Meet Vivian Li, one of the most fashionable PhD students you'll have the pleasure of encountering on Instagram. When she's not working as a scientist, you can find her at her pottery studio or walking the streets of New York with her dog, Jellybean, wearing well-tailored basics and kitschy statement pieces. As big fans of her eclectic sense of style, we were so excited to chat with Vivian about what inspires her, why she loves eBay, what her complex relationship with social media looks like and why she prefers pottery over painting.
Who is Vivian Li?
Multidisciplinary in every aspect and a true Leo: driven, loyal and passionate.
How would you describe your personal style and how has it evolved throughout the years?
I tend to shape-shift a lot but I've always been driven by silhouette and texture above all else. Recently, I've noticed a shift in my personal style, where I'm maturing into a more defined, more polished look. I've never been objective enough to describe my personal style, rather I rely on how my closest friends describe me. My favorite thing in the world is when a friend sends me something saying it's so me.
Is there a who, what or where that inspires your style?
I'm really inspired by my mom's style in the 90's. She saved some of the coolest pieces for me, some of which have become staples in my own wardrobe. I'm also really inspired by the streetstyle in NYC.
How do you approach putting together your personal style and what you are into at this very moment?
I'm addicted to eBay right now, which I feel has really morphed my personal style. Instead of being driven by a specific trend or look, I'm really browsing based on material, era, fabrication methods etc. It's a lot more grounded in the physical pieces I'm collecting, as opposed to a style I'm trying to convey.
Where is home for you?
Physically, home is in Vancouver. It's always been where I've felt most like myself, mostly because my parents still live there, and they are the strongest ties to my culture, my language, my traditions and where I came from.
When and how did you get into pottery? What is something you love and something you hate about the art form?
I started pottery a little over a year ago. I used to be a painter, but something about an empty canvas and the idea of infinite outcomes for that canvas really drove me away. I like clay because while I can be creative and express myself, it's physically confined by the laws of physics and earth. It's a more restrained art form, and I paradoxically thrive in those rules. The only thing I don't like about pottery is the way I leave the studio every time covered head to toe in clay. So much laundry.
What does your morning routine look like?
Making a coffee, doing some morning stretches and walking my dog Jellybean
What's your relationship with social media like and what is the role it plays in your life?
I am definitely dependent on social media. It's a job and has been a crucial way for me to stay connected to my community. It's also helped me make friends, especially when I first moved to NYC. Like everyone else though, I struggle to draw boundaries with social media, however my favorite quote recently has been "create more, consume less."
Where are your favourite places to shop and eat in NYC?
I love the lower east side. A perfect day for me is shopping around Orchard street at Sandy Liang and Lara Koleji, then grabbing food at Dim Sum Palace or some wine at Kiki's.
What are 3 things you can’t leave the house with?
Lipgloss of the day, a water bottle and some headphones.
Can you tell us a bit about your PhD program? What makes you excited about your studies?
I worked for two years studying memory, and particularly why we remember certain things but forget others. I knew that I wasn't ready to give up being a student, so I committed to a PhD in neuroscience. Neuroscience is such an interdisciplinary field, and everyday is different. I've learned so much about optics, physiology, programming, mathematics, and of course, the biology of the brain. I am never bored, and that is what drives me to keep learning.
How do you keep yourself grounded and prevent yourself from burning out?
This is something I've been actively working on. I've been known to overbook myself and be burnt out, but as I get older, I am better at recognizing my limits and making more time for myself to recharge.
"I tend to shape-shift a lot but I've always been driven by silhouette and texture above all else."
How do you inform yourself throughout the day? What are you listening to, watching or reading?
I can't stop listening to 2000's playlists right now. I think I'm in a nostalgic part of my life, where I'm yearning for simpler times.
In the near future, what are you looking forward to most?
I'm travelling throughout May and I'm really excited to visit the Phillipines with my best friend, and explore Japan for the first time.
What is the legacy you hope to leave on this world? What are you out to accomplish?
I hope that above all else, I have been a good friend, daughter and partner. Nothing we do in this life will be forever, but at least I will exist in the memories of those closest to me.