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Senior Spotlight: Vivien Wong

Spring is here, and so is another Senior Spotlight article. This time, we’ll be putting the spotlight on the one and only Vivien Wong.

A little background about Vivien: she’s of Japanese and Chinese descent. She attended Seely Place Elementary School. Growing up, she says she spent every summer in Japan right up until the pandemic hit.

Senior Spotlights have drawn attention to some spectacularly accomplished individuals this year, and Vivien doesn’t disappoint in that regard.

What are some of your academic/athletic/musical/extracurricular accomplishments?

I have entered into competitions on the local, state, and international level in plant-related research. One of the prizes I received is a silver medal from the International Genius Olympiad in the Ecology and Biodiversity category for my research on novel environmentally-friendly alternatives to conventional fungicides in treating Apple Bitter Rot Disease. I also conducted independent research outside of school on how neem oil could be used to improve crop production in Mali and how such an innovation can be implemented through mass media.

You might have noticed from the impressive lineup of accomplishments above that Vivien has a strong connection to botany. On top of her academic research on the topic, she also has a personal connection through gardening and her blog. The following is an interview conducted by Campus staff with Vivien where she goes in-depth about said hobby and blog.

Why inspired you to start your blog, The Life of V, and instagram @thelifeofv_blog?

In 4th grade, we were growing vegetable seedlings in my classroom and I was able to bring home a red beefsteak tomato plant. I planted the tomato plant in my backyard and was surprised at how much I loved seeing the growing process. This was the start of my journey of growing food in my suburban garden. I wanted to share my success and failures with others, and that is how I started taking pictures and blogging.

What do you hope people get out of your blog? Who's your target audience?

I hope that people are inspired to grow their own food and learn more about where their food comes from. I hope that others can reap the benefits that gardening offers, both physical and mental. My target audience is pretty much everyone (farmers, homesteaders, suburban and urban folk), but I would love for more youth/teens to become involved in gardening.

What is your favorite thing to grow? Favorite season to garden?

Bush beans, because over the pandemic I was experimenting with several different heirloom varieties and found that they cross-pollinated, creating extremely unique pink-striped, purple, and yellow-green beans. My favorite season is the spring because I am able to harvest salad greens fresh from the garden.

How do you hope attending the plant sciences program at Cornell will shape your future?

Cornell has an amazing Plant Sciences program. It has seven different concentrations within their Plant Sciences major. I am particularly interested in Breeding & Genetics and Plants & Human Health. With the former, I am particularly interested in rice biofortification to combat hunger and malnutrition. This was inspired by my daily walks with my grandparents in the nearby rice paddies in Japan and observing the crop changes from season to season. This always made me ponder about how rice, as a staple food, could feed the world in the midst of climate change and nutritional deficiencies, especially in developing countries. With the latter, I’d like to learn more about medicinal plants because many modern day medicines are derived from plants, and I’d like to research more on the potential of plants to help prevent human disease.

What do you think is your biggest success in gardening? Biggest success in blogging?

A few years ago, I came up with a 365 day growing challenge. I wanted to disprove the assumption that food cannot be grown year-round in our area (zone 7a). The most challenging part was coming up with innovative ways to keep the plants alive in the winter. My proudest moment was when I harvested French Breakfast radishes on New Year’s Day right after a snowstorm.

Through Instagram, I was discovered and interviewed by a Canadian gardening podcast called Food. Garden. Life. I also developed friendships through The Life of V blog with other gardeners. Now I have gardener friends with whom I can exchange seeds and share experiments.

Aside from gardening, Vivien also enjoys watching documentaries about food systems, hiking, working out, catching up on politics, political comedy, reading, and art. She has been playing classical piano since she was five years old and teaches piano weekly in the local community. Currently, she is working on Papillons Op. 2 by Schumann as a way to relax from schoolwork.

Regarding school clubs, Vivien is a loyal member of Talk Politics and enjoys discussing current events with fellow members and learning from Mr. Rosenberg. She also spends a lot of time working on the school yearbook as a co-editor-in-chief, which involves proofing and editing pages, as well as helping to make the yearbook more memorable for everyone by reaching out to people for extra information to include in the pages.

Again, her blog is called The Life of V, and the Instagram is @thelifeofv_blog.

Please check it out, and I’m sure Vivien will be happy to field any questions you might have about gardening.

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