Honors College juniors Mytrang Do and Winston Capps have a lot in common. Neither is fond of writing essays and both were born in a foreign country. They are both La-STEM Scholars and aspiring scientists, and they both enjoy trying new things.
But the thing that brought Do and Capps together for the first time and reason their names are now being mentioned in the same sentence is what sets them apart from the rest of America’s brightest students — both have been selected as Goldwater Award Winners for 2011.
“If I say I want to do something, I want to try my very best,” said Do, a biochemistry major. “I won’t give up the first time I fail. Maybe after three times, I’ll think about it, but definitely not the first or second time.”
Such persistence is what led to Do’s selection as a 2011 Goldwater Scholar and Winston Capps’ selection as an Honorable Mention.
“I was excited; I applied for it last year also, and … this year I completely redid everything — I spent weeks revising and rewriting [the application],” said Capps, a mechanical engineering major. “I was glad all that hard work paid off.”
Mytrang Do, who came to the U.S. from Vietnam in 2006, was selected as a Goldwater Scholar on the basis of academic merit from over 1,000 mathematics, science, and engineering students who were nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide.
Her Goldwater Scholarship will cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.
Do, who has a perfect 4.00 grade-point average, is currently working in the LSU Department of Biological Sciences with Lewis S. Flowers Professor and Brij Mohan Distinguished Professor Vince LiCata, an Honors College Professor whom she credits with much of her success.
“I can never thank him enough,” she said. “I was this little freshman who went to his office and asked if I could work in the lab, and he gave me the opportunity [to do research]. He didn’t fire me when I broke stuff in the lab. I failed multiple times, but he never once got mad.”
In addition to the help she received from Dr. LiCata, Do said that the Honors College Office of Fellowship Advising and her parents provided her with support that was crucial to her success.
“I think one of the biggest things was Dr. Arms (Director of Fellowship Advising). I wouldn’t have gotten the Goldwater without the Honors College, for sure … they’re really important and helpful,” she said. “And my parents are really supportive — they don’t always know how American things work, but when I came to college, they told me, ‘Whatever you do, we support you.’”
Like Do, Capps said that parental support was instrumental in helping him to win the Goldwater Honorable Mention.
“She’s definitely [part of] everything I do; she has instilled everything: the motivation, drive … I owe every great thing I’ve done to her, said Capps, who was adopted at three months old from Romania and raised in Slidell. “She still encourages me. She still calls me and asks how my classes are going.”
Capps has been studying under the supervision of Dr. Michael Cherry, LSU Physics Professor and the Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, collecting gamma-ray data and running simulations with software.
Ironically enough, neither Capps nor Do considers the Goldwater Award to be their greatest accomplishment. For Capps, it was earning a B in Fluid Mechanics, which he describes as one of the “most difficult classes ever.” For Do, it was being able to adjust to life at LSU and serving as a role model for her younger sisters.
“When I applied for LSU, I didn’t really know anything about it,” she said. “I’m proud that I was able to adjust and realize that I need to be able to stand up and just keep going. My biggest achievement is being able to be a good role model for my two sisters. She’s like, ‘I want to go to LSU and be like you.’”
Do hopes to pursue a combined M.D./Ph.D. and plans to concentrate her career on studying HIV resistance and latency in the hopes of ultimately developing novel treatments that can completely eradicate all forms of HIV viruses.
“I always wanted to be a doctor, until I worked in the lab and realized it’s really cool too,” she said. “I like the idea that I can maybe learn something that nobody else knows.”
Capps, on the other hand, wants to earn a PhD in Aerospace Engineering so that he can build spacecraft to explore and discover astrophysical bodies.
“Space travel really interests me — astronomy and astrophysics [are] my biggest interests,” he said. “Whatever interests me, I plan to do for the rest of my life. And I really enjoy what I do.”
Both Capps and Do said that the Honors College has helped them to end up where they are today.
“It expands your horizons and opens you up to things you wouldn’t normally think about,” said Capps. “I think I try to work on being open-minded about everything in life, and I think it’s important to be well rounded. People who are narrow-minded are missing out.”
Story by Elizabeth Clausen, LSU Honors College
For more information, contact the Honors College at 225-578-8831