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Meet Amy Xie

Amy Xie

Amy Xie says she knew Wake Forest was right for her when she sat in on a class during a campus visit and became actively engaged in discussion. “The professor and students were passionate about the subject, yet each had interests and identities that extended far beyond their major.”

You developed a sleeper pod for astronauts. Where did you get this idea?
A teacher of mine once said “new ideas are sparked by two types of people: those who are inexperienced and see the simple things professionals overlook, and those who are from another field and view problems through a different lens.” This encouraged me to interview three NASA astronauts about the problems they experienced in space — in particular, what it was like sleeping in unpadded zip-up bags strapped to the wall. The astronauts said they experienced back pain induced by spinal elongation and sleep deprivation due to the sun rising every 90 minutes. Thus, the idea for an ergonomically sound, circadian rhythm-stimulating sleeping pod was born. Through further research, design and modeling, I recognized that the curvature and forces on the spine in zero gravity was largely unknown. NASA’s microgravity test suggests that less gravity in space creates more space between each vertebra and strains core muscles attached to the spine.

Amy Xie in zero G at NASA

What did you learn working on the pod project that will help you in college?
I learned not to limit my learning to just my professors and mentors. My classmates may all view the same topic through a different angle, and round-table discussions often bring out the best in everybody. I also learned that the only way to achieve a goal is to try. I never expected to have the chance to pitch my invention to Silicon Valley entrepreneurs or fly in zero G with NASA before obtaining a high school diploma, but stepping out of my comfort zone has been the first step for each of my pursuits.

If you could travel in space with any famous person, who would you like to show the universe and why?
William Anders, an Apollo 8 crew member, described his experience: “We came all this way to explore the moon, and the most important thing we discovered is the Earth.” I would choose to take the person who might eventually trigger World War III in hopes that he or she would see that in light of the universe, life on Earth is a privilege.

What book, film or musical piece has most influenced your life?
John Cage’s piece “4’33″” is constituted by 4 minutes and 33 seconds of rests (silence). It is a reminder that silence, too, is music. Without pauses, music would simply be noise. Similarly, a life constantly filled with things to do and places to see but no time to take a step back and reflect often lacks meaning and purpose.

What classes are you most excited to take?
As an individual who loves to embrace challenges, I look forward to starting my college experience with organic chemistry. I am excited for bioinspiration and biomimetics because the idea of nature-inspired innovations intrigues me.

What hobbies or interests are you looking forward to developing?
I’d like to serve my community with a campus ministry, try club rowing and dive into the Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship program.

Imagine yourself on graduation day in four years. What will you be thinking?
When I cross the stage, I will probably be thinking, “I hope my last name is pronounced correctly.” :-) (Xie’s name is pronounced like “chef” without the “f”)

College is where there are people to teach me, direct me and let me wander a bit, so I can see things for myself. At graduation, I hope to have established a direction and goal for my career, and to have the tools and confidence to embrace the obstacles on the way.