Liudi Yang Portfolio

Cover Letter

Midterm Revision

Initial Midterm Draft

Connecting Discourse Members through Evaluating BMES


College acts as a transition from textbook material to the occupational world. Clubs are key tools used to immerse their student into different professional fields. Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) is one of those clubs, which has a local branch at the City College of New York. Through hands on demonstrations and tours of medical device companies, the club helps the students learn about the field of biomedical engineering.

A group such as the BMES club is also known as a discourse community due to the forms of intercommunication and similar goal. This research project was designed to evaluate the club as a discourse community. Many forms of communication were analyzed, including: emails, newsletters, Facebook page, Twitter page, and the club website. Interviews were also conducted to see how the group members felt about the goal of this club verses their own and how they viewed themselves and others as members of the club. I wanted to see if there was a strong tight-knit community, unified by their goal to become prepared experts in the field before going into the workforce. The findings showed a lack of communication between members because of the competitive nature of the field and graduation rate of the school. It also revealed that the educational scene reflected the workplace scene. I recommend that the club strengthen the student body through group exercises, within the club, so that members can benefit off of one another and be prepared for group work in the occupational field.


A discourse community is a group with members who are connected by a common goal. Their unity can be seen in the methods by which they communicate. That link between the members has been strengthened in today’s various forms of electronic communication, which are relatively new genres. John Swales (2011) gives six criteria that must be fulfilled for a group to be a discourse community.

The study of discourse communities looks beyond the surface of the group and inspects the interconnectivity of the community. Just as in chemistry, a compound is defined by the molecules that its made up of and the bonds that are formed between each molecule, the only way of truly understanding a discourse community is by, not only knowing the members, but knowing how they interact with each other through different mediums of communication. That “bond” is very important because it gives the group characteristics that can only be deduced from researching and inspecting those connections.

Tony Mirabelli (2004) writes an article about the discourse community of food service workers. He uses a tactic that resulted in insightful findings. He did not focus much on how food service workers communicated with each other but rather on how food service workers communicated with the actual customers using the menu. This method revealed a lot about the discourse community and why they do some of the things that are unique to the group. Even if this method seems unconventional, it was very insightful information for the audience regarding a discourse community that is often overlooked.

This project explores one of those educational discourse communities, the City College chapter of the Biomedical Engineering Society. Biomedical Engineering Society (2013) is a large community dedicated to “build and support the biomedical engineering community, locally, nationally and internationally, with activities designed to communicate recent advances, discoveries, and inventions; promote education and professional development; and integrate the perspectives of the academic, medical, governmental, and business sectors.” They have many local groups dedicated to smaller communities with that same goal. City College has its very own BMES, a club whose goal is to “aid in the scientific and professional development of the student body.” On the club level, BMES organizes lectures and events that inform the students about the field of BME and what these engineers do and create.

It is indeed a discourse due to several reasons. They have a defined goal and club meetings are dedicated to accomplishing that goal. Mechanisms of intercommunication are provided for the members and they are offered ways of giving feedback and providing information to peers with different genres. Lastly, there is a wide array of lexicon shared by the BMES group and the BME discipline.

Purpose and Goal of Project

Even though plenty of research has been done about different discourse communities as isolated groups, very few have linked discourse communities in an educational setting to a real world example of the same discourse community. This type of research is what this project will take on. It will reveal not only about this specific discourse community, but about discourse communities in an educational environment.

Because the biomedical engineering is such a large discipline and discourse community, hopefully analyzing a smaller, educational branch will help reveal a lot about the larger discourse community. The method of investigating smaller branches of a complex structure is a technique used all throughout the research group. Using this method, the audience will be able to learn about the actual biomedical engineering field.


Multiple communication methods are used to update students on upcoming events and club meetings. Regular emails are sent with no regular set time intervals in addition to a weekly newsletter sent by email. The club also has its own site within the CCNY website in addition to a Facebook page. The new weekly newsletter is very useful in connecting the members to each other and to the BME world. It gives the dates and topics of club meetings that are coming up and internships and opportunities the club members can utilize. The newsletter is very organized and special important information is usually listed at the bottom of the newsletter (BMES E-Board, personal communication, March 6, 2013). It can be considered a genre. The format for each newsletter is the same so members know exactly where to look for information they are searching for. Emails have the same task; they are just more time specific, focusing on important things that are a day or two ahead. The website and Facebook page are used to recruit and entice new people to join the club.

The methodology of this project will require several steps. I will analyze the components of intercommunication between members. It will be important to see how involved group members are and how they contribute to the goal of the club. It is also important to see the interactions between the club leaders, who are peers of the members, and the members themselves. This step follows Mirabelli’s methodology; the interactions between the leaders and students will show a lot about the workings of the group. The newsletter and the Facebook group will show how the members communicate with each other and if it is enough to keep the group tight-knit. Interviews will be conducted with both newer members of the discourse community and older members. The questions that will be asked including: how long have you been a part of this club? What is your goal being in this club? How will/did the club help you achieve that goal? How connected do you feel with other members of the club? Why is that? How comfortable do you feel around other BME students?

Data Analysis

From the analysis of electronic communication, one obvious observation is the lack of communication between members. Emails and newsletters are directed towards each student and, aside from the leaders, members do not email the collective group. There has been only one post on the Facebook page from a student, during the Fall 2009 semester, with the question: “Hey, has anyone taken a course with Prof. Wang? I'm going to take cell and tissue engineering next semester and I'm wondering if she's hard (that is, should I start studying before classes start)? Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks :D.” Sadly, no one ever replied to it. BMES also has a twitter page, which has a history of only two tweets, both from 2009. Even though it was not deactivated, it is clear that it is not longer in use. The website also reflects this sad finding; it is not updated with recent information ( Events are still from the year 2012.

Electronic interviews with the members of this club may give reasoning to the above findings. Both upperclassmen and freshmen, a total of 8 students, were interviewed to give a general view of the population of BMES members. When asked, “what is your goal being in this club?” everyone agreed they wanted to learn more about BME. A few mentioned that it is a good place to network. When these students were asked, “how connected do you feel with other members of this club?” few said they were comfortable, and those who were comfortable said it was due to being classmates with many club members. The discrepancy between the want to network and the lack of closeness between members shows that the club is not somewhere where a lot of socializing happens.

One important research topic is the relationship and distinguishing factors between new and old members. The lexicon used and the confidence in which they’re used can be one of those factors. In the BME world, there are lexicons, but there are also skill sets that distinguish newly integrated BMEs and old members. In the 3-D printing workshop, there seemed to be a lack to freshmen. Majority of the participants were upperclassmen. When I asked a few freshmen why they did not attend, they responded saying that they did not feel comfortable working with such high-tech instruments. Old members seemed to be more comfortable with technology and learning about them. Other lexicons that can be seen used are microfluidics, nanotechnology, biomaterials, signal processing, and thermodynamics. Often, the depth of knowledge one has about the lexicon assesses the level of membership of a member.

Discussion and Recommendation

Based on the research, it seems to be that communication is not common between club members even though they are provided so many ways to connect with each other. It seems to be due to the sad fact that the goal they are trying to achieve is limited, unlike goals of other discourse communities. Only some will graduate and excel in the world of BME, which is also cutthroat and competitive. If one is to achieve this goal, collaboration does not seem to be a viable option.

The larger question of this research project was, “what is the connection between college level clubs and real world occupations?” Colleges aim to expose their students to the world through these clubs, which are based on a major or an occupational field. A hierarchy can be seen in both. The board members are peers but they exercise a somewhat more responsible role in the club and have both more responsibility and obligation to the members. A club like BMES is always integrating real world technology so that students can learn outside of textbook pictures. Needless-to-say, the competition between members can be seen in both worlds. However, biomedical engineers in the real world have to know how to collaborate with other in order to produce effective creations or groundbreaking research. It seems like the group has a common goal but a person must protect their road to that goal because sharing a road may lead to his/her own demise. This viewpoint should be changed because it is false and misleading for students who should be connecting with their own kind.

A recommendation for the BMES club would be to strengthen the student body; team-building exercises can help with this. Sometimes, more viewpoints are necessary for a group to be productive. One person cannot be so well rounded that he or she can complete a task all by him/herself. Group work will make students realize the wealth of resources that can come from their peers. Maybe then, the graduating BME class won’t be the usual 20 or 30 students. If students learned to help each other through the resources given by the BMES club, not only will they reap long-term benefits, they will also learn the importance of collaboration and group effort.

Work's Cited List

BMES (2013). Vision mission. Biomedical Engineering Society. Website. Accessed March 5, 2013.

Mirabelli, T. (2004). Learning to serve: the language and literacy of food service workers. In Jabari Mahiri (Ed.), What They Don't Learn in School: Literacy in the Lives of Urban Youth (pp. 143-162).

Swales, J. (2011). The concept of discourse community. In Wardle, E. (Ed.), Writing about writing: A college reader (466-479). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin's.

Revision Proposal

I propose to transform the genre of my midterm project from a research paper to an informing newspaper-type article.

The format of the midterm was very rigid. At the end of the paper, I concluded with a recommendation to club leaders. For this project, I want to focus more on that recommendation. Therefore, the audience would be the club leaders, students, who are trying to make their club more accessible and successful. Leadership is very new for many students; it is especially hard to lead peers and bring people together.

Key Questions:
What makes a successful club?
How can the club leader improve the relationship between the members?
What brings people closer together in a club setting?

Goals for this Project:
1. Smooth incorporation of my research into the article
Since the genre and audience are very different, with one being technical and one being more casual, one challenge is to smoothly incorporate my findings into the article without making the article dry. It will help me develop a valuable skill, which is to transform writing techniques/ styles to fit the task at hand. If this goal is achieved, the audience will be more invested and interesting in the article and they will be able to extract more useful information. If it is not achieved, the writing will be dry, choppy, and awkward.
2. Genre and audience can be clearly identified
3. Grammatical correctness

New Revised Piece

Alternatives to Holding Club Members Hostage

Nestled comfortably in the Engineering is a quaint little club called Biomedical Engineering Society. Focused on “aid[ing] in the scientific and professional development of the student body,” the club gives its members various ways of communicating with each other, gives lectures about important BME related inventions, and even organizes trips to hospitals and medical instrument companies. As a member of this discourse community, I noticed that the numbers of participants in the club did not reflect the large number of students majoring in biomedical engineering.
Many club leaders have similar problems when leading a group of peers. City College brags about its 100+ clubs, but how many of those actually have a significant number of members that return week after week? Curious as to why this was the case, I conducted a study to find the underlying cause of this observation and how a club can improve in order to keep attracting new members while keeping the student body a tight knit community. I focused on the BMEs club and followed the club’s meetings, lectures, and trips for two months.

In order to analyze the methods of communication, I looked at all the forms of club communication: its weekly newsletters, website, Facebook page, and Twitter page. What I found was shocking. There was almost no communication between members, and despite all the different communication methods, students remained strangers to each other. Emails and newsletters are directed towards each student and, aside from the leaders, members do not email the collective group. There has been only one post on the Facebook page from a student, during the Fall 2009 semester, with the question: “Hey, has anyone taken a course with Prof. Wang? I'm going to take cell and tissue engineering next semester and I'm wondering if she's hard (that is, should I start studying before classes start)? Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks :D.” Sadly, no one ever replied to it. BMES also has a twitter page, which has a history of only two tweets, both from 2009. In my interviews with the club members, all the interviewees mentioned that one of their main goals was to network, but clearly, the club is not a conducive place for meeting new people. Upon these observations I found a group of students with no glue holding them together, nothing that made them want to see each other’s faces weeks after weeks.

How can we change that? How can we increase the level of enjoyment and the bond between group members? The club must encourage group work to get the members familiar with each other. In addition, time outside of the club meeting in a classroom also redirects their interest to the club. Trips to companies that the students are interested in are especially helpful and enticing for college students who will soon be going into the workforce.

One important addition to the weekly event is group-based projects. They should be simple, something that will allow the members to get to know each other while increasing their skill sets. Little competitions here and there wouldn’t hurt either. For example, building projects always make engineers excited. Teach the class a modeling program and have them work on a structure during club hours. This is the remedy for filling the often-awkward space between members. In the beginning, they are almost forced to be with each other, but that’s the only way to break the barrier between them.

Connecting the club to the outside world will also help participation of members. Funding can be put towards trips to companies or organizations to introduce students to the possibilities they have outside of the classroom. BMES organized a trip to Stryker (a medical supply company’s) west coast headquarters in New Jersey. The turnout was great with more than 15 participants. The event was advertised in various ways and it was enticing for future BMEs to see a thriving company and to learn about what a typical workday is like and how to potentially get an internship or a job at the company. The leaders of the club did a great job of organizing the event and the day was split up very efficiently between speakers and different tours of the company.

The leaders of the club have a responsibility to the members to be accountably, hardworking, and efficient. Many clubs have a very one-way form of communication. The leaders relay information to the members but often, there is no communication between members. Creating Facebook and Twitter pages might be good ideas at first, but someone needs to facilitate conversation. Weekly BME questions, interesting YouTube videos, and fun facts will help the members return to the club page on a regular basis.

Group work improves the relationship between members, trips give incentive for club participation, and facilitated discussions increase conversation. For those improvements to be made, the leader of the club must be committed and serious about their role and must be willing to take action for the wellbeing of the club members and the club itself. Now, if you do find yourself a leader in front of members of your club, the sides of the paper are wrinkly from your sweaty hands, take a deep breath. Try out these methods. This way, with confidence, you’ll end the meeting with “See you next week” and actually mean it.

Revision Self-Assessment

For this revision my main goal was to take the technical writing of the midterm research paper and transform it into a piece that was easier and more interesting to read. I started out with reading some of the articles in the school newspaper. The language was fairly simple, yet the syntax wasn’t boring. I tried to do this in my revision. The first draft of the revision had improved language but the organization was not straightforward enough for the genre I tried to create. I revised the structure and the new organization made the piece more linear, narrative, and easy to follow.

I think the transition of tone and language was very successful. I started with an observation I made as a member of BMEs club. I then followed it with my inquiry of how to solve that problem. My research was described, not in immense detail, but with just enough data to convince the audience of my findings without drying the piece out. I focused a large chunk of the revision on the recommendation, which was one of my overarching goals for this piece.

One thing I could’ve improved on is more creative syntax. I don’t have very much experience writing in this genre so the language might not perfectly match with the genre. It is something I definitely can and will improve on. My syntax can be slightly more complicated and interesting to better grasp the attention of the reader. Overall, I am very happy with my piece, given my lack of extensive experience.

Research Paper

Three Pieces of Writing

Beautiful Writing Without the Frills

So much diversity can be seen all around us in nature but so many functions and traits also unite us. This unity makes the complexity of life very predictable and it gives scientists and mathematicians a way to predict patterns in nature with mathematical laws and theorems. Engineers take these scientific and mathematical findings and apply them to real life. My recitation leader last semester told Christina and me about the research she did with a professor. Using a circuit, she was able to mimic the workings and pumping action of a human heart. Such a complex network representing a bodily function was laid out in front of us so simply. Not only was she able to describe the function clearly, she grabbed our attention. For this reason, we stayed longer than anyone else in the class just to hear about this project of hers.

This encounter revealed to me what the goals of an engineer should be in writing. Engineers should write to turn something technical into a friendly and understandable concept for others, even if the audience isn’t as professional as the writer. An idea is not a good idea unless there are people backing it up. We sometimes get so invested in the intricacies of the actual project that projecting it out to members of an audience who might not be as specialized in the topic can often times be almost as difficult as the experiment/ finding itself. However, engineers have to pitch their ideas to other scholarly people as well as to certain companies in order to promote their findings or creations. Many times, this is done through the form of writing.

As a writer, I am not good at creating impressive writing. When I read the writings of my classmates (from Andrew’s English 110 course last semester), I get so jealous of their use of big words, complex syntax, thought-provoking metaphors, and beautifully painted imagery. However, I do know what I am good at, and that is clearly explaining an idea. It might not be as fancy or as impressive as other writers but I can make it reliable and easy to understand. I think it will work to my benefit as an engineer.

I also have experience conducting research and writing research papers. I did a project for several research competitions on the effects of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 on English Language Learners in NYC public elementary schools. I contacted experts on the topic, read the long reform act, conducted interviews in several schools in NYC, collected demographic data from the DOE website, and compiled my findings in a (super long) research paper. Being very invested in this project, I was proud of the outcome. I shed light on a group of students who are often overlooked and criticized a major educational legislation with my own findings. This was the biggest project I took on, but I had done several other small research projects throughout my high school career. I think my experiences with the research method and putting it all down on paper makes me well suited for the research field and writing like an engineer.

BP2: The American Philatelist Society

The American Philatelic is a published philatelic journal for American stamp collectors with its first issue originating in 1887. Only the members of the American Philatelic Society have access to these journals. Philatelists as a discourse community have a common goal of preserving and showing off valuable stamps. The president of the APS writes about the goal of the society, in the President’s Column, as “plant[ing] the seeds of Stamp Collecting for youth of all ages.” In addition to preserving the history in stamps in collections, it is important to increase awareness of these, sometimes underappreciated, pieces of art.

This journal acts to connect philatelists all over the country. They are updated on where to sell their stamps, where to buy more for their collection, exhibits coming up, and exclusive events for the members.As far as advancing their goal, the members are connected as a group and power comes in numbers. They are coordinated on their events and collections of the members are increasing because of the healthy selling and buying of stamps that occur because of this journal. Just like other exclusive groups, the philatelic society has elections for their board members, inside jokes (such as “we have tongs, will travel”), member events, its own library, and even a Hall of Fame. Similarly to other magazines and journals, there are advertisements; however, these are geared towards only philatelists. The entire journal goes to show how important stamps are to the individuals in this discourse community.

There are tons of lexis and community-specific terminology in the philatelic community. Stamps are described in very intricate terminology, the way all art requires professional assessment of its traits. General stamps are usually described with issue year, denomination, color, centering, condition (mint, used, hinged, etc.). Additional information is needed for special stamps such as those with errors, those originating in a foreign country, and if it is or is not a plate block. Notice how even the lexeis branch out to even more subsets of community-specific terminology.

The different articles are written by professional writers who also share a love of collecting stamps. Based on the author descriptions after each article, these authors are definitely insiders because they are widely knowledgeable about the topics they write about, which are all specific to the community. Not one article deviates from the topic of stamps, and for good reason. Reading the articles, it seems that the authors are only targeting insiders. This is due to several reasons. Only members of this society are subscribed to the journal and many lexeis are used without explanations of what they mean. Analysis of this written journal of philatelists as a discourse community goes to show how dedicated they are to their passion and the amount of knowledge and experience necessary to understand all the community-specific terminologies that go with being a stamp collector.

To view the actual journal I used, go to this link

Summary of Nanodiamond Research Paper

Laser-induced fluorescence is used to tag target cells and cell components. However, this process is interfered by the presence of naturally found compounds that both absorb light and emit light back, with different wavelengths. Fluorescent probes that absorb and emit light at wavelengths that avoid those problematic wavelength intervals (by having wavelength characteristics greater than the said intervals) are the most effective. Certain molecules used to tag cells fulfill that criterion but are often detrimental to cells and limit the amount of time cells can be observed in vivo or in vitro.

An alternative to this method is the use of quantum dots, which are nano-sized semiconductors. Advantages of using quantum dots include its high stability and the ability to better control the emission. A disadvantage includes its toxicity, which can be avoided modifying the surface. However, this process, in turn, affects emission due to the sensitive photophysical properties of quantum dots. To deal with this problem, this research group found that nanodiamonds ("with a nominal size of 100 nm") could have surface modifications with the fluorescence still stable after treating its surface with strong oxidative acids. They have all the advantages of quantum dots, but goes beyond them, by having a high tolerance for photobleaching, being nontoxic, and having favorable absorption and emission wavelengths.

The methodology of the research project included many steps to observe single fluorescent nanodiamonds (FNDs) in both glass substrates and HeLa cells. More specially, the group measured fluorescence lifespan, tested photostability based on size, compared nanodiamonds to single dye molecules and quantum dots, observed the effects of coating on living cells and DNA, and tested the effectiveness of cell tracking.

The results showed the promising performance of nanodiamonds. Single dye molecules photobleached very quickly (within 12 seconds) while the nanodiamond had the same fluorescence intensity for a much longer period (over 300 seconds). Photostability was independent of the size of the nanodiamonds and intensity was proportional to the volume of the nanodiamonds, which makes them more predictable. The half-life of the nanodiamond is substantially longer than the dye molecules, which increases its utility value. When compared with TOTO-1 dye molecules on DNA, FND dye was capable of being detected by a wider range of wavelength channels and stayed stable for a longer length of time. When compared to quantum dots, nanodiamonds were found to have similar fluorescence intensity. The only difference is those nanodiamonds, at 35-nm are bigger than CdSe/ZnS, which are around 6-nm (according to the product page of Sigma-Aldrich). However, the size of nanodiamonds can be scaled down to 10-nm with the right experimental conditions. When the nanodiamond was put into the cytoplasm of a live HeLa cell, the motion of the dye was tracked and plotted to show that single-particle tracking is possible and effective with the nanodiamonds. The research that this group did on nanodiamonds showed that the nanodiamond is a dependable tracking particle, one with superior photophysical properties, photostability, and a longer lifespan compared to the properties of the commonly used single dye molecules and quantum dots.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License