CWU chemistry alum using his experience to mentor current students

  • November 8, 2023
  • Robin Burck

David Nguyen (’07) graduated from Central Washington University with a chemistry degree, and he is now giving back to his alma mater by becoming a mentor to current students.

Nguyen has already enjoyed a number of rewarding opportunities in his professional career, including working for the state of Washington as a forensic scientist, at Cepheid as an analytical chemist, and at Syntrix Biosystems as a senior research associate.

He currently works as a senior research associate at Seagen, an American biotechnology company focused on developing and commercializing innovative, empowered monoclonal antibody-based therapies used for cancer treatment.

“My role at Seagen as a senior research associate is to help pharmacokineticists, or PK scientists, determine the pharmacokinetics and toxicological safety of our antibody-drug conjugates,” Nguyen said, explaining that the process is completed through the extraction of plasma or biological matrices of various species at specified timepoints from a study.

“The extracted samples are then analyzed by liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry, which separates the molecules based off chemical or physical properties and detects them in the mass spectrometer by mass-to-charge,” also known as “m/z.”

With his experience in field, Nguyen has decided to impart his knowledge back to current Central students who will be looking to use their chemistry degrees to pursue a variety of careers once they graduate.

“At this point in my career, I am ready to help mentor the next generation of scientists who are getting ready to graduate from college and see what they are wanting to do and help them on that path,” said Nguyen, who has participated in the chemistry department’s Professional Advisory Council (PAC) for the past four years, returning to the CWU campus to work with current chemistry students.

He began mentoring in 2022 and says that he gleans just as much insight from his mentees as he shares with them.

“Being a mentor is very rewarding,” Nguyen said. “My favorite part about it is learning. I have been out of school for quite a while, so listening to the type of research they are doing at Central means I am getting as much learning from my mentee as they are getting from me.”

When asked what advice he would share with current students and alumni, Nguyen remarked that you should always seek new opportunities that pique your interest. As he has discovered through personal experience, you never know until you try.

“My career has changed drastically since I have graduated from Central,” Nguyen said. “I say if you’re interested in an opportunity, don’t second-guess yourself and take it. Even if it ends up not being the best fit, you will learn what you don’t like and what you do like.”

Nguyen added that he always thought he wanted to be a forensic scientist, and going into that field, there were things he loved. But, at the same time, there were things about it that he disliked. Through it all, he’s glad he persevered so he can share his experiences with the scientists of tomorrow.

“I am glad that I got that opportunity because I worked so hard to get there, and when I got there, it turned out to not be what I wanted,” Nguyen said. “But, in that, I found out what things I did like, and that helped me carve a path for my next career, and from there I built on my career.”

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Robin Burck