Cathleen Nguyen

Bioengineering :: Elizabeth and Joseph Taft Town & Gown Scholar

Cathleen is an accomplished young engineer who has already designed a robot (her team took first place in a competition), conducted biomechanics research to quantify blood flow and velocity, helped design, modify and improve a mannequin used to train physicians performing a laryngoscopy… and she competes on a club water polo team!

“As an aspiring bioengineer, UC San Diego has opened my eyes to the incredible world of bioengineering and translational medicine. I have gained new perspectives and skills on how to approach, innovate, and solve biomedical problems. As a person, I continue to learn the struggles of the world and how I can make a positive contribution through my goals of becoming a bioengineer.”

At the age of 14, Cathleen’s life took a sharp downturn when her father left the family and her mother, after multiple strokes, was forced to return to Vietnam for affordable medical treatments, leaving an 18-year-old sister in charge of Cathleen and her twin.

“I would not be where I am without these struggles,” she says. “I was forced to grow up and take responsibilities, which were things that my peers did not have to worry about. Too many of my peers at the time saw my lack of parental guidance as a direct path to freedom, and while it could have been easy for me to act irresponsibly, I knew that I needed to grow up and take care of myself and my sisters instead. In high school, I started working and contributed financially to my family. At the same time, I strongly invested in my education.” After two years at a community college, “Now I am at UC San Diego, one of the best institutions for bioengineering, balancing both working and my studies with an even more determined mindset to succeed.”

Cathleen’s heart is set on a master’s degree program or Ph.D. that focuses on translational medicine. “With this degree, I can work more directly with physicians and apply my engineering skills to design and improve medical devices, and also make biotechnology more available to people, especially to those who are struggling financially.”

In the near term, she says, “This scholarship will significantly help me by providing both financial and moral support from the Town & Gown family. It will help me with financial means thereby allowing me to focus more on my academics and career goals.”

Cathleen Nguyen