Find Your Passion: A Bridge to Somewhere

Student to return to native Vietnam, help build span across river

Ynhi Thai
(Photo by Sam Hernandez)

By Mary Wymer

The first time Ynhi Thai set foot on the Capstone’s campus, she was attending the Student Introduction to Engineering summer program in 2003. Immediately, Thai felt at home at The University of Alabama, she says.

“I wanted to be in an atmosphere where everyone works well together and wants to pursue the same goal of education excellence,” says Thai. “My favorite thing about UA is the culture. From the traditions of football to the beautiful campus, UA makes me feel at home.”

Culture has led Thai to a new passion at UA – utilizing what she’s learned to help others. From traveling to China for a study abroad program to Peru for an international service project, UA experiences have impacted Thai’s view of global responsibility, she says.

“Each of us has a purpose and goals, but only if we focus our intents on improving society with empathy can we obtain what we seek,” says Thai.

Ynhi Thai
Thai pipettes a model drug for her research on magnetic materials for hyperthermia-triggered drug delivery to promote bone tissue growth.
Thai works with Dr. Chris Brazel, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering.

(Photo by Sam Hernandez)

Thai’s own cultures have been blended. She was born in Vietnam and moved to the United States in 1991. Now, she is blending UA’s culture with that of her birth country through her involvement with UA’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders. She is coordinating this year’s international service project to the Mekong Delta Region in Vietnam. After participating in EWB’s first international service project in Iquitos, Peru, Thai says she was inspired and determined to turn her thoughts into actions.

Through her leadership, the group plans to implement the Vietnam trip in June 2009 to build a bridge over one of the winding branches of river that separate some of the rural communities. Typically, these communities have built “bridges” out of long tree branches that are precariously balanced. Weather and severe flooding often leads to bridge loss, impacting access to food, supplies and schools.

“A properly engineered bridge will provide a sustainable solution to some of the villagers’ daily living challenges, allowing easier access to resources,” says Thai. “Long term, the community will be able to increase capacity and establish economic stability.”

On campus, Thai, a senior in chemical and biological engineering, is the associate editor of JOSHUA (Journal of Science and Health at the University of Alabama), and she is active in UA’s chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. She also serves as an undergraduate research assistant in UA’s Magnetic Biomaterials Research Group. She has been inducted in numerous honoraries, including The XXXI, Golden Key International Honour Society, Tau Beta Pi National Engineering Society, and Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society.

When Thai was a freshman, she interviewed with Eastman Chemical Co. as part of UA’s Cooperative Education Program. Through working three semesters at Eastman Chemical, she has been involved with numerous projects and been able to apply what she learned in the classroom to real life. From working in the magnetic biomaterials research group to helping with environmental regulations, Thai became immersed in the chemical engineering professional culture.

Ynhi Thai
Thai works with a magnetic manganese ferrite nanoparticle sample in Dr. Chris Brazel's lab. (Photo by Sam Hernandez)

In addition to working as a co-op student, Thai was recognized with an Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship and interned at the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory-Ocean Chemistry Division in Miami, Fla. During summer 2008, she studied the natural and anthropogenic sources of nutrients to help obtain the long-term data needed to address the key issues of coastal management and pollution. Thai was part of the team that cruised the ocean for three days as a follow up study to track the flow of nutrients within a treated wastewater outfall and coastal inlet.

Through all her travels and projects, it is evident that Thai’s passion – social responsibility for our world – has developed and matured at UA.

“I abide by my policy and responsibility to our global community,” explained Thai. “I have a sincere desire to make a difference in our society and give opportunities to those who deserve it but are constrained by their situation.”

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This story is part of the Find Your Passion feature section of the UA home page. For more stories, please visit Find Your Passion or Crimson Spotlight. To learn more about how you can find your passion at The University of Alabama, please visit UA Undergraduate Admissions.