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Finding Inspiration in Unexpected Places

Written by John Chadwick | SAS Senior Writer

Skilled at science, she also enjoyed singing in French class

Soo Jeong Hwang knew early she’d attend Rutgers and study molecular biology and biochemistry.

At East Brunswick High School, she excelled in science and participated in the competitive Waksman Student Scholars program based at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. 

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“I was well aware of the opportunities at Rutgers,” says Hwang, whose sister graduated from the university in 2014.

Now a junior in the School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program, she says her undergraduate experience has been transformational in ways she never could have predicted: she sang French songs in class, traveled to the Netherlands to visit Rutgers’ sister university, and even learned a modern Japanese martial art.

“You go more to train yourself and build discipline rather than to fight,” she says of Kendo, a tradition that uses bamboo swords and protective armor.  

As a science student, some of her intriguing discoveries occurred in unexpected places, such as the Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Society.  

“I found that organizing events is one of my strengths,” she says. “I help schedule guest lectures, faculty-student mixers, and trips to New York City.”

One her most surprising and memorable experiences came during a French class, Uri Eisenzweig’s “Songs of Modern France.”

“We actually sang in class,” she says. “It was amazing how the class came together to perform at the end of the year—in front of guests. It was really fun, and really liberating!”

Hwang was 11 when her family moved from Seoul to New Jersey. Her parents, both of whom had earned university degrees in Korea, run a laundromat in Newark.

“It’s very hard work,” Hwang says. “I will always be grateful to them.”

Hwang works in the laboratory of biologist Monica Driscoll, learning about aging and increasing the health span, or the time in people’s lives when they are healthy. She’s also minoring in French and taking advantage of every opportunity for cross-disciplinary learning in the Honors Program.

Last March she journeyed to the Netherlands with other honors students to visit the University of Utrecht for an Honors Program Colloquium that celebrated Rutgers’ 250th anniversary.

“At Rutgers, it feels like anything is possible,” she says.



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