As Dang Duong walks across the stage to accept his diploma for his bachelor of science degree in microbiology and pre-medicine this June, he does so knowing he has pushed boundaries, overcome obstacles and exceeded expectations.
He has made his mark at Oregon State University in science, social justice, student leadership, scholarship, research, global experiences, teaching and mentoring.
Growing up in Clackamas, Oregon, as the only child of a single mom who did not finish high school, Dang is the first in his family to graduate college. His mom valued education and set her sights on her son’s education. While she hoped for a college close to home, Dang wanted to go a little farther afield to Oregon State.
Encouraged by cousins who attended OSU, one of whom graduated in microbiology, Dang followed his lead. He leaned on them to help him navigate high school and college.
“I wanted to redefine myself and break out of my shell,” said Dang who described himself as shy and timid in high school, traits that are not discernible in the exuberant soon-to-be graduate.
“If I have the guts to do that, then I thought, I can do something really great.”
Amplifying classroom learning through research
His cousin pushed the idea of getting involved in a research lab early to gain hands-on experience and enhance learning. Given his tenacious nature, Dang emailed 13 faculty asking to work in their labs. He successfully landed in a research position in OSU’s virology lab in Dryden Hall where he worked for two years working on plasmid modified E. coli with polymerase chain reactions, protein expression and analysis.
His sophomore year, Dang sought more challenges and gained a wealth of clinical experience. He landed a position in the Critical Care Academic Associate Program (CCAAP) at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), commuting to Portland every weekend. He gained invaluable experience working with patients in the areas of palliative and intensive care. In 2016-17, Dang worked as a research assistant in the Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics at OHSU.
“The more research you can do, the better. You just hold onto the information better. It keeps you centered,” said Dang.
Dang also acquired a litany of powerful experiential learning and leadership skills during his time at OSU. Since 2017, he has worked in the Office of Diversity and Cultural Engagement serving in an advisory capacity on several OSU boards and committees to promote diversity. Dang was employed as an account executive for Orange Media Network, promoting advertising for student media. He was a teaching assistant in a general microbiology lab course and in Advanced Anatomy & Physiology, working with mentor and integrative biology instructor Devon Quick.
“I enjoyed the teaching side—teaching students how to learn the information and letting them learn it on their own. That’s what builds critical thinking,” remarked Dang.
Adding a global view to science
Now out of his shell, Dang wanted to experience as much of the world as possible. He loved traveling, new people and fresh experiences. Yearning to make an impact and see more of the world, he also connected with OSU’s IE3 Global, a national organization that had recently established a presence on campus to provide international internships in a multitude of academic and professional fields in more than 50 countries.
“I worked on my mom all of my sophomore year. She was scared for me to go so far away. So I gave her a lot of information, explained her all of my reasons for wanting to go, told her that it was safe. Eventually, I was able to convince her,” said Dang.
In a relatively short time, Dang has amassed an impressive resume of global work experiences.
Dang has already traveled the world—doing internships and learning about the world’s problems firsthand in India and Malaysia and will soon add Uganda and Kazakhstan to that list. He is fluent in his native languages of English and Cantonese and speaks proficient Spanish, Vietnamese and Mandarin.