sandra Li

Alumni Spotlight is where you get to meet our wonderful STEAM Summit Alumni. In the past two years, we were lucky to have influenced over 40 young girls who are aspired to become young entrepreneurs in the STEAM fields. Each year, these young girls would work in teams to come up with New Venture App ideas during a two-day STEAM Summit. At the end of the Summit, they would then present their ideas in front of a panel of judges.

Through this experience, we want to encourage the young girls to develop their interests in STEAM subjects as well as entrepreneurship, and to empower them to become the next generation of female scientists and business women.

In today’s Alumni Spotlight, we’d like to introduce you to our 2015 STEAMer – Sandra Li.


Tell us a little bit about yourself!

I have just graduated from high school and I’m attending Oregon State University in the fall for Bio-Engineering.

I love traveling! I have been to Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and this summer I’m going to Hong Kong and Korea. I’m also going to Kansas, Missouri this summer for a mission trip. I enjoy playing piano and volunteering over the weekends or during summers. I like music in general. I play piano for my church, and I lead the worship team sometimes. During my free time I also enjoy watching beauty and fashion videos on YouTube.

When did you attend the Astra STEAM Summit?

I attended the Summit in 2014, during my junior year of high school. I was very interested about the STEAM Summit after receiving an email from my high school counselor, and I decided to apply. I knew the Summit would be in San Francisco, and I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to explore a new place that I haven’t been to. I also thought the Summit would help me further my career planning since I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do at that time, and the STEAM Summit would be a great event to explore all STEAM subjects and help me find something I like.

Tell us about your experiences at the Summit.

I enjoyed the process of creating this App with my teammates, and we had a really good time designing the App. We also had the opportunity to present our App idea in front of three entrepreneurs and experts in the field, and to hear the comments and feedbacks from them on how we can improve our App and business.

We created this App where high school or college students could use to sell and buy stuff from each other within the school communities. It’s similar to Craigslist, but more targeted towards the younger generations of high school and college students.  A lot of my team members had classmates or friends who buy and sell things they no longer need, such as clothes, textbooks, or furniture. Our app provides an easy and efficient channel for these students to buy and sell.  I wasn’t really in to business at that time, and I really didn’t know much about business. But through the Summit, we got to learn the processes that go into finance, marketing, and business planning. We got to learn about different financials, how to target our markets, and other parts in business to ensure success.

It was also really cool listening to all the keynote speakers and mentors there. Most of them are women who are trying to support other women with passion for the STEAM subjects and entrepreneurship. It really resonated with me, because I feel like one of them. It was fascinating hearing about how these women in STEAM have pursued their dreams. Although STEAM fields might not be as popular to women in comparison to men, but these women really worked hard to find connections and opportunities that led them to where they are now. All of them seemed to be very successful and really proud of what they were doing, and I hope to be like that someday.

Through these speakers, I have learned that it’s okay to not know what you want to do yet. Just follow your passion and it will take you far. You don’t have to be set on a specific career path, and it’s okay to change your ideas and opinions along the way of finding what you truly want to do. It’s also important to take small steps and build up to your final goal along the way. For example, one of the speakers talked about how she started as a lab worker with a professor, that position led her to becoming a researcher which later led her to her passion in STEAM. It’s important to not take granted of the small opportunities that were given to you, and instead take advantages of them. Because every small opportunity could lead to something really big.

I have always been curious about the human brain, especially the biology of the brain in relations to how people think. I also want to do research on finding cures for patients with Alzheimer or Dementia. My dream career is to make a difference in people’s lives through researching, especially those who are suffering with mental illness. I want to make them happier and live a better life. I found this passion in me a couple years ago. My Grandma had lived with me for the most of my life, and she passed away when I was 14. I had a really close relationship with my Grandma, and I had always taken care of her in the years when she was suffering from old age. Caring for her led me to finding my desires taking care of other people, especially seniors. I have been volunteering in a senior facility, where I helped serving food to seniors, helping them going up and down stairs, and translating for them. Seeing seniors make me happy, and I really want to help them in any way I can.

Have you been stereotyped for choosing a STEAM field?

Not really from others, but my relatives were really surprised that I chose Bio-engineering as my major. They thought engineering is something that’s more for men, and they don’t really see girls as engineers. Engineer careers are mostly stereotyped to be for men, and the general population seems to believe so. I think more women should put themselves forward and pursue their dreams and passion in STEAM, regardless of what other people think. The more women working in the field, the less others would think STEAM are for men.

Who’s your biggest role model?

My mom. Even though she didn’t go to college, but she started working when she was 18. When she came to the US she became a stay-at-home mom, and she took care of our family. She started working after my dad got unemployed. She’s the most selfless person I’ve ever known, and she works really hard for our family during the financial struggles. She always takes care of the family first even when she’s not in the best situations herself, and she always keeps others needs before her own.


Do you have any advices for the new STEAMers?

Explore what you want to do, and don’t be afraid to voice your opinions or present your uniqueness in front of your peers. New ideas are generated through discussions when everyone contribute. During the App designing stage, be sure to speak up and not just follow what others tell you. But most importantly, just have fun at the Summit! And hopefully you can find your passions and interests through others’ stories and your own experiences at the Summit.