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Meet an engineer torn between science and fiction

USC Viterbi sophomore finds time to study biomedical engineering and write novels

USC Viterbi sophomore Emily Chinn
Fantasy and science fiction are Emily Chinn's favorite genres. (Photo/courtesy of Emily Chinn)

When she was 12 years old, Emily Chinn decided that she would write a book filled with her own stories. It wasn’t long before she had jotted down a long, disorganized manuscript.

Today, 20-year-old old Chinn is an undergraduate bioengineering major at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, but she still manages to find time between 10-hour class days and long study sessions to write novels. Her favorite genres: fantasy and science fiction.

My stories tend to have blood, magic and kissing.

Emily Chinn

“I was always a huge fan of Buffy, Fringe and anything that involves Joss Whedon or J.J. Abrams,” Chinn said. “My stories tend to have blood, magic and kissing, but if you’re all out of magic, futuristic science can also be used instead.”

Complementary skills

The daughter of a doctor and a nurse, Chinn grew up listening to science talk. However, her mother was also an avid reader, and she would spend long hours reading to her daughter.

Growing up in an environment that perfectly balanced the arts and science, Chinn always found both to be fascinating. She even believes that, in her case, writing and engineering complement each other. Writing has made her more articulate and helped her solve logical inconsistencies that are common in engineering problems. It has also enhanced her critical-thinking abilities, which allow her to express herself more efficiently.

“I think there’s a difference between attacking a problem and explaining it, and I need to be able to do both since engineering is all about problem solving.” she said. “Writing has definitely helped me with that.”

Words and pictures

Apart from writing her own fiction, Chinn is also one of the three co-editors for Adsum, a student-run literary magazine that showcases written and visual works such as poetry, fiction and drawings. In her position, Chinn has a say in which pieces get published and the magazine’s layout.

She works out of two different worlds seamlessly.

Jake Tokosh

Adsum is very fortunate to have Emily as one of its co-editors-in-chief,” said Jake Tokosh, co-editor at the magazine. “She works out of two different worlds seamlessly, and I can only imagine the difficulties of balancing such a heavy course load with her other responsibilities.”

In the future, Chinn plans to combine her biomedical engineering major with a minor in entrepreneurship, and then use that knowledge to become a jet-setting consultant. She also hopes to continue writing and eventually get her work published.

“I know what I want, and I know how I think things should go,” Chinn said. “Consulting sounds like the perfect fit for me. It involves a lot of traveling, and those long airplane rides would be great for writing.”

In the meantime, she will spend the summer in London with the Viterbi Overseas Program, where she will take one writing and one engineering course.

“There are many things I want to do, and I think I that in the long run, I will be able to make time to do them all,” she said.

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Meet an engineer torn between science and fiction

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