Student Spotlight: Yubin Kwon Ph.D. Chemistry

Portrait photograph of Yubin Kwon

Hear from Yubin Kwon, a fifth-year Ph.D. student in the chemistry department, about her current research with the Wang Research Group and what led her to the University of Montana.


I was originally a biology major but what really sparked my interest in chemistry was during my second year of my undergrad when I was taking organic chemistry. I really enjoyed learning how the reaction takes place and writing and understanding the reaction mechanism.

My name is Yubin Kwon. I am a fifth-year Ph.D. student in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department studying bio and organic chemistry.

So while finishing my masters I knew right off the bat that there was still more to learn and I still wanted to continue research. I applied to many schools, but what really made me decide to come here was when I met with Dr. Dong Wang and how his research was and it really aligned well with what I wanted to do and what I wanted to pursue as my doctoral work.

There are many research projects that are being conducted in the Wang Research Group. And we’re specifically a bio and organic chemistry group, so what bio and organic chemistry is, is to study the role of metals in enzymes that occur in nature.

So, we generate synthetic models of, um, these enzymes to study the structure and function of these enzymes that occur in nature. My recent publication is to show that we obtained high-valent cobalt for di-nature complex and is capable of activating strong hydrocarbons up to 87 kcal per mole. The significance of this publication is to report that this high-valent cobalt four species is the first to do both. It is structurally characterized by estro-crystallography and is capable of activating strong hydrocarbons.

So, the chemistry graduate program at the University of Montana is unique to me because of the tight-knit department that we have. Um, the experience that you can obtain working and learning under the faculty, especially the mentorship-relationship that you build with your research professor is a big thing when coming to the department. Another factor that is very special, I believe, in the department, is the hands-on experience and the skillset that you obtain with the variety of instruments that are available throughout the department.

The faculty and staff in the department and the graduate school has been very understanding and very communicative with the students. They are there as resources to help us achieve the goals that we have while coming and pursuing our degrees.

Post-graduation I hope to obtain a post-doc position at a research facility or at another university.

I hope to continue to contribute to the chemistry field, but as well as be an outstanding role model to women, in not just chemistry, but other STEM-related fields.