Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning – Research Student Academic Engagement & Success

Interview with Summer Research Fellow Kevin Nguyen

One of the greatest issues our world is facing today is the human relationship and impact on the environment. Kevin Nguyen is a senior majoring in chemistry with a minor in art and he is attacking an aspect of this issue through his project: Synthesis of HEMI and Biodegradable Polymers. 

Kevin is one of Engaged Learning’s Summer Research Fellows and he is working with Dr. David Son as well as other undergraduates, and graduate students in their lab. Alongside his research, Kevin also has trained incoming lab students on everything from cleaning glassware to synthesizing HEMI.  

In this project, Kevin is working to create biodegradable polymers, or plastics, to find a way to “synthesize plastics that are both environmentally safe and are cheap on the market.” The current compound his is working is called HEMI and is the key component to his project. Unfortunately, many companies currently shy away from the compound since “five grams of it, which is about the mass of a penny, sells for about nine hundred fifty-five dollars.”   

The process of created different HEMI reactions has required a lot of trial and error. Kevins biggest lesson throughout this process last summer is that “you will probably always fail.” It took many reactions to try get a pure “white and powdery” reactions that he wanted which was discouraging for him at times. But when times were tough, he would remind himself of his goals and how his work is for “the betterment of the world.” 

Kevin is continuing his research as he was recently awarded the Engaged Learning Fellowship. The opportunity has also helped Kevin with his grad school and PhD plans. He wants to use this polymer chemistry experience to help him get more experience with others polymer scientists. Most importantly, Kevin wants everyone to know that while this issue of improving the synthesis of plastics is a significant problem, it is being worked on!  

Read more about Kevin’s summer research experience


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