WYOMISSING, Pa. — Born and raised in Vietnam, Huy Truong was 10 years old when his family immigrated to the United States in 2011. He did not know any English and had to take English as a Second Language courses from fourth through seventh grade. On Saturday, May 6, he will graduate with a baccalaureate degree in biology as the Penn State Berks student marshal, the student with the highest grade-point average.
Truong’s commencement speech is titled “The Evolution of Us,” a fitting description for an exceptional graduate whose path took some twists and turns along the way.
Not only was Truong’s journey from Vietnam a long and winding one, but he also explored different academic paths before finding the right fit. While he was always interested in both the arts and sciences, the two areas do not always intersect.
When he began his college career, Truong planned to complete his biology degree with an art minor at University Park campus and eventually work as a medical illustrator. During his time at Berks, his passion for biology grew but his artistic interests turned to the culinary arts. He decided to complete his biology degree at Berks and plans to pursue a career in culinary and pastry arts, conducting research and developing recipes. He would also like to explore a career as a food writer.
“I’m very glad I decided to stay at Penn State Berks,” stated Truong. “I chose Penn State because the University’s research program has a reputation for being exceptional. There was so much opportunity to explore what I wanted to do at Berks. I conducted research and published an essay in a scholarly journal. And I met some of the most amazing professors; working with them is one of my best memories of my time at the campus.”
Truong has been an avid home baker and cook since the age of 13. “I used to watch the Food Network when we lived in Vietnam,” he stated. “But I didn’t give this career path serious consideration until two years ago.”
He adds that his childhood in Vietnam – specifically in the city of Long Xuyên in the province of An Giang – is an important part of his culinary upbringing, where he grew to love food and cooking.
Last year, Truong was hired by Molly’s Corner, a local bakery with a location at the Fairgrounds Farmer’s Market in Reading. He was recently informed that he will be promoted to head baker this summer.
He explains that science is a huge part of culinary arts, and his dream vocation would allow him to combine two of his passions. He adds that the countless batches of chocolate chip cookies he baked helped him make it through college.
Truong excelled academically during his time at Berks. He was recently awarded a Penn State Schreyer Honors College medal for successful completion of his thesis titled “The Regulation of Carnitine Palmitoyltransferase 1 (CPT1) mRNA Splicing by Nutrient Availability in Drosophila Fat Tissue.” The thesis looks at the genetics of the regulation of fat metabolism in the common fruit fly. In addition, he earned the college’s Outstanding Contribution to Science Award, Berks Scholar Award, and Academic Excellence in Biology Award.
When he wasn’t in class, he worked as a tutor in the college’s Writing and Learning Center, helping his fellow students with biology, biochemistry and math. He was also a teaching assistant for some of the college’s biology courses. In addition to his scholarly pursuits, he served as a Lion Ambassador tour guide and an orientation leader.
Another aspect that Truong enjoyed about completing his degree at Berks was the ability to commute from home, where he could bake in his spare time. He lives with his father just a few miles from the campus and he added that has a strong community of Vietnamese friends – many of whom also completed their degrees at Penn State Berks.
“My time at Berks is more about becoming a problem-solver and learning to adapt to changes. I had to adapt my learning style when I came to college. I am a hard worker and I continue to look for opportunities,” stated Truong. “I also loved being part of the community here at Berks, getting involved on campus and meeting people from different backgrounds. I hope to continue to travel to different places and learn about different cultures in the future.”
Truong added his ultimate goal is to harness his passion for food and art while leveraging his skills in science and writing to feed people, bring together communities and tell his story through food.
A new class of nearly 230 Penn State Berks students will receive their baccalaureate and associate degrees at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 6, at the Santander Arena in downtown Reading, when Berks hosts its spring 2023 commencement ceremony.