Bao-Ngoc Nguyen, PhD, is a member of the 2017 Class of CCST Science & Technology Policy Fellows. She received her PhD in Bioengineering from the University of Maryland, College Park, where she studied methods to regenerate human bone tissue using adult stem cells. Nguyen also received her BS in Bioengineering from the University of Maryland. Nguyen’s fellowship placement is with the California State Senate Committee on Health and Senator Ed Hernandez, OD (D-West Covina), Committee Chair.
The number: 2,723 miles. That’s the distance from my old home in Silver Spring, Maryland, to my new home in Sacramento, California. I moved nearly three thousand miles across the country to immerse in a new career and a new environment. And I am so glad I did.
Before my cross-country move to the West Coast, Sacramento wasn’t exactly the city I thought of when someone mentioned California. I imagined sun-bathed beaches, endless ocean views, and beautiful people filling the boardwalks. Okay, fine. Maybe I watched too many episodes of “The O.C.” in high school, but in my mind, they had done a wonderful job in ingraining a scenic image of Laguna Beach as California.
While Sacramento isn’t the coastal city perched on top of a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, it is a beautiful city that I’m glad to call my home for the foreseeable future. To my pleasant surprise, I found majestic trees of every variety lining Sacramento’s downtown streets (deservedly earning the name “City of Trees”), a plethora of restaurants and bars, as well as a very diverse population. Prior to moving, I was worried that Sacramento would lack the excitement and hustle of densely populated East Coast cities like Washington DC, and while the downtown streets of Sacramento may be quiet on a weekend, it is a bustling area during the week — with staffers, lobbyists, and Legislative Members filling the offices, sidewalks, and cafés.
I spent the first few weekends discovering the important things in life that would make me feel right at home: my new favorite grocery store, the best place for a CCST Science Fellows weekly meet-up, and where to get my daily coffee.
Here’s what I discovered: Go to the Sacramento’s Sunday Farmers Market for locally grown produce, cheese, and flowers — and then swing by the Asian outdoor market just a couple of blocks away for additional discounts on fruits and veggies. When you need a mid-week break with the other CCST Science Fellows, head to “Taco Tuesdays” at Azul in Midtown Sacramento and catch up over a meal of delicious (and cheap) tacos. To get your daily caffeine fix, you’ll have an abundance of options — my favorites including Chicory and Temple Coffee Roasters.
In addition to all of the foodie perks, I was also most excited about the presence of a sizable Vietnamese-American community in the Sacramento area. I was very involved in community advocacy in Maryland, and was thrilled to hear that Sacramento had its own “Little Saigon” region, complete with a Vietnamese Community Center and dozens of Vietnamese groceries stores and restaurants. Nothing will make me feel like I’m at home like a hot bowl of phở.
California is so much more than what TV fantasies would have you think, and Sacramento sure has grown on me — and I can’t wait to discover and experience more of what it has to offer.
— Bao-Ngoc Nguyen
The CCST Science & Technology Policy Fellowship trains scientific thinkers to be policy-savvy, while helping equip California’s lawmakers with science-savvy staff. Follow updates from the CCST Science Fellows on Facebook at facebook.com/ccstfellows and on Twitter @CCSTFellows. Explore the CCST Science & Technology Policy Fellowship at fellows.ccst.us.