Duyen Pham '19: research in inorganic chemistry

Honors student combines her passion for chemistry with her goal of becoming a doctor.

Chemistry/biochemistry major Duyen Pham '19 in the lab.
Chemistry major Duyen Pham '19 at work in the lab. Photo credit: Dennis Fox, ’20
  • Year: Class of 2019
  • Major: Chemistry/Biochemistry
  • Hometown: Worcester, MA
  • Honors: Chancellor's List, Honors Program
  • Awards: Louis E.F. Fenaux Award, Merck Index Award, CRC Press Highest Freshman Chemistry Award
  • Leadership/Service: Play Space Leader, Horizons for Homeless Children; Emergency Room Greeter, UMass Memorial Hospital

Duyen Pham '19 is academically the top student in chemistry for the Class of 2019.

She has received the CRC Press Freshman Chemistry Award, the Merck Index Award (for the chemistry major with the highest average in organic chemistry), and the Louis E.F. Fenaux award for outstanding achievement in chemistry.

Research in synthetic inorganic chemistry

Duyen is a research assistant in Dr. David Manke's synthetic inorganic chemistry research lab, has already published three academic papers, and has submitted a fourth paper for review.

"Duyen is a great student and a fine example of what students at UMass Dartmouth can accomplish," said Manke, who is an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry. "She maintains really high grades while performing a good deal of research. She started working in my lab after her freshman year, has managed to put out four papers so far, and—at the rate that she is working—I would expect her to put out two or three more papers before she graduates."

Publishing research papers is an important activity within the academic community, allowing researchers to share their work and network with other scholars. Duyen’s research focus is on synthesizing covalent-metal organic networks (CMONs) and other crystals of transition metals. CMONs are porous materials that can potentially be used in catalysis, sensors, gas separation, and storage.

"I enjoy doing research and want to continue it in the future," she said. "It provides the opportunity to integrate the knowledge that I’ve learned into the research. It also helps me to develop my critical thinking and problem-solving skills."

On campus, Duyen has participated in the Sigma Xi Research Exhibition and Three-Minute Thesis competition—and has also presented at the 2018 Northeast Student Chemistry Research Conference. She is a member of the American Chemical Society.

Medical school in her future

A native of Vietnam, Duyen took ESL courses at Clark University and Quinsigamond Community College before transferring to UMass Dartmouth, where she received a merit scholarship to begin her studies in chemistry/biochemistry.

Duyen’s dream is to become a doctor. "Majoring in chemistry/biochemistry will help me prepare for the MCAT [Medical College Admission Test] and future study in medicine," she said.

"All of the professors in the Chemistry/Biochemistry Department are amazing. They truly care about each student—and especially my research supervisor, Dr. David Manke: he is the kindest and smartest person I have ever met."

Duyen is also a member of the UMassD Honors Program.

"The Honors Program's advanced level courses let me challenge myself while gaining a better understanding of the course material," she said. Along with the academic challenges, there are also benefits, she added, such as off-campus trips and the opportunity to register for classes early.

Experience in varied healthcare fields

Duyen has earned certifications and has worked as a pharmacy technician, phlebotomist, medical interpreter, and medical assistant. She has also trained new medical assistants at the Le and Chang Family Urgent Care Center in Worcester.

She has also volunteered as an emergency room greeter at UMass Memorial Hospital and is a volunteer Play Space Leader at Horizons for Homeless Children.

"I wanted to gain diverse experiences in different medical settings," she said.

Given her passion for chemistry and for healthcare, Duyen's future plans encompass both: "I plan to go to medical school after I earn my master’s degree in chemistry."

More information


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