Meet Alex Yuen CC’25 (he/him), a biochemistry major and president of the Columbia University Sailing Team. Yuen is from Darien, Conn., and learned to sail during summer camps on Nantucket Island. When he’s not on campus Yuen spends time at the Huguenot Yacht Club in New Rochelle, where Columbia’s fleet is housed.
What’s your favorite part about being on the CU Sailing Team, and what does being on the team entail?
It’s so nice to be able to get out of the city and be on the water; to get some fresh air, some sun, feel the sea breeze — it’s just very refreshing. I also love traveling with the team. I had a blast when we went to Austin recently — it was first time I’d been to Texas, and the sailing was amazing! It was a great competition and I had so much fun.
College sailing is double-handed boats, meaning, two people. Most college sailing boats are “FJs” — Flying Johnsons — or 420s. We have a fleet of 12 FJs and one 420, so that’s pretty awesome! We have practice four or five days a week; you pick and choose which days you’d like to go. I usually practice two or three days per week. We travel about three to four times a year for regattas; I’m trying to bring the team to more competitions this year.
What’s been your favorite class at Columbia, and why?
Last spring I took “Structural Methods in Inorganic Chemistry” as an elective, and I think that was the most interesting class I’ve taken so far! It was pretty small and I really liked the professor, Gerard Parkin — he’s great. I learned about a lot of inorganic chem techniques, such as X-ray crystallography.
What do you like to do outside of class and the Sailing Team?
I work at a lab that develops vaccines — Professor Virginia Cornish’s lab in the Northwest Corner Building. This year especially, my work there will take up a lot of time since I’m doing independent research. I started working there in February of my freshman year, and I have spent 5–10 hours a week there since, but it will probably be more this year. I work on molecular cloning. I do a lot of stuff with engineering yeast so that it can secrete proteins, like antigens, to make an oral vaccine. The idea is that a pill is filled with a bunch of yeast that’s secreting the antigen, and then you swallow it and it will colonize the microbiome in your gut, and then you’ll get the vaccine delivered that way rather than as a shot. And yeast is extremely cheap, so the idea is that the pill will also be very cheap and everyone can get the vaccine.
How do you like to take advantage of being in New York City?
The thing I enjoy most in the city is going out to eat. There are a lot of incredible restaurants here, and it’s so much fun to try new things and experience the wide variety of different foods and cultures!