Xuan Hien Nguyen recognized for excellence in mathematics teaching

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Xuan Hien Nguyen (Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University)

Xuan Hien Nguyen, associate professor in the Department of Mathematics, has been named the Dio Lewis Holl Chair in Applied Mathematics in recognition of her outstanding teaching practices. Nguyen joined Iowa State University in 2011.

The award was established by Elizabeth Holl Bierbaum, William Holl and Bruce Holl in honor of their father, Dio Lewis Holl, a former chair of Iowa State’s Department of Mathematics from 1945 until his death in 1954. Holl was well known for his excellent teaching skills and his interest in high-quality education. He supervised 12 Ph.D. students in areas such as elasticity, fluid flows and stress analysis of materials. A World War I veteran, Holl joined the Iowa State faculty in 1925.

Faculty recipients of the Dio Lewis Hall award must be passionate about teaching and educating students, especially those who desire to become math teachers.

Nguyen’s primary academic interest is geometrical analysis. Specifically, she uses tools from differential equations to construct and study surfaces with interesting mathematical properties. She has received grants from the National Science Foundation, the Simons Foundation and the Association of Women in Mathematics. She has authored numerous journal articles and a book chapter. Nguyen is a member of the American Mathematical Society, the Association for Women in Mathematics and the Mathematical Association of America.

Nguyen is grateful to the Holl family for their generous gift, and for supporting new and innovative teaching methods.

“It is a great honor to receive this award. I am grateful for the trust from the donors, the college and the department,” she said.

Nguyen is eager to use the funds from this award to implement numerous fun and educational math activities for K-12 students.

“I will create a math club for upper elementary and middle school students, with possible expansion to high school students,” she said. “The emphasis will be on solving more open-ended problems and having fun with math.”

Nguyen will also organize activities to encourage more middle school and high school girls to participate in math and consider future careers in science. Iowa State undergraduate and graduate students will receive training and gain valuable teaching experience as they help develop and implement the programs.

Nguyen earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the Free University of Brussels, and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.