steven trinh with presentation board
Steven Trinh ’22 not only contributed to groundbreaking research as an undergraduate student, but also founded an organization that provides hands-on STEM kits to kids in underserved areas.

Crean College Student Starts Organization to Help Kids Study STEM

Steven Trinh ’22
Applied Human Physiology, minor Psychology
Tustin, CA

steven trinh in lab coat
Trinh’s research with Dr. Ajay Sharma from Chapman’s School of Pharmacy could help cure diabetes-related blindness.

Steven Trinh ’22 has spent the last year researching tear film-mucous layer dysfunction and pathogenesis of diabetes-associated and graft versus host disease ocular surface diseases. In layman’s terms, Trinh says, “What we’re looking at is basically the surface of the eye. That’s what it means when it says tear film. The surface of the eye is very damaged when a patient has diabetes, or graft versus host disease. And so what we’re looking at is potentially reversing that blindness.”

The complex research has earned Trinh, who majored in applied human physiology at Crean College of Health and Behavioral Sciences, a competitive travel grant from the National Eye Institute. This summer, he’ll attend the Association for Research and Vision Ophthalmology (ARVO) conference, where the team headed by Dr. Ajay Sharma from Chapman’s School of Pharmacy will present their findings. “We’re getting very promising results, with some profound clinical applications,” says Trinh, “Because if the treatment is as simple as hitting them with X-rays, then that’s a very minimally invasive procedure.”

While Trinh’s accomplishments in the lab are notable, his work supporting STEM learning in the community is even more impressive. During COVID shutdowns, Trinh established Think.Med, an organization that provides underserved kids in Orange County the opportunity to get hands-on STEM experience.

“I recognized how privileged I was to attend a private institution and to pursue a very fulfilling path towards a career in STEM,” says Trinh. It wasn’t always like that. As a member of an immigrant family who grew up speaking English as a second language, his environment wasn’t always conducive to thinking as a scientist. “One of the things that I always wanted to do was join the elementary school science fair, but the playing field was never leveled to begin with,” he says. 

But at 10 years old, armed with a science fair brochure and one trip to Walmart, Trinh won first place at his school, a victory that became a pivotal moment in his career path. 

“I wanted to be able to give back somehow,” says Trinh, who lives near some of the lowest-earning zip codes in Orange County, like Santa Ana, Anaheim, Westminster and Garden Grove. “Especially to the Vietnamese community, which I’m very close with,” he says. 

So far, Think.Med, which is run entirely by students, has delivered over 20,000 free science kits to students from kindergarten to sixth grade, and their demographic has grown to include special education, high school kids and kids dealing with cancer through the Camp Kesem organization. Each week, kit recipients have the opportunity to speak with real scientists — Chapman faculty members from Crean and Schmid Colleges.

As he prepares to graduate, Trinh is trying to establish Think.Med as an official campus club with Chapman’s Student Government Association. Eventually, it may achieve non-profit status. As for Trinh himself, he’s preparing to apply to med school. 

“I want to be a pediatrician. I love working with children,” he says. 

Read more about the Chapman University Class of 2022. 

Staci Dumoski