Meet Tai Anh Duong: the Top Mechanical Engineering Student

NCE's Outstanding Senior Tai Duong

The Newark College of Engineering (NCE) recently named Tai Anh Duong its Outstanding Senior in Mechanical Engineering.  Each year, NCE gives that award to a student who excels academically.

Tai (pronounced tie) has certainly excelled at NJIT. He’s a scholar in the elite Albert Dorman Honors College who minors in math and maintains a near perfect GPA of 3.88.  He is president of Pi Tau Sigma, an honors society for mechanical engineers, and Vice President of the student chapter of Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society.

He’s also served the university in myriad ways. He worked at the front desk of an NJIT dormitory and tutored at the Center for Academic & Professional Enrichment (CAPE), whose staff praised him for his dedication. He was a counselor for the Honors College and volunteered at the Habitat for Humanity. He also helped recruit high school students during NCE Career Days and Open Houses.

Tai was also did important research in the Granular Science Laboratory under the guidance of Anthony D. Rosato, a professor of mechanical engineering.  Tai developed a computer Matlab code that creates 3-D diagrams of how packing materials inside of containers settle.  From his diagrams, it’s possible to better understand the process by which particles in containers rearrange themselves and become denser – or how bulk density increases. 

But what is perhaps most impressive about Tai’s achievements is this: He grew up in a village in Vietnam, and didn’t come to America until he was a senior in high school.  When he was 17, he left Vietnam to spend his senior year at Beaverton High, in Michigan. As an exchange student, he struggled to understand American culture and to master English, for which he had only an elementary understanding.  But he was strong in math and science.  In Vietnam, he had attended a rigorous high school that emphasized math and science. By his junior year, he had  taken advanced calculus, physics and chemistry.  His father, moreover, is a mechanical engineer who always cultivated in Tai a love for engineering.

So in his senior year when it came time for him to apply to college, Tai knew what he wanted: To attend a top-ranked engineering college with a strong mechanical engineering department.  He also wanted a college close to Manhattan, a city he’d read so much about in Vietnam.  He applied to the Honors College at NJIT and was accepted. More than that, because he had top grades and did well on the SAT, especially in math, the college offered him a scholarship.  

NJIT is known for its diversity, and Tai fit right in.  

“When I first came to NJIT,” he recalls, “I made a lot of friends.  NJIT is an accepting college community.  My friends also helped me improve my English.”

He joined several groups -- Alpha Phi Omega, the service fraternity, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and Tau Beta Pi -- that helped him blossom intellectually and socially.  He loves NJIT and considered staying for graduate work. But he’s also adventurous and loves a challenge, so in the fall he’ll start all over again at another school: the University of Texas, in Austin, where he’ll begin a doctorate in mechanical engineering.

But though his future may be bright, Tai is not one to forget his past.  In Vietnam, he grew up in a close extended family.  His grandfather worked as a rickshaw driver who loved to tinker with mechanics. Tai’s father inherited that love of mechanics from his father and took it to another level, studying to become a mechanical engineer.  He now runs a food processing plant in Vietnam, used his engineering ingenuity to invent a powerful industrial-size freezer that he uses to instantly freeze food. 

One day, Tai says he might return home and work for his father. With the knowledge he’ll acquire in graduate school, he could help his father invent even more high-tech equipment.  Tai says he might also work for an international company that does business with Vietnam and America.  He’s not sure exactly what he’ll do after graduate school, but he’s pleased that the major he loves and excels at – mechanical engineering -- will offer him an array of career choices.

And he’ll also never forget NJIT. When he’s finished with grad school and begins working, Tai says he’ll do for the university, financially, what it did for him.

“NJIT and the Honors College gave me generous scholarships,” says Tai, “which helped me get my degree.  Therefore, when I’m working I will join the Alumni Club and donate money to NJIT.  I hope the university will use that money to recruit talented students who will achieve more than I did here.” 

(By Robert Florida, University Web Services)