Dzung Nguyen SIGGRAPH Member Profile

Member Profile: Dzung Nguyen

1. What do you do, and how long have you been doing it?

Currently, I am a computer graphics senior at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) in the Digital Media Design program and a part-time software engineering intern at Cesium GS. I have been fascinated with 3D graphics and modeling since my freshman year in high school. I played around with 3D software like 3ds Max and would always stay back at school late to work on my models.

2. What was your first job?

My first job was during my college freshman summer working at a summer camp teaching high school students computer graphics. I was both a teaching assistant and a residential assistant, which allowed me to plan fun team bonding activities for my students and get to know their personalities and interests better. It was one of the most fun summers I have ever had!

3.Where did you complete your formal education?

I will be finishing my undergraduate degree at UPenn with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering in May 2021.

4. How did you first get involved with ACM SIGGRAPH?

During sophomore year of college, I went to a lot of events hosted by the UPenn SIGGRAPH student chapter. The president of the club approached me and asked if I wanted to join the board. That’s how I became the external relations chair of the club and got to plan our club community and educational activities such as meetups with other local chapters, movie screenings, alumni speaker series, and holiday parties.

5. What is your favorite memory of a SIGGRAPH conference?

My first ever SIGGRAPH conference was actually this year’s (2020) virtual conference. One of the events I attended was the virtual Escape Room. After the event, my team decided to stay on our Zoom call and chat. We ended up talking for 2 more hours. We shared our stories, backgrounds, and how we got involved with the graphics community. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing my teammates’ journey and exchanging advice.

6. Describe a project that you would like to share with the ACM SIGGRAPH community.

During my second semester of junior year, I took a computer graphics course in which I got to pick any SIGGRAPH paper and implement it for my final project. My partner and I picked Legolization: optimizing LEGO designs. We implemented a Maya plugin that lets users import 3D meshes and turn them into LEGO models. Users can then export a layer-by-layer pdf of the model in order to construct it in real-life. I learned a lot through this assignment in terms of computer graphics and optimization concepts. Not only that, I also got to build a tool that could be useful to others for prototyping or simply building cool LEGO models!

7. If you could have dinner with one living or non-living person, who would it be and why?

Currently, I would love to have dinner with Christopher Nolan and chat with him about his film making process. His movies have always left me feeling confused in a good way. I’m curious as to how he comes up with ideas, what inspires him, and how he brings those ideas to life.

8. What is something most people don’t know about you?

Most people don’t know that I grew up in a countryside village in Vietnam called Vien Lua, which stands for “Rice Village”. This was the place where I developed my love for art, animation, and storytelling. I remember owning a “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfts” CD and that was the only animated movie I had access to for 2 years. I would rewatch it on repeat, each time discovering new details in the art and the story. I would then sketch the characters and come up with alternate endings. I would take inspiration from my surroundings, like the people and the culture, and bring those elements into my stories.

9. From which single individual have you learned the most in your life? What did they teach you?

My mother. She raised me on her own while my father was away for grad school during the first two years of my life and continued to shape my childhood later on. She taught me to be curious about things, to ask lots of questions, and to stand up after getting knocked down. On my first day of middle school in the US, I was so scared starting from the bus ride to school. My mother would follow me to school and stand by the windows of my classrooms. Every time I feel uneasy, I would look for her smile. She would nod her head to signal that everything will be okay.

10. Is there someone in particular who has influenced your decision to work with ACM SIGGRAPH?

It was more of a collective group of people who inspired me to get involved in SIGGRAPH, including my professors, advisors, and peers. One individual in particular is Amy Calhoun, my advisor. She told me about the SIGGRAPH chapter at UPenn and encouraged me to go to a couple of events to meet other students. When I joined the board, Amy was enthusiastic and supportive of all of the events we organized and even gave us great ideas for new events to host.

11. What can you point to in your career as your proudest moment?

I’m young and still searching for my path, so I would say I haven’t gotten there yet. I’m still striving for that proudest moment. Even then, I’m sure I will not let it be the last proud moment.