International chemistry grad finds community in ASU peers

Bryan Lau School of Molecular Sciences

ASU School of Molecular Sciences chemistry graduate Bryan Kah Jhun Lau. Courtesy photo


Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2024 graduates.

Bryan Kah Jhun Lau moved half way across the world to pursue a dream. 

With a unique fascination for chemical reactions and a dedicated interest in becoming a chemist, Lau made the decision to leave his family and hometown of Rawang, an hour drive north of Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia, to study at Arizona State University. 

“I wanted to explore opportunities in another country and I knew that there were more opportunities for chemistry majors in the (United) States compared to back in Malaysia,” said Lau who is graduating in spring 2024 with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry. 

“For me, getting an education here where a lot of chemical companies are established and then trying my best to get into career opportunities here, I knew it would be beneficial for my career development,” he said.

Since Lau arrived in 2021 at ASU, he’s thrived. 

For the past two years in addition to completing his intensive academic coursework he’s interned as an analytical chemist  for EMD Electronics, gaining confidence to use a wide range of analytical tools in a fast-paced industry setting, and has been awarded both the ASU New American University Scholarship and the prestigious, Arizona Society for Coatings Technology Scholarship for his academic and community contributions. 

Outside of the classroom, Lau credits the community he’s built through ASU student organizations including Asian-Asian Pacific American Students' Coalition, the Coalition of International Students, and the Malaysia Students Association for providing him with a supportive space to flourish.

“Thank you to everyone for your support whenever I needed it,” Lau said. “To the Asian-Asian Pacific American Students' Coalition executive board, thank you for giving me a chance to be a part of the group because I really enjoy the camaraderie, and to all my family and friends, thank you for your support of my studies here at ASU.” 

Lau answers a few questions about his time at ASU:

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

Answer: I started learning chemistry when I was in high school. Both my high school chemistry teacher and a tutor taught me chemistry so well that I found it really interesting. Learning chemical reactions, reaction mechanisms, and learning how molecules react with one another got me interested in the field.

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

A: My junior year, Professor Alexandra Ros was my analytical chemistry lab instructor and one of the most important skills I’ve learned from her is to always take detailed notes when conducting experiments. At the beginning of the lab course, I failed to do that. Now, when working in the lab my notes are more detailed than ever. 

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

A: I noticed early on that students in class loved to actively participate in discussions. In Malaysia that was not the case. Seeing so many people participating in class discussions is definitely a good thing and helped stimulate my own critical thinking. I found it to be a really interesting experience. 

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

A: Don’t be afraid to always reach out for help. Professors are generally very helpful if you have something you don't know. They have office hours so that you can reach out to them for help.

For international students, reach out, find a support system, and ask for help too. For example, I came from Malaysia, so I reached out to the Malaysia Students Association at ASU. They were a great support system and really helpful. When I first started settling here in ASU they kindly answered my questions and helped me to navigate ASU’s campus, to navigate the new culture here, and navigate the new life here.

Bryan Lau and ASU's AAPADSC
Bryan Kah Jhun Lau (second from the bottom right) with members of ASU's Asian-Asian Pacific American Students Coalition. Courtesy photo

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

A: Recently, what’s become my favorite spot during my senior year, is right outside the Asian-Asian Pacific American Students Coalition office on the second floor of the student pavilion. People would generally hang out there, so it was a good spot to talk to friends and make new friends. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I plan to explore opportunities with my chemistry background. My dream has always been to become a chemist and work in the lab. I'm open to either going to research in the industry or going into quality control and being an analytical chemist. Whether it's research or going into quality control, I will see if any of the opportunities open for me and I’ll go for it.

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

A: I would tackle the lack of access to education because education is important. I think it's important for everyone to have access to education so that it equips them with skills and gets them ready to face the world’s challenges. 

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