Vinh Nguyen

Vinh Nguyen

Vinh Nguyen

BE (Hon 1, UNSW), Ph.D (ANU), MRACI CChem

Lecturer and DECRA fellow

Contact details

Phone: +61-2-9385 6167


Room 217 Dalton Building (F12)

School of Chemistry - UNSW

Research Group Website

Vinh Nguyen's group website

Biographical Details

Dr. Vinh Nguyen (also known as: Thanh Vinh Nguyen or Thanh V. Nguyen on academic publication) was born in Vietnam. After high school, he went to Sydney, Australia to study industrial chemistry at University of New South Wales. He then moved to undertake his PhD in organic chemistry with Professor Michael Sherburn at the Australian National University, Canberra. He had worked to develop new synthetic methodologies for application in natural product synthesis and worked on the design and synthesis of enormoussynthetic host molecules for drug-delivery modelling. After graduating in 2010, he came to work on organocatalysis in Professor Dieter Enders group at the Institute of Organic Chemistry, RWTH Aachen, Germany under the auspices of an Alexander von Humboldt Postdoctoral Fellowship.  In June 2013, he moved to Curtin University (Perth, Australia) to start his own independent research group. In June 2015, he moved again to UNSW (Sydney) to take up a Lecturer/DECRA fellow position at the School of Chemistry. His current research interests are organocatalysis, aromatic cation activation, synthesis of naturally occurring and bioactive compounds, asymmetric synthesis and medicinal chemistry.

Selected Awards and Academic Achievements

  • 2016: The 2016 Athel Beckwith Lectureship from RACI Organic Chemistry Division
  • 2015-2018: ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA)
  • 2014: Thieme Chemistry Journal Award for outstanding early career academics.
  • 2011 – 2013: Alexander von Humboldt Postdoctoral Fellowship (RWTH Aachen, Germany).
  • 2005: The Era Polymer Prize for “The Best Honor Research Thesis” in Industrial Chemistry – UNSW
  • 2000: Silver medal in the 32nd International Chemistry Olympiad in Copenhagen, Denmark

Research interests

PhD scholarship available (AUD 40,000 pa for 4 years), applying ASAP at:


Nguyen’s group focuses their research on development of new synthetic methodologies in organic chemistry, organocatalysis and natural product synthesis.

Aromatic Cation Activation:

A new method for the nucleophilic substitution of alcohols and carboxylic acids and other substrates using aromatic tropylium cation activation has been developed. It demonstrates, for the first time, the synthetic potential of tropylium cations in promoting chemical transformations. (


Currently, several projects utilizing this system are running in the group. Please contact Vinh Nguyen directly for further details.


Organocatalysis, chemical process catalyzed by small non-metallic organic compounds, has been attracting a great deal of attention from synthetic organic chemists for the last fifteen years as one of the most promising emerging fields in organic chemistry. It can be employed in diverse synthetic cascade sequences to quickly construct complex bonds, stereocenters and polycyclic frameworks. Organocatalysts are less expensive, more stable and exhibit superior solubility in both organic and aqueous solutions compared to organometallic/bioorganic counterparts. Most importantly, organocatalysis generally gives rise to outstanding stereoselectivity, which is significantly valuable and useful at the structural engineering stage of bioactive compounds and pharmaceutical agents.

Current running organocatalytic projects

(for discussion of other confidential research projects, please contact Vinh Nguyen directly)

 Chiral super-Brønsted-base catalysts to promote asymmetric synthesis

The focus of Brønsted base organocatalysts has recently shifted from normal amines towards organic compounds with enhanced proton affinity, termed superbases. These superbase compounds include guanadines, phosphazenes and cyclopropenimines. However, to date there have been only a limited number of studies employing chiral superbase derivatives as catalysts for chemical transformations. This project aims to develop a new family of bifunctional chiral superbases with unique structural properties, which allow privileged transition state organization, to facilitate asymmetric Brønsted-base catalyzed chemical processes.

Organocatalytic Construction of Polycyclic Scaffolds for Synthesis of Natural Products 

This project aims to investigate the construction of libraries of polycyclic compounds using organocatalytic cascade reaction sequences promoted by chiral primary and secondary amines. These polycyclic backbones would resemble the skeletons of numerous important bioactive natural occurring compounds, such as hydrophenanthrene natural products and steroids, thus allowing convenient access to the natural products as well as the development of biologically valuable compounds and new pharmaceutical agents.

Selected publications

For full list of publications, please visit Vinh Nguyen's group website.


Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 8.42.04 pm

  • Ugur Kaya, Uyen P. N. Tran, Dieter Enders, Junming Ho, Thanh V. Nguyen,* Org. Lett. 2017, 19, 1398–1401: “N-Heterocyclic Olefins Promote Dehydrogenative Silylation and Hydrosilylation Reactions of Hydroxyl and Carbonyl Compounds”.


  • Reece D. Crocker, Mohanad A. Hussein, Junming Ho,* Thanh V. Nguyen,* Chem. Eur. J. 2017, 23, 6259–6263: “NHC-Catalyzed Metathesis and Phosphorylation Reactions of Disulfides: Development and Mechanistic Insights”.


  • Demelza J. M. Lyons, Reece D. Crocker, Marcus Blümel, Thanh V. Nguyen,* Angew. Chem. Int. Eng. 2017, 56, 1466-1484; Angew. Chem. 2017, 129, 1488-1506: “Promotion of Organic Reactions by Non-Benzenoid Carbocylic Aromatic Ions“.

    Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 9.37.37 am

  • Marcus Blümel, Reece D. Crocker, Jason B. Harper, Dieter Enders, Thanh V. Nguyen,* Chem. Commun. 2016, 52, 7958-7961: “N-Heterocyclic Olefins as Efficient Phase-Transfer Catalysts for Base-Promoted Alkylation Reactions“.


  • Marcus Blümel, Janina-Miriam Noy, Dieter Enders, Martina H. Stenzel, Thanh V. Nguyen,* Org. Lett. 2016, 18, 2208-2211: “Development and Applications of Transesterification Reactions Catalyzed by N-Heterocyclic Olefins“.


  • Reece Crocker, Thanh V. Nguyen,* Chem. Eur. J. 2016, 22, 2208-2213: “The Resurgence of N-Heterocyclic Olefins as a New Class of Organocatalysts“.

    Evolution of NH's

  • Thanh V. Nguyen,* Demelza J. M. Lyons, Chem. Commun. 2015, 51, 3131-3134: “A Novel Aromatic Carbocation-based Coupling Reagent for Esterification and Amidation Reactions”.


[Highlighted in ChemInform 2015, 46, DOI: 10.1002/chin.201527077]

  • Thanh V. Nguyen,* Michael Hall, Tetrahedron Lett. 2014, 55, 6895-6898: “Activation of DMSO for Swern-type Oxidation by 1,1-Dichlorocycloheptatriene” .


  • Thanh V. Nguyen,* Alp Bekensir, Org. Lett. 2014, 16, 1720-1723: “Aromatic Cation Activation: Nucleophilic Substitution of Alcohols and Carboxylic Acids”.


[Highlighted in ChemInform 2014, 45, DOI: 10.1002/chin.201435059]

[Abstracted on Organic Chemistry Portal: ]

  • Thanh V. Nguyen, Michael S. Sherburn, Chem. Eur. J. 2014, 20, 14991-14995: “Simple Synthetic Receptors for Aspirin”.

Che Eur J 2014

  • Thanh V. Nguyen, Jan M. Hartmann, Dieter Enders, Synthesis 2013, 45, 845-873: “Recent Synthetic Strategies to Access Seven-Membered Carbocycles in Natural Product Synthesis”.

[Highlighted in ChemInform 2013, 44, DOI: 10.1002/chin.201323228]

  • Dieter Enders, Thanh V. Nguyen, Org. Biomol. Chem. 2012, 10, 5327-5331: “Chiral Quaternary Phosphonium Salts: A New Class of Organocatalysts”.

Graphical abstract: Chiral quaternary phosphonium salts: a new class of organocatalysts

[Top 10 most accessed articles in Org. Biomol. Chem., June 2012. Highlighted in ChemInform 2012, 43, DOI: 10.1002/chin.201249236]

  • Gomotsang Bojase, Thanh V. Nguyen, Alan D. Payne, Anthony C. Willis and Michael S. Sherburn, Chem. Sci. 2011, 2, 229-232: “Synthesis and Properties of the Ivyanes: The Parent 1,1-Oligocyclopropanes.

chem sci 2011 229

[Highlighted in C&EN: “Meet the Ivyanes”, 2011, 89,26. Highlighted in Synfacts, 2011, 4, 391. Collaboration with NASA initiated to develop rocket fuel additives]

  • Thanh V. Nguyen, Hiroshi Yoshida, Michael S. Sherburn, Chem. Commun. 2010, 46, 5921-5923: “Selective Binding and Release of Aspirin by an Encapsulating Receptor.

chem commun 2010 5921

[Featured on the front page of the Canberra Times, issued in September 2010]

  • Thanh V. Nguyen, David J. Sinclair, Anthony C. Willis and Michael S. Sherburn, Chem. Eur. J. 2009, 15, 5892-5895: “Guest Binding Drives Reversible Atropisomerism in Cavitand Hosts.”

chem eur j 2009 5892

Interested in joining the group?

PhD scholarship available (AUD 40,000 pa for 4 years), applying ASAP at:


Nguyen's group at UNSW is currently recruiting Honours and Ph.D students to work on the area of organocatalysis, synthetic organic methodologies and natural product synthesis.

 The Nguyen group July 2016: (back L->R) Kaya, Giulia, Reece, Demelza, Vinh; (front L->R) Mohanad, Uyen

The Nguyen group July 2016: (back L->R) Kaya, Giulia, Reece, Demelza, Vinh; (front L->R) Mohanad, Uyen

Interested in joining Nguyen's research group at UNSW?

If you are an Australian or New Zealand student and you have obtained a 1st class Honours degree, apply for an Australian Postgraduate Award to start your Ph.D studies.

If you are an international student, look at UNSW's scholarship website:

and apply where eligible to commence your Ph.D/M.Phil. Otherwise, if you already have a scholarship and are looking to obtain your PhD degree, please contact Vinh Nguyen directly.
At the moment, there is no funding available for postdoctoral position, but you can apply for an external postdoctoral fellowship to work in the group.


Group website

Vinh Nguyen's group website