1st-generation ASU grad gains research experience through Biodesign Institute

May 3, 2022

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2022 graduates.

If someone gave Jasmine Nguyen $40 million to solve one problem, she would invest the money to create a scholarship fund that supports learning for generations to come. student's portrait in graduation gown Jasmine Nguyen Download Full Image

“I would strive to make sure every student in Arizona gets the opportunity to pursue higher education or education in general by providing funding for supplies and necessities at school,” said Nguyen, a first-generation college student who is receiving her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Arizona State University.

“As someone who relied on scholarships to go to school, I would like to give back to the community in this manner,” said Nguyen, who was awarded seven scholarships during her time at ASU, including The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Council Emerging Leaders Scholarship, which recognizes the college’s top juniors and seniors.

As part of Barrett, The Honors College, Nguyen conducted her thesis work though the Biodesign Center for Environmental Health Engineering. Her project explored the use of wastewater to determine diabetes prevalence in a community. After working on her thesis for over a year, she considers it her proudest accomplishment of her college career. It allowed her to apply everything she learned in her coursework and time spent in the Biodesign lab and see concrete results of her hard work. 

As an Arizona native, she plans to take a gap year after graduation to travel, gain new experiences and visit her family and friends. Eventually, she would like to continue her education through graduate school and pursue a career in health care as a physician assistant. 

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study biochemistry?

Answer: My “aha” moment was when I came home after finishing my first year at ASU and sat down and thought, “if I want to change my major, this is the time to do it,” but it dawned on me that I could not see myself in any other field of study than where I was. I was excited for the coming years of study and especially the different disciplines of chemistry and biochemistry that I would get to learn. There was truly nothing else that I wanted to study as much as biochemistry and I have stuck with it since.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU – in the classroom or otherwise – that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: Something I learned while being in a lab at Biodesign was that things might not work out the way we thought they would. It’s important to recognize the things that don’t work out, but it is more important to move past them and learn from the experience. During my project’s method development, I was met with many hindrances, but was able to move past them and use what I learned to improve my project overall. 

Q: Why did you choose Biodesign?

A: To start, I chose Biodesign to gain more research experience in a lab. I had heard about various projects from my professors that made me interested in research. With my time there, I highly respect and would be glad to meet anyone at Biodesign because everyone works so hard there. It’s great to be in an environment where people are passionate about what they do and are excited to teach others their field.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: One of my chemistry professors freshman year drilled into our minds to do the hard work the first time to cruise the second time. The idea was to take good notes the first time, so that when it came time to review, it was easier and faster to learn. However, I think this lesson can be applied to all parts of life. Do things right the first time, so you don’t have to worry about mistakes or extra work the second time.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: By far, my favorite spot on campus has been Noble Library, specifically the third-floor tables by the stairs. My friends and I have always met up at that exact spot if we have late night study plans or if we just want to spend time with each other and catch up on our days. It’s been our designated meet-up spot for the past four years and nothing beats it. 

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Have the dedication to work towards your goals. It’s hard to see the end goal and it’s easy to give up, but achieving what you strived to accomplish is going to be well worth the effort. Also, go out of your comfort zone to try things. When you’re in college, especially at ASU, there are so many opportunities to explore new interests, but it’s up to you to commit to learning new things. With new experiences, you learn your likes and dislikes and can better yourself. For myself, I took a Saturday piano class at ASU and can now play a full line of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” without messing up, and I am proud of that.

Written by Marketing Assistant Anna Hague.

Both dreams, practicality define path for ASU grad

May 3, 2022

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2022 graduates.

Try new things. Always ask for a student discount. Seek out unusual study spots. Courtesy photo of graduating ASU student Andrea Yang ASU student Andrea Yang, an English major, hopes to work in film after graduation, helping “promote stories that provide accurate representation for the communities they represent.” Download Full Image

Those are practical bits of advice from graduating Arizona State University student Andrea Yang, who seems to have the college thing — and maybe life — all figured out.

Yang, who is from Paradise Valley, Arizona, is a student in Barrett, The Honors College, from which she is graduating this spring with a Bachelor of Arts in English (literature) and a minor in Asian languages (Chinese). She said that choosing a humanities focus has opened doors to many possibilities.

“The versatility of this major has allowed me to apply what I have learned to almost every other aspect of my life, while also permitting me to explore and study my interests outside of literature, such as language acquisition and business,” she said.

Yang delved into business in her honors thesis, in which she worked with a group of students to design a sustainable fashion company based on the “ethical circular economy.”

She also found time to participate in other campus activities; she was an officer with ASU's Cultural Association of Performing Arts, which teaches and performs traditional Chinese dance, and she published a “tiny story” in the State Press, ASU’s student newspaper.

Yang completed an internship reviewing short films and managing social media for the COPA Shorts Film Festival during fall 2020, for which she earned a 2021 High Impact Internship Award. In their award recommendation, the judges wrote: “She used her internship work to discover that when it comes to telling stories ‘who tells the story matters.’”

Partly based on that internship experience, Yang realized her love for film — in particular, storytelling. Yang's dream is to work in the field after graduation, helping “promote stories that provide accurate representation for the communities they represent.”

We asked Yang a few more questions about her time at ASU and how she’ll translate that practical experience into success in her future endeavors.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study in your field?

Answer: I think my "aha" moment was in my senior year of high school. I took AP literature and our teacher had us read Khaled Hosseini's “The Kite Runner.” What struck me was how engaged everyone was with the material. Even the students who did not normally enjoy reading were excited to discuss the story and analyze it together. That class left a deep impression on me and convinced me to study literature. As much as I love writing, I love analyzing writing and the stories we tell about ourselves.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: Taking the chance to just try new things, even if you don't think you're qualified for it. Deciding to just try new things has led to so many new opportunities — and plenty of mistakes — that have allowed me to learn more about myself and the people around me. As cliché as it sounds, just trying new things has changed my perspective and given me confidence because it has allowed me to see that most people don't really know what they're doing. This thought process has allowed me to relax a bit more and embrace new experiences that I might otherwise have enjoyed. I am now more willing to be more ambitious and go after what I want instead of being afraid of it.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: To be honest, I was only accepted to one other school aside from ASU, which was more expensive and had fewer options for studying subjects outside of my major. I enjoy studying different subjects and subverting expectations — I hate being put into a box — so I decided to pick ASU. I also have multiple food allergies, so my parents felt better having me close by as I was living on my own for the first time.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: In my screenwriting class this semester, (Lecturer Christopher) Bradley gave us a bit of advice that has helped pull me through the end of the year. He told us to picture our dreams or what our dream lives or dream goals would look like. If you continue picturing it, you’ll keep working towards that dream and get there eventually. Your dream will exist as a safe space to retreat to when life gets difficult. This advice has helped motivate me when I hate everything and want to give up. Although I can’t say it definitively works, I think it’s a great piece of advice.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Take advantage of all the student discounts. You have access to so many resources as a student that it's a shame not to take advantage of them. I am almost tempted to go to grad school just for the student discounts.

Q: What was your favorite spot for power studying?

A: Because of COVID, I mostly studied in my room. However, I would say my most frequented spots were Ross-Blakley Hall, Hayden Library and the new Durham Hall building. A recent find that has been my new favorite is the Music Library. It has limited hours, but typically there aren't many people there. Plus, you can listen to a record player while studying.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: As of now, I am looking for and applying to full-time positions. I don't have any official plans in place, but my goal is to move to New York City. In the long term, I'd like to work in film, but in the short term, I'm just looking for employment.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: As nice as it would be to achieve world peace, I think I would aim for a more realistic issue like gender inequality or climate change. However, I think $40 million would run out fairly quickly, so I might focus on something like sustainability in the fashion industry and providing ethical solutions and an infrastructure that other people and companies would be able to build onto.

Kristen LaRue-Sandler

Manager, marketing + communications, Department of English