Queensborough Community College Student Receives Two Most Prestigious Scholarly Awards in Nation

Published: April 11, 2017

Tao Hong, an Engineering Science student at Queensborough Community College, CUNY, has been awarded a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, worth up to $40,000 per year to complete his baccalaureate degree. Hong is one of just 55 outstanding community college students from around the nation from a competitive pool of nearly 3,000 applicants to receive the transfer scholarships this year. All of the Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholars have financial need and strong records of academic achievement as shown by grades, leadership skills, awards, extraordinary service to others and perseverance in the face of adversity. The scholarship is intended to cover a significant share of a student’s educational expenses – including tuition, living expenses, books and required fees – for the final two to three years necessary to achieve a bachelor’s degree. Cooke Scholars additionally are eligible for graduate school funding up to $50,000 per year for up to four years. 

In another extraordinary achievement, Hong has received a two-year 2017 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, the most prestigious undergraduate award in the sciences. The two-year Goldwater scholarships cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year. This year 1,286 college sophomores and juniors nationwide from 470 institutions were nominated for the highly competitive Goldwater scholarship. Among the institutions were Yale University, Princeton University, Cornell University, Johns Hopkins University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Queensborough Community College. Of the 470 institutions, 240 new Goldwater Scholars were selected. Hong is one of only two community college Goldwater awardees nationwide, the only Goldwater awardee from CUNY and is one of only two Goldwater awardees from New York. As a rising junior, Hong will receive the Goldwater grant for two years. He awaits admission decisions from City College/CUNY and other top schools.

Hong, a resident of Queens, maintains a 3.96 G.P.A., and will graduate this spring with an A.S. degree in Engineering Technology. When Hong arrived from China two and a half years ago, he had difficulty speaking English beyond ‘hello,’ and ‘how do you do’?  But after one semester studying English in the CUNY Language Immersion Program (CLIP) at Queensborough, Hong noted “I improved a lot in writing, reading and speaking, and obtained the skill to succeed in my studies.”

“Winning both the Goldwater and Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship is a milestone in my life. The awards enhance my confidence to pursue my Doctorate and gives me the sense of responsibility to maintain my hard work in order to contribute to society. I will use the scholarships to pay for my educational expenses after I transfer to a four-year college.” Hong, who plans to further his studies in material engineering and nanoscience, expressed his deep gratitude to Queensborough Community College for “encouraging me to explore my passion for science”. His dream is to pursue a doctorate and become a material chemist.

“Nanotechnology opens the gate for human beings to understand and manipulate matters on a tiny scale that engineers and scientists could never imagine in the 20th Century,” said Hong.

He added, “There are numerous fascinating applications of Nanotechnology, such as Nanoparticles for drug delivery, Nanotech solar cells for energy crises and Nanotechnology-enabled sensors for people’s safety and national security. I am excited that I can participate in, and contribute to, this game-changing course of technology evolution.”

On the heels of these outstanding achievements is the news that Hong has been published in a prestigious peer-reviewed journal, Biomedial Microdevices, a remarkable success as the research findings for the article were collected and interpreted after only 10 weeks as a paid summer intern conducting undergraduate research at Vanderbilt University.

This summer Hong will also be one of 32 undergraduates to receive a $10,000 American Chemical Society internship in chemistry and chemical engineering. He will work at a global specialty chemicals firm, Albemarle Corp., in Baton Rouge, LA.

Additionally, he won a 2017 Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team Gold Scholar award of $1,500 and was named one of two Queensborough students to win a $1,000 scholarship from Queensborough’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, the national honor society for two-year colleges. Last year he won one of just 13 slots nationwide to study at Vanderbilt University in a National Science Foundation-Undergraduate Research Experience (NSF-REU) in Nanoscience and Engineering. He researched Microfluidic Cell Co-Culture Platforms.

Last year, Hong won a gold medal among the two-year college group (and second overall among senior colleges) at the ACS-Long Island section 16th Chemistry Challenge. He also placed second in a 25-college competition sponsored by the NY State Mathematics Association of Two-Year Colleges (NYSMATYC).

“To me, science and math are the keys to unlock not only the natural phenomenon we see but also phenomena beyond our perception,” said Hong.

He credits three professors for his success: Chemistry Professors Drs. Moni Chauhan, his mentor, and Paris Svoronos, “the coach of the team,” along with Dr. Howard Sporn, Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Sciences.

“The process for earning these prestigious scholarships is complex," said Dr. Svoronos. "It requires a compelling essay written by the student as well as strong letters of reference from faculty that provide numerous examples of the students’ outstanding research findings. A rich resume needs to be included that highlights scholarly achievements and quality courses. However, while the G.P.A. is important, it alone is not adequate since only a tiny fraction of the applicants are honored.”

“I am extremely proud of Tao, who competed for this award with students from top institutions all over the country. Tao has developed a great interest in Material Science and Engineering after conducting undergraduate research. He is not only an exemplary student but a person of strong character, and I am confident he will achieve and surpass all of his goals in the future,” said Dr. Chauhan.

The Cooke Foundation is dedicated to advancing the education of exceptionally promising students who have financial need. Since 2000, the foundation has provided over $152 million in scholarships to nearly 2,200 students from 8th grade through graduate school, along with comprehensive counseling and other support services. The foundation has also awarded over $90 million in grants to organizations that serve such students. www.jkcf.org

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was authorized by the United States Congress in 1986 to honor Senator Barry M. Goldwater.  Its goal is to provide a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians, and engineers by awarding scholarships to college students who intend to pursue research careers in these fields.


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