Alumni Profiles

Jia Dua

Campus: Duke
Hometown: Auckland, New Zealand
High School: Lynfield College

Seated on my humble throne, hooked onto my in-house favourite, Harry Potter, I absentmindedly completed my morning ritual – my nine year old self as content as could be. Thirty minutes later I grudgingly accepted that perhaps the bathroom wasn’t the prime location for immersing myself into the World of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I began to finish my business, fingers craning to reach some 3-ply goodness when alas: I was confronted with the distressing touch of an unreplaced toilet-paper roll: the epitome of a “crappy situation!” Irked, I began my pursuit to create a “Toilet-Paper Alarm” and eradicate the morning mourning that was ravaging innocent lives everywhere. As a child who’d never imagined enjoying dabbling with batteries and wires so immensely this process ignited my urge for exploration. From animated debates concerning whether Ivanka Trump truly is a feminist – to the more quintessential questions: does pineapple belong on pizza? Tinkering with gears to build robots or creating kooky music with friends – these avocations have been a haven for my curiosity and continue to guide my academic interests. My hope is to work at the intersection which bridges these fields.

I aspire to fuse my technical understanding with my zeal for public policy to unravel the ethical complications that arise with technology. As we aim to make machines imitate life, how can we instill human-compatible values into repairable units that don’t face the existential crisis of death? With fake news amplifying misinformation and enabling foreign entities to influence our media consumption, how do we maintain the integrity of democracy? With technology infiltrating virtually every industry, I too aspire to use learning from an amalgamation of interests to generate creative solutions. By combining a critical debater’s perspective, a creative artist’s outlook for design, and an analytical scientist’s eye, I yearn to be an engineer who doubles as a social architect – filling the technocratic voids in public policy discussions with analytic rigor.

Wherever I land, most importantly, I hope to keep learning and creating for all time frames to come. Growing up – but never growing out of a childlike wonder.

What drew you to the Robertson Program? 

Upbeat, forward-thinking, restless: every Robertson I’ve met exudes a passion that is contagious and is determined to make a dent in the universe. Sensitive and compassionate, vocal yet respectful, each is grounded by a sense of humility – they live for something bigger than themselves. This is a community characterised by its warmth but a program defined through discomfort. It is the startling, the confrontational, the opportunity to touch cultures and be submersed into foreign worlds – the life lessons that can’t be confined to lecture halls – which draw me to this program. Robertson affords me the freedom to combine my passions without penalty – for that, I’m proud and infinitely grateful to be part of this family.

Robertson Scholars, Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021, at Duke UniversityÕs Smith Warehouse in Durham, N.C.  

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