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UNIS Hanoi: Where Curiosity Becomes a Lifelong Habit

Imagine a world in which we can engineer our own immune system to fight cancer. It’s a vision of the not-too-distant future that UNIS Hanoi graduate Dr Song My Hoang (Class of 2011) is excited to bring to life. As the US Head of Customer Success in an emerging industry—immuno-oncology—she is at the forefront of groundbreaking science. She leverages advanced technologies to help academic institutes, as well as pharmaceutical and biotech companies, unlock the full potential of their drugs and produce the next generation of life-saving medicine.

The UNIS Impact

Fourteen years on after her graduation from UNIS Hanoi, Dr Song My looks back with gratitude for how UNIS Hanoi shaped her. The breadth and depth of the school’s curriculum and extracurricular activities encouraged her intellectual curiosity

The diverse range of classes and activities—especially in sports and community services—pushed her toward self-discovery and openness to new experiences.

“Back then, I didn’t always appreciate the diverse opportunities available, as it often led me to participate in activities I didn’t excel at. However, my deep involvement with the UNIS community allowed me to discover the value in trying new things and continuously working to better myself,” Dr Song My shares.  

Song My representing her Lion House team in Track and Field

Song My representing her Lion House team in Track and Field

Personal and Academic Excellence

While readily admitting that she wasn’t the top student, Dr Song My was, without a doubt, an enthusiastic knowledge sponge. She earned her Ph.D. in Molecular Pharmacology from the University of Pittsburgh at the age of 27. “The drive to embrace new things, explore new environments, and participate in countless activities became second nature to me,” she shares. This willingness to explore is reflected in her time at Union College, where she pursued dual degrees in English and Biology. She said yes—to an internship at Mayo Clinic, undergraduate research, editing the student newspaper, and a variety of roles within the Student Association. She credits UNIS Hanoi with this eagerness to engage with the world. During her graduate studies, she challenged herself further by participating in student and local groups to gain leadership, communication, consultancy, and project management skills. All of her experiences contribute to her current career—and most importantly to her ongoing joie de vivre. This multifaceted approach, she asserts, defines her professional journey.

“It is a recurring theme in my life—the desire to juggle multiple pursuits simultaneously to learn and find my true calling,” she says. Her most recent passion is stand-up comedy, which she claimed to be “a rank amateur”. Yet she has already performed in front of more than 50 people, and it’s easy to imagine how responding confidently and spontaneously on stage may develop her professional communication skills.

Song My at a biotech helping her current customers collect data on their immunotherapy

Song My at a biotech helping her current customers collect data on their immunotherapy

Lessons from a Global Community

Regarding her fond memories of UNIS Hanoi, Dr Song My reflects on the profound influence of the school's diversity, "Having friends from different nations taught me to respect and appreciate multiple perspectives and experiences,” she says. UNIS Hanoi helped her cultivate tolerance, enhance her understanding and develop a stronger sense of self-identity. In her professional career, collaboration with global thought leaders drives groundbreaking cancer treatments, and her ability to work well with others ultimately saves lives. Dr Song My finds that the teamwork skills she developed at UNIS Hanoi are still helping her engage with key thought leaders, establish strong bonds with customers, accelerate scientific discoveries and ultimately drive the development of impactful cancer treatments. On a lighter note, the school’s vibrant international community has provided her with fun ongoing social and travel benefits too: “It's great to keep in touch and visit friends living all over the world,” she adds with a smile.

Success Factors for Lifelong Learning

Dr Song My is grateful for the transformative environment at UNIS Hanoi, which shaped her into the person she is today. However, her student journey at UNIS Hanoi was not without its challenges. A pivotal moment in Ms Julie Shaw’s class, though initially humbling, ended up igniting Dr Song My’s passion for English. Asked to analyse a poem in front of the class, she had underprepared and struggled to complete the task. She laughed, “I was like a broken record in front of the entire class—stuttering and failing to string together complete sentences. This deserves a top spot on my list of life’s most embarrassing moments.” Instead of reprimanding or escalating the situation, Ms Shaw created an opportunity for her to take ownership of learning and growth: by committing herself to active participation in the class and ensuring she mastered the material. This episode exemplifies UNIS Hanoi's dedication to nurturing self-reflection and personal responsibility in its students.

Carrying the spirit of lifelong learning since her days at UNIS Hanoi, Dr Song My affirms that the attainment of her Ph.D. is not the end of her education. She will keep immersing herself in new experiences, finding humour in her failures, dedicating wholeheartedly to her meaningful work—and perhaps also to her dream of becoming a famous stand-up comedian one day, potentially giving her classmate Jian Hao Tan, now a Singaporean YouTube sensation, some friendly competition.

Song My at her Ph.D. Thesis Defense party

Song My at her Ph.D. Thesis Defense party