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

student's portrait in graduation gown

Jasmine Nguyen

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.

“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.

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