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Seeing Green With Thuy Ly

It’s only appropriate that, when Thuy Ly ’12 visited Pomona the summer after her junior year in high school, the first thing she noticed was the greenery. From her first days as a freshman in the fall of 2008, Ly has vigorously etched out a path for herself that has revolved around chemistry and the environment. During her first summer, she investigated passion fruit DNA at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens, and she has since taken on an independent research project with Chemistry Professor Charles Taylor in which she conducts nectar analysis to look at pollination and evolution in a genus called Acanthaceae.

“I always knew that environmental analysis was something I was interested in, but to get the numbers and actually realize how pertinent it is to so many other facets of society has been eye-opening for me,” says Ly, who also works on Pomona’s Organic Farm every summer to create new plots, give tours, and help out with the earth dome. “I know that, whatever career I decide on, I will always make these issues a big part of my life.”

In addition to her research, Ly co-directs the school’s residence hall staff programming, serves as a representative on the 5-C Asian American Advisory Board, and has coordinated outreach for the Theatre and Dance Department. “Pomona has been everything I wanted it to be,” she says. “It’s a safe space where I can grow and voice myself.” A chemistry major, she was inspired to minor in sociology through her experiences in the Asian American Mentor Program and her own struggles with identity issues as an immigrant who moved with her family from Vietnam when she was 8.

Ly’s family situation--her mother lives modestly as a seamstress in San Diego--makes the substantial scholarship support she receives from Pomona particularly important to her. Ly, who also works during the summer and school year, says financial aid is an essential element of Pomona’s identity, leveling the playing field for students like herself.

“There are many lower- to middle-class kids who can’t afford a college education,” she says. “I think it’s really important to take students with the talent and ability and give them that chance to excel.”

Editor's note: The article was originally published in our Fall 2010 Pomona College Campaign Journal, which is a newsletter updating the Pomona College community on campaign progress. For more information, please visit our campaign website.