Student Spotlight

Phuong Truong

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) PhD Student

Bachelor's Degree in Structural Engineering

January 2020by Andrea Lin, third year undergraduate Structural Engineering student

Phuong Truong is a PhD student in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) Department at UC San Diego under Professor Talke, who specializes in medical device technology, head disks, and tribology (the study of friction and wear). Phuong received her Bachelor’s degree in Structural Engineering at UC San Diego, which gives her the materials and mechanics background she needs to pursue her MAE research in Intraocular Pressure Sensors for the human eye.

Phuong’s Background

Phuong came from a low-income background and didn’t know what engineering was before coming to college. She received her Bachelor’s and Master's degrees at UC San Diego and is currently pursuing her PhD. Phuong emphasized that she stayed at UC San Diego for graduate school because of the great connections and community she has built here.

During undergrad, she was involved in several organizations. She was part of Sanford Lab for Cardiac Stem Cells, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and Professor Talke’s Lab. All her activities helped lead Phuong to her current interest in research and obtain the diverse technical skills to accomplish her goals.

Description of Phuong’s PhD Research Project

Phuong’s research is geared towards helping those who have glaucoma, which is an eye condition that causes blindness due to pressure on the eye. It’s currently incurable and has an unknown direct cause. Her research involves developing an eye implant that monitors the eye pressure by taking “eye selfies” using an optical sensor. The current goals of the project include anchoring and implanting the device to the eye and ensuring that the device lasts the lifetime of the patient.

SE Techniques Utilized in Phuong’s Research

Phuong says that she uses Structural Engineering knowledge such as material science, structural analysis, and finite element analysis in her project.

Material science is essential for this research because the device needs to be biostable and biocompatible with the human eye. Material science also includes conducting pressure and load testing on materials to understand how structures will react to loads and pressures.

In her research, Phuong utilizes analysis software such as Ansis, Console, and Solidworks in order to analyze her device. The software utilizes computation power to solve complex structural analysis and finite element analysis problems which are evaluated to improve her device.

Phuong noted that several departments from all over the world research the same topics from a different standpoint. Even though a Structural Engineer isn’t the first thought when you think of a person for Ophthalmology research, each engineering field has a different approach on how to solve a challenge. Engineering is multidisciplinary and can be applied to all types of practices.

What is Engineering?

Phuong notes that all the engineering is the same and utilize the fundamental physics concepts, but the context of analysis is different.

Phuong’s Key Point for Engineers: It is not about background, but your analytical skills and ability to systematically and practically solve problems. This involves having strong literature skills.

What is Structural Engineering?

Phuong Troung says Structural Engineering is the application of design of structures, where the word “structures” can mean anything. For instance, Structural Engineering can include Biomedical topics such as Patient Ophthalmology in Phuong’s current research.

Why Phuong Chose UC San Diego for Engineering

Phuong believes that UC San Diego has limitless growth and improvement for students. The university has many opportunities that allow students to expand on their areas of interest, such as teaching and research opportunities with faculty and an immense selection of student organizations with design competitions. San Diego is also a main hub for many biotech companies and similar industries, so UC San Diego’s involvement and partnerships with surrounding engineering companies made this an ideal university for Phuong to expand on her interests with a PhD in the medical technology field.