Phung Hoang Nguyen

Hometown: Bienhoa, Vietnam

Major: Chemistry

Class of 2012

Why I came to Armstrong: Because the college is close to my home in Savannah and I realized it had smaller class sizes.  It was also very easy to talk to the professors.  I now know all of the professors in the chemistry department, and they know me.  I’ts not like at big schools, where they don’t care who you are.


Success in America

In the movie “Coming to America,” Eddie Murphy came to America to find a wife, but Phung-Hoang Nguyen came for the education.  She dealt with language barriers and culture shock, but through it all, she found a love for chemistry and a permanent home in Savannah.

In 2005, Nguyen’s entire family moved from Bienhoa, Vietnam to Savannah, Ga.  Her grandfather, who fought in the Vietnam War on the side of the United States and was imprisoned for six years, was transferred to America after his release.  He chose to live in Savannah for its weather and quiet lifestyle, and after a 20-year separation from his family, he sponsored the immigration of Nguyen and her family to Savannah.

She began her freshman year of high school at Grove High School taking ESOL classes. “The language really shocked me.  Even though I had studied English back in my country, it was not enough for me to be able to understand what people said. I went to class and didn’t understand anything,” Nguyen said. Yet, that did not stop her from working hard.  She completed high school in 2008, finishing a year earlier than her classmates because of her ability to better understand material when she reads. “When I read a book, I can understand more, even if I can’t understand everything,” Nguyen said.

This is the same technique Nguyen employs now while at Armstrong.  She smashes through the language barrier by reading and questioning, and continues to work hard in school.  “I made the dean’s list every semester, and the president’s list last year,” Nguyen said.  And since the spring of 2010, she has also contributed to a computational chemistry research project spearheaded by Dr. Cliff Padgett. She is helping to develop a methodology that will allow pharmacists to correctly predict the three-dimensional shape of molecules in products using a computer software program called MOE.
I like the American culture and especially the school system. It has given me a lot of opportunity and freedom,” Nguyen said. “The interaction between teacher and student is more engaged, not like back in my country where students are afraid to talk to the teacher.  And we don’t do labs back in my country, just the theory, the lecture.”

After her graduation in 2012, Nguyen plans to enroll in either graduate school or pharmacy school.  She has two different dreams she would like to accomplish.  “With my Ph.D., I want to do more research, and I also want to be a pharmacist in the Savannah area. I definitely want to stay here.”


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