David Nguyen, PhD

Modest microscopist and enthusiastic optical engineer

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I was born and raised in La Chaux-de-Fonds, a medium-sized city in Switzerland. Despite leaving high school, my unwavering passion for computers propelled me to take an unconventional path—an apprenticeship in information technology (IT). During this apprenticeship, I earned the distinction of being recognized as the second-best apprentice in the county. My commitment to education led me to complete a preparatory year, and I successfully passed the entrance exam for the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). This marked the commencement of my academic journey in the microengineering section—a path I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have followed.

Over the course of five dedicated years, I earned my Master's degree, a significant milestone in my academic voyage. My dedication and perseverance were recognized in 2014 with the OMEGA prize for the best project within my section, as well as the SHS prize for an outstanding contribution to the human and social science curriculum at EPFL. It was also during my master's degree that I discovered my passion for optics and light. This newfound interest inspired me to enroll in a Ph.D. program in bioengineering. My doctoral research focused on Optical projection tomography for whole organ imaging and I proudly defended my dissertation in early 2019.

After completing my doctoral studies, I ventured to Cambridge in the United Kingdom (UK), where I joined my partner. There, I took on the role of an optical engineer in the customer success team at Zemax (now ANSYS) for a year. This experience allowed me to further sharpen my optical design skills while fulfilling my longstanding commitment to sharing knowledge about light and optics.

However, I eventually decided to return to academia with a different goal in mind. Instead of pursuing endless research for a revolutionary imaging technique within an optics laboratory, I sought to support a biology lab with their microscopy needs. This aspiration led me to become a part of the Zlatic lab at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) in Cambridge (UK). Over the course of more than three years, I have made significant contributions to the development of two custom microscopes—a multi-view light-sheet microscope and a two-photon live tracking microscope. Additionally, I have been responsible for the maintenance of equipment and training users on six different commercial instruments, including the THORLABS Bergamo II with holographic stimulation.

In parallel to my work at the LMB, I remained very active in the Zemax community and maintained close connections with like-minded optical engineers and designers from the community.

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