Meet The Team

Monami Miyamoto

Monami Miyamoto

Jedidiah Cheung

Jedidiah Cheung

Karyshma Gill

Karyshma Gill

Soren Vines

Soren Vines

Akshit Goel

Akshit Goel

Vanessa Tang

Vanessa Tang

Monami Miyamoto | Co-Editor of Moonshot Bulletin

Hi! I’m Monami, a final-year Biology student at Imperial College London.

My story:

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved animals and planned on becoming a veterinarian. In the past, I did clinical internships and farm stays where I watched animals die, give birth and also shoved my arm into a cow’s uterus (fertility check). Whilst it was all interesting, I felt conflicted by the fact that domesticated animals were already largely protected, whilst there were many other wild species out there suffering from deforestation, over-fishing, and other manifestations of human greed.

Just months before applying to veterinary courses, I started learning more about biodiversity conservation. In particular, the Planet Earth documentary series woke me up to the realization that we were actively committing humanity’s greatest crime: driving innocent species to the brink of extinction and taking away opportunities for future generations to marvel at the richness of life on earth.

In that moment, I decided to expand my future vision: to protect our planet. But I knew that achieving a sustainable future has to involve our entire society. I just didn’t know how.

Then, I read ‘Green Giants – How Smart Companies Turn Sustainability into Billion-Dollar Businesses’ by Freya Williams. I learnt that businesses could be the highest leverage point to make sustainability commonplace in this fast-paced, consumerism driven, modern world. Contrary to popular belief, social impact and business profitability aren’t mutually exclusive; they’re complementary. Since then, I’ve worked with various environmental start-ups such as those manufacturing plastic alternatives, or revolutionising the food system by introducing farm-to-table business models.

All in all, my initial adolescent ambitions to save the lives of animals never changed; only the approach.

Journey to Moonshot:

More recently, I went on a year-abroad to Valencia as part of my degree. Stepping out of the ‘Imperial bubble’ made me realise that life is too short to spend chasing numbers and following some arbitrary path to ‘success’. 

Just as I was looking to work on something beyond academics, Jed was looking for a social impact newsletter editor. Since I had experience as the editor of Felix’s sustainability column, this was a perfect role that combined my passion and strengths. Moonshot, amongst other activities I do, is a manifestation of my life premise, inspired by Jane Goodall:

“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

Jedidiah Cheung | Co-Founder

Hey I’m Jed. Biological Sciences with Management. Imperial College.

Hailing from both the UK and HK, like many bicultural children, I often felt confused by my British Born Chinese background. Originally on course to become a medic, I took a stand against my parents and chose to study life, the most fascinating phenomena on the planet to grapple with existential questions. I left the role of becoming the first Dr. Cheung in the family to my younger brother.

My 5-year-old aspiration was to become an inventor. I was creative and curious, and as a child had a lot going on in my head. I was fortunate to attend a top secondary school for free through a bursary, academic, and music scholarship. There I struggled, often daydreaming in and out of classes, much preferring to pursue extracurricular interests. But supported by my quirky peers, I somehow always managed to pull it off for exams, described by my teacher as “somewhat of an enigma”.

When I first arrived at university, I had an expectation that I would be surrounded by the next Elon Musk and my roommate would be the next Zuckerberg … I was disappointed it turned out not the case (yet). In an attempt to fulfill this old dream and solve a “big world problem”, I built a tool to filter microplastics out of the oceans, which featured my face on the BBC. I learnt it’s just as hard to tackle small problems as it is big – so just go big, but it is possible to make a difference with fewer resources than you might expect.

I discovered my passion for social impact through my time as President of Enactus, a social enterprise society where I learned you can build for good for profit businesses. So I began asking myself, what does it mean to live a life of impact?

Having been selected for insight programs with BCG, McKinsey and an investment bank, I thought to some extent I had made it, achieved something that all students wanted. But I didn’t feel like I had personally grown from the experience. It felt like a game, a series of hoops to jump through to attain some externally-validated end goal, without consideration of what I might intrinsically be driven by.

Following a bout of existential depression and a test for dyslexia, I took a gap year where I did a banking internship, worked at McDonald’s, and took a trip following a 6ft7, bald Danish monk to India for 30 days. Honestly, I felt pretty lost and had no idea where I was heading. I am still trying to internally integrate my experiences but, at the very least, it felt right to push myself into doing things I felt least comfortable with. 

Today I’m still piecing the jigsaw together, figuring out where I can contribute, working on causes I’m passionate about. But one thing is for sure. I am learning to define what success for myself, on my own terms.

Karyshma Gill | Executive Member

Heyyo! I’m Karyshma, and I’m Malaysian Indian, which really just means I love curries and spicy food a bit too much.

My childhood

Even as a child, I was slightly hyper and extremely curious. As a result, I cycled through multiple life goals. For the longest time, I thought this was due to my indecisiveness. But, I’ve come to realise that this confusion was mostly me trying to figure out how I could maximise my impact to the wider community. When I was young I wanted to become a musician or journalist  so I could help give a voice to the most vulnerable , an engineer or scientist so I could conduct  research in underserved communities, or even become the UN secretary general, rule the world and make it a better place. A part of me is still convinced that I can merge these interests together. 

My journey to Moonshot

University admissions rolled around, and forced to make a decision, I succumbed to cultural stereotypes and pursued (chemical) engineering. I believed  that having access to suitable technologies had the potential to  revolutionize the livelihood of disenfranchised communities. Joining Enactus, however, made me realise that improving lives was a multi-faceted problem and was so much more complex than I had initially imagined. 

 This is one of the reasons I think Moonshot is unique and necessary. As individuals, we often underestimate the impact we can generate from our decisions. But, my experience volunteering in nature conservation in Malaysia helped me realise that such attitudes often just shift the blame to other actors. Volunteering in Peru reiterated this belief but I also realised the importance of involving communities in designing action plans. Issues such as improving education, improving health care and protecting nature often seem very abstract but understanding the various perspectives around these problems are key to solving them. That’s why I believe in social enterprises. When done right, they allow communities to make a living independently and sustainably on their own terms for the long term. 

As a student in one of the top institutions in the world, it’s easy to feel lost, purposeless, and defeated trying to juggle the stress bombs we’re constantly thrown at. But, despite this , I’ve come to realise, an education at Imperial and the access I currently have to resources is an immense gift and a privilege. And I’m determined to maximise my education in the time I have!

Soren Vines | Co-Founder

Hey there, I’m Soren. I study Geophysics at Imperial College.

I’m a 22-year-old dude who is born and bred in London with a background that is simply complicated. I’m a mongrel; a dog without a breed is exactly what a guy with a Franco-Polynesian-Chinese mother and Danish-Brit father would be, and don’t get me started on the passports.

Reflecting  on my childhood I was naturally introverted and selectively curious, happy to spend hours alone, diving into whatever my interests were at the time. The interests that stuck, however, were science and technology. So when I was 6 years old  I had decided that my goal was to one day become a fully licensed mad scientist. In all honesty I had probably watched a tad too much Dexter’s Laboratory and played way too much Halo but this was (and low-key still is) my goal. 

My folks however, were not sciencey at all, my mother was a language teacher and my father, well he worked for Human Rights Watch and a political think tank. My father’s career could be seen as very noble… However I can assure you until the age 14 my perception of my dad was just of a mad bloke who returned from  Africa every other fortnight with an array of foreign souvenirs. 

This was until we all got invited to Buckingham Palace to witness him receive an honour from the Queen.This nudged me to admire and be a tad more curious about my old man.

Besides my dad getting me to read animal farm at age 10,my folks didn’t have much of a direct impact on my academic career path. I pursued my passion for science zealously but not the way I intended. My application to Imperial College London for theoretical physics had been rejected and I’d mysteriously been given an offer to study a course I had never heard of, Geophysics. Taking a leap of faith I accepted the offer and was incidentally swept into the world of geology, seismics, satellite imagery and mathematics. The only thing I can say from my course is, I have a complicated relationship with rocks, and also never bite mudstone, that stuff tastes nasty.

The influence of my folks’ humanitarian values and childhood passion intersected when I joined e.quinox, a student society that researches and develops technology to help people in rural Rwanda. This society is amazing. Planting 240V electrodes in the rain at midnight at the centre of my Campus, attempting to see if I could get a reading for my DIY groundwater detection kit for an expedition to Rwanda the day after was a childhood dream come true. After these experiences I have decided that marrying technological advancement with humanitarian values is how I want to make an impact and pursuing this through research or social enterprise is my current aspiration.

Akshit Goel | Co-Editor of Moonshot Bulletin

Hey! I’m a 2nd year medic at Imperial College London; aspiring surgeon, animation artist and music producer.

My Story:

Change has been one of the only constants for me. Being ethnically Indian and growing up in Dubai, the lines between different cultures were blurred very easily. Moving through 6 different schools and 3 countries, I’ve met a diverse range of people, but I’ve always questioned what connects us. 

Like any 13-year-old kid, I tried my hand at literature – surely communication is what connects everyone. When a series of my poems charmed my teacher more than my middle-school crush, I decided this probably wasn’t the path for me.

Flash forward a couple of years and my friend is choking on the football pitch, barely audible under our rampant noise. I call for help, slow his breathing and he’s back on his feet. To me, that was pretty good evidence that I’d excel in a field where you could be the reason why someone on your operating table lives or dies. I’d always had a knack for science and it also allowed me to explore what it means to be human. Perhaps I’d find out how we’re physiologically connected and understand social psychology.

That brings us to today. Currently wrestling between medicine and research, I can proudly say that I’ve done none of those in my first year. I’ve mostly been dancing, trying to build a fashion website, and creating posters & videos. Coming to Imperial has given me the opportunity to build on my previously solely career-focused self. Learning coding, animation and how to survive sports nights have been some of my most cherished memories, and I can’t wait for the next few years!

Journey to Moonshot:

Amongst the variety of commitments I took upon in my first year, I attended a hackathon by Hack for Humanity. I was awestruck and dumbfounded when I realised that people our age really innovate and make a change. I’ve met some of my closest friends through the hackathon, with one of them successfully running a multinational start-up.

Since then, I’ve constantly been working on social entrepreneurship projects. It’s happened so often that the ideas we’ve come up with already exist. While previously my answer was to throw these ideas away with disappointment, reading about budding ventures has helped me realise that it’s the team, execution and vision that are equally important.

Making social entrepreneurship a part of my life has brought to light hundreds of stories that I wish I was exposed to sooner. I hope you can be inspired and learn from these stories just as I did in our newsletter!

 

Vanessa Tang | Co-Founder

Kia Ora, I am Vanessa. Chemical Engineer (only 5 weeks a year before exams). Imperial College (just a label). Future banker (maybe not?). 

I grew up in China, reciting the primary school motto every morning for six years – “work harder, progress faster”. It was brainwashing but definitely served me well in meeting the Asian standard. Despite not speaking much English when moving to NZ at the age of 13, I became top in school academically, led three different societies, and competed in school’s squash nationals. I volunteered on weekends – met high-profile speakers backstage, woke up at 4 am to marshal at marathons, and was featured in local newspapers for my community involvement. Yes, I was one of those Asian kids that did everything well, really well (except for piano). 

But I never truly questioned what I wanted to do. Upon high school graduation, family friends suggested I should look into Investment Banking. So when I was asked in my interview “why chemical engineering” – I simply told the professor that it would give me the skills to go into banking. (Still got in, maybe they liked the boldness?) 

Chasing after the confirmation emails to IB events in the first two years of uni was exciting, validating and addicting, until one day I realised two things: 1) I was pursuing IB because I was obediently following other people’s outlook for my future. 2) I am studying at a top 10 university. If I’m still not qualified enough to change the world for the better, who is? 

Volunteering in a Fijian school helped to put things into perspective. I lived with a Fijian family in a wooden shed, under a tin roof, for one month. Tea with white rice was a usual meal. 5 yos spent their weekends helping out on farms. Washing hands apparently was not a thing. At the same time, I witnessed what it meant to live a content life, I was struck. This quote by Warren Buffet was ringing loudly in my head: “If you’re in the luckiest 1% of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99%.” 

When I was in Auckland in Christmas 2019, I found myself waking up to a yellowy-grey sky from an afternoon nap, smelling the unusually dense air because Sydney was on fire (the Sydney bushfire). It was another wake-up call. I realised that environmental problems, that I had always felt detached from, were right in front of my very eyes…  

Today, I’m still perplexed as to how my skills and experience can fit into the bigger picture of serving humanity. Yet I’m sure for one thing – I want to bring people along this journey of making a positive impact.