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Engineering Researcher Thao ‘Vicky’ Nguyen Receives NSF CAREER Award

May 3, 2013
Source: Johns Hopkins University

Dr. Thao Nguyen was funded by BrightFocus' National Glaucoma Research program for a study concerning the biomechanics of glaucoma in mouse models.

A Johns Hopkins faculty member who is studying how mechanical forces affect soft tissue within the eye has been named a 2013 recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER Award. The award to Thao “Vicky” Nguyen, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, will support research that may shed light on diseases and conditions such as tendon injuries, cardiac fibrosis and glaucoma.

This prestigious NSF honor, formally known as a Faculty Early Career Development award, recognizes junior faculty members who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research in their organizations.

Nguyen’s research in general focuses on understanding the complex mechanics of soft adaptive materials. Her new CAREER award is for a project called “Understanding the Micromechanisms of Growth and Remodeling Collagenous Tissues.” The award comes with $400,000 in research funding that will be allocated over a five-year period that began Jan. 1. The funds will support the work of one graduate student in Nguyen’s lab and cover a portion of the faculty member’s salary.

For this project, Nguyen will focus specifically on the sclera—the white outer layer of the eyes—in experimental glaucoma mice that are subjected to increased intraocular pressure. This research has the potential to add significantly to the understanding of how mechanical forces influence the growth and remodeling of collagen tissue. The findings could lead to new treatments for glaucoma and other collagen-related disorders.

Outside of the health field, Nguyen’s research into the mechanical behavior of soft active polymers also has potential aerospace and security applications.

Nguyen was born in Vietnam. Her family immigrated to California when she was in elementary school. After moving to the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, she attended a math/science magnet school program in Van Nuys, which encouraged her interest in these subjects. Nguyen went on to complete her undergraduate college studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and then earned her master’s and doctoral degrees at Stanford University, all in mechanical engineering.

She spent three years as a senior member of the technical staff of Sandia National Laboratories before joining the Whiting School of Engineering faculty at Johns Hopkins in 2007.

She was subsequently selected as a recipient of a 2008 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, nominated by the U.S. Department of Energy.

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