MacArthur Fellows Program

MacArthur Fellows / Meet the Class of 2007

My Hang Huynh


High Explosives Science and Technology Group, Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos, New Mexico

Age: 45 at time of award

Published January 28, 2007
Image of My Hang Huynh

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.


High-resolution photos for download. Photos are owned by the MacArthur Foundation and licensed under a Creative Commons license: CC-BY. Credit: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Right-click on a link below to save the file to your computer.

24 MacArthur Fellows Announced Today

MacArthur today named 24 new MacArthur Fellows for 2007. The new Fellows work across a broad spectrum of endeavors. Read More