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Mai Nguyen
by Satina Richardson
Mai Nguyen, Vision Science Graduate Program student, is the first UAB School of Optometry student to receive an F31 Ruth L. Kirschstein Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award. This National Institutes of Health grant is for five years, totaling $189,180.

Nguyen’s proposed project is titled “Characterization of DHDDS RP59 Knock-in Models of Retinitis Pigmentosa.” She will study the progression and mechanism of retinitis pigmentosa in three strains of mice.

Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is a rare group of disorders that cause retinal degeneration that can lead to gradual vision loss and sometimes blindness. It occurs when light-sensing cells in the eye break down.

“Studying the retina in these mouse models will give us insight into the pathophysiology of this inherited disorder, and may lead to novel treatment options for this disorder,” Nguyen said.

There have been 110 F31 awards from NIH to UAB students since 1993. This is the second one from the National Eye Institute.

“It’s a real delight when a student is awarded an F31 predoctoral award,” said Lawrence Sincich, PhD, UAB School of Optometry associate professor. “It is the largest grant NIH has for students working toward their PhD, and is a great indicator of promise for both the student and the project. Because the award comes after peer-review, Ms. Nguyen can feel especially uplifted by what senior colleagues in her field think of her!

Nguyen’s PhD advisor and sponsor for the award is Steven Pittler, PhD, FARVO, FAAO, UAB School of Optometry professor.

Nguyen is from Oakland, CA, and graduated from the University of California, Davis with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology.