During his time at Messiah College, Nicholas Tay ‘14 majored in chemistry with a minor in mathematics. However, graduating with a degree in chemistry was far from his mind when he started at Messiah.
Tay started as a molecular biology major with intent on pursuing a career in medicine. Yet, at the start of sophomore year, he was fond of organic chemistry, as he was fascinated by the blend of logic and creativity afforded in the art of molecule construction.
Tay was able to pursue organic chemistry research outside of Messiah College through the Amgen Scholars Summer Research Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). There, he expanded his horizons, as he was able to acquire invaluable experimental and problem-solving skills outside the classroom. By the end of the program, his passion for organic chemistry led him to pursue further studies in graduate school.
Now, Tay is a National Science Foundation (NSF) graduate research fellow at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, one of the top 30 U.S. national universities. He looks forward to completing his Ph.D. by the summer of 2019. In the future, Tay envisions a career where he can work on communicating science to the general public and mentoring individuals interested in scientific careers.
According to Tay, pursuing chemistry at the graduate level requires a mix of patience, perseverance, humility and curiosity. There is a beauty to the logic of chemistry, but it can be overwhelming and frustrating when attempting to decipher it.
“I remember persevering through organic chemistry 1 and 2, trying to learn the patterns of chemical reactivity,” said Tay. “At the graduate level, you are essentially doing the same thing, but by experimental trial-and-error. Doing so may feel like wandering in the darkness and can become monotonous, and that’s why patience and perseverance are crucial.”
However, Tay was provided with a solid background in the range of chemical disciplines at Messiah, all of which have been instrumental in preparing him for graduate school.
“I am grateful for the challenging coursework, but more importantly for my department’s encouragement and guidance,” said Tay. “With regards to non-academic growth, I appreciate the freedom afforded by the college to navigate a diversity of worldviews and the willingness of my friends and mentors to help me navigate through difficult topics through encouraging and enlightening conversations.”
More importantly, Tay appreciates the significance of service and community as he sought to apply the spirit of hospitality and community to his own personal life. He is blessed to have the opportunity to practice a culture of service through his church in Durham, but this would not have been possible without the opportunities to do so at Messiah.
“The most transformative experience I had while at Messiah was living in the Rafiki house for two years,” said Tay. “Along with six other amazing young men, we learned community-building as well as Christ-centered service when attempting to bridge the gap between international and American students. Without these experiences at Messiah College, I might have been a lot less well equipped for a life of service, and for that I am truly grateful.”
Tay wants leave the students of Messiah with a few bits of helpful advice. First, he suggests students to take advantage of the liberal arts education. He said that if he were to go back to college, he would definitely have taken more classes and left with a more complete education.
Also, he would encourage students to build relationships with their professors. “Get to know your professors,” said Tay. “I appreciate the time my professors put into me. I am deeply humbled by their efforts to give me an excellent education, but more importantly, I am thankful for their mentorship outside the classroom.”
-My Nguyen ‘17