The CHOPs to succeed: Brittany Trinh

Brittany Trinh

A unique program from the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Department of Chemistry invites prospective students to explore the Ph.D. program at no expense.  The Chemistry Opportunities (CHOPs) program invites approximately 20 highly qualified prospective students to the Department of Chemistry for an all-expense-paid weekend to meet one-on-one with faculty, learn about the program, tour instrumentation facilities, and network with graduate student hosts. Participants also enjoy the UW campus and city of Madison during, arguably the most enjoyable season, fall. CHOPs was first launched in the fall of 2012 with 14 attendees.  Since that first year, 187 students have attended the weekend with nearly 80% being accepted places in the Ph.D. program. 

Applications for this year’s event (September 21-24, 2023) are due by June 2, 2023. Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are recent college graduates, or students with junior or senior status who will graduate no later than spring 2024. They must also intend to apply for admission to the UW-Madison graduate program in chemistry for the 2024-25 academic year.

Meet CHOPs participant, Brittany Trinh of the Boydston group.

What challenges did you face getting into graduate school? How did the weekend CHOPs program help?

As a first-generation college student, I did not know what graduate school was until I did some undergraduate research and learned from my graduate student mentors. Additionally, I did not think I could pursue a Ph.D. The CHOPs program demystified the graduate school experience and application process, which was helpful to me. Additionally, I did not have much confidence in applying to a top institution, but the application fee waiver allowed me to take the chance to apply to UW-Madison.

Did you tap into other resources before applying to grad school?

I found resources such as Cientifico Latino and The Academic Society on YouTube particularly helpful in preparing an application for graduate school and mentally preparing myself for some things I could expect in graduate school.

Tell us more about your weekend at UW through CHOPs. What did you learn? Were there any surprises?

I am from Houston, which is a large city, so I initially considered other large cities for grad school, like Boston or Denver. During my CHOPs experience, I learned that although Madison is a smaller city, downtown Madison/campus area was walkable, which I enjoyed. I was also surprised at how well I connected with other students during that weekend, which made it memorable.

Tell us about your current research.

My research is focused on the application and method development of linear, metal-free ring-opening metathesis polymers (MF-ROMP). Polydicyclopentadiene (PDCPD) is a high-impact resistant and ductile material that is commonly synthesized by metal-mediated ROMP. Its material properties are from its highly crosslinked network of polymer chains. However, crosslinked materials are insoluble, which makes it difficult to use at different stages of polymer processing. MF-ROMP can produce linear PDCPD, which allows for more control over crosslinking in PDCPD polymers, potentially providing ways to improve impact resistance and minimize processing issues. We aim to develop various end-use applications of MF-ROMP products and characterize their material properties.

What grad courses do you like most?

I enjoyed Physical Chemistry of Macromolecules because it deepened my understanding of polymer physics. I highly recommend this course to any students who are interested in polymers and soft materials.

When you complete grad school, what do you envision your career path to look like? What experiences have prepared you for that path? 

I envision my path going toward the entrepreneurship or industrial route. This summer I will attend the Morgridge Entrepreneurial Bootcamp, which is for STEM students who are interested in learning about integrating technology and entrepreneurship.

When you’re not studying or doing research, what do you like to do?

Outside of the lab, I like playing violin in orchestra or piano, reading, and working on my podcast, Beyond Your Science.

If you or someone you know is interested in applying to this year’s CHOPs weekend to explore the chemistry Ph.D. program at UW–Madison, contact Desiree Bates at or visit