Tuesday, July 9, 2013

SRAP Student Spotlight: Troung Cai and Applying Knowledge

Name: Troung Cai
From: California
Year in school: Freshman in College
Future plans: Will be attending Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as a chemical engineering major

Troung explains some of the equations on the board behind him
When it comes to knowledge, sometimes bridging the gap between the theoretical and the applied is hard to grasp. Troung Cai, however, has a firm understanding of both and knows which side of knowledge best suits his interests.

“When you learn about math, you ask ‘What is the use of all these equations? What are these theorems for?’,” Troung says. “I had all these same questions and that is exactly where chemistry comes in.  I saw why people spend their lives developing these math theorems because they can actually be used to create models in science.”

While he started out as a self-identified ‘math-guy’, highly involved in theoretical knowledge, he is now on his way to becoming a chemical engineer.
“I don’t want to be someone who finds the knowledge,” Troung says. “I want to be the one who applies the knowledge.”
A microfluidic device
His SRAP project this summer, with Dr. John Oakey, a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Wyoming, is all about applying knowledge.
“Troung’s project is to make microfluidic devices 3-D,” Dr. Oakey says.
The Oakey lab uses microfluidic devices to develop biomedical technology as well as in enhanced oil recovery research. For Troung, the medical uses of microfluidic devices are most interesting, especially for his future academic pursuits.
“My interest is in researching cell biology, cell engineering and drug delivery,” Troung says. “I know that microfluidic devices can be used to model how drugs work in a blood vessel system and can be used to study how drug delivery can be used to treat illnesses, like cancer.”
Microfluidic devices
This project is a step forward for Troung’s future college research and, as Dr. Oakey says, it is important for more than just medical research.
“Troung is working on a very fundamental fabrication issue,” Dr. Oakey says. “He is working on an enabling technology. It’s going to have an impact in a lot of different areas.”
For Troung, the best part of his project is the blending of theoretical and applied knowledge.
“My favorite part of this research is that I can actually incorporate what I learned from theoretical knowledge and apply that to real life,” he says.
SRAP is a six-week intensive research program based at the University of Wyoming and sponsored by Wyoming EPSCoR.
By Kali S. McCrackin
Photos by Kali S. McCrackin

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