Nga Nguyen wins chemistry division at Student Research Showcase

Nga Nguyen webBy TODD GOTTULA
UNK Communications

KEARNEY – UNK student Nga Nguyen of Hue, Vietnam, won first place in the chemistry undergraduate division of Sigma Xi’s 2015 Student Research Showcase.

The event features some of the nation’s top young scientists, who present their research online for judging by professional scientists. The research entries include written abstracts, technical slideshows and personal videos.

Nguyen is an undergraduate student at the University of Nebraska at Kearney majoring in chemistry. Her research mentor is Mahesh Pattabiraman, assistant professor of chemistry.

Nguyen’s research is titled “y-Cyclodextrin Mediated Supramolecular Control of Photochemical Reactions.” Her study is described as “g-cyclodextrin’s ability to form ternary inclusion complexes through encapsulation of two small organic molecules simultaneously.”

Cyclodextrins are a family of compounds made up of sugar molecules bound together in a ring. They are used in food, pharmaceutical,drug delivery and chemical industries, as well as agriculture and environmental engineering.


Nguyen’s Research Abstract

Larger members of the cyclodextrin and cucurbituril macrocyclic cavitand families, cucurbit[8]uril and g-cyclodextrin, are capable of forming ternary inclusion complexes through encapsulation of two small organic molecules simultaneously. Photoexcitation of ternary inclusion complexes involving photoactive guests is an effecient approach for directing bimolecular photochemical reactions.

For example, such an approach has been utilized in the past to steer alkene photochemistry towards the entropically less favorable photocycloaddition reaction. This presentation will feature our recent findings on the photocycloaddition reaction between non-identical photoactive alkenes (heterodimerization) achieved using a similar approach, in which reaction control was realized through host-guest and guest-guest supramolecular interactions.

We have demonstrated that through an appropriate choice of non-identical reactant alkene pair with subtle, complementary electronic and steric characteristics, the inclusion process could be directed towards the hetero-complex predominantly, which upon irradiation yielded heterodimer as the major product. This approach was used to produce less symmetric, more complex cyclobutane containing structures than has been previously reported. Moreover, photochemical outcomes in conjunction with computational studies were used to predict the inclusion complex structure and the nature of supramolecular interactions between the components of the complex.


You Tube Video of Nguyen’s research:


Writer: Todd Gottula, Director of Communications, 308.865.8454,
Contact: Mahesh Pattabiraman, assistant professor of chemistry, 308.865.8385,

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