Biology major Junior Nguyen’s fascination with white blood cells and bacteria has led him to a job that will help his curiosity for science thrive. Nguyen is working in Scott Canna’s immunology laboratory at the Abramson Research Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia as a lab technician.
“I plan to take these two years at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to gain even more laboratory experience, skills, confidence, and independence, before heading off to graduate school to receive a Ph.D.,” said Nguyen. “I dream of becoming a kind and loving professor, similar to the ones that have helped me get to where I am today.”
Nguyen credits Haverford biology faculty, including Professors Rob Fairman and Karl Johnson, with nurturing his interest in science and offering support on both academic, familial, and personal issues. Professor Emeritus of Biology Judy Owen and (now UPenn) Professor Jennifer Punt helped him find his job. He speaks fondly of Professor Owen in her mentorship and his experience taking her immunology elective that gave him the opportunity to work on research to learn about inflammation and acne.
“One night, as a curious scientist, I decided to observe my own white blood cells fight against an infection with the help of the microscope,” said Nguyen. “What I saw brought me in awe: moving particles circling the epicenter of a bacteria. Trillions of cells that seemed to have become immobile, or frighteningly dead, and in the corner of my eye was one lively cell that was squeezing itself through its siblings to go closer to the core of the infection. When it reached as far as it could, it suddenly stopped, and I could not tell the purpose of its adventure, but it invigorated my curiosity for science.”
“Immunology,” a 300-level biology course, is considered by many, including Nguyen, to be among Haverford’s most rigorous, but rewarding courses. “During my sophomore year, I struggled with biology and confidence because my grades were discouraging,” said Nguyen. “But I never gave up and I always persevered: the grades I would later receive as an upperclassman would overpower my early struggles of college, and that real curiosity, the kind of questions that would keep you excited and awake at night, would trump grades.”
Though it is bittersweet for Nguyen to be “moving on from a loving and kind community that had taken great care of me” at Haverford, he finds strength in the following piece from a young man’s monologue about his world-traveling warrior of light in one of Nguyen’s favorite video games:
“Yours is a long road my friend, and it stretches on to places beyond imagining. With your every step, these grand adventures shall grow more distant and faint. And there may come a day when you forget the faces and voices of those you have met along the way. On that day, I bid you remember this: that no matter how far your journey may take you, you stand where you stand by virtue of the road you walked to get there. For in times of hardship, when you fear you cannot go on… the joy you have known, the pain you have felt, the prayers you have whispered and answered – they shall ever be your strength and your comfort. This I hope— I believe…”
“Where They’re Headed” is a blog series reporting on the post-collegiate plans of recent Haverford graduates.