Junior Thao Nguyen lands summer internship in California


Junior Thao Nguyen is one of a select few to receive a 2019 summer internship at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, California.

More than 500 students applied for the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows (SURF) internship and only 22 were accepted into the program.

Starting in June, Nguyen will spend 10 weeks completing biomedical research.

Nguyen wanted to spend his summer doing something productive that also interested him, so he started looking for research opportunities online. He applied to six different programs with Scripps being his top choice and was very excited when he was accepted into the program.

“First I was most excited that I wouldn’t have to be in Wichita all summer, because San Diego is such a nice place to be,” Nguyen said. “But I think I’m more excited just to be in a new environment where I’m not in my comfort zone. I’ve lived at home with my parents for the last three years, so I think it will be a great way for me to grow on my own outside of the home and also learn how to perform research at a top research institution.”

The executive board of SGA for the 2019-2020 academic year.
Thao Nguyen (second from left) will be president of the Newman Student Government Association for the 2019-20 academic year.

Nguyen must go through the list of 90 faculty members, choose three he is interested in working with and submit a request for placement. His top choices include breast cancer metastasis with Brunie H. Felding, Ph.D., macular degeneration and medicines for vision improvement with Anne Hanneken, M.D., and the disease course of hemorrhagic illnesses with Brian Sullivan, Ph.D.  

“For me, these subjects were the ones that seemed the most interesting, so I think it will be a cool and different experience,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen is majoring in biology with a concentration in pre-medicine, but his interests expand beyond the medical realm.

Throughout his three years as a full-time college student, Nguyen has worked in the emergency room as a medical scribe.

“I’ve enjoyed it, but for the summer I wanted to get a different perspective,” he said. “What’s great is that the internship doesn’t require any money, and it’s for students who go to small universities and are first-generation college students like myself.”

He spent his freshman year as a senator for the Student Government Association (SGA), sophomore year as executive secretary, junior year as vice president and is set to serve as president of SGA for the 2019-20 academic year.

Emily Larkin and Thao Nguyen
Emily Larkin (2019-20 SGA vice president) and Thao Nguyen (president) plan to leverage their involvement on and off campus to spark positive change at Newman University.

Nguyen also served as a first-year experience leader for two years, spent one year as a Traditions & Transitions class facilitator and plays piano for events including High Tea and other campus-wide banquets.

“I think that Thao stands out as a student and a leader because he takes the time to get to know people and is genuinely interested in what people have to say,” Assistant Professor of Chemistry Alan Oberley, Ph.D., said.

Nguyen is finishing his second year as Oberley’s lab assistant for a general chemistry class and Oberley said he has done a great job of filling this role.

“Thao does an excellent job of helping the students understand the material and does it in a way that makes them comfortable,” Oberley added. “He also isn’t afraid to admit the mistakes he made as a freshman, which helps the current students learn.”

As his future continues to be filled with the excitement of campus involvement and an out-of-state summer internship, Nguyen said he is most looking forward to his final academic year at Newman.

“Being the president for SGA is like a dream come true, in a way, because I get to work with an executive board made up of people I’ve been really good friends with for the past three years,” he said. “I know we will be able to come up with some good changes on campus, so I’m excited to get working on those.”

Junior Emily Larkin, who will serve as SGA vice president next year, considers Nguyen to be one of the hardest working people she knows.

“You can witness his hard work from our campaign, all the tasks we’ve done and the meetings we’ve had,” Larkin said. “He’s passionate about all of the topics he is involved in, and I can’t think of a better candidate for the internship opportunity he has been given.”



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