Uyen “Amelia” Nguyen ’20, an international student from Vietnam, has happily given in to the lure of science.
“Science can be very mysterious,” Nguyen, says. “The more I get into it, the more it tricks me into wanting to learn more. Back in Vietnam, I studied a lot of science, which made it easier when I came here. And the more I studied here, the more I understood the concepts and how they applied to real life, and that made me eager to get into it even more.”
Nguyen, a biotechnology major, gets to apply the scientific concepts she has learned in her Worcester State classes at her 20-hour-a-week co-op job as a lab assistant for Medica Corp., a maker of medical diagnostic equipment, in Burlington, Mass.
She mainly does blood-serum testing on various analyzers, looking for sodium, potassium, and chloride levels and the like, as well as other routine tests. They are important tasks, albeit somewhat repetitive, but she enjoys it, nevertheless. Where she really shines, however, is working with the Medica scientists when they ask her to help them with their experiments.
“I like doing the routine tests, but sometimes they ask me to help come up with experiments,” she says. “The days when I help the researchers are the most interesting. It’s always challenging, but it really helps me learn and grow.”
Nguyen plans to take a gap year after graduation, with a long-term goal of applying to medical school or a physician’s assistant program. She says her commitment to the medical field deepened as she watched frontline medical personnel respond so bravely to the COVID-19 crisis.
“It’s a really hard time for them right now,” she says. “They are working sometimes 100 hours a week, and when I see them on the news, it’s hurtful because they are so worried about their children and trying to isolate themselves to make sure their families are OK.”
Seeing those great personal challenges, does she still look forward to going into the field?
“Absolutely,” she says. “It’s a marvel. They sacrifice for other people and when I look at them, I think, ‘I want to be like that, doing good for others, too.’ It gives me more motivation to continue on to a physician’s assistant school or medical school.”
Nguyen first came to the United States five years ago to study at a community college in Seattle. She transferred to Worcester State as a junior after being encouraged to do so by an aunt who lives five minutes away from Worcester State.
“I came to visit her and she’s, like, ‘there’s a school really close to here and it’s very good, too, so come here and study.’ So, I applied, and I got into the biology and biotechnology programs. Everything just came together,” she says.
Nguyen says her Worcester State experience has prepared her well to aim high and reach for her goals.
“I really appreciate the professors and the other students who have helped me to get through and get my bachelor’s degree,” she says. “All my professors are very devoted and have been very helpful.” Her advisor, Roger Greenwell, Ph.D., associate professor of biology, has been especially supportive.
“My advisor really cares for students,” she says. “He checks in with me often to ask how I’m doing, whether I have any struggles, or need any help. And he’s really passionate about science and what he’s doing, and that has been inspiring for me.”