Student Life & Leadership Example

December 2019

Section 1

December 2019 - Joshua Cao

An image of Joshua Cao, December 2019 Spotlight winner.

Name: Joshua Cao
Mewtwo: “I see now that the circumstances of one's birth are irrelevant. It is what you do with the gift of life that determines who you are.”
Year: 4th
Major: Computer Science
Hometown: Moraga, CA

Involvements at UCI:

  • Advanced Power and Energy(APEP) undergraduate researcher (October 2018-June 2019)
  • Association of Gamers club member (September 2016-June 2017)
  • Chess club co-founding member (January 2018-June 2019)
  • Chinese Association club member(September 2016-June 2017)
  • Member on Cool Campus Challenge first place student team WeAllGotCalves
  • Powerlifting club member (September 2017-June 2018)
  • Secure Systems and Software Laboratory(SSL) undergraduate researcher (September 2019-present)
  • ZOWA(Zero Waste Anteaters) undergraduate researcher and ZotBins co-founder(June 2017-present)

What is an obstacle that you have overcome as an undergraduate at UCI?

The greatest obstacle that I faced was feeling like I belong at UCI. When I first came here as a freshman, I felt that I was losing all my friends from back home and was replacing them with meaningless friendships. I did not enjoy staying at Irvine and wanted to go home. I was gradually able to overcome this obstacle as the school year progressed. When I spent time with my old friends during break, I found that we were still close even after being apart for months at a time. I also realized that the friendships I created at school were very valuable; it just took time for those relationships to develop.

Who is your role model at UCI? How have they shaped you into the person you are today?

My role model at UCI is my good friend, Owen Yang. Owen was the first one to introduce me to research positions with ZOWA and APEP, which turned out to be the basis of producing even more opportunities. I admire Owen’s passion for promoting sustainability and contributing to the community. He is active in organizing sustainability awareness events and helping out his friends. Before I met Owen, I often would sit at home and had no interest in being an active community member. After spending time with Owen over the years, he inspired me to pursue more and more opportunities and become a leader at UCI.

What are you passionate about? Do you see yourself doing something with this passion in the future?

I developed a passion for sustainability during my time at UCI. Circumstances surrounded me with sustainability advocates, and their passion for improving the world grew on me. To contribute my part in saving the world, I joined sustainability projects focused on zero waste and reducing vehicle emissions. I am also experimenting with a vegan diet in an effort to combat the climate change effects of the meat industry. Looking towards the future, I can see myself taking my zero waste project to a larger scale. My team has already considered the possibility of moving it towards a campus wide, or even city wide project. I would also like to explore potential job positions or further education programs that are centered on sustainability.

Tell us about a time that you failed. How did you deal with this failure?

My most devastating failure during my time at UCI was when I injured my back in deadlift training. During a training set, a small region in my lower back area suddenly tightened up as I pulled the weight off of the floor. By the time I realized I had injured my back, I quickly removed all back-strenuous movements out of my training program and focused on stretches that would relax my pain points. It took me a couple of months before I reintroduced deadlifts into my training. The most difficult part about this process was not being able to lift the heavy weights I did before. I overcame this difficulty by always remaining positive. I would tell myself “Although I have previously lifted heavier weights in the past, this is the best set since I injured myself, so this workout is a success!” Looking back, I can view my injury as a happy accident instead of an injury. I improved my abilities to manage injury and remain positive through adversary, and I can now confidently claim that I am stronger today than I ever was before.

What is something that you have learned in college that you would like to share the other students at UCI?

My piece of advice for other students at UCI is to be involved in your community. As a freshman I would attend club meetings and various social events, only to find that I did not enjoy any of it. I decided that socializing was not meant for me and solely focused on academics. Later on, circumstances introduced me to a research opportunity, where I worked on a project that promoted zero waste. The experience working on the project was fulfilling because I was able to collaborate with other students to build a project that will benefit the campus. This opportunity encouraged me to seek other possibilities as I became more engaged in the community. My message is that although you may not like the first club meeting or job fair you attend, you will eventually find the organization that fits you best. UCI has so many opportunities that I can guarantee that every student has a place where they can fit in like home. Classwork is important, but it is the extra-curricular experiences and people you meet that will be the most memorable experiences at UCI. I suggest that all students take advantage of what UCI was to offer and explore as many opportunities as possible.