Institute for Biological Interfaces of Engineering

CMD Fellow Duong Nguyen Wants to Steer Young Women Towards Science and Engineering Careers


Duong NguyenDuong Nguyen, CMD® fellow, wasn’t always into all things science.  In elementary school she remembers having to put a lot of effort into understanding her science classes. It’s because of this extra work to make things click that she quickly found the subject intriguing.  So much so that by the time it came for her first day as an undergraduate at the University of Memphis (U of M) she knew without a doubt that science would be her chosen field of study.

Nguyen was one of 30 students who enrolled in the brand new Biomedical Engineering program at the U of M in the fall of 2005. Of those 30, only nine made it to graduation day. Nguyen attributes her success to her ability to look for opportunities for growth and sheer stubbornness. At a time when there were not any undergraduate positions available in laboratories, she was the first person in her class to seek out professors about working in their labs at no cost, just for the experience. By her junior year, she knew that she wanted to accelerate her goals and enrolled in the BS/MS program in which she would earn her undergraduate and Masters degrees in bioengineering over the course of 5 years. Before her senior year had even started, Nguyen had already begun her Masters work by taking graduate level classes and doing her own research projects. Even more impressive, Nguyen was challenged by an undergrad class assignment to apply for a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship. She was awarded the three year grant in the spring of 2008.

When a guest speaker from Wright Medical Company visited the U of M campus as she was completing her Masters degree, Nguyen jumped at the chance for more practical experience and was hired for an internship. The company worked on orthopedic implants; there she was doing more design and development of a patella implant, the materials and product development side of bioengineering.

“I liked the fast-paced atmosphere and the industry feel; it was more of an immediate satisfaction with my work,” she says.

From there, Nguyen came to Clemson University’s bioengineering doctoral program in the fall of 2010. As a doctoral candidate, Nguyen switched to a different side of bone tissue engineering and began doing more cell biology and bone tissue regeneration.

In the summer of 2012, Nguyen was awarded a CMD™ fellowship through Clemson University’s Institute for Biological Interfaces of Engineering (IBIOE). The fellowship provides her with the opportunity to focus solely on research. She says the CMD® fellowship will push her to do better and work harder.

Nguyen was especially drawn to the community engagement aspects of the CMD™ program because of her past involvement with mentoring young girls in science.  As part of the “Girls Experiencing Engineering” program, Nguyen served as a counselor for summer programs for middle and high school age girls in which she helped them with hands-on science and math activities to get them to think like an engineer. She also coached biomedical teams of high school students at the U of M Engineering Open House in which high school teams participated in engineering competitions. Another one of Nguyen’s interests is the Society of Women Engineering (SWE) where she has volunteered for the “Invent It. Build It” program in which she has mentored girls, stimulating their minds and guiding them in their engineering designs.

“One of my passions is community outreach.  I hope to educate the younger generation about how engineering is the best field and anything you do is related to engineering.  The CMD™ fellowship gives me the support and network to do that.  It combines my two passions, science and reaching others, into one,” she says.