Sep 28, 2007
Los Alamos chemist among this year's MacArthur Fellows Program awardees
My Hang Huynh
Chemist, High Explosives Science and Technology Group
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Los Alamos, New Mexico
My Hang Huynh is a scientist working at the boundary of organic and inorganic chemistry to devise novel techniques for synthesizing highly energetic compounds. Energetic compounds such as explosives are employed in a wide variety of applications but pose hazards in two respects: thermostability and environmental contamination. Huynh has developed a new class of reactions based on constituents such as azides and alkynes that address both issues. The thermodynamic properties of substances she has synthesized make them remarkably stable under a wide temperature range, and their structure allows the substitution of toxic heavy metals such as lead or mercury with more benign elements like copper and iron. Moreover, the methods that she has developed highlight the potential for nitrogen-based reaction centers to serve as the backbone in the synthesis of complex molecules, challenging the orthodoxy of synthetic approaches based on covalent carbon bonding in organic chemistry. Huynh's advances also promise to improve the safety of workers, such as miners and military personnel, who are chronically exposed to energetic materials. In addition, the large amount of inert nitrogen gas generated in the detonation of her novel compounds suggests the possibility of new safety applications, including fire prevention in malfunctioning jet engines and improved air bag design.
My Hang Huynh received a B.A. (1991) and a B.S. (1991) from the State University of New York at Geneseo and a Ph.D. (1998) from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Since 2002, she has been a chemist in the High Explosives Science and Technology Group at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Her papers have been published in such journals as Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, Inorganic Chemistry, and the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
Fellows Program Overview
The MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self direction. There are three criteria for selection of Fellows: exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.
The MacArthur Fellows Program is intended to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations. In keeping with this purpose, the Foundation awards fellowships directly to individuals rather than through institutions. Recipients may be writers, scientists, artists, social scientists, humanists, teachers, entrepreneurs, or those in other fields, with or without institutional affiliations. They may use their fellowship to advance their expertise, engage in bold new work, or, if they wish, to change fields or alter the direction of their careers.
Although nominees are reviewed for their achievements, the fellowship is not a reward for past accomplishment, but rather an investment in a person's originality, insight, and potential. Indeed, the purpose of the MacArthur Fellows Program is to enable recipients to exercise their own creative instincts for the benefit of human society.
The Foundation does not require or expect specific products or reports from MacArthur Fellows, and does not evaluate recipients' creativity during the term of the fellowship. The MacArthur Fellowship is a "no strings attached" award in support of people, not projects. Each fellowship comes with a stipend of $500,000 to the recipient, paid out in equal quarterly installments over five years.