Grad Student Caps Achievements with First-Place Award at Innovation Conference

Posted: November 28, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Dave Andrews

Having a love for chemistry can have its perks, as students like Mihn Nguyen found out during the annual Accelerating Innovation Conference held in Washington, D.C., earlier this semester.

Nguyen received the first place award and $200 for the quality of her presentation on the protein enzyme named homoserine transsuccinylase – a protein crucial for bacterial growth and survival.

Nguyen was one of only nine students who presented their research in front of more than two hundred representatives from the business, academic, nonprofit and government communities. In addition, representatives from various foreign embassies were present.

“It was an awesome opportunity for students like me to present our research in front of numerous experts,” says Nguyen. “Even if those who were there weren’t directly involved in my field, they were still interested in what we’re researching.”

Minh Nguyen
Minh Nguyen with the poster she presented at the Accelerating Innovations Conference.

But this was only the most recent of numerous awards Nguyen has received during her academic career. She was presented with the Senior Award from the American Chemistry Society and the Outstanding Student Award in Biochemistry from the American Institute of Chemists earlier this year.

Since coming to Mason from Vietnam in 2003, Nguyen earned her undergraduate degree in chemistry in less than three years and plans to obtain her master’s in biochemistry by May 2007.

“She is one of the most impressive students I’ve had at Mason,” says Timothy Born, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “She is a very gifted and motivated individual. She epitomizes Mason’s campus because of [its] diversity and high talent level. She has many talents that most people may not even know of because she’s so modest.”

Born worked with Nguyen in his lab over the summer of 2005 and knows her accomplishments go much farther than the chemistry lab. For example, she is fluent in three languages: French, English and Vietnamese. Nguyen has given multiple technology-based presentations in each of the three languages.

In addition, she plays the organ and guitar and has played the piano for more than 16 years. Four years ago, Nguyen earned a black belt in Aikibudo, a Japanese martial art emphasizing spiritual, philosophical and physical development.

Now, after working as a teaching assistant, student tutor, fund raiser, hospital volunteer, actress/soloist and even fashion designer, Nguyen aspires to go even further in her education. Once she completes her master’s studies, she plans to earn a PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology.

“She has tremendous academic and leadership ability, as she has already demonstrated in her young life,” explains Born. “She’s described to me her long-term goal of returning to her home country of Vietnam and starting a hospital where everyone can be treated regardless of their social or financial standing.”

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