Thao (Vicky) Nguyen, the Marlin U. Zimmerman, Jr. Faculty Scholar and a professor of mechanical engineering is known for her research on the mechanics of soft engineering and biological materials.
Her lab uses an integrated experimental and modeling approach to study adaptive materials that can exhibit dramatic changes in microstructure, mechanical properties, and macroscopic shape in response to an environmental stimulus. Her research focuses on the biomechanics of fibrous soft tissues, constitutive modeling of shape memory polymers and polymer composites, and the fracture and failure of rate-dependent materials.
Nguyen’s work has contributed to the development of innovative experimental tools and models to investigate the fundamental microscale mechanisms and microstructural origins of the behavior of soft adaptive materials. Her research has provided design tools and guidelines for the creation of shape-shifting biomedical devices, including materials that expand in the body to secure tendons to bone and “smart” medical devices that function without wires or batteries.
She also is an expert on the complex mechanics of the eye. Nguyen has worked collaboratively to investigate the role of the sclera and cornea in the development of glaucoma, and to develop a biomechanical model of the sclera and its effects on glaucoma. Her research on the eye has been funded by the Department of Defense, National Eye Institute, BrightFocus Foundation, and the National Science Foundation.
Nguyen’s awards include an NSF CAREER Award, a Johns Hopkins Catalyst Award, and the Thomas J.R. Hughes Young Investigator Award and Sia Nemat-Nasser Early Career Award, both from the American Society for Mechanical Engineers (ASME). She serves on the Board of Directors for the Society of Engineering Science and has chaired multiple committees for ASME. She is also a member of the Society for Experimental Mechanics, the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, and the International Society of Eye Research. She is an associate editor for two ASME journals: Applied Mechanics Review and J. Biomechanical Engineering.
She received her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1998, and MS and PhD degrees from Stanford University in 2000 and 2004, respectively. Prior to joining Johns Hopkins in 2007, Nguyen worked for three years as a senior member of the technical staff at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, California. She holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.