Brian Goh was in class when he got the call.
“I didn’t recognize the number, and I thought, ‘Maybe I should answer this,’” he said.
When stepped out of class at Johns Hopkins to answer his phone, Goh learned that he had been named a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow, becoming only the second LSU graduate ever to receive this prestigious award.
Comparable in competitiveness to the Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships, each Soros Fellowship, a two-year award, seeks to support the studies of the nation’s most exemplary youth by providing tuition support and cash awards up to $50,000 toward any degree-granting graduate program in the U.S.
“I was super excited,” said Goh, whose research has focused on the gene evaluation and on the use of stem cells in tissue engineering applications. “I never thought this would happen as a kid. I mean, I was eating dirt; I wasn’t looking forward to being successful.”
The Board of Trustees of the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans announced the thirty 2011 Scholars Fellows — all either recent immigrants or the children of immigrants — chosen for their extraordinary promise, diversity, drive, and determination.
Goh said that the Honors College has played a large role in his success by teaching him how to think critically and by providing a well-rounded education.
“The Honors College has given me so much,” he said. “College is less about knowledge and more about learning how to think. Through the Honors College, I was able to take classes outside of my major; it made me a more well rounded person.”
Goh said that his small Honors classes and their group discussions taught him how to formulate an argument and how to reason — skills which have helped him to succeed in medical school.
“I had a lot of opportunities here I really didn’t think were available other places for the same value,” he said. “If you could really take advantage of those, you can do a lot.”
“I am not at all surprised by his fantastic success, which began here when he was still an Honors College student,” said Dr. Drew Lamonica Arms, Director of Fellowship Advising. “He is a testament to that wonderful kind of student who embraces the full experience — study abroad, research, service and fellowships.”
Dr. Arms said she hopes Goh’s example will encourage more students to apply for prestigious fellowships and make use of the resources available to them through the Honors College Office of Fellowship Advising.
“I am so proud of the path that he has blazed for Honors College students to come,” she said.
The 24-year-old Baton Rouge native was born to parents of Chinese extraction who immigrated to the United States from Malaysia.
“I don’t consider myself a new American, but I definitely think I’ve had a different [household] environment than some,” he said. “I think the aim of the Soros was to highlight sort of what might happen if immigration laws were more stringent or if we didn’t allow people to immigrate here … it’s the American dream —you can make yourself.”
The story of Goh’s parents is an example of that dream. His father, who graduated with a Ph.D. from LSU, was one of sixteen children and worked for years as a manual laborer on a rubber plantation.
“I definitely admire my parents a lot … they’ve worked so hard to get here, (and) I’ve been very appreciative of the fact that they’ve been able to give me the opportunities that they have. I get a lot of my drive from them,” said Goh.
Goh was awarded the Soros Fellowship for his creativity, originality, initiative, and sustained accomplishment — qualities which are easy to recognize in his four years at LSU.
“I don’t think I realized how much I loved it here until I moved away,” he said “LSU gave me the ability to go to classes and meet really fun people, do research at Pennington, and then to go to a football game on the weekends —I could do anything that I wanted here. Looking back, it worked out perfectly.”
While at LSU, Goh received a Goldwater Scholarship, a Howard Hughes Institute research award, and a spot on USA Today’s 2009 All-USA College Academic First Team.
He participated in Honors College Student Council, Volunteer LSU, Boy Scouts of America, Environmental Conservation Organization, Rotaract Service Organization, Alternative Service Break, holding leadership positions in every organization.
He performed stem cell and circadian biology research at Pennington Biomedical Research Center, which resulted in eleven publications, including one of the Top 20 Articles in 2007 for Journal of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine.
In 2006, he founded Team Detour Cycling and went on to participate in the Capital to Capital Ride, pledging support for the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center with bicycle ride from Washington, DC, to Baton Rouge to raise money for cancer screenings. The event including lobbying Congress for medical research funding — and Goh and his team raised over $30,000.
And that’s just as an undergraduate.
After graduating in 2009 with a degree in biochemistry and a perfect 4.00 GPA, Goh enrolled in the M.D./Ph.D. program at the Johns Hopkins University, where he is currently in his second year of medical training.
A self-described “low-key guy,” it’s obvious that Goh doesn’t consider himself to be exceptionally accomplished — in spite of his remarkable achievements.
“I’ve just kind of worked hard at what I do,” he said “And I’ve always tried to balance work and play, or integrate them. For instance, I really love to bike and to travel, so raising money and biking halfway across the country was fun … It was an adventure,” he said. “You can give back to your community and still do the things you love.”
After finishing medical school, Goh plans to undertake a residency and continue his research on bone tissue regeneration.
“I want to be able to create something in the lab and bring it to my patients,” he said. “There’s a lot of discoveries that get made in the lab that never make it to patient care. There’s something very dynamic about tissue engineering, creating something that wasn’t there, something that could improve someone’s quality of life — that’s been my motivation.”
Story by Elizabeth Clausen, LSU Honors College
For more information, contact the Honors College at 225-578-8831