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Profile of Ann Nguyen

Ann is a PhD student in the Nanoscience Centre


How did you get into Engineering?

In my mind, engineers make things and I always liked creating things. I wanted to major in engineering and use that to help me have a more enriched background for medicine. Unfortunately, my undergraduate did not offer engineering so I majored in biology instead, hoping to become a doctor. I was offered a unique opportunity by studying for a masters in bioengineering at Cambridge where I could combine the two areas.

What are you doing now and what are your plans for the future?

This year I worked in tissue engineering. I learned about the subtleties of bio-material engineering and cell-material interactions. I am applying to medical school and I hope to become a physician scientist.  

What motivates/interests you?

I like people and I like science. I find it very fulfilling to help people. It is part of the reason why I always wanted to be a doctor. An essential part of engineering is solving problems for humanity. Engineering is the application of science for the purposes of humanity.   

What has helped your career?

My teachers have helped inspire me and my colleagues have helped push me to be the best I can. Committees throughout my education have believed in me and helped fund me. It is important to seek help. From a young age I have noticed the impact that teachers, mentors, and colleagues can have on my motivations and achievements. In challenging and supportive environments I am much more productive. 

How have you overcome challenges/knockbacks in your career?

It depends on the challenge. I have faced misogyny and other prejudices because of who I am. Sometimes associates will look at your male compatriot instead of you when they speak. I often ask questions because I want to learn, but occasionally people will look down upon me for it. I think it is important to not change yourself for others. It is important to point out prejudices or they'll never be addressed. So I approach these issues with a firm stance of always being unapologetically myself.

How have you managed to balance family life/other interests with your career?

It is important to learn to prioritize, but I have found that if you can do anything you want if you plan carefully. And in case that fails, you cannot go wrong with following your passion.

Do you have any role models?

I have a lot of role models. There are so many people to learn from. I have been blessed with amazing female advisors. Jodi Schwarz, my supervisor for my undergraduate thesis really helped push me and urge me to explore different areas and subjects. Michelle Oyen, my supervisor for my masters project has given me the freedom and resources to enable me to pursue my research interests in a new field. The support they offer me, allows me to test my educational boundaries, making sure I never grow bored.

Do you have any advice for women who considering studying/pursuing a career in Engineering?

A good way to go about your life is to follow things that are fun and challenging. Unfortunately, they are not always the same thing. Between simple fun and a new adventure, I always choose adventure. There is nothing quite as satisfying as overcoming obstacles. My only advice is to not grow complacent and if you feel like you are, seek out a challenge. Don't let your mind grow rusty.