Nguyen Receives NSF CAREER Award

March 9, 2016 - Hung D. Nguyen, assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering & Materials Science, is the Samueli School’s newest recipient of the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award.

Nguyen’s five-year, $508,000 award will support his efforts to design smart nanomaterials – those that can change their shape and structure in response to environmental stimuli – through computer simulation. These nanomaterials potentially can carry drugs or imaging agents to tumors for cancer diagnosis and treatment, and they also can be used as targeted carriers of siRNA, a synthetic RNA, which can silence defective genes in gene therapy.

Current discovery of these smart nanomaterials is tedious and often left to chance, according to Nguyen. His novel approach, however, incorporates an integrated computer-aided design (CAD) platform, which tests the ability of peptide-polymer conjugates to form stimuli-responsive nanomaterials through molecular dynamics simulations, facilitating rapid development of these smart materials.

In an effort to further broaden the reach of his research, Nguyen, who teaches an undergraduate course in biomaterials design, will incorporate new insights on design principles into his lectures. He also will use the CAREER funds to launch a one-week summer research program for high school students.

The NSF CAREER award supports junior faculty who exemplify excellence in teaching and research. “I am grateful for receiving this award, which is a tremendous honor,” Nguyen says. “It not only recognizes the research that my group has already done but also generously supports the new work that we are pursuing."

--Anna Lynn Spitzer