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SWE Diverse Podcast: Ep. 216: Asian Americans in STEM: Vietnamese Refugee Stories

Hear the personal stories of Hang Loi and Dr. Tracy Nguyen, two Asian American women leaders in STEM who escaped Vietnam as children during the fall of Saigon and arrived in the U.S. as refugees.

In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, this episode of Diverse: a SWE podcast highlights the personal stories of Hang Loi and Dr. Tracy Nguyen, two Asian American women in STEM who escaped Vietnam as children during the fall of Saigon.

They sat down with SWE Board Member Jennifer Chen Morikawa to share their unforgettable accounts of the refugee experience, what they went through to start a new life in the U.S., and how these experiences influenced them to pursue careers in STEM.

Listen to the episode on SoundCloudSpotifyApple Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform.


Moderator: Jennifer Chen Morikawa

Jennifer Chen Morikawa headshot for STEM podcastJennifer Chen Morikawa (she/her) is a senior manufacturing engineer for General Motors (GM). She is a business planner focused on Early Career Programs in Manufacturing Engineering Vehicle Systems.

A senior life member of SWE, Morikawa joined the Society over 20 years ago at the University of Michigan. She held diverse leadership positions at all levels of the Society, from collegiate leadership roles to the Board of Directors. Through her service, Morikawa has gained a rich understanding of SWE’s history and mission. Her knowledge and ability to work across levels and groups have allowed her to enable changes for the Society, including the transition from regional conferences to WE Local and introducing the first endowed scholarship for community college students. 

Morikawa earned a B.S.E. in chemical engineering from the University of Michigan and an M.S. in interdisciplinary engineering from Purdue University. She is a second-generation Taiwanese American whose extended family is a melting pot of multi-Asian cultures.

Speaker: Dr. Tracy Nguyen

Dr. Tracy Nguyen headshot for engineering podcast episodeDr. Tracy Nguyen is the SWE San Diego Professional Section Outreach Chair for FY22 & FY23 and an active member of the SWE Outreach Committee since 2020. Although a practicing optometrist and informal educator, she is a champion of STEM diversity and a passionate outreach advocate who wholeheartedly embraces SWE’s mission of empowering women to reach their full potential in engineering careers and achieve parity and equity.

Tracy’s support of SWE started from her parental desire to support her oldest daughter in her engineering journey. She is a SWE Counselor for numerous SWENext Clubs globally and a mentor for FIRST Robotics teams. Instrumental in starting over 25 SWENext Clubs, she is one of the strongest advocates for SWENext.

Tracy and her family of eight immigrated to the United States from Vietnam during the fall of Saigon in 1975 via Texas and eventually settled in San Diego, California. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Biology with a minor in Music from the University of California, San Diego, and her Doctorate in Optometry from the Southern California College of Optometry.

For a more sustainable future, she believes women and BIPOC need to have a voice at the table to have rich and varied perspectives. She believes representation matters and was recognized with the WE Local 2021 & 2023 Engaged Advocate Award, National Center for Women and Information Technology in Computing Educator Award Honorable Mention 2021, SWE-San Diego Outreach Volunteer of the Year (2021 & 2022), and San Diego Business Journal Top 50 Women of Influence in Engineering 2022.

You can connect with Dr. Tracy Nguyen on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter.

Speaker: Hang Loi

Hang Loi headshot for women in STEM podcast episodeHang Loi recently completed a 34-year career with 3M Company where she was a senior technical engineering professional and DEI leader who was Global Chair to the company’s Employee Resource Group for Asian-heritage employees.

Hang is an enthusiastic advocate for gender equity and diverse representation in the workplace.  She volunteers with organizations that support these values, including SWE, the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE), and several organizations in her communities. She is a 2022 Fellow with the United Nation’s UNITAR Global Diplomacy Initiative. In July 2023, Hang begins a 3-yr term as a Board Member with the Case Alumni Foundation supporting her alma mater, Case Western Reserve University, where she received dual degrees in Chemical Engineering and Music.

Hang holds four US and seventeen global patents. She is a recipient of twelve 3M corporate awards, SWE’s Advocate of Women Engineers Award (2022), SWE’s Patent Recognition Awards (2022 and 2021), SASE’s ERG Leadership Achievement Award (2022), and SASE’s Career Achievement Award (2021).

A child refugee from Saigon, Vietnam, Hang considers herself a Generation 1.5 American with a global-citizen perspective. With two daughters in STEM she is inspired to do better each day. You can connect with Hang on LinkedIn.


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