First-year NDSU pre-pharmacy student Jane Loueng’s goal is to be the best, and she’s well on her way.
Loueng’s outstanding academic record has earned her two major national scholarships. She is the recipient of the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and she will attend a three-day conference in California during November for honorees. She also received a $20,000 award as a KFC Colonel’s Scholar, which she earned for an essay on the 2009 Red River Valley flood.
“I consider myself a perfectionist, I guess,” Loueng explained. “I’m very motivated, and I think I get my ability to be a hard working person from my family.”
Her determination is evidenced by being chosen as a Gates Millennium Scholar, a program that selects 1,000 outstanding students to receive a “good through graduation” scholarship at the institution of their choice. Eligible students are African American, American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian Pacific Islander American or Hispanic American, and have a high school cumulative grade point average of 3.3. Established in 1999, the program promotes academic excellence by providing assistance to excellent students with financial need.
Loueng was born and spent her early childhood in the community of Mongkolborey, Cambodia, located near the border with Thailand. In 2001, her family moved to the Fargo-Moorhead area, following the footsteps of her uncle and grandmother.
“They said this is a great country. You can make a lot of money here and there are so many opportunities,” Loueng said, noting her uncle ran a local grocery store. “My family decided it was a great opportunity, especially for education for the children. We heard the U.S. is the number one country.”
With a tutor, she quickly adapted to English and the American educational system. Loueng was a Girls State participant and salutatorian for her 2010 Moorhead High School class. (She still laments the one A-minus she received.)
Loueng chose NDSU to further her education for a number of reasons. One of them harkens back to a summer a few years ago, when she attended the National Youth Sports program on the NDSU campus. It was an enjoyable experience that planted a seed for her future.
“I always had lingering feelings about NDSU in the back of my mind because of that. I knew NDSU offers pharmacy, which is the program I’m interested in. NDSU is also close to home. I like keeping in touch with my family – bonding is very important to me, especially staying close to my mom,” she said. Her mother, Lisa Chau lives in Dilworth, Minn.; and sister Tinna Loueng and brothers Anndy Trieu and Henry Loueng also live in the immediate area.
Shortly after high school graduation, Loueng met Evie Myers, NDSU vice president for equity, diversity, and global outreach. “When I met Jane at NDSU orientation, I knew right away she would be a great asset here at NDSU as she is very smart, friendly and outgoing,” Myers said. “We are very excited to have Jane become one of the NDSU Bison family.”
Through that meeting, she became involved in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) program and was offered an internship in the research laboratory of Sanku Mallik, professor of pharmaceutical sciences.
So, before taking her first NDSU class, Loueng began conducting cancer research under Mallik’s direction. During the summer, she prepared six polymers and studied their interactions with three different proteins, one of which is secreted by cancer cells and helps the cancer cells to metastasize. In a competition with other NDSU summer interns, Loueng took first place with an oral presentation about her research.
“Jane is very intelligent and hard working. I like this combination since this is exactly what is needed to succeed at NDSU and later on,” Mallik said. “She is sincere, responsible, courteous and gets along with other students nicely. I have high hopes for her. In fact, she decided to continue research after the summer program ended.”
Loueng is excited about transitioning to college life, and she plans to participate in clubs, campus activities and volunteer service projects. She looks forward to meeting new people and enjoying her college experience.
But, Loueng also has noticed she has spent time reflecting on her childhood, and how her life has changed.
“I know hardships exist today in Cambodia. A driving force for me to work hard every day is knowing there are people who are smarter than me, but they don’t have the opportunity to come here and experience this great educational system in the United States,” she said. “I feel I need to take advantage of all the things I can because there are people over there who are less fortunate, who don’t have the money to go to school.”
Loueng plans to pursue her PharmD degree and, one day, own a pharmacy.