In April 2019, John Vu, a junior studying biochemistry and molecular genetics, was announced as one of Ohio State's 150 Sesquicentennial Scholars — 32 of which are in the Arts and Sciences. The Sesquicentennial Student Leader Scholarship program aims to increase access and affordability, as well as recognize students’ academic and non-academic accomplishments and diverse interests.
Why did you choose your majors?
As a child I was curious about how the living world worked, notably how plants grew or how most kids looked like a mix of their parents. After realizing during my sophomore year of high school that I could better understand biological mechanisms through the language of chemical elements and reactions, I elected to enter college as a biochemistry major with the intent of one day attending graduate school to become a professor with a research lab. Once immersed in my studies and my research, I realized that I was deeply interested in the biological versatility of nucleic acids despite their limited structural variability. This led me to declare a second major in molecular genetics, and my course work in the two programs have beautifully complemented each other. I believe that by the time I graduate, I will have learned a nearly complete set of molecular biology principles and techniques to lend me success in graduate school and in a later career in academia.
What does being a Sesquicentennial Scholar mean to you?
To me, our 150-year anniversary means that we have a unique opportunity to honor the Buckeyes of the past, celebrate the Buckeyes of the present and prepare for the Buckeyes of the future. To do so, I believe we should strive to remember the people, traditions and achievements that established Ohio State’s 150-year legacy as a world-class powerhouse for conducting cutting-edge research, fostering diverse and inclusive communities and educating globally engaged citizens. As students, alumni and faculty, we can also take this opportunity to appreciate everything The Ohio State University has done for us in the past 150 years and reflect upon what we can do in return for the next 150 years. The sesquicentennial is especially meaningful to me because it provides me with a reason to consider how I can improve Ohio State for the generations of Buckeyes that will be joining our family in the years to come. As a national leader among American universities in areas such as digital flagship, sustainability, medicine and athletics, we have the opportunity to ensure that the footprints that blaze the path to the future will be left by Buckeyes.
Explain what you love about being in the College of Arts and Sciences at Ohio State.
Though we do have ample opportunities for undergraduate research and wonderful advisors in the College of Arts and Sciences, what I really love about being in ASC is how it has allowed me to explore my other interests and learn about the world as a whole outside my major. Despite my love of molecular biology research, I am glad that my ASC education ensured that I engaged with ideas and material from the humanities and the arts as well. My general education courses each semester are often my most surprisingly enjoyable classes, because I get to learn about and explore a whole new way of thinking and seeing the world. I studied abroad for my history requirement and not only learned more about French and Moroccan history, culture and politics than I could have ever imagined, but I also gained an appreciation for understanding and interpreting history and anthropology, which I never would have had the opportunity to do outside the College of Arts and Sciences. I am currently enrolled in a religious studies class that continues to blur the boundaries between what I believe is objective and subjective, while allowing me to practice the subtle art of looking at and appreciating all forms of visual media — from religious imagery to, superhero comics, to political cartoons and beyond. I also look forward to being able to fuel my interest in learning and speaking different languages in the linguistics class I intend to take next fall. The opportunity to learn about and explore different ideas and academic disciplines is what I love the most about the College of Arts and Sciences, and I am honored to be able to represent us during this Sesquicentennial celebration.
How do you hope to inspire the next generation?
I hope to inspire the next generation to adopt my love of learning and appreciation for education as an agent of progress. I believe that these values will allow our children to be able to better understand and transform the world for the better. They will be able to develop new technologies that balance human-energy demands with maintaining the earth’s fragile ecosystem. They will be able to expose and fight the social injustice that exists in the United States and the world while being able to find effective, peaceful and unifying ways to combat it. They will find purpose and meaning within each life and seek the happiness that comes from using one’s talents and passions for the service of others. I believe that this is all possible through education by fostering curiosity toward understanding and improving the world. I have hope in the next generation, and I hope to inspire them to believe in their own potential as much as I already believe in it now.