LU student discovers passions through research, study abroad
For The Record- Staff Report
Linda Pham of Bridge City has a natural curiosity and love of learning that often lead to unique opportunities. A first-generation American and a first-generation college student, the junior mathematics major is currently prepping for her second study abroad in South Korea after receiving the prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship.
“I really love study abroad. It allows me to get out of my comfort zone and do something I never thought I could. Now I’ve found a way to make the study abroad apply to my secondary area of study, applications of math, and its something I’m really excited about and proud of,” said Pham.
The Gilman Scholarship, funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, will provide Pham the maximum award of $8,000 to study on exchange at Seoul National University of Science and Technology. She will study Korean, a critical-need language, alongside her STEM classes.
“My first study abroad was in the summer of 2015 to Chungnam National University and we took a Korean class there. Now I know basic Korean, like the important phrases and the vocab I need to get around, but hopefully after my semester exchange I will speak it more fluently,” she said.
In addition to her knowledge of Korean, Pham is fluent in Vietnamese, which her family speaks at home. She feels that her language skills and global experiences will help her in her future job search.
“Study abroad is fun and an interesting way to pursue your degree, but I also like it for the fact that it’s different. I like to invest in myself and be an interesting person. I think it also makes me more employable than a typical math graduate,” she said.
Pham sees her studies as a door to many career opportunities. She originally planned to complete graduate school then work in the actuary field, but after joining LU’s STAIRSTEP program, Pham discovered her love for research.
“I love researching in general. When it comes to math, I usually look into geometry and algebra because it makes the most sense to me and it applies to a wide range of things in everyday life. I really like how math ties into life,” she said.
STAIRSTEP is a program to develop students for degrees in computational science and physical science through research, mentoring, tutoring, outreach, and support. It especially supports underrepresented groups in STEM studies, like women, minorities and first generation and low-income students.
“I really like art, so I tend to delve into the more artistic applications of math for my research. In one presentation, I showed how math ties into nature. For another, I used crocheting to help students visualize hyperbolic planes. Art is just something that people can relate to better, and it really helps draw them in,” she said.
Pham says that the support she has received from Lamar University is a crucial part of her success.
“I chose to go to Lamar because they make it easier to achieve my goals here. They’re really good about reaching out to students who find it harder to pursue higher education, like me. The only reason I can be here is because of scholarships and grants,” Pham said.
“If I couldn’t have gone to college, I probably have done what my mother did, which was getting a cosmetology license and working at a nail salon. That’s not what she wanted us to do; she immigrated to the US so that we could have more opportunities than her,” she said.
Outside of her studies, Pham is involved across campus. She is a member of the Reaud Honors College and Cardinals Beyond Borders, and she serves as treasurer of the Korean Culture Club that she helped establish at LU following her first study abroad.
Pham hopes to participate in the McNair Scholars Program, which preps underrepresented groups at the doctoral level for graduate studies through research and faculty mentorships, and she plans to research real-world applications of math through the support of the Office of Undergraduate Research.
In her free time, Pham enjoys painting and digital art. She says she is an avid “gamer” and uses console and PC video games to reconnect with old friends online.
Often on the Deans list, Pham receives the Cardinal Scholarship, the Homer Dennis Memorial Scholarship in Math and the Jacques Landry Math Scholarship. She plans to graduate in May 2018.