Kevin Nguyen ’24 has devoted his time at Chapman University to conducting plant research to explore his passion for scientific discovery, the environment, and his own future. Nguyen began his research journey at Chapman University when he was selected for the Simon STEM Scholars Program, which is a partnership between Chapman University and the nearby Orange High School. The program aims to select eager high school students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and provide them with mentorship and a full scholarship to succeed at Chapman University and beyond. As a Simon STEM Scholar, Nguyen was mentored by Dr. Hagop Atamian, who first introduced him to his current research topic, which explores the symbiotic relationship between the Alfalfa plant and the soil bacteria, Rhizobia.

Nguyen ’24, working alongside faculty mentor Dr. Hagop Atamian.

Nguyen’s plant research studies the effect that different concentrations of carbon monoxide can have on the Alfalfa plant growth. He has found that “very small amounts of the gas have resulted in increased secondary root growth for the plant.” The implications for his findings are vast, and Nguyen is interested in exploring how this research can improve food yields and ultimately decrease food shortages in developing nations. With larger secondary roots, Nguyen explains that he is essentially “using less resources to make more food through increased nitrogen fixation instead of using expensive nitrogen fertilizer that is commonly used today.”

After months of research, Nguyen finally finds the concentration of carbon monoxide necessary for enhancing Alfalfa plant growth.

Amidst his vigorous research, Nguyen recently learned that he received the prestigious 2022 Goldwater Scholarship, which awards one student each year from universities throughout the nation to aid them with their research and academic journey. Nguyen was surprised to have received this award as a sophomore. “At first, I didn’t like research because I felt like I wasn’t good at it, but after getting the Goldwater scholarship and being recognized nationally, I knew that I was a researcher and my work meant something.” Nguyen is looking forward to attending upcoming Goldwater conferences and the symposium to meet other researchers throughout the nation and to share his own findings with the Goldwater community.

Nguyen ’24 presenting his research at the 2022 Summer Research Showcase.

Most recently, Nguyen partook in Chapman University’s 2022 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF), which is an eight-week paid program hosted by the Center for Undergraduate Excellence (CUE) that allows a select group of students to dive deeper into their research or creative activities with a faculty member of their choice. The SURF program allowed Nguyen to give his undivided attention to his research project with the close support of faculty members Dr. Atamian and Dr. Owens, who “supported and motivated [him] throughout the process.” To Kevin, the SURF program did not just help him discover his research findings but also allowed him to meet other student researchers and professors. “Before SURF, I was doing research mainly by myself, but meeting other SURF fellows made me feel encouraged to continue the joy of research in a fresh, new way.” After he presented his research at the Summer Research Showcase at the end of the program, he said, “it was gratifying seeing people enjoy what I’ve put so much work into.”

Nguyen will represent Chapman’s CUE as a Student Scholar Ambassador this year, allowing him to use his research experience and background to help incoming Chapman students get involved in similar opportunities. When discussing plans after graduating from Chapman University, Nguyen says that “research will definitely play a part in my future career. Before research, I wanted to do medicine and become a medical doctor, but now I am determined to get my Ph.D., whether or not it is with my MD.”

The CUE congratulates Kevin Nguyen ’24 for his accomplishments in the field of research, and we look forward to his future achievements. 

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