Vietnamese refugee wins Materials Today Embracing Challenge Award

Prof. Kytai Nguyen – “trailblazer for Asian women in academia” – researches the development of nanoparticles for controlled drug delivery and tissue engineering

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Three decades ago, Kytai Nguyen escaped war-torn Vietnam on a boat. She went on to learn English, earn her doctorate, and become a preeminent researcher and professor.

Now, Dr. Nguyen, Professor of Bioengineering in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Texas at Arlington, is the winner of the inaugural Materials Today Embracing Challenge Award.

She was nominated by Prof. Larry V. McIntire, chair of The Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory universities. In his nomination, he wrote:

Her life story has been one of facing incredibly difficult challenges and overcoming them by force of will, hard work, and an amazing can-do spirit. Beginning as a child in Vietnam during the war with her family on the losing (US) side, through perseverance and some luck, Dr. Nguyen managed to escape by boat in 1987 and spent time in refugee camps in Thailand and the Philippines. In these camps she learned English for the first time.

Upon coming to the United States as a refugee, Dr. Nguyen was accepted at the University of Minnesota and began studying chemical engineering in 1990, supporting herself working several jobs. She graduated in 1995 and joined the PhD Program at Rice University that fall. Dr. McIntire continued:

She quickly developed into an outstanding researcher, studying the interface between materials and blood flow with applications in vascular biology, thrombosis, and development of artificial blood vessels. She received her PhD in 2000 in Chemical Engineering/Bioengineering — an amazing journey from being in overseas refugee camps not speaking English to a United States doctoral degree graduation in less than 13 years. Dr. Nguyen continues to be a trailblazer for Asian women in academia.

The Embracing Challenge award

The award was conceived by the Elsevier Materials Science Council, a group of internationally recognized academic leaders chaired by Dr. Subra Suresh, President of Carnegie Mellon University and former Director of the National Science Foundation.

The Council was set up with three distinct aims:

  1. Supporting the sharing and communication of scientific information and data through new technology platforms and pathways
  2. Helping researchers communicate the importance of materials science to the general public
  3. Rewarding researchers, particularly those working in difficult conditions or in countries with limited infrastructure.

The award specifically addresses the third aim – rewarding researchers working in difficult conditions.

“Awards like this in science are extremely important,” Dr. Suresh said. “The uniqueness of this challenge is that the winner is recognized for their research and the challenges that they overcame in getting to this point in their academic career.”

Dr. Suresh described Dr. Nguyen as a highly accomplished researcher who is in a position to inspire us:

She has made significant progress in the development of nanoparticles for controlled drug delivery and tissue engineering applications. However, the story of how she got to that position is less well known. We hope that by highlighting the challenges that she overcame with the Embracing Challenge award we can show and inspire others who are in similar positions.

An official event to mark the award will be held in Boston, alongside the Materials Research Society’s Fall Meeting on November 29, 2016. The award carries with it a $5,000 prize and travel grant to the Embracing Challenge Award event.

Read Kytai’s full nomination on the Materials Today website.

Nominate a researcher for the 2017 award

Nominations are now open for the 2017 award. To learn more, visit the Materials Today Embracing Challenge Award website.  

Learn more about the Materials Science Council and the work they are doing.

Read Prof. Kytai Nyugen’s research

Elsevier has made a selection of the research Dr. Nyugen has published in our journals freely available until February 28, 2017.

Basic Therapeutic Delivery Materials

Biodegradable nanoparticles mimicking platelet binding as a targeted and controlled drug delivery system
Kona S, Dong J, Liu Y, Tan J, Nguyen KT. 
International Journal of Pharmaceutics 2012; 423: 516-524. 

Development of multiple-layer polymeric particles for targeted and controlled drug delivery
Koppolu B, Rahimi R, Nattama S, Wadajkar AS, Nguyen, KT.
Nanomedicine 2010; 6: 355-361.

In vitro evaluation of novel polymer-coated magnetic nanoparticles for controlled drug delivery
Rahimi M, Wadajkar AS, Subraamanian K, Yousef M, Cui W, Hsieh JT and Nguyen KT.
Nanomediicine 2010; 6: 672-680.

Factorial analyses of photopolymerizable thermoresponsive composite hydrogels for protein delivery
Sabnis A, Wadajkar AS, Aswath P, Nguyen KT.
Nanomedicine 2009; 5: 305-315.

Cancer Delivery

Prostate cancer-specific thermo-responsive polymer-coated iron oxide nanoparticles
Wadajkar AS, Menon JU, Tsai YT, Gore C, Dobin T, Gandee L, Kangasniemi K, Takahashi M, Manabdhar B, Ahn J, Hsieh J, Nguyen KT.
Biomaterials 2013; 34: 3618-3635.

Multifunctional nanomaterials for melanoma-targeted drug delivery
Wadajkar AS, Bhavsar Z, Ko CY, Koppolu B, Cui W, Tang L, Nguyen KT.
Acta Biomaterialia 2012; 8: 2996-3004.

Lung Delivery

Nanoparticle facilitated inhalational delivery of Erythropoietin receptor cDNA protects against hyperoxic lung injury
Ravikumar P, Menon JU, Punnakitikashem P, Gyawali D, Togao O, Takahashi M, Zhang J, Yee J, Moe OW, Nguyen KT, Hsia CC.
Nanomedicine 2016; 12: 811-821.

Polymeric nanoparticles for pulmonary protein and DNA delivery
Menon JU, Ravikumar P, Pise A, Gyawali D, Hsia CC, Nguyen KT.
Acta Biomaterialia 2014; 10: 2643-2652.

Vascular Tissue Engineering

Magnetic-based multi-layer microparticles for endothelial progenitor cell isolation, enrichment, and detachment
Wadajkar AS, Santimano SL, Tang L, Nguyen KT.
Biomaterials 2014; 35: 654-663.

Electrospun biodegradable elastic polyurethane fibers with dipyridamole release as small diameter vascular grafts
Punnakitikashem P, Trong D, Menon JU, Nguyen KT, Hong Y.
Acta Biomaterialia 2014; 10: 4618-4628.

Development of biodegradable crosslinked urethane-based polyester elastomers.
Dey J, Xu H, Shen J, Thevenot P, Gondi SR, Nguyen KT, Sumerlin BS, Tang L, Yang J
Biomaterials 2008; 29: 4637-4649.

Molecular responses of vascular smooth muscle cells and phagocytes to curcumin-eluting bioresorbable stent materials
Nguyen  KT, Shaikh N, Shukla  KP, Su SH, Eberhart RC, Tang L.
Biomaterials 2004; 25: 5333-5346.

Photopolymerizable hydrogels for tissue engineering applications
Nguyen KT, West JL. Biomaterials 2002; 23: 4307-4314.

Wound Healing

Dual growth factor releasing multi-functional nanofibers for wound healing
Xie Z, Paras CB, Weng H, Punnakitikashem P, Su LC, Vu K, Tang L, Yang J, Nguyen KT.
Acta Biomaterialia 2013; 9: 9351-9359.

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