2014 Outstanding Graduating Student — Chi Truong

Truong named Outstanding Graduating International Student in College of Engineering

Chi TruongChi H. Truong of Quang Ngai, Vietnam, is the Outstanding Graduating International Student in the College of Engineering at the University of Maine.

Truong majored in chemical engineering with pre-med and chemistry minors. She was a Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society National Scholar and received a 2013 Center for Undergraduate Research (CUGR) Fellowship. This past spring, Truong received a second-place poster award at the CUGR Academic and Research Showcase.

Working in the laboratory of Professor of Chemical Engineering Joseph Genco, Truong helped conduct research on the feasibility of generating acetic acid from Maine hardwood extract using electrodialysis. She also was a student research assistant and teaching assistant in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering. Truong did two co-op terms at Lincoln Paper and Tissue.

Her campus leadership activities included serving as treasurer of All Maine Women, Sophomore Eagles and Tau Beta Pi, and vice president of the Asian Student Association and the International Student Association. Her extensive volunteer activities included participation in Alternative Breaks, Vietnam Medical Assistance Program and Partners for World Health.

Tell us about the research, internships or scholarly pursuits you were involved in as a student
I have been working on a research project trying to study the feasibility of generating acetic acid from Maine hardwood extract using electrodialysis. This research is important because it can potentially bring a number of benefits to the wood-based industry in Maine. I’ve been working closely with another graduate student under the guidance of Dr. Genco of the department of Chemical Engineering. For the past few months, we’ve been performing different separation experiments to understand the process of concentrating dilute sodium acetate solutions via electrodialysis and the experimental work has shown some promising results. Future work will include investigating the effect of other extract components on the separation process and exploring other methods of splitting sodium acetate to produce acetic acid, such as using bipolar membrane.

I feel fortunate to be able to get familiarized with how scientific research is conducted as an undergrad and it has helped me strengthen my laboratory skills and prepared me for grad school level research.

I have also done two co-op terms at Lincoln Paper and Tissue during my junior and senior year and those internships have allowed me to gain many valuable skills outside of the classroom, establish new connections and broaden my professional network.

Beyond academics, what extracurricular activities occupied your time? (clubs, sports, etc.)
During my undergraduate career, I have been involved and held multiple leadership positions with many student organizations, such as the International Student Association, Asian Student Association, Sophomore Eagle Honor Society, All Maine Women Honor Society, Tau Beta Pi Engineering Society. Moreover, I worked as a resident assistant and a communication liaison/secretary for Residents on Campus. I was also involved with Alternative Breaks to help out homeless shelters in Ottawa, Canada during the 2011 winter break and participated in a medical mission trip with Vietnam Medical Assistance Program to deliver health care to the poor in the rural area of Southern Vietnam.

What are your plans after graduation?
I will be continuing my current research to gain more experience, then pursuing graduate school in bioengineering/biomedical engineering.

What difference has UMaine made in your life and in helping you reach your goals?
I think the skills, the knowledge and, most importantly, the experience that I’ve had during my study here at UMaine have been truly exceptional and wonderful in many aspects. I’ve made great friends from all over the world, worked closely with inspiring and motivating individuals and helped bring positive impacts to the campus. In addition to that, I also have received tremendous financial and intellectual support from the university and especially the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering throughout my undergraduate career. I know for certain that my accomplishments today and tomorrow would not be possible without the educational experience I’ve had at UMaine. The University of Maine has afforded me with the opportunities to prepare myself for success and excel in my future endeavors.

Have you had an experience at UMaine that has changed or shaped the way you see the world?
For the past five years, I have been actively involved with the International Dance Festival at UMaine as both an organizer and participant. This big cultural event is not only where I can showcase my culture and identity, but also a place where I got to make unforgettable memories with friends all over the world. It is events like this that bring me closer to people from other cultures and open my eyes to beautiful traditional dances around the world. Being part of the International Dance Festival has allowed me to work with people from different cultural backgrounds and I believe that is one of the most essential skills that anyone should have in a globalized world.

Why UMaine?
I’ve always loved becoming an active member of the community, no matter where I am, so when I was looking at colleges as a senior in high school, I was looking specifically for a place that offered me the opportunities to get involved and make positive contributions. Not only was I impressed by the financial support available for prospective international students, but also fascinated by the diverse and appealing lists of student organizations on campus. The annual Culturefest and International Dance Festival caught my eye when I browsed through the school’s website. There is something unique about the UMaine community that creates a warm, welcoming and engaging atmosphere for international students especially and I knew that this was the place I should be.

How would you describe UMaine’s academic atmosphere?
Very supportive and collaborative. Coming to college in the U.S. definitely has some challenges, but I’m very appreciative of how my professors have always been friendly, approachable and willing to help me do well in the class as long as I put in the effort and am not afraid to ask for help. I’ve had great mentors during my time here and I can’t thank them enough for how supportive they are in helping me achieving my goals.

Have you worked closely with a professor or mentor who made your UMaine experience better?
For the past few years, I have had the pleasure of knowing Dr. Joseph Genco in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering. I have taken three classes with him and worked under his guidance on two different research projects. He has not only been a teacher and research adviser, but also a great mentor to me. He has always been so willing to help me out on so many things, whether it’s a homework problem, providing guidance on a capstone project, giving me feedback on my research poster or giving me advice on graduate school. You know that you’re good hands when the professor truly cares about the student’s progress in the class and wants you to succeed in whatever you do. My experience working with Dr. Genco certainly has played a vital role in shaping my educational experience here.

What advice do you have for incoming students?
Come with an open mind and be open to trying out new things and new experiences. Also, explore and take advantage of all the opportunities that the campus has to offer.