Dongfang Linda Qu

Undergraduate Researcher, Columbia University
  • People
  • United States of America

I am a/an:

Undergraduate Leadership & Research Scholar


Columbia University

Laidlaw Cohort Year


Research Topic

Anthropology Astronomy Chinese Studies Comparative Literature European Social and Political Studies French Studies History History of Art Linguistics Literature Multiculturalism

Area of Expertise

Humanities Languages

I am from:

China United States of America

I speak:

French Mandarin Spanish

My hobbies/interests are:

Art Film & TV Foreign languages Photography Reading Running/jogging Theatre Writing/blogging

I am open to participating in mentoring/buddy programmes


Recent Comments

Jun 14, 2023
Replying to Kira Ratan

1. I am currently assisting my professor/faculty mentor on a book project that is in the beginning stages of research. I am helping to compile archives, documents, and materials from databases as a starting point for conducting ethnographic research and analyzing primary sources as a part of crafting the narrative. My professor, with a grant from the Academy of Motion Pictures, has access to several exclusive archival research libraries that are allowing me to dive into niche topics and develop a better understanding of how to organize findings and make sense of it all. 

2. My research topic is a part of a larger conversation of the history of marginalized communities in different spaces of socialization. Getting to uncover stories of influential figures who were never given a platform to reach a larger audience is incredibly rewarding but also important to the field of research as a whole, where amplifying unheard voices is an ethical consideration we must all make. 

I think the ethical consideration of your project is quite powerful, as I also strive to uplift unheard voices through researching alternative interpretations and representations of mainstream consciousness. Thanks to people like you, the conversation of marginalized histories is never smothered out, taking up spaace in a world where many conversations necessarily happens in cacophany. Thank you Kira :)

Jun 14, 2023

1. I hope to at least produce an annotated bibliography by the end of these months, a paper of some sorts by the end of summer if at all possible. I'd like to continue my project into the year and write up something more substantial by next summer, in hopes of being able to deliver what I've learned through research to more people. Quite frankly, I've learned a lot more about myself than my topic of research so far; in other words, this research experience has given me a taste of the research life and a chance at self-evaluation. Going forward, I'll be approaching research with more grounded resolution among other aspects of mind, and I'm grateful for the time that Laidlaw has given me to reflect.

2. By investigating the astrological mantic arts in medieval Europe and Middle Period China, I examine how monarchs and emperors uses future divination to affirm their right to rule, framing my reading with postmodernist frameworks such as semiology. I think it's important to recognize the ambiguity of written materials of the past in genre – in the case of ancient China, a document could simultaneously carry attributes of "history" and "literature" and even "philosophy“. These documents are all narratives with intentions, products of close readings of the natural and political phenomenons of their times, the course of events carefully tailored in order to build a claim to power. We could never fully reconstruct the skies of Northern Hemisphere nights in 1400s, but we could piece together parts of the truth by cross-referencing records from different civilizations that observed the same nights and deduce what phenomenons each party has elevated or put down. This way, we can reconstruct parts of the original starscape that the ancients interpreted and interpret their interpretations with a modern interdisciplinary outlook, probing at their anxieties through the way they saw the stars. I hope that if anything, my research would remind you that "literature" and/or "literary text" doesn't have to limit itself to black prints lined, bounded, collected in white sheets, and that interdisciplinary studie is perhaps not a novel idea after all but a recent revival of a past tradition. 

Jun 08, 2023

1. I haven't been thinking about the ethics of my research yet because I have not engaged with data collection; rather, I've been mostly reading prominent secondary scholarship in my fields so as to understand major points of contention and interest. Perhaps that will become important when I choose among a sea of historical records a few astrological segments to analyze, but then I think my metric would be for the purpose of making comparison between both European and Chinese cultures, i.e., records with temporal proximity that shed light on the psyches of ancient/medieval Chinese/European mindsets about future divination and the political impacts the results would make. 

2. Since my project is comparative in nature, I've been thinking nonstop about ways in which I would position European and Chinese perspectives as alternative ways to interpret the stars as political signs. So far, it has only enriched my project because this interdisciplinary approach has enabled me to understand different facets of human nature; to paraphrase Professor Kou, my mentor, the act of reading signs is human nature, and everything becomes readable in our post-modernist time. In this way, I've been considering also a modern reading of the act of star reading in the ancient times as a semiological act that embodies the spirit of our time. 

Jun 08, 2023
Replying to Manan Vij

What are some of the ethical issues that you are grappling with in your research? What are some of the ways in which you are responding to these questions?

Although my research does not involve direct interaction with people or animals, matters regarding how the data was collected in my research study is an important ethical issue to consider when conducting analysis and interpreting research results. From a data collection perspective, it is important that the patients that chose to participate in the research trial had informed consent and were aware of their involvement within the research. Furthermore, given that the subjects involved in the research are often people with varying degrees of illness, it is especially important to make sure that each individual is capable of making sound and reasonable judgment regarding their choice to participate in the study.

As you continue your research, have you considered alternative viewpoints in your investigation? If so, how have these alternative viewpoints enriched or changed your project?

Yes, I have considered alternative viewpoints in my research investigation so far, which have allowed me to more comprehensively test my research question. As this project is interested in developing new analysis techniques, it is very important to be open minded to changing my analysis approach as new discoveries arise, that are steering the project in a direction that I was not originally considering. 

It's fascinating for me that you have to consider the ethics of data collection because I don't engage directly with data collection myself; since there is so much data available in various historical records, my only metric for data selection is the ability to parallel European records temporally so that the Chinese and Europeans would be looking at roughly the same piece of sky at night. I still wonder where the ethics would potentially play a part in my research...  

Jun 08, 2023
Replying to Krishan

1. My project is an individual research project, and as I am researching music in its historical/artistic context my research requires me to go into other fields like History/art History in order to make a point— I can't just stay within the one song I'm working on. Talking to other Laidlaw students about how they are using archives, for example, or what they do with their sources has been incredibly helpful, because learning approaches from other disciplines allows me to think outside the box on my topic. I'm also interested in learning from students that have research projects at the complete other end from what I'm working on, in STEM disciplines like Physics or Neuroscience. This is because hearing someone who is passionate about their field talk about their research gives me a different and more engaging side of physics, for example, than I had to learn in high school textbooks, 

2. One discussion that really remains important for me are the discussions the faculty were having at their roundtable about creating a research project, the difficulty of narrowing an issue down, and the way fields and disciplines change over time. As I sift through academic articles, trying to decide which ones are relevant, and seeing how the conversation really depends on the place and date of origin of the articles, it reminds me of what they were saying. 

Definitely resonates with your struggle to narrow down scholarly literature! I've been letting myself explore but also trying to keep in mind that I need to focus on a specific event/person/topic to analyze so I can arrive at some sort of conclusion at the end of these 6 weeks, or the phase 1 of this research project. It's been difficult navigating through so many words, but I think I've gotten much better at it. 

Jun 08, 2023

1. The interdiscplinary nature of the program exposes me to many fields beyond my own, many of which I would not have been able to learn about hadn't I met a Laidlaw scholar who's develoiping expertise in the field. I find all the STEM projects fascinating, but as I conduct research in the Humanities, I find it particularly comforting that there are many people who are interested in Humanities research and who are manifesting those interests in a myriad of different projects. It gives me confidence that there are people out there who would care about my research after all, making me believe that what I do will make impact one day. 

2. As I immerse myself more fully into research, I'm leaning into the Columbia library databases that the librarians have discussed during the roundtable session. I'm learning to navigate the many filters of CLIO, using boolean techniques and different catalogs to narrow down my sources of interest. It gave me minor headaches to just sort through the books I've borrowed and pick out the ones that are roughly pertinent to my interest, but my professor has become a great help in narrowing down relevant literature as I'm learning to open up to his mentorship. 

May 26, 2023
Replying to Kayla Pham

I hope to learn about aspects or methods of leadership that cultivate inclusivity. More than ever, inclusive leadership is critical for creating positive change that everyone has in hand in creating. A challenge that is at the forefront of my mind is the unintuitive nature of the work I do. It's hard to grasp onto particular topics - similar to learning about new concepts in class that don't quite make sense yet. As I navigate trying to learn more about my topic, I'll be open to asking for help and explanations from those around me and my mentor. 

I resonate with your emphasis on cultural inclusivity in leadership - it is only when we invite people from all sorts of backgrounds with all sorts of life experiences to the conversation that we can generate fresh perspectives to move society forward. I also resonate with the unintuitivity of research in my work since I also have to familiarize myself with a foreign field of knowledge. I'm inspired to actively ask for help because I'll definitely need it :)

May 26, 2023

1. I hope to learn to lead in academia and other spaces where people tend to work in isolation, forging communities with trust and beneficial symbiosis. I also want to take lead in making research more accessible to the public and inviting them to either join the discussion or see the world through another lens. 

2. The scope of my research project requires me to engage with many medieval and ancient primary sources, and manuscript reading is a skill that I've not had much practice with. I will first be familiarizing myself with existing scholarship on these sources and their historical contexts before analyzing the documents myself; having a general understanding would help.