Engineering’s Nguyen turns success into Gold(water)
The research bug bit junior Julie Nguyen early.
She gave lab work a whirl her freshman year to see if it was for her, and the Chesterfield native has worked in Biomedical, Biological and Chemical Engineering Assistant Professor Bret Ulery’s lab ever since. As it turns out, she’s a wiz both in the lab and on the viola, double majoring in chemical engineering and music.
Her research skills, however, landed her latest accolade. Nguyen is one of just 496 students nationwide to earn a prestigious scholarship from the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation.
Goldwater Scholarships are awarded to sophomores and juniors who show tremendous promise in the fields of mathematics, natural sciences and engineering with the goal of encouraging them to continue on to careers in these fields. Students are nominated by their institutions for their academic and research ability, as well as their broader impacts through community involvement.
“I’m really grateful for the scholarship, and it’s really affirming to get it,” Nguyen said.
In Ulery’s lab, Nguyen works on research investigating the use of hydrogels in treating vertebral compression fractures. She’s part of a team studying the hydrogels’ various mechanical properties, helping determine which can withstand the amount of compression that takes place naturally in the spine.
“Dr. Ulery will try to find some way for you to pursue your interests and still stay in his lab,” Nguyen explained. “I still do biomaterials stuff, but I had the chance to look at it from a much more mechanical perspective.”
The last two summers, Nguyen has had the opportunity to work in a pair of national labs — Idaho National Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory. The combination of work in various labs helped push her to continue research in graduate school after she leaves Mizzou. It also gave her a potential career focus, one that surely appealed to the Goldwater Foundation.
“I want to someday find a leadership position in a national lab setting where I can influence or contribute to U.S. scientific policy,” she explained. “I can do a lot more with my research experience than just staying put in the lab.”