Scientific scholar Laura Xiong remembered as 'bright light'
The Hofstra community is mourning the loss of Laura (Yixuan) Xiong, a senior biochemistry major and international student from Shijiazhuang, China. Laura, who was described by many as brilliant and courageous, passed away on Thursday, July 19 after battling sarcoma, a rare type of tumor that occurs in the bones and soft tissues. From her extensive research through the science department and the Honors College, to the graciousness and hospitality shown in her involvement with Peer Alliance, Laura’s positivity will be missed greatly throughout the university.
“It was my absolute pleasure to know Laura and we in International Student Affairs miss her terribly,” said Anne Mongillo, director for International Student Affairs at Hofstra. “Laura had served as one of our fine peer Global Mentors guiding Hofstra’s international students as they adjust to college life in the U.S. Her intellectual brilliance and positive energy were a delight. And she had such a great sense of humor. I’ll cherish the short time I had the privilege of knowing Laura,” Mongillo said.
“Laura was not my sister by blood but she was my sister by heart,” said Chaeeun Sophie Lim, a senior biomedical engineering major.
Lim met Laura through international student orientation in 2014. Their friendship strengthened as they both participated in the global mentor program.
“When I needed some advice, she would be the person to go to. When I needed someone, she was always there for me. When I had homesickness, she took me to a Korean restaurant. She was such a kind person I was able to count on,” Lim said.
In April, a GoFundMe campaign was started by those close to Laura to help with rising medical bills. Funds raised through the campaign aided in paying for a unique proton radiation treatment to shrink the tumor.
“I still can’t believe she’s not here with me,” Lim said.
Laura grew up in a city about three hours outside of Beijing, China. In an interview with University Relations in 2016, Laura said, laughing, that she was first intrigued by Long Island after seeing “The Great Gatsby.”
“It was my privilege to work closely with Laura for four years. She was in my research lab, [in] two classes and helped me out as a T.A.,” said Emily C. Mundorff, associate professor of chemistry. “She was extremely bright and inquisitive, but what stood out most was her joyous nature and big heart.”
Laura planned to finish her last semester at Hofstra and later attend graduate school. She hoped to work as a research scientist and pondered the idea of working in a field related to cancer research.
“Laura was quite a remarkable student, one of the best I’ve taught in my career. She came to Hofstra with a mind that was wide open, ready for everything we had to offer,” said Warren Frisina, dean of the Honors College.
“Her talents went well beyond her work in the natural sciences. As a student in Culture and Expression, she impressed me with her perceptiveness and her desire to get to the heart of any question that was under discussion,” Frisina said.
During her time at Hofstra, Laura excelled tremendously, winning various awards for her scholastic achievements and participating in unique research fellowship opportunities that permitted her to remain on campus during the summer.
“She was just a lovely, lovely person who was sensitive to the needs of others and who was sincerely interested in everyone around her,” Frisina said.
Laura posted a personal update on her Facebook page in April, expressing her gratitude for having such supportive people in her life. “This is not something anyone would expect when they start four years of college in another country, young, fresh and eager,” Laura said of her diagnosis. “I feel incredibly lucky to have so much support from the people who care about me and love me. Cancer teaches me to be grateful for good friends who stick by your side and to be grateful for life.”
“I feel tremendously blessed to have gotten to know her so well and to have had her as part of my life,” Mundorff said. “The world is missing a bright light and someone who would have assuredly been a tremendous asset to the scientific community. She will be deeply missed by me and by all that had the opportunity to know her.”