Chemistry has the right chemistry for SCC student

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Stephanie Nguyen in a Shoreline chemistry lab
Photo courtesy SCC
By Jim Hills, SCC Academic News Blog

For Stephanie Nguyen, chemistry has the right, well, chemistry.

“Chemistry includes math, and I like math,” said the Running Start student who will go through Commencement exercises at Shoreline Community College on June 5, two weeks before she does the same thing at Jackson High School, near Mill Creek. “But chemistry is also qualitative, which I also like.”

That’s all good because Nguyen is in her sixth quarter of chemistry at Shoreline, says lab instructor Linda Kuehnert. “These students are our future doctors, pharmacists, dentists,” Kuehnert said as she watched Nguyen and her classmates finish up a four-hour lab in which they made benzocaine, or at least most of them made benzocaine.

“At this level, these labs don’t always work out, but that’s OK,” Kuehnert said. “These students are learning how research is done. We do it just the way they do it at Immunex. The UW doesn’t do this, we’re very rigorous here.”

Rigorous and research were just what Nguyen was looking for when she decided to start taking college classes full time after her sophomore year in high school. “I came to Shoreline because I heard it has the best science,” Nguyen said. How did she know? “I researched it. This is a really great school for science.”

Away from science, Nguyen says she enjoys playing the piano and takes piano performance classes from Shoreline instructor Helena Azevedo. “I was considering a piano performance minor, but chemistry comes first,” she said.

That focus will pay off for Nguyen this summer, literally.

“I told my students of an undergraduate research opportunity at (Western Washington University) this summer and had several students apply,” Kuehnert said. “Stephanie was offered the fellowship. It’s very exciting to have a SCC student accepted and have this opportunity.”

Western’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program is supported by funds from the National Science Foundation and designed to give students an authentic research experience on projects in synthetic chemistry, biochemistry and materials chemistry. The fellowship includes a $4,500 stipend, housing in an on-campus apartment, a $1,000 allowance for meals and travel reimbursement.

“I’m really looking forward to doing research,” said Nguyen of the opportunity that will be a full-time job, Monday through Friday, for all of July and August.

As much as she enjoys and is focused on chemistry, the 17-year-old sees it as a path to what she really wants to do: Medicine.

“I’ll be going to the (University of Washington) this fall,” Nguyen said, adding that’s also where she’d like to attend medical school. “They have a great pediatrics department.”

And Nguyen already knows she wants to head for pediatrics in general, if not a particular specialty just yet. “I volunteer every week at Children’s Hospital in Seattle,” she said. “I just love the kids. Sometimes they’re in a lot of pain. I think I might want to do some research to help.”


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