Yuzhen Biderman has a Masters degree in physics, but she hasn't pursued it. Instead, she spends her time as an occasional substitute teacher, and the rest of it as a very dedicated lay practitioner at a Buddhist Temple in New York. She's considering becoming ordained, which would be a huge step.
Yuzhen Biderman was born in Okinawa, Japan, 27 years ago. Her father was a US Air Force test pilot on Kadena Air Base. Her mother was a student at Nagoya Junior College, which was little more then a finishing/cosmetology school. After getting her mother pregnant out of wedlock...which was seen very poorly in those days, he married her, she dropped out of school, and moved onto the base with him. When his tour of duty in Japan was up, she came with him. Eventually, they settled down in New York city. Her father became an airline pilot, and she went back to college in New York, majoring in a real course of study this time, eventually becoming a dentist.
Yuzhen doesn't really remember anything of Japan, and doesn't even speak Japanese. She considers herself an American, and aside from the fact that she practices her mothers' religion, Zen Buddhism, doesn't really think of her heritage that much, or even care.
Yuzhen grew up a city girl, albeit in a nice outskirt, rather then in New York proper. She went through several phases in her life as a child, where her worldview changed dramatically. As a very young girl, she was very religious and wanted to ask her mother religious questions constantly. When she became an adolescent, she ceased to care or believe in religion entirely, and became obsessed with science, learning about the world and trying to understand it. She came to feel that it was being ruled by the lowest common denominator, that half-educated fools were electing half-educated politicians, who did little more then bicker and fight and argue, more obsessed with power then with doing good or improving the world. She thus became a very ambitious teenager, and fancied herself doing great things and changing the world someday, one way or another. Psychologically, a good deal of this ambition was merely her way of dealing with occasional bouts of depression. In most other ways however, she was an ordinary, if shy, teenage girl. She went to high school, did a few extracurricular activities (ballet, babysitting, key club), and had a few good friends.
In time, as the essential angst of being a teenager faded with a more mature sensibility, she realized she would never be a world-changing scientist or politician, that even if she did manage these things she wouldn't necessarily be any happier then she was now. The only thing she really had to master, was herself. Her own mind, her own desires, emotions, feelings, cravings. This was a far nobler, and harder, goal then pursuit of knowledge, or power, or wealth. And so, just before heading off to college, she returned to the religion of her childhood, and took up meditation.
It was not, however, the meditation that set off her mutant ability, but reading. Ordinary, normal reading. She was reading a book by Steven Hawking, called 'The Brief History of Time', and was learning about the structure of space, how it could be described as a sheet of rubber paper, with objects making a displacement in that paper proportional to their mass, which we often called gravity. Black holes would cause a very big dip in this paper, wormholes would connect various parts, and fantastical ideas and technologies of all sorts worked by bending or shifting this 'rubber paper'. It was then, thinking about this concept, that her powers manifested. It was simple, at first. Almost stupid. She looked at a pencil, and it curved. But when she touched it, it still felt straight and normal. It wasn't broken, wasn't bent at all, but it looked that way.
Yuzhen discovered that she had an affinity for bending things in this way, though from her reading she suspected she was really bending space itself. She could make the distance between two points greater, or smaller, so that the objects were closer or farther apart, or even bend a straight line, so that something traveling along that path would not, in fact, move straight to any outside perception. Perhaps the most immediately useful aspect of her new powers was that she could make her purse larger on the inside then on the outside, something she found terribly amusing.
Inspired by this, and by her old curiosity, she majored in physics. She had been reading about it for years, though in truth if she hadn't discovered this strange new ability she probably would have gone to a ballet school.
Four years later, she got her B.S. in Physics, with a concentration in Astrophysics, and minors in ballet and math. Learning physics hadn't really helped her develop her powers at all, though she had continued to develop them on her own regardless. She then went to Tufts University in Boston for two years, to get her Masters in physics. By the time she got her Masters, she was 23, and had decided she was done with physics. She couldn't learn anything more to help her with her power, and she was never going to learn answers to the 'metaphysical' questions of the universe, and she didn't want to do it as a career anymore; too much backstabbing. So there was no reason for her to continue.
Instead, she got a few part time jobs, grading papers for a university professor, doing substitute teaching for a highschool, writing articles on physics trends for an online magazine. She saved up money, and lived simply. Meanwhile, she increased her meditation practice to about 6 hours a day, and attended services at a Buddhist temple almost every day. She was quite lucky in this, because New York has more Buddhist temples then almost any area of the country. After about a year, she had enough money saved up to do a year-long retreat, and still pay her loan bills. So she sold the items in her apartment, shaved off her hair, and spent a full year on retreat at a Buddhist Temple in New York city as a lay monk. (Technically a nun, but these days girls are just called monks too.) After that year was up, she returned to her part time jobs, and continued regular, though less intensive, practice at the temple. During the summer, she spent a shorter period of time, two months, on retreat. The year after that, she did another full-year retreat.
She's been doing this for four years. Soon, she and the temple will decide whether or not to allow her to become ordained.
Yuzhen doesn't have a simple personality. Rather, she's more akin to an onion with many layers, or perhaps a Lego building with many pieces. Outer Shell: Yuzhen acts (and on a surface level, thinks) like a very kind, compassionate ascetic monk. She doesn't eat meat, she's a pacifist, she tries to train her mind to love even her enemies, and tries to actively prune negative thoughts and emotions from her psyche, to try and be the best person she can, to improve herself constantly. But -why- she does this is more complicated, and perhaps a bit less noble. Deeper Down: Deeper down, this desire for self-improvement is part of her ambitious nature, and an existential, philosophical angst that she's felt since she was a young teen, when she originally rejected her parent's religion. Her deepest fear is that life is meaningless, that all this chaos in the world that rages out of control is all there is, in an absurd universe. When she was a teenager, this would make her very depressed, and the way she delt with it was by saying to herself...if she had to die, she would burn her name into the history books, as a scientist or a politician. Somehow, someway. So she sought knowledge as much as she could, until one day she realized that no knowledge she sought would ever fill that hole she had. She couldn't gain enough power, enough wealth, enough knowledge to feel better. Never. And all the fame in the world wouldn't help her once she was dead.
So with this realization Yuzhen turned back to her parents religion. If she couldn't learn, or become, or do anything to make herself happy, she had to find another way to be happy, to fill that hole, that emotional void. And she did so through Buddhism, by reducing her cravings, her desires, by reducing and cutting away the mental habits she had which caused that unhappiness. And she has been very ambitious in her effort to do so, trying to be the -best- Buddhist she can be.
And she's been fairly successful at that, but since the core thing that drove her to improve herself so much in this fashion was a philosophical fear and emotional weakness...well, she remains vulnerable, in a way. Deep down, she still rages at the injustices and incompetence of the world around her. Most people, frankly, are -not- as intelligent or as moral as she is, and so the world is full of violence and chaos anf fear...and deep, deep down, she sometimes wishes she could do something about that, that lack of control over the world. But she realizes she has this weakness, and she fights it. Still, it is this inner conflict that pushes her to mentally discipline herself.