Sai Phyo, class of 2015, is an international student from Burma majoring in biology. He came to the United States in the fall of 2011 to pursue his dream: to become a pediatrician. He holds the Presidential Scholarship, the most coveted scholarship award that the University confers. Opportunities offered by the Honors Program were deciding factors in Sai’s decision to attend St. John’s.
“The best part about the Honors Program is that the classes are small. In my molecular biology class, there were only sixteen students, and in my organic chemistry class we had only twenty. For science majors, this is very important because the professor can give each student immediate attention" Sai notes.
"Another great thing about taking honors classes is the opportunity to make close friends. I still have the same friends who were in my first biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry classes. We really have gotten to know each other, and I think that this is very important, especially for international students like me.”
Living alone in some regions of the United States would have been a problem for many international students, but for Sai, because of St. John’s location, living alone in New York City has been a truly rewarding experience. One of the University’s core classes, Discover New York, complemented by walking tours run through the Honors Program has enabled students who are not familiar with New York City to appreciate its fascinating history and to navigate the city with ease.
“The United States is nothing like Burma," Sai observes. "Such differences can be overwhelming; however, New York City is so international that virtually everyone feels at home. No one is international because everyone is. I have done many things that I never thought I would ever do because of the Honors Program. I have visited museums, attended the opera and ballet, and even gone to a concert at the New York Philharmonic. I never even dreamt that I would ever go to a ballet but so far I have attended two and thoroughly enjoyed them.”
Before coming to St. John's, Sai did not have any knowledge about what research really was. However, because of the accessibility of professors at St. John’s and immediately following his taking Honors Molecular Biology with Dr. Timothy Carter, he has been able to work as a volunteer in the immunology laboratory headed by Dr. Ivana Vancurova since his second semester.
Sai’s active participation in his lab has led to publication as co-author in the Journal of Immunology of an article entitled “ Proteasome Inhibition by Bortezomib Increases IL-8 Expression in Androgen-Independent Prostate Cancer Cells: The Role of IKKα.” He has also been accepted as one of ten students to the University’s Graduate Admission Assistance Program (GAAP).
After two years of working in his research lab, Sai has found a new passion that will complement his life goal. He wants to pursue a combined M.D./Ph.D. program and become a physician scientist.