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Anh Thai Nhan, PhD, assistant professor of mathematics at Holy Names University, was awarded an appointment to the U.S. Department of Energy Visiting Faculty Program (VFP). Through the VFP program, Dr. Thai Nhan will be conducting joint research project at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and will collaborate with DOE laboratory research staff. The VFP seeks to increase the research competitiveness of faculty members and their students at institutions historically underrepresented in the research community in order to expand the workforce vital to the Department of Energy (DOE) mission areas.

What drew you to mathematics?

I became interested in mathematics at a young age. When I was in third grade, I entered a mathematics competition in my province in Vietnam. I received several recognitions on a national level in elementary school, fifth grade, and in high school. When I entered my undergrad program, I initially wanted to follow in my parents career paths and become a teacher. But I ended up earning an undergraduate degree in mathematics and became a graduate research student at the National University of Ireland Galway.

What are your research interests?

My research interest falls in the area of differential equations, specifically numerical methods. Differential equations are used to model many things in our daily lives, calculate the movement and flow of financial and biological concepts, and explain phenomenons, like volcanoes. Numerical methods are used to find numerical approximations to the solutions of ordinary differential equations. On the computation side, I use a lot of coding to apply the numerical methods.

Explain your latest research project with the U.S. Department of Energy. How were you selected for this prestigious visiting faculty program? What is the goal of your research project?

Back in 2019, I was invited to give a research talk at the U.S Department of Energy. At that time, the researchers in the lab were interested in my research field, and we connected and continued discussions on a possible joint research project that would combine my expertise with the researchers developments. I submitted a proposal to the VFP because the program focused on building relationships with faculty and scientists and would allow us to continue our joint research proposal. Our research goal is to develop numerical methods to efficiently solve scientific problems. A combination of mathematics and scientific computing will provide an opportunity to explore and simulate large-scale scientific problems with applications in physics, chemistry, and biology.

What inspires you to conduct this research?

The research advances our understanding to solve real-life applications, but the research also helps me in teaching as well. It keeps me up-to-date with the field so that I can apply it in my teaching. I will be able to show my students the interesting parts of my research by embedding it into my lectures. I can also encourage my students to conduct research of their own in the future.

Any advice for students?

Research opens doors for future opportunities and careers. Study hard, when opportunities arise–take them, and keep an open mind by engaging with your community.