Carrying out scientific research is like sailing a ship in uncharted waters. Every day is new and exciting. — Hoang Ahn Phan


BY | Hoang Anh Phan ’18
Hanoi, Vietnam
Biology (biochemistry emphasis), Chemistry

Doing science is untangling mysteries and making sense of the world, which in turn helps me understand my place in it. I was fortunate to receive the Beltmann Research Grant and the opportunity to conduct research in Professor Brisbois’s synthetic organic chemistry lab.

Together with two fellow chemistry students, I worked to improve and develop new synthetic methodologies for synthesizing 1,2,3-triazole compounds. The 1,2,3-triazole compound has a five-membered ring organic compound composed of three nitrogen atoms and two carbon atoms. Its derivatives have promising applications in medicinal chemistry, drug development, materials science, and molecular sensors.

After I took the first-year course General Chemistry, my fascination with chemistry grew tremendously, which motivated me to declare majors in both chemistry and biology.

Over the course of the summer, I sharpened my laboratory experimental skills and my data analysis skills for advanced analytical instruments such as GC-MS (Gas Chromatography – Mass Spectrometry), FT-IR (Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy), and NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance). I also travelled to St. Louis, Missouri, and presented a poster with my professor and lab partners at the Reaction Mechanism Conferences, which was sponsored by the Organic Chemistry Division of the American Chemical Society and featured renowned speakers from the United States and abroad.

Locally, my lab mates and I presented a poster at a Twin Cities symposium. Participating in professional conferences like these—as an undergraduate—allowed me to observe how scientists interact with each other, especially how they ask questions to push each other to new intellectual boundaries.

Because most off-campus research opportunities are limited to domestic students, it is often challenging for international undergraduate students like me to get one. Participating in an original research project at Macalester is thus an invaluable experience, for which I am deeply grateful.

Carrying out scientific research is like sailing a ship in uncharted waters. Every day is new and exciting. One day you come into the lab, do the work, and find serendipitous results. Another day, you do all the hard work just to learn that your experiment doesn’t work. Research is an exhilaratingly intellectual exercise where you learn how to be the captain of your own ship and to patiently overcome all the difficulties to achieve your ultimate goals.

Hoang Anh’s research was funded by a Beltmann Undergraduate Research Fellowship.





November 7 2016

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