CSUF News Service

Math Student Wins National Award for Dry-Eye Disease Research

After winning a national award for her research, Cal State Fullerton student Trini Nguyen is confident about doing the math.

Nguyen, who is studying applied mathematics, won an outstanding research award at the January national joint meeting of the Mathematical Association of America and the American Mathematical Society in Atlanta.  

With about 300 students participating in the research poster session from universities across the country, she competed in the applied mathematics category with her project, a "Mathematical Model to Noninvasively Detect Dry-Eye Disease." Only the top 15 percent students of each mathematical category received an award.

Under the mentorship of Charles H. Lee, professor of mathematics, Nguyen is focusing on developing a mathematical model to predict the thicknesses of the tear layers of the eye, as well as writing a computer program that can quickly detect and diagnose dry-eye diseases.

Nguyen also has been collaborating with mentors, Stan Huth, a retired engineer who worked at an Orange County optical company, and Nattapol Ploymaklam, a professor of mathematics at Chiang Mai University in Thailand, who has been helping remotely with the math model and computer programming.

"This research interests me because I can apply mathematics to a problem a lot of people experience every day," said Nguyen, a senior. “By being involved in this research experience, I hope to understand applied mathematics on a deeper level and become a better scientist."

By working on this research project, Nguyen, who is minoring in computer science, also has had the opportunity to sharpen her programming skills and learn more about other disciplines, such as physics.

Working with a faculty mentor like Lee also has helped her to achieve her academic goals. "Dr. Lee is constantly pushing me outside of my comfort zone so that I can arrive to solutions myself. I am a better student now because of him."

Nguyen, who plans to graduate in 2018, is a scholar in the University's Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) program and serves as treasurer of the CSUF Math Club. She aspires to earn a doctorate in applied mathematics and teach at the university-level.

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