Meet the Inaugural Class - Yimeng Dou
Editor's note: This is part of a year-long series of features profiling the individual members of the UC Irvine School of Law Inaugural Class. We hope you enjoy getting to know a little bit about each student in this dynamic first class.
Age: 29 (30 in December)
Hometown: Beijing, China. Born in Shanghai.
Undergraduate & graduate majors: Information Systems and Management; Ph.D in Bioinformatics
Iconic symbol: Jade bracelet
When Yimeng Dou was a young girl in Beijing, she loved to gaze at the stars.
She successfully begged her parents for a telescope, "and I used to go on star-watching trips with my dad at night," she recalls nostalgically. "We would see Jupiter with its satellites, the Orion Nebula ..."
But when she reached college age, Dou's goals were brought down to earth. "Nanjing University had the best astronomy department in China. So I tried to convince my parents that I should really study astronomy," she says, laughing at the memory. "But they told me, 'You are not going to find a job if you study astronomy!'"
Instead, she studied Information Systems and Management. Still, she says with a mischievous grin, "I met lots of great friends in the astronomy department and they DO find jobs!"
After graduating from Nanjing University, Dou came to UC Irvine for graduate school and got her Ph.D in bioinformatics. She worked three years for a small biotech company in San Diego County, where she ultimately applied for 28 patents for her inventions.
Several colleagues and patent attorneys helped her with her patent applications, and something on one attorney's business card caught her attention and led her on another career path. "He had on his title, 'Ph.D, J.D.' I thought, 'OK, someone with a science background can actually go into the field of law.'
"Although I loved what I did before, I just felt that my impact is not very direct, mainly I just sit in front of a computer all the time. I wanted to do something ... (so) that I can affect people in a more direct way."
Dou initially figured she'd pursue patent law. But her goals have changed, yet again, influenced in large part by her experience as an immigrant seeking permanent resident status to live and work in the United States.
"I came to this country legally to study and I had a work visa and all those things, but it still is very hard as an immigrant. The application processes are not very easy, and also it costs a lot of money, takes a long time. As someone who really understands now how it feels, I can maybe help represent those people and advocate for their rights."
You can hear and see Dou talk more about this in the video, above.
While her interest in immigration law grows, she hasn't completely ruled out patent law, nor other specialties. "Enviromental law, animal rights and human rights ... I just want to explore all of the opportunities here and explore all the education and clinic experience I will have here."
Meanwhile, Dou has been through another life-changing experience: on Aug. 6, less than three weeks before the start of classes at UCI Law, Dou gave birth to her first child.
Her face lights up as she talks about "my baby Sophia ... she just melts my heart," and the invaluable support she's received from not only her husband and her mother, but the UCI Law community.
"After I received my acceptance from Dean Ortiz, I actually went to visit her because at the time I knew I was pregnant," Dou says. "So I just asked her, 'Do you think it's realistic for me to go to school and be a mom at the same time?' She really helped make me believe that I can do it. (She said) lots of her former students who are moms are actually great law students.
"It made me realize it's really a friendly place. This school feels so personal, it's not like a huge institution and you're just facing the school alone."
More about Yimeng, in her own words:
If I weren't in law school I'd be ...
Still sitting in front of a computer eight hours a day writing programs, designing algorithms or making alternative energy resources.
While waiting for the jury to reach a verdict, I would ...
Take a nap! (Laughs.) You have to understand, this is the first thing on my mind these days.
"Law & Order" or "Boston Legal"?
"Boston Legal." Actually, I'm really biased because I've never watched "Law & Order." I really like those closing arguments Alan Shore has. I don't know if it's practically effective if you say such things in the court, but I think some of his ideas are really wonderful - or his writers' ideas. There's an episode talking about the death sentence and prisoners' rights, and how the death sentence is treated in some of the states, like Texas. I think that's fascinating.
The Story Behind the Symbol (pictured in her portrait photo):
This bracelet, my aunt gave it to me in 2001 before I came here to study. She got this bracelet in Myanmar while she was traveling there. I've been keeping it on me ever since. I never take it off.
It represents my family back in China and the kind of love and just warm feeling I have whenever I think about them. And I haven't been back to China in such a long time. So whenever I look at this, I just feel like I'm still connected with them even though I'm here.
Also, jade in Chinese culture, it means a lot of things - it means strong, being strong, but also transparent and gentle at heart. That's actually the kind of quality in life that I want to approach and I want to have.
When I first came here alone, I used to feel like I had my back against the wall and facing the world (by) myself - this lonely feeling. But then I realized jade represents being strong, but being true to yourself, being true to your origin.
Favorite song to study to:
This sounds a little stupid, but I really like an idol group - a Korean idol group! (Laughs.) It's called TVXQ. They're actually very popular all over Asia - in China, in Japan, in Singapore, in Malaysia. They're a huge teen sensation. Of course, I'm out of that age group now, but I still like them a lot.
I think it's because I've been out of Asia for such a long time, I just really love everything that's popular in Asia. And they're the most popular group in Asia right now.
Last non-legal book read:
Well, it's a Buddhism book, called the Lotus Sutra. I was reading a chapter of it about being compassionate and being open and tolerant.
Last meal request:
Hmmm, that's a hard question - I don't think about my meals very much these days! Well, I really like the bean sprouts that my mom cooks; she cooks them with sesame oil. It's really delicious and it's very nutritious and low calorie.