First Torch researcher graduates

As a Freshman, Monyrath Chan became the first Torch Scholar to pursue research at Northeastern.

Torch is a schol­ar­ship pro­gram ded­i­cated to closing the achieve­ment gap for first-​​generation, low-​​income stu­dents from diverse back­grounds. Torch stu­dents receive com­pre­hen­sive sup­port that improves their col­lege reten­tion rate, lead­er­ship oppor­tu­ni­ties, social cap­ital and aca­d­emic achievement.

Chan used that sup­port to fuel a life­long fas­ci­na­tion in chem­istry and biology. After leaving Cam­bodia as a child and moving to Lowell, MA where he learned early on to avoid neg­a­tive influ­ences in gangs and com­mu­nity vio­lence, Chan joined the North­eastern com­mu­nity hit the ground running.

He worked in three research labs during his time year, inves­ti­gating cir­ca­dian rhythms with Fred Davis and DNA repair with Penny Beuning.

For his three co-​​ops, Chan worked at local biotech firms EMD Sorono and Gen­zyme. The latter offered him a full time posi­tion imme­di­ately after his second co-​​op, which Chan turned down in order to con­tinue pur­suing his edu­ca­tional goals. Today, Chan and his nine fellow Torch Scholars, became the second grad­u­ating class of the program.

Chan is now deter­mined to fur­ther his edu­ca­tion. He has applied to 12 bio­chem­istry master’s pro­grams, with North­eastern at the top of the list. Even­tu­ally, he will also pursue an MBA as he hopes to one day lead a biotech firm of his own.

Chan’s work over the last five years embodies what it means to be a North­eastern researcher — step­ping out of his cir­cum­stances to to pursue the bigger ques­tions that can help improve cir­cum­stances for others.


I was curious how Chan found out about the Torch pro­gram. Here’s what he told Torch Pro­gram Director, Jana McCarthy, in a phone con­ver­sa­tion recently:

I saw a letter about Torch informing my [high school] guid­ance coun­selor about what kind of stu­dents Torch is looking for.

I imme­di­ately went to the Torch web­site and read the pro­file of QinRui Pang (Torch Class 1 Grad­uate) and felt her pro­file fit mine. Like QinRui, I immi­grated here, barely spoke any Eng­lish, and faced sim­ilar chal­lenges. I thought maybe I should apply and take a chance.

I asked one of my teachers to nom­i­nate me for the Schol­ar­ship and explained why I would be a good fit for the Pro­gram. I thought maybe this is the right schol­ar­ship for me. After the appli­ca­tion dead­line, I got a letter stating I was chosen as one of the top 50 out of 500 stu­dents in the country who applied.

Inter­view Day was nerve-​​wracking. I had gone to another Schol­ar­ship inter­view and thought it would be sim­ilar but it wasn’t. I was asked to bring a sup­port figure and chose to bring my col­lege coun­selor. We left Lowell at 5:30 in the morning and took the train to Boston. I remember the ques­tions to this day: What is your moti­va­tion to achieve higher edu­ca­tion? Based on my lead­er­ship and involve­ment, how do I bal­ance my schedule?

I think I was chosen as a Torch scholar for my desire to achieve. I am one of those people who knows who I want to be no matter what. I am going to put every­thing I have in me to achieve. I owe my achieve­ment to my par­ents – it’s bigger than me. I have a desire to be a greater individual.

Without the Torch Schol­ar­ship, I wouldn’t have had the oppor­tu­ni­ties. I had a lot of doors open to me at North­eastern because of Torch. I had men­tors who opened the doors to research and fell in love with research. Without meeting my men­tors, I would have been doing some­thing else. I would have been a dif­ferent person without Torch and Northeastern.

Without Torch, I wouldn’t be grad­u­ating with a Bach­e­lors in Science.

Thanks to McCarthy for pro­viding a lot of the con­tent in this whole post, too!

Photo by Kristie Gillooly