Professor Nguyen Embracing Challenge nomination

Professor Nguyen, the recipient of the 2016 Materials Science Council Embracing Challenge award, received nominations from Professor Larry V. McIntire, chair of The Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory universities and Professor Lingping Tang, interim Chair of Bioengineering at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Below you can find the details of the nomination that led to Professor Nguyen receiving the inaugural Embracing Challenge Award.

Although Dr. Nguyen has faced many challenges in her life, she has overcome them all and has successfully attained numerous accomplishments.

First major challenge: She had a tough time in her childhood due to the Vietnam War and her father’s political background (working for the U.S. and South Vietnam Republican government before 1975). After 1975, the communist government from North Vietnam took away her family’s property, and her father was sent to an education camp while she and her family were forced to work in the farm regions for more than 6 years. She had to do a lot of farm work since the 7th grade to earn enough food to survive and be able to go to school. After high school graduation, she couldn’t get into any university in Vietnam due to her father’s political background, even though her entrance exam score was nearly perfect. She tried to escape her country by boat several times to gain freedom and to receive higher education; she did succeed on the third attempt in the end of 1987. She then began to study how to speak, listen and write in English for the first time in the refugee camps in Thailand and the Philippines as she had previously only studied French in her country.

Second major challenge: After coming to the U.S. in the end of 1989 as a refugee, she was accepted into the University of Minnesota at Minneapolis and began her bachelor’s course of study in Chemical Engineering in 1990. While learning English as a second language and at the same time completing undergraduate studies, she had to work several on-campus jobs, including tutoring, research assistant, and washing dishes in the school cafeteria to support her schooling and living. Despite this hard work, she graduated and received her B.S. in Chemical Engineering in 1995 with high distinctions and recognition. She joined Rice University as a graduate student under the highest fellowship support and received her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering/Bioengineering in 2000. She went to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas for her post-doc position.

Third major challenge: She began as an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) in 2005. As an Asian female faculty member, she has had to face many challenges in her career, including balancing family life and career life and overcoming her natural tendency to be somewhat shy and introverted. Although she has a strong accent at times when speaking English, she has performed competently as a teacher and has received strong student evaluations by employing many active study activities and having much enthusiasm for teaching. In addition, she is also an excellent researcher as she has received more than seven million in research expenditures from the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association, the Department of Defense and other funding agencies as a principle investigator. Currently, she is a professor and graduate advisor in the Department of Bioengineering at UTA and a faculty senate member there as well.

Dr. Nguyen’s research has focused on the development of novel nanoparticles, nanomaterials and nanostructured composites to detect and treat various diseases, including cancers, lung disorders and cardiovascular diseases. In addition, her group has developed novel strategies and methodologies for tissue engineering applications. Dr. Nguyen has published 76 peer-reviewed manuscripts, 5 conference papers, 5 book chapters, and more than 100 conference abstracts. Most of her research papers are published in peer-reviewed journals with high impact factors, including Advanced Materials (Impact factor (IF): 15.4), Circulation (IF: 14.9), ACS Nano (IF: 12.0), Biomaterials (IF: 8.3), Journal of Biomedical Nanotechnology (IF: 7.6), Nanomedicine (IF: 7.3), Acta Biomaterialia (IF: 5.1), and Tissue Engineering (IF: 4.1). Her papers have a broad impact on tissue engineering, translational regenerative medicine, nanomedicine and nanotechnology. Dr. Nguyen’s papers have been cited more than 3,000 times with the h-index of 26 and i10-index of 56. Three of her major highlighted research projects are listed below:

Micro-/Nano-particles for treatments of cardiovascular and lung diseases: Polymeric micro-/nano-particles have been developed and used to treat cancers; however, their application in treatments of cardiovascular and lung diseases, especially tissue regeneration, has been limited. Recently, Dr. Nguyen’s group has developed various biodegradable polymer micro-/nano-particles for treatments of lung disorders. Her studies have demonstrated that these particles effectively deliver various therapeutic reagents, including drugs, proteins, plasmids for gene therapy, and small therapeutic molecules, to treat lung diseases. This work has been supported by the NIH grant NIHLBI U01 HL111146 for five years. Her group has further shown another potential application for micro-/nano-particles as micro-/nano-scaffolds for targeted delivery and controlled release of therapeutic reagents to recruit stem cells at the injured sites for in situ endothelialization to treat cardiovascular diseases. Her research project on nanoparticles for in situ vascular tissue regeneration has been supported by NIH/NHLBI R01 HL118498 until 2017.

New therapies for combating cancers: Dr. Nguyen’s group has also developed novel polymer nanoparticles for cancer therapy and detection. Her research has emphasized the potential use of stimuli-sensitive biomaterials to synthesize nanoparticles that provide the controlled release of drugs in response to changes in the environment such as temperature and pH. Her work has also demonstrated the theranostic potential of these nanoparticles in the detection and treatment of various diseases including cancers. Her research projects have been supported by the DOD, CPRIT and others.

Novel methodologies for treating complex wounds and skin diseases: Dr. Nguyen has also developed various nanomaterials and nanocomposites to provide sequential release profiles of therapeutic reagents for wound healing. It has been demonstrated that combined therapy consists of significant therapeutic efficiency compared to that of a single therapy. Her group has found that injectable multifunctional composite nanomaterials could be used as effective therapies to treat complex wounds. This work has been supported by NHARP.

To read a selection of some of the work that Professor Nguyen has published, please visit this page.

To find out more about the Embracing Challenge Award, please visit this page.

To find out more about what the Materials Science Council are doing, please visit this page.