Harvard biology student Laan Yeung decidedly goes by the name Rainbow.
The nickname is rather fitting, considering her purpose each day is to brighten the lives of others through her calling.
“The biggest goal that I want in my life is to just be happy,” Yeung stated. “The main motivation is just to be happy and make everybody else happy. It’s sort of just simple. It’s what drives me to do a lot of what I do.”
Laan “Rainbow” Yeung brilliantly accomplishes her goal. Simultaneously serving as the Harvard director of Girls Who Code, co-founder of an international start-up, as well as the Director of Operations of the Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations, this female does it all.
When it comes to her studies, Yeung majors in Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology.
“What we study and focus on is stem cells and how we developed both before and after we’re born… (It) is really useful in creating new technologies and to combat a lot of diseases.”
She chose the program because it’s a combination of her two loves: science and technology. From her passion for technology, Yeung was inspired to begin two of her main outreach projects.
For years, Yeung has spent time teaching girls in her community about computer science and web coding. She does this in hopes of encouraging young women to know that anyone can have a love for technology. It’s no longer a boys-only club.
Her first undertaking of this kind came with a project in high school called AspireIT. She and fellow coder Emily Peed applied for and received a $5,000 grant from NCWIT to start their program. From there, the club reached more than 70 girls in three programs across the state of Indiana. Currently, she directs a similar project on Harvard’s campus called Girls Who Code.
“We basically look to reach out to more middle school girls and introduce them to (computer science).”
Through this, Yeung’s aim to bring others joy is well fulfilled. She hopes through projects like these to spread the message that through hard work, anyone can do what they love.
“Pursue what you want to do because it’s what you want to do! It’s what makes you happy.”
Besides this work, Yeung recently co-founded a start-up called Takachar. The focus of the project is a new fertilizer called Safi Sarvi. The product helps impoverished farmers by fostering nutrient-rich soil for crops, reducing their necessary water supply, and ultimately improving crop yield rates. Also, groups closer to home are able to produce the product to cut down on transportation costs.
“This is something we’re working on to make farming cheaper for farmers in Kenya,” Yeung stated. “We want to make a method to create these fertilizers that’s closer to (them). Instead of having a big plant in Europe, we want to have it in a local village to help them.”
Between semesters, Yeung has also sought internships and programs to further her career. The summer before her freshman year at Harvard, she spent three weeks at Google headquarters. There, students learned how to build web apps and read the different “languages” of the app-building world. The following summer she found herself holding an internship with NASA.
“It was 13 weeks in the jet propulsion laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena and that was a really amazing opportunity… They placed me with a group that focuses on JPL’s internal search. It’s like Google Search but it’s confidential and for JPL users only.”
Yeung’s team worked on several projects, but the one she’s most proud of regarded optimizing search results. They used a model that took related terms and connected them to provide better search suggestions.
Her next mission is an upcoming summer program in Paris. Besides spending her days studying biology, she hopes to document the experience using another one of her passions: writing.
It may seem like a lot and plenty of people told her she couldn’t manage it all. Through Girls Who Code, Takachar, and her other endeavors, the life of Rainbow Yeung rings of one simple message.
“For the most part, people are going to tell you that you can’t do it… Things can be very lonely… I think it’s important for people to know that there are other people feeling the same way and that they’re not alone.”