LSA senior Lia Min stood in front of a massive 10-foot-tall banner with a large, circular mirror close to the bottom. She looked into the engraved mirror, removed a small cube from its center and regarded it with a contemplative smile.

Trevor Campbell
(BEN SIMON/Daily)

“This was originally supposed to be my whole project,” she said of the 3-inch square cube. “It got bigger.”

Min said the installation, her senior project, was designed to give a sense of DNA’s biological processes through textures of Eastern philosophy. No idea what that means? She thought so.

“I wanted this to be a personal experience,” she said. When viewers remove the cube from the center of the mirror, Min said it gives them the illusion they are inspecting a part of themselves.

This ambitious vision comes from a student who came to the University with the modest aspiration to become an illustrator for science textbooks. Just two years later, Min was pursuing an intense duel degree in art and biology with a research internship and consecutive year-end honors from the art school recognizing her work as some of the best in her class.

So what of those plans to become a technical artist?

“I decided I want to do the discovery myself,” she said with easy, unconscious confidence. “I don’t want to be the one drawing the discoveries.”

In the fall, Min will attend Harvard in pursuit of a doctorate in neuroscience. For her, it never ends.

“Lia is the most amazing student in this graduating class of Art and Design,” said Mary Schmidt, an associate dean for the School of Art and Design. “She’s driven. When she sets a goal for herself, she reaches it.”

But there are two Lia Mins. In person, she is easygoing and understated. She swerves light conversation from her fellow biologists’ attitudes toward her art to talk of ancient Chinese philosophy in the same breath.

“She’s very quiet and unassuming, but inside, she is very tenacious,” Schmidt said.

Born in Ohio, Min moved to her parents’ native Korea at 6 and returned when she was a high school sophomore to pursue her art. Her father remained in Korea while her mother alternated homes; when her sister came to Michigan, she was her guardian.

Listening to Min put her intricate research and art into novice terms, you get a glimpse at the profound scope of her ambition. By fall Min will be deep in research at one of the world’s premiere institutions for it, but she’d never, not for a second, let you know it.

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