Q&A with Biology Major Brandon Nguyen ’21
Brandon Nguyen '21 was born in Hawaii and moved to Washington with his family when he was a child and has lived in the Pacific Northwest ever since. Nguyen shares how he became interested in biology and why he chose PLU for his studies.
1. Can you give us an introduction about yourself?
My name’s Brandon Nguyen. I was born in Hawaii, and I lived there for four years. Then the Military PCS’d my family over to Washington, and we’ve been here ever since. I attended Lakes High School and swam varsity. Once I became a junior, I did Running Start, so that knocked off two years of college, and I was able to transfer all of my credits over to PLU. I chose to attend PLU because I heard it has an outstanding nursing school and just excellent faculty for teaching science classes. When I was applying to colleges, I knew I wanted to be a biology major, so I looked for local schools with strong STEM programs. Another big reason why I chose PLU was for its small class sizes. I was not interested in attending classes with 299 other students; I didn’t think that kind of environment would facilitate my learning. I know a few nurses and physicians who attended PLU, and they only had positive things to say about the school. Lastly, PLU was close to home. It’s only 10 minutes away, and I figured that I could save on dorming costs. I wanted to stay in-state and was not interested in paying the expensive out-of-state tuition.
2. What inspired you to study biology?
I was inspired to pursue biology because I’ve always liked learning about cells, the body, and the environment. I believed this major would expose me to a good variety of classes in both chemistry and biology. I want to apply to medical school, so I knew that picking this major and those supporting classes would help me prepare for the MCAT. My favorite (and most challenging) biology course I have taken is mammalian physiology with Dr. Dolan. I learned a lot in this class, such as action potentials in muscle contraction, QRS complexes, pituitary hormones, and renal functions. It was an extremely demanding course, but I learned so much, and it was a very small glimpse into the type of coursework and material that students in medical school encounter.
3. Describe your experience at PLU. Were there any challenges, and if there were, how did you overcome those challenges?
I studied classes on campus for only a semester and a half before COVID transitioned school online. I was also a commuter student, so I can’t speak much about campus life. With that said, my experiences at PLU have been wonderful. I’ve participated in several organic chemistry and biology labs and always felt that PLU had sufficient resources. Yeah, some money could be spent on buying better ring stands or heat plates, but I am very satisfied with the lab tools provided to the students. Professors are always willing to chat during office hours and happy to answer questions about homework or projects. I never got the impression that a professor made their class difficult just to be difficult. Everything we learned had a purpose. Any challenges? I can’t think of any negative experiences that I’ve had at PLU. I really enjoyed the small class sizes. I’m not just a student ID number, the professors actually know me by name, and we can talk before or after class. Another aspect I really like is the student body. When enrolling in these STEM courses, most of us are science majors and interested in applying to graduate school. Despite graduate school being so competitive, everyone is supportive and works together. I never got this feeling where people try to sabotage each other or hurt each other. We’re all really supportive and help each other on the assignments or the labs.
4. What are your future plans after graduation?
After I graduate, I plan to work in the hospital as a scribe and get more clinical experience to see what it’s like being in their emergency department and interacting with patients and physicians. I plan on studying for my MCAT over the winter and likely write it in April of next year.
5. Do you have any advice or insight for students aspiring to study biology?
My advice is to build connections early and find a strong support group in college. Many of my close friends from PLU are STEM majors and have similar career aspirations. Friends with similar interests can refer relevant resources or opportunities or introduce you to people who can help you achieve your goals. For example, a close friend helped me find clinical internships that I never heard about or would take hours to find on my own. My friends and I consistently ask each other for advice on homework or clarifying questions about the textbook readings. We also talk about our stressors, and it’s more comforting to talk to someone who is in a similar situation as you. In short, be open to making friends with your peers who are in or outside of your major. It will make your college experience easier and memorable.