Missouri State University
Joe Truong

Joe Truong

Finding the perfect solution for his future

For Joe Truong, chemistry isn't just a science. It's life.

Have you ever conducted an experiment to test for a chemical reaction?

Odds are, you’ve dappled in the world of chemistry.

As for Joe Truong, a chemistry major, he is in his element as soon as he steps into the lab.

“What I really like about chemistry, first, is that it’s not a lot of memorization like biology and doesn’t have a bunch of calculations like physics. And it’s got a cool-artsy style to notetaking; I get to draw stuff out,” Truong said.

Truong initially decided to major in cell and molecular biology, but soon discovered that chemistry was his true passion.

Representing science enthusiasts as a student

Joe Truong stands in front of his poster pressentation at a research conference.

Like a true chemist, Truong did his research when he was deciding on a school to pursue his undergraduate degree.

As an international student, he looked at many schools in the U.S.

Missouri State stood out to him, because of its affordability.

Truong is involved with several on-campus organizations in the chemistry department.

This year, Truong stepped up as a student treasurer for the American Chemists Society (ACS).

““We don’t necessarily hang out with just chemistry people. We like to meet up with anyone. Science enthusiasts,” Truong said.

Truong found his place among other aspiring chemists. He recalls a fun time of science experimentation last year when the group gathered in the Roy Blunt Hall courtyard to “blow stuff up” and “make some explosions.”

Truong also serves on the Student Leadership Board for the College of Natural and Applied Sciences (CNAS).

“Basically, I collab with the entire CNAS student body — all the leaders from student chapters, so chemistry, biology, geology…” he said. “We work with them to give a voice to CNAS.”

Researching takes you places

Getting serious about his studies, Truong knows the importance of research in the study of chemistry.

He credits Dr. Adam Wanekaya for building his confidence in research. Despite Truong’s initial lack of research experience, Wanekaya made a place for Truong in his research lab.

“The analytical lab really changed my mind. I was originally a biology major. Then, I took analytical chemistry, and I've loved chemistry since that point in time.”

“He has prepared (me for) everything it takes to go to PhD school,” Truong said about his professor. “He also prepared me mentally; research isn’t always going to be (smooth sailing), so it’s gonna take a couple of breakdowns until I can actually stand on my own feet.”

Thanks to Wanekaya's guidance, Truong recently published a paper called “Improving the quantum yield of nitrogen-doped carbon dots by varying dopant ratios and pH,” a thorough study about nano-sized carbons. 

Truong aims to graduate with his bachelor's degree in spring 2024.

After his time at Missouri State, he plans to pursue his PhD in chemistry.

Truong wants to use his knowledge to make chemistry more understandable and enjoyable for others.

“If money isn’t a problem, I would want to be a professor. I would want to inspire people and make organic chemistry easier for students, because a lot of people are struggling with organic chemistry and I enjoy it. So I want to make it easier for everyone else too,” Truong said.

He is also considering the possibility of working in an inter-research position to potentially develop new drugs.

Truong advises chemistry students to seek out research opportunities.

“I would say get into a chemistry class as soon as possible, because for the chemistry major, we can take classes that count for credit, but we can also get research experience,” Truong said. “I would suggest to talk to your advisor. Talk to your professor; see if they are working on a research (project) that you would like to work on.”