Graduating chemistry major to begin a top-ranked PhD program this fall

Graduating chemistry major to begin a top-ranked PhD program this fall

Brandon Datuin
Brandon Datuin, who will graduate with a bachelor’s in chemistry next month, stands by the Science Building on campus. He will begin a doctoral chemistry program at the University of Minnesota this fall.

Brandon Datuin will soon finish the last chapter of a thick textbook. The chapters covered his experience the past four years as an undergraduate chemistry major, as a student scholar in the rigorous BUILD EXITO research mentorship program, and as an assistant for two years with an anticancer research project. And the next book he’s about to open is even more ambitious.

Following his graduation from the University of Guam with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry this May, Datuin will move to Minneapolis, where he will pursue a doctorate in chemistry at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. His acceptance into the program came with a full scholarship and a teaching assistant position that will help pay for the cost of living. He will also take on a departmental fellowship for first-year students, which his acceptance letter states is for students with a strong record of achievement.

According to the U.S. News & World Report, the University of Minnesota’s graduate chemistry program is ranked in the top 25 in the nation. In addition, a number of its faculty members are editors of 13 top chemistry journals in the country.

A strong foundation in research

Datuin said most of the doctoral programs he looked into expected applicants to have experience or aptitude in conducting research, and that was a strength of his application from his involvement in the BUILD EXITO program. Over the course of three years, the National Institute of Health–funded program trains undergraduates, in particular those from diverse backgrounds, to become scientific researchers.

Datuin started in the program his sophomore year and was paired with Dr. Bulan Wu, assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Guam, his junior year to assist with her research project evaluating cannabidiol, or CBD, analogues for potential anticancer properties.

As an undergraduate participant, Datuin worked an average of 10 hours per week under Wu’s mentorship, contributing work to weekly reports and literature reviews on CBD’s chemistry and bioactivity.

Brandon Datuin with fellow scholars
Brandon Datuin, right, was a student scholar in the BUILD EXITO program throughout his undergraduate degree. He is shown with fellow scholars (from left) Amber Uncangco, Ezra Maze Cervera, Jacklyn Garote, Lianna Santos, and Megan Gimmen.

Mentors and motivators

Datuin said many of his experiences and the people he met as a BUILD EXITO scholar peaked his scientific curiosity and spurred his interest to pursue graduate studies.

“The interdisciplinary atmosphere of the BUILD EXITO program helped broaden my views in science since I got to discuss ideas and concepts with my peers who come from different disciplines,” Datuin said.

He said Wu’s mentorship also played a large part in his motivation.

“Dr. Wu was the one who instilled in me a love for organic chemistry and the attitude needed to succeed,” he said.

Likewise, Wu said that Datuin’s enthusiasm and motivation for his work in chemistry have prepared him for great success as a Ph.D. student.

Future aspirations

Datuin said he has gained a lot from his undergraduate experience – from the experimenting, critical reading, thinking, and problem-solving skills he gained through the BUILD EXITO program to the management and communication skills he gained through working with faculty and students in UOG’s chemistry department.

He aspires to potentially work in an advisory role for a company that requires chemistry knowledge and experience, but he said his career plans are flexible at this point. Regardless, he said he feels well-prepared to open the next textbook, or more likely, set of textbooks, and see what the chapters hold.