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Michael NguyenMichael Nguyen was one of the first researchers to publish using the new Very Small Angle Neutron Scattering instrument at the NIST Centre for Neutron Research.

UWindsor researcher first to publish from state-of-the-art neutron diffraction instrument

A University of Windsor graduate student in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry has published the first research paper to utilize the newly-constructed Very Small Angle Neutron Scanner (VSANS).

The VSANS is a state-of-the-art neutron diffraction instrument located in the National Institute of Standards and Technology Centre for Neutron Research in Gaithersburg, Maryland. PhD student Michael Nguyen and professor Drew Marquardt were able to test the instrument prior to it becoming available to the broader research community.

“We were the first users to actually test the ‘white beam’ feature of the instrument,” says Dr. Marquardt. “Essentially, we opened the gate and used every neutron available.”

Nguyen used the VSANS to investigate the impact of methyl alcohol, a negative contaminant of moonshine, on model cell membranes. Using neutrons, Nguyen with others in the Marquardt Group were able to show how a common solvent such as methanol could accelerate the dynamics of lipid molecules.

“It was a great experience being the first group to utilize these ‘white beam’ neutrons and help the instrument scientists figure out the VSANS’s capabilities,” says Nguyen.

As there are only a handful of neutron facilities worldwide, the construction of new equipment such as the VSANS are rare occurrences.

“It was an honour to be invited and granted the privilege to use the instrument at such an early stage and be able to help the design scientists optimize its capabilities,” says Marquardt.

—Darko Milenkovic