Assistant Professor, Louisiana State University at Alexandria
Alex Nguyen was born in Vietnam and emigrated to the USA with his family at the age of nine. Via Georgia, the Nguyens ended up in Baton Rouge, where Alex attended Belaire High School. Although Alex was born in Vietnam, today he calls Louisiana home, identifying the people, food and education as being rich aspects of life in The Pelican State. As an entering freshman at LSU, Alex planned to pursue a degree and career in pharmacy.
Through lecture and lab classes, Alex decided to become a Chemistry major. He had his first research experience in the lab of Professor Carol Taylor, where he became enthralled by “how organic chemistry can be applied to every aspect of our lives.” In Fall 2010, he won the Level 1 poster award at the 2nd Annual LSU Triple EX Symposium for Undergraduate Research. He developed a desire to share his love of chemistry with other students. He assisted Professor John Hopkins with the CHEMIS program, a two-week intense study initiative that immerses incoming freshmen in General Chemistry. He received his Bachelor of Science in May of 2011.
Alex joined the LSU Chemistry Graduate Studies program in Fall 2011. He spent his first year in the Kartika Group, where he contributed to the group’s first paper on chlorination. He also conducted some experiments on an enantioselective SN1 reaction. Despite some struggles, his passion for organic chemistry didn’t waiver. During his second year, he changed research groups and was co-advised by Professors Graça Vicente and Kevin Smith. In December 2015, Alex successfully defended his dissertation titled “Boron Functionalization of BODIPY Dyes, and Their Evaluation as Bioimaging Agents.” He published three papers as first author and co-authored a paper on the functionalization of chlorin derivatives with Dr Kevin Smith.
The next step for Alex was a postdoctoral position in the Colby Laboratory at the University of Mississippi. With Dr. Colby’s he worked on a research project titled “Magnesium-Promoted Additions of Difluoroenolates to Unactivated Imines.” He developed a versatile route to b-amino-a,a-difluoro ketones using magnesium-promoted additions of a-fluorinated gem-diols to unactivated imines. Using this method, he was able to synthesize a fluorinated analog of Almorexant, a drug used to treat insomnia.
Alex worked with Dr Colby for one year. As a postdoc, he began to apply for jobs in both industry and academia. He polished his CV, being consistent and updating information, but he emphasizes the value of researching the positions he applied for, so that he could address them specifically in his cover letter. He was ultimately successful in securing a tenure-track faculty position at LSU, Alexandria. He is teaching Organic Chemistry Concepts as an online course.
Alex graduated with a PhD degree in Chemistry in May 2016. To current graduate students, Alex’ message is, “Don’t be afraid to take challenges. Learn as much as you can while you still can, even though it is not in your area of chemistry. Everything that you learn in graduate school will be useful, not only for your future career, but for the rest of your life.”
Profile contributed by Ashley Taylor and Carol Taylor