Grad student overcomes poverty by finding strength in education

When Van Hung Mai walks across Brock’s Convocation stage on June 9 to receive his doctoral degree, he’s fulfilling the dream he’s had since he was a child growing up amid poverty in a small mountain village in Vietnam.

Mai, who was born in 1982, remembers many days when his family didn’t have enough food to eat. But Mai never let that get in the way of his pursuit of knowledge, always inspired by his father, a former secondary school teacher.

“Despite our poverty, I had an amazing life and childhood, where I learned many lessons from my dad,” he says.

“I still remember how he directed me to learn when I was young. When I was an eight-year-old boy, I asked him what were my pencils made of. At that time, instead of giving me an answer, he brought me one of my first science books. By not giving me the answers right away and putting me in a positive learning mode, he let my curiosity lead me to who I am now, a chemist who treasures every moment to learn.”

Mai will receive his PhD degree in Chemistry as part of the Spring Convocation Class of 2017 graduate students that includes 20 doctoral degrees, 420 master’s degrees, and two graduate diplomas. Mai will also be recognized for his contributions in research as a recipient of a Jack M. Miller Excellence in Research Award.

Since starting his doctoral degree at Brock in 2012, Mai has carried out studies in the reactivity of a chemical catalyst with a particular focus on advancing green chemistry to develop more economical and cleaner synthesis methods.

“Van Hung Mai’s personal journey to this proud moment of his life is inspiring,” says Jens Coorssen, Dean of Graduate Studies. “Throughout his life he’s shown the kind of fortitude to keep moving forward as a lifelong learner. Convocation for Van Hung Mai and his fellow graduates is a starting point for their next stage of success and accomplishments.”

Knowing that he wanted to eventually study in Canada, Mai attended English school while completing his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering.  He then was accepted into the master’s program at the University of Windsor.

To make enough money to get by, he worked on a mushroom farm while attending school.

Throughout his time at Brock, Mai was known as the “Iron Man” by his departmental colleagues.

He published three papers, handled three projects, worked as a teaching assistant, helped his wife study for her undergraduate degree and cared for his new baby boy while completing his PhD.

He plans to pursue a post-doctoral fellowship in the future, but for now is enjoying spending time with his young family.

“At Brock, I found that many people have supported me during the last four and a half years and have helped me to fulfill my dream of being a scientist,” he says. “My life is a big journey, and it does not come to an end yet.”

2017 Spring Convocation Awards to Brock Graduate Students

Governor General’s Gold Medal:

  • Lindsay Elizabeth Cline, Applied Health Sciences

Jack M. Miller Excellence in Research Awards

The FGS announces a list of Miller award recipients each year. At the time of graduation, students are given special recognition for the achievement.  The following is a list of Miller award recipients who will be acknowledged at Spring Convocation.

  • Kirsten Bott, Applied Health Sciences
  • Terry Chu, Chemistry
  • Lindsay Elizabeth Cline, Applied Health Sciences
  • Shawn Nickolas Geniole, Psychology
  • Van Hung Mai, Chemistry

Jack Noble Book Prize

  • Jennifer Christine Kopczinski, Education

Dr. Michael Kompf Book Prize

  • Lindsay Hayward, Education

Goodman Convocation Award

  • Faraz Ali Syed, Business Administration
  • Yidan Jia, Management
  • Dmitry Konev, Accountancy
  • Liao Xie, Business Administration
  • Braeden Carter, Accountancy
  • Paul Frosina, Business Administration
  • Blair Susanne Hutchings, Business Administration
  • Kajsa Julianna Cirocco, Business Administration
  • Mingde Fang, Business Administration
  • Jake LaPlante, Business Administration
  • Neville Joseph Cherian, Business Administration
  • Karan Garg, Business Administration
  • Sathyajit Rudrapatna Prakash, Business Administration
  • Shengyue He, Business Administration
  • Jing Zhang, Business Administration
  • Cheng Li, Business Administration

Goodman Scholar

  • Chandan Baidwan, Business Administration
  • Sangeeta Balla, Business Administration
  • Jett Weixuan Jiang, Business Administration
  • Shibani Noah, Business Administration
  • Toluwani Funbi Osasona, Accountancy
  • Stephan Lucian Paldino, Accountancy
  • Brandon Vrysen, Business Administration
  • Ashish Wadhwa, Business Administration
  • Leona Yiu, Business Administration

Distinguished Graduate Student Award

  • Aamir Khan, Applied Disability Studies
  • Amanda Leeanne, Applied Health Sciences
  • Caitlin Saint, Applied Health Sciences
  • Lindsay Elizabeth Cline, Applied Health Sciences
  • Lisa Hyun-Ji Lee Smith, Applied Linguistics
  • Kimberley Anne Cathline, Biological Sciences
  • Abdelbaset Yagubi, Biological Sciences
  • Emily Ann Bordeleau, Biotechnology
  • Parthajit Mukherjee, Biotechnology
  • Samantha Tapley, Business Administration
  • Ahmed Ahmed, Canadian-American Studies
  • Jeffery Regier, Chemistry
  • Terry Chu, Chemistry
  • Corrie Aldhelm-White, Child and Youth Studies
  • Elliott Fuller, Classics
  • Dylan Killingbeck, Computer Science
  • Veronica Suaste Morales, Computer Science
  • Brooke Anne Pasco, Critical Sociology
  • Rebecca Anne Gunter, Earth Sciences
  • Jennifer Christine Kopczinski, Education
  • Nina Kim Lee,Education
  • Richard Epp, Geography
  • Jessica Amber Yusek, History
  • Grant Kenneth Yocom, Interdisciplinary Humanities
  • Yao Xiao, Management
  • Ramona Rat, Mathematics and Statistics
  • Ethan Paul Reno, Philosophy
  • Susan Michelle Mei-Lahn Yee, Physics
  • Aaron Service, Political Science
  • Christine Salahub, Psychology
  • Meghan J. Weissflog, Psychology
  • Md Firoze Alam, Social Justice and Equity Studies
  • Katrina Daina Krievins, Sustainability

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