By Starla Sampaco
Northwest Asian Weekly
On June 10, students at the University of Washington (UW) Tacoma 26th Annual Commencement Ceremony gave a standing ovation following a speech by Daniel Kristiyanto, who graduated with a master’s degree in computer science and systems.
He was also named as one of the inaugural Husky 100.
Since he arrived at the UW in September 2014, Kristiyanto’s list of achievements is impressive. Kristiyanto co-authored research papers, competed in research competitions, and participated in a conference hosted by the International Society for Computational Biology. Since March, he has interned with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
But getting access to these opportunities was never an easy task.
During his commencement speech, Kristiyanto shared snapshots of his life in Salatiga, Indonesia.
“My parents had to work very hard just to get my tuition paid on time,” Kristiyanto said.
Although his parents could not always financially support him, Kristiyanto said they taught him a valuable life lesson: hard work, persistence, and patience can go a long way.
He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in informatics engineering from Satya Wacana Christian University in Indonesia. Before coming to Seattle, Kristiyanto worked as a full-time network engineer and taught undergraduate classes at his alma mater.
The day that he learned of his candidacy for a Fulbright scholarship, Kristiyanto also learned that his sister was diagnosed with cancer. She died a few months later at age 23.
“Although broken-hearted, I decided not to give up on my dream,” Kristiyanto said.
Kristiyanto said he chose to go to the UW because the greater Seattle area is one of the best places for computer science due to the presence of companies like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. Looking forward, Kristiyanto hopes to earn a Ph.D. and eventually work in Indonesia.
At the UW, his research focused on data science, bioinformatics, and cloud infrastructure.
Kristiyanto worked with a bioinformatics group led by Dr. Ka Yee Yeung, who is an associate professor at the Institute of Technology at UW Tacoma.
Yeung nominated Kristiyanto for the Husky 100.
“He just went above and beyond what we ask of a student,” Yeung said.
Yeung said she appreciated Kristiyanto’s willingness to help other students in the bioinformatics group.
“Danny is a really good person, and he helped me a lot,” said Sung Lee, who co-authored a paper with Kristiyanto.
Kevin Anderson, a part-time lecturer at UW Tacoma and a friend of Kristiyanto, echoed these sentiments.
As members of the bioinformatics group, Anderson and Kristiyanto worked together on a submission for the DREAM Challenges, which is a collaborative competition for researchers and innovators. Their project involved prostate cancer clinical trials.
They, along with Ling-Hong Hung and Yeung, authored a paper on their research, which was accepted for publication by F1000Research. Anderson said that Kristiyanto deserved being listed as the paper’s first author because of the amount of work he contributed.
Anderson said one of Kristiyanto’s best qualities is his “motivation to do good.”
Anderson remembered a time when he and Kristiyanto discussed what they hope to achieve with their bioinformatics research.
“His motivations were not to advance science for the sake of science, but to help developing countries by providing better care and a better life for those less fortunate,” Anderson said.
In the beginning of his time at the UW, Kristiyanto said he struggled with imposter syndrome as a new student. At first, he did not feel like he was good enough to work with his peers.
“I think that it was purely a confidence issue, not a competence issue,” Anderson said. “He didn’t give himself enough credit for how quickly he learns.”
Kristiyanto also felt insecure about his ability to speak English, which is his third language after Javanese and Indonesian.
Although he took English classes in Indonesia, Kristiyanto also learned how to speak the language through movie subtitles and music lyrics. Kristiyanto said U2 and Coldplay were some of his favorite artists.
After facing the daunting challenges of an unfamiliar language and culture, Kristiyanto said he hopes his story will encourage others to realize that international students can be just as successful as students who grew up in the United States.
“Just because we don’t speak English well or did not come from countries as advanced as the U.S. does not mean we are behind in knowledge or, in my case, technology,” Kristiyanto said.
Starla Sampaco can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.