Phi Nguyen chosen for NPRE Distinguished Alumni Award


Susan Mumm

Phi Nguyen chosen for NPRE Distinguished Alumni Award

Alumnus Phi L. Nguyen has been selected for the 2019 NPRE Distinguished Alumni Award.

Nguyen has been cited for inspiring and serving the NPRE community through his scientific excellence, corporate leadership, and generous philanthropy on behalf of NPRE students.

Retiring this year as a Vice President and Director of Engineering at Intel Corp. where he had worked for 28 years, Nguyen now provides consulting in the semiconductor industry. He also serves on NPRE’s alumni group, the Constituent Alumni and Industry Advisory Board.

In 2018 Nguyen established the Nguyen Thi Cuong Fellowship in NPRE to honor his mother, a remarkable woman who led her family out of Vietnam after the fall of Saigon. Nguyen was born in that city and, following a perilous journey, immigrated to the U.S. in 1975. He grew up in Rock Falls, Illinois, and was active in both academics and sports during his high school years. He earned a bachelor’s (1988) and master’s (1990) in NPRE before joining Intel.

The Distinguished Alumni Awards are presented to NPRE alumni who make notable advances in the field of nuclear science, and/or lasting contributions to society in general.

Thoughts from Phi

Of the achievements throughout your career, please elaborate on the ones that have given you the most satisfaction and why?

Graduating from Illinois was by far my most satisfying achievement. Growing up, my parents imparted in me how important it was to get a degree in our new country. My mother in particular believed firmly that an engineering degree would enable our success as a family in the U.S. There was definitely a LOT of pressure to get good grades and graduate. She was right. The degree enabled me to enter the growing semiconductor field and gave me the very first professional opportunity in my career.

What have been the most useful lessons you have taken from your time as an NPRE student, and who helped you to learn them?

No one wants to see their student fail. All of my professors had that attitude and went out of their way to help me understand and learn what they were teaching and ultimately succeed in my classes. I never fully understood this until I joined the workforce. Whether it was during my training or when I was doing the training later in my career, that attitude was the core of a successful business culture that proved over and over again the sooner the student is up the speed, the better it is for the team.

What have been the most useful lessons you have learned during your career?

Hard work definitely pays off.

Who have been your inspirations, particularly in NPRE?

Prof. David Ruzic. His unbridled enthusiasm about science and teaching was incredible. You just can’t help but go along for the ride, however sane or insane it might have been J

What advice can you offer current students?

Be yourself. Be focused. Have a goal and chase it … relentlessly.

In accepting the NPRE Distinguished Alumni Award, Phi Nguyen encourages NPRE students to chase the euphoria of the long-shot, even if the try ends in failure.