Chee Yang (Evan) Ng has made the most of his time at The University of Tulsa, yet he describes his path as unconventional.
“The things that I’ve done to get to this point aren’t necessarily traditional,” Ng said, “But I wouldn’t change anything about it.”
While Ng majors in petroleum engineering in the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences, his interests are much more far-reaching than that. He recently won a national competition for chemical engineering students, and is actively a student ambassador on campus as the president of the Association for International students (AIS). “I’ve always felt like you should never miss an opportunity, because if you do, you might not ever get that opportunity again,” he said.
This mindset was the catalyst for his immediate, hands-on involvement at TU since he was named a Top 10 Freshman, Ng’s fingerprints have been all over the university, as he makes sure to take advantage of the opportunities TU has provided him.
An ambassador for TU and the world
Four years later, after being named a Jess Chouteau Outstanding Senior, Evan shows no signs of slowing. His mission has been summarized with one phrase: “bringing the world to TU and TU to the world.” Ng wants to bring knowledge and flavors of other cultures to locals, but he also strives to be an ambassador of TU to the rest of the world.
“As an international student, I quickly saw that I can be an added value when it comes to helping the rest of the student body learn how the rest of the world functions, and that understanding benefits everybody,” Ng said, “If you can understand me better and I can understand you better, then we can move toward a common goal more successfully. I wanted to help build that two-way bridge of understanding.”
With hard work, Ng has put himself in a position to do just that. He has led over 25 officers representing 14 different countries in AIS. Ng also created the Global Challenges Forum, which gave international students an opportunity to share and discuss pressing issues in their home countries, and he’s been involved in facilitating a cultural program with the students of Kendall Whittier Elementary School.
“We bring in a presenter every week,” Ng said, “and those presenters talk about the culture from the home country, from food, to dress, to anything else. The point is showing the students that knowing something from outside the United States isn’t intimidating. It can be fun.”
Ng, originally from Malaysia, learned about TU from an alumni who highly recommended the petroleum engineering program. Since that was Ng’s field of interest, he researched the university and fell in love, coming to TU in Fall of 2016.
The transition, however, was tricky.
“Language is, of course, a big adjustment, but the culture was a lot different too,” Ng said, “From food to the way students interact with professors, there was a lot to learn. At TU, professors want to be your friend.”
This openness of professors helped Ng recently win a national competition. He presented his undergraduate research findings and won first place at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers Mid-America Regional Conference Student Paper Competition, and that berthed him a trip to the national competition.
Ng’s trip to the national contest, however, was anything but ordinary.
Participating in research
“I’m a petroleum engineering student, but I also wanted to study sustainability issues in the energy industry,” he said.
To do this, he read about the research of TU’s Hema Ramsurn, a faculty member from the Department of Chemical Engineering, finding fascination in her work concerning treating wastewater in more effective, economical ways.
Ng reached out to Ramsurn, asking if he could join in on the research, despite his background as a petroleum engineer. She offered him the opportunity, but also two weeks to decide.
“Once again, I told her immediately that I didn’t need two weeks,” Ng said, “I wanted to learn. I wanted to help. I saw how this research could impact the world and benefit third-world countries, and I was passionate about it. I didn’t want the opportunity to pass me by.”
In October 2018, he began to study with Ramsurn. While keeping up with his petroleum engineering coursework, Ng would also go to the ChemE lab three or four days a week to work with Ramsurn.
The work paid off, and after seeing Ng’s dedication, Ramsurn asked him if he wanted to present their paper at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers Mid-America Regional Conference Student Paper Competition.
He gratefully accepted, and not only did he present at the competition, but he won it, securing a position in the national competition, ultimately winning it in November 2019.
After Ng received the honor, Ramsurn reflected on her role as a mentor.
“I have been especially impressed by Evan’s determination and sparkle,” she said. “He simply wants to make the world a better place. Evan already knows what he wants to do as a career: He has thoughtfully put all his energy into his studies and passion. I predict that in 10 years, he will be a leader in his country, Malaysia, because of his grit and sheer determination and passion.”
Ng was quick to point the credit back to people who helped him.
“None of this would have happened without the professors at TU, who went out of their way to help me with my presentation skills, teach me and welcome me into a new program with open arms,” he said. “They not only offered me help, but they offered me courage. In my opinion, this is the most prestigious national award that a student of chemical engineering can receive.”
Opportunities like this, according to Ng, are what brought him to TU and what separated the school from the rest of the pack.
“This is the American dream. If you work hard enough, then anything is possible. That’s what happened for me. Not only is the American dream alive, but it is thriving at TU.”
For graduate school, Ng wants to study the interface between energy, sustainability and policies. He has applied for three schools in the United Kingdom, and recently received an offer from the University College London’s MSc Economics and Policy of Energy and the Environment program.
Wherever Ng lands, there is no doubt his future is bright, and no doubt that TU helped make it that way.