Nathan Theng Named 2024 Undergrad President’s Medalist

Nathan Theng, President's Medalist

Computer Science Major Nathan Theng is Fresno State’s 2024 President Medalist. Theng stood out among eight other outstanding Dean Medalists to earn the top university honor. 

Dr. Christopher Meyer, Dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, congratulated Theng and said he exemplified the best among our students. 

Joined by his proud parents on the Music Building Concert Hall stage, Theng received the medal from Fresno State President Dr. Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval at the May 16 President’s Recognition Ceremony.

From being misdiagnosed with autism as a child, Theng’s academic journey story is one of resilience and transformation.

Theng initially set his sights on a career in medicine to tackle healthcare challenges. However, the pandemic presented a unique opportunity for him to pivot his academic career, a decision that would shape his future.

The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the critical role of technology in medicine, providing him with a vision of combining technology and medicine and inspiring him to change his major to computer science. 

Theng said he discovered through a free Coursera AI and machine learning course that his career would focus on blending technology with medicine, positioning himself at the intersection of the two fields.

Theng’s experiences with virtual labs and telehealth opened his eyes to the potential of technology to revolutionize healthcare. His decision to integrate his knowledge of computer science with medical research aims to address the disparities and barriers he once faced, working toward more accurate and efficient medical diagnoses.

Beyond academics, Theng has dedicated much of his time to community service, emphasizing the impact of community involvement over academic accolades. 

From mentoring computer science students in disadvantaged communities to volunteering with cancer patients and at a needle exchange program, Theng’s actions are driven by a belief in service over self. These commitments have enriched his educational journey, providing personal fulfillment and practical experiences reinforcing the importance of diversity and inclusion in technological development. 

He credits his mentors, Dr. Mario Banuelos and Dr. Athanasios Panagopoulos, for helping to harness his experience. 

As Theng prepares for his Ph.D., he remains committed to using his skills to significantly impact the healthcare system, ensuring technology serves as a bridge to reduce rather than widen the gaps within medical care.

Recommendation from professors

Class of 2024 President’s Medalist Nathan Theng, hugs his mother after recieving top academic honors.

In his letter of recommendation, Dr. Bañuelos highlighted Theng’s exceptional involvement in a research project focused on using neural networks and deep learning to analyze patterns of structural variation inheritance in genomics.

“In the brief time we have worked together on this project, he addressed all aspects of his research work, whether technical or computational,” Dr. Bañuelos said. “I am confident he will excel as a valuable addition to this program. Compared to other students or professionals I have observed at this level, I would say that Nathan is in the top 3%.”

For his part, Dr. Panagopoulous described Theng as an avid student with a long-lasting interest in healthcare research and a sense of societal duty. 

Smittcamp Family Honors College Director Dr. Saeed Attar said Theng had done his best to expand his college experience beyond the classroom. Attar highlighted Theng’s versatile research capabilities, noting his work on developing unsupervised learning methodologies for healthcare data under Dr. Panagopoulos, enhancing DNA variant prediction accuracy with deep learning under Dr. Bañuelos, and identifying trends in diabetes medication during his internship at UCSF-Fresno.


Notable achievements

Theng’s academic and extracurricular career boasts an impressive array of achievements, honors, and scholarships that underscore his excellence in both academic and community spheres.

As a Smittcamp Family Honors Scholar at Fresno State, he’s one of only fifty freshmen chosen annually based on academic merit, community service, and leadership, receiving a full-tuition scholarship. 

His accolades include being named to the President’s List multiple times for maintaining a 4.0 GPA and recognition on the Dean’s List.

Theng’s scholarship achievements are equally notable. He has received numerous scholarships, such as the Presidential Honor Scholarship, Dr. Lyman H. Heine and Ardis M. Heine Scholarship for study abroad, Lewis and Virginia Eaton Pre-Med Scholarship, Douglas Klotz Memorial Scholarship for his contributions to computer science, and others recognizing his leadership and academic gravitas.

Additionally, Theng reached the semi-finalist stage in several prestigious international fellowships, including the Fulbright Greece Fellowship, Rhodes Scholarship, Marshall Scholarship, and McCall MacBain Scholarship. 

The Presidential Medal recipient expressed gratitude for the honor of representing the Computer Science Department. 

“It’s amazing that in such a short time my professor in the CS department believes in me and my potential to be their nominee,” Theng said, before he knew he’d become the Dean’s medalist and eventually earning Fresno State’s top academic honors.

Looking ahead, Nathan aspires to further his studies by pursuing a PhD in Computer Science or Biomedical Informatics. He aims to contribute to academia as a professor or engage in cutting-edge research within the industry.

“With misdiagnosis as a leading cause of delayed treatments, worsening conditions, and potential death itself, I aim to transform the system safely and efficiently such that no child would face misdiagnosis and struggles like I did,” Theng said.