Selected Citation

Discovering Dr. Wu

Authors(s):Jada Yuan Publication:Washington Post Style Publication Date:December 13, 2021 Publisher: Washington Post Citation:Yuan, Jada. “Discovering Dr. Wu.” Washington Post, 13 Dec. 2021 Link:Washington Post

Someone pulled a cord and yellow fabric billowed down, revealing a three-story-tall statue of my grandmother.

It was May 2012, in a city just north of Shanghai. And there she loomed, a sculptor’s rendition of Chien-Shiung Wu, the pioneering, internationally renowned nuclear physicist, who left China in 1936 to pursue her education in the United States, and, in a lot of ways, resisted looking back. She disproved what was thought to be a fundamental law of nature and raised my dad in Manhattan and taught me how to use chopsticks as a kid.

In life, she stood maybe all of 5 feet, and shrinking with age. Now she was preserved as a young version of herself, seated atop an actual pedestal, draped in academic robes like the ones I’d only seen in photographs of her winning 16 honorary doctorates of science, including the first given to a woman at Princeton University. It took me a moment to comprehend that the statue was supposed to be her. So big, and so green — the same minty hue as the Statue of Liberty.


Even now it’s difficult, because if I dig too hard, I have to confront the idea that, in the course of her many achievements, Chien-Shiung Wu didn’t balance her work and her family life, and those choices have trickled down, through my father and then to me, in ways that I’m only beginning to understand after years of therapy. This essay took months to write, during which I had surgery on my uterus and have been freezing my eggs — wondering if I, single at 43, will be the end of her family line.