Last week at Emory, chemistry majors from Dr. Doug Mulford's advanced chemistry lab visited Decatur Glassblowing to learn about the chemistry of colors and the science behind the art of glass work.
Back on campus, multiple students were opening emails informing them that they had been recognized by the prestigious NSF GRFP competition. Emory chemistry scholars and alums received a total of 13 awards and honorable mentions - a ten year record!
The NSF GRFP is incredibly competitive; for the 2020 competition, NSF received over 13,000 applications and made approximately 2,000 fellowships offers.
What do glass art and fellowships have to do with each other? They tell a story of a chemistry department that is catching fire (safely) beyond the boundaries of the classroom, engaging students in learning that speaks to their individual passions and sparks excellence. The result? Chemistry experiences like no other that help students to be competitive for fellowships and careers.
Meet the 2022 NSF GRFP awardees and honorable mentions below alongside visuals from CHEM 371L's glass art adventure!
Angele is a second-year graduate student in the Raj Group. Their work focuses on the development of a novel macrocyclic peptide library generation strategy utilizing macrocyclization chemistry discovered by the Raj lab. Additionally, they are investigating how this macrocyclization chemistry influences the secondary structure of the macrocyclic peptide products and if the apparent cellular permeability of these macrocycles can be related directly back to their secondary structure.
Angele received their B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Portland, where they worked under Dr. Kevin Cantrell developing techniques and software for user-friendly digital image-based measurements of colorimetric reactions.
"Ariel has a strong motivation to approach opportunities and tackle challenges. She stands out among her peers for her scientific capabilities and maturity."
Ariel is a second-year graduate student in the Liu Group. Her work involves method development and benchmarking for the extreme pressure polarizable continuum model (XP-PCM), a GPU-accelerated quantum chemistry method for simulating high pressure systems. She is also working on combining quantum chemistry and machine learning methods for the design and discovery of photoredox catalysts.
Ariel is currently the VP of Community Service for Pi Alpha Chemical Society (PACS), chemistry's social and service organization for graduate students. She is passionate about addressing food insecurity and encouraging environmental stewardship through volunteer events.
"Martina has nimbly juggled organic synthesis and microbiology throughout her first year in the lab with incredible success. In addition, she is a strong advocate for women in science and vocal about creating an inclusive and supportive culture in the lab!"
Martina is a second-year graduate student in the Wuest lab. Before coming to Emory, she graduated with her B.S. in chemistry from the University of St. Thomas where she worked with Dr. J. T. Ippoliti to synthesize oxazolidinone antibiotic analogs.
In the Wuest lab, her research involves synthesizing natural product analogs to help further understand their biological functions. In addition, she is investigating the use of a succinate dehydrogenase inhibitor to potentiate antibiotic activity in clinical and lab strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
Outside of the lab, Martina is involved in Emory's chapter of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) and serves as a mentor to undergraduate AWIS members. She is inspired by seeing future scientists learn and succeed which will aid well in a future academic position.
She spends most of her free time with her three cats (Milo, Cookie, and Luna).
Nathan graduated from Emory in December of 2019. At Emory, he worked in the Widicus Weaver group to conduct rotational spectroscopy on small molecules important for chemical reactions in the interstellar medium.
As a second-year graduate student at Caltech in the Cushing lab, he continues to pursue spectroscopy and is building nanophotonic devices to study light-matter interactions using entangled photon pairs.
He is currently a mentor for undergraduate students through the Caltech Connection program and has future plans to mentor students through the Summer Research Connections program.
"Nathan was one of the most thoughtful students I have had at Emory. He was not always the most vocal, but when he spoke his contributions reflected his scientific curiosity and depth of thought."
"Ethan has demonstrated an advanced capacity for creativity in problem identification and for understanding of the roll of fundamental organic chemistry in providing innovations that benefit society. He layers this capacity for outstanding research on top of a genuine desire to develop a diverse community of scholars, through thoughtful and deliberate mentoring."
Ethan Heyboer is a second-year graduate student in Simon Blakey's group.
Before coming to Emory, he graduated with degrees in chemistry and English from Hope College in Holland, Michigan. There, his research career began with development of nickel-mediated cross-coupling methods.
At Emory, he has worked to develop a novel binapthyl-derived planar chiral rhodium indenyl catalyst for use in new C-H functionalization reactions.
Beyond the lab, he has sought to engage community members in science through outreach with the Association for Women in Science (AWIS), Pi Alpha Chemical Society (PACS), and the NSF-funded Center for Selective C-H Functionalization (CCHF).
His love of both chemistry and mentorship has inspired him to pursue a future career in academia.
Sam Horwitz is a second-year graduate student in the Davis Group. Her work involves the development of time-resolved methods for studying metalloenzyme dynamics, as well as the crystallographic characterization of various health-relevant biomolecules.
Before coming to Emory, Sam completed a B.S. in chemistry with a concentration in biochemistry and a minor in English at Kent State University in Ohio, where she synthesized and crystallographically characterized novel inorganic compounds in the lab of Dr. Scott Bunge.
Sam enjoys viewing science from a multidisciplinary perspective, striving to integrate her experiences in research with the context her participation in more humanistic endeavors provides. Suitably, outside of lab, Sam currently works as a science communications associate for the Department of Chemistry.
In the context of this role, she recorded, produced and edited a podcast called Who Do You Think You Are?, which explores the many ways that imposter syndrome affects people in academia from graduate students to PIs. She has also served as a graduate student instructor for the interdisciplinary course, IDS 220: What Does It Mean To Be Human?, collaborating with two other graduate students from Philosophy and Psychology to develop and execute a curriculum that sought to answer that question.
Sam has enjoyed performing at several Department of Chemistry events with her band, Schrödinger’s Dog, which is comprised of Emory Chemistry student musicians
"I am particularly impressed with Sam’s ability to make otherwise challenging concepts accessible and engaging to any audience – a skill indicative of an unexpected thoughtfulness and scientific maturity for someone at her career stage."
She is a wonderful lab citizen, a thoughtful researcher and truly an invaluable member of the Emory community!
“Brock has done extremely well, bringing his passion in photoredox catalysis to our group and combining it with our transition-metal catalysis.”
Brock is a second-year graduate student in the Davies Group.
His research focuses on the synergistic application of photoredox catalysis with dirhodium catalysis to generate complex three-dimensional structures and find new ways of accessing dirhodium carbenes.
Before coming to Emory, Brock attended Oklahoma State University where he conducted research under the mentorship of Dr. Jimmie Weaver.
"I have been particularly impressed by Marina’s ability to multitask over the past year with accomplishments spanning from a first author paper to leading the SAFE group’s role in our two searches to receiving a Hatchery micro-grant to support her startup aspirations."
Marina is a second-year graduate student in the Wuest Lab working at the interface of chemistry and biology.
Through her thesis research, Marina aims to synthesize antimicrobial compounds and utilize these molecules to identify potentially novel drug targets and investigate mechanisms of resistance.
Over the course of her academic career, Marina has been involved with a number of outreach initiatives centered on chemical education and promoting diversity and equity in STEM, including founding an open access education platform and serving as the president of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) chapter at Emory.
Beyond graduation, Marina aspires to become a professor, wherein she can continue to pursue her research interests at the chemistry-biology interface while mentoring the next generation of diverse scientists.
Raythe came to Emory University as a first generation student through the Questbridge Scholars program. While at Emory he developed a passion for both biology and chemistry research.
He joined the Morran lab late in his freshman year and embarked on work questioning how host population heterogeneity would influence the trajectory of parasite evolution. This was a wonderful experience for him in experimental evolutionary biology, and the Morran lab was instrumental in teaching him to approach research in a structured manner.
Raythe's early experiences in research made him realize how important getting a head start in education is, so he became involved in numerous outreach activities from promoting literacy in preschools to science demonstrations for pre-college students. As his education continued, he became intrigued with light and matter interactions and joined the Heaven Group in resolving the bonding nature of hypermetallic oxides. It was there Raythe became enthralled by lasers, which led to his graduate studies at the University of Colorado - Boulder pursuing a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry.
As a member of the Damrauer lab, he aims to evaluate polyacene dimers for their applications in photon upconversion using both steady state and time-resolved transient absorption spectroscopies. While there, Raythe has enjoyed the opportunity to teach structured course material as a graduate student teaching assistant as well as extend his involvement in outreach to surrounding middle schools to encourage their continuation in STEM fields through Partnerships for Informal Science Education in the Community (PISEC).
Raythe's experience with his mentors at Emory continues to guide his philosophy in both mentorship and research, and for that he is incredibly thankful.
"Raythe was a great addition to the lab, and I appreciated the effort he spent to quickly understand the projects he was put on. He had a sharp mind and contributed a lot of great ideas for our experiment while working in the lab."
“Raythe is an exceptional student and scientist. During his time in my lab, he proved himself to be incredibly creative, diligent, and, above all else, a contentious and hardworking teammate. The GRFP is a significant honor, and I’m extremely proud of what he’s accomplished.”
Kristen is a second-year graduate student in the Heemstra Group, where she develops aptamer-functionalized membranes for water purification and biosensing applications.
Before coming to Emory, Kristen went to school at New College of Florida, where she graduated with a double major in Chemistry and Sociology. This perspective drives her to connect chemistry to lived experience through community efforts, which she has done through developing a citizen’s science initiative with her local community. She plans to carry forward similar community science efforts in her graduate research in collaboration with Emory's Department of Environmental Science.
Kristen maintains a passion for work in the realm of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) both within and outside of her lab, and currently serves as an Emory Diversifying Graduate Education (EDGE) Ambassador.
"Kristen brings unique insight to her research through her interdisciplinary experiences that span multiple areas of chemistry as well as the humanities, and she has a clear vision for using her skills and knowledge to tackle ambitious challenges in environmental chemistry."
"Eleda has established herself as a fearless innovator, capable of recognizing and defining challenging problems with significant potential for impact, and proposing creative solutions to those problems. She is clearly an intellectual powerhouse with a demonstrated commitment to community and working for a just society in which everyone has equal opportunity to express their talents and contribute."
Eleda is a second-year student in the Blakey Lab at Emory, where she is developing a general method for the synthesis of RiPP natural products.
Prior to her graduate studies, she earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Hope College in Holland, MI. There, she worked with Prof. Elizabeth Sanford to study the phytochemistry of pioneer species.
Passionate about the equity of access to and encouragement in STEM, she currently serves on the board of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS), where she has helped shape a “near-peer” mentorship program involving over 100 students.
"Alex is leveraging her previous research experiences in biochemistry to create new methods for visualizing cellular RNAs, which could in turn shed light on disease processes. In the pursuit of this research, she thinks deeply about mentoring and the graduate student experience."
Alex is a second-year graduate student in the Heemstra Lab working to create new methods to better characterize A-to-I editing and seeks to further repurpose naturally occurring biomolecules for tool development.
Before coming to Emory, she received her B.S. in chemistry from Ball State University where she conducted research in the lab of Dr. Mary Konkle, studying the potential role mitoNEET plays in oxidative stress. During her time at Ball State, she was named a Goldwater Scholar in 2019 and the Chemistry Department’s Outstanding Senior in 2020.
Away from the bench, Alex is passionate about mentorship because of the impact it has had on her own journey. Therefore, she prioritizes making STEM accessible for growing scientists in her own time as well as on the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) executive board.
In celebrating this year's NSF GRFP accomplishments, Director of Graduate Studies, Dr. Simon Blakey writes:
Our @EmoryChem graduate program aspires to provide a supportive platform and community for exceptional young scientists with a strong sense of the broad societal impact of their work to develop. We're so thankful for everyone who contributes to this inspirational community. https://t.co/dqVqjBsP2z— Simon Blakey (@SimonBBlakey) April 4, 2022
As a department, we are very proud of our vibrant community of graduate and undergraduate scholars and alumnae. Congratulations to all who applied to the NSF GRFP competition this year! Applying requires a great deal of work and a belief in the strength both of one's research and one's future plans for research, pedagogy, and service. Whether conducting demos at a local school, mentoring, or exploring the chemistry of glass art, every experience is part of building our shared community of inquiry.
"Chemistry of Color, CHEM 371L, is a new lab featured in the Chemistry Unbound curriculum where students explore several different mechanisms of color production from a chemist’s point of view. From tie dyeing lab coats and synthesizing organic dyes, to making quantum dots, to synthesizing historically significant pigments and then painting with them, students have been on a journey to understand the chemistry behind the colors of our world."
Join the students of "CHEM 371L: Chemistry of Color"next week in the Science Commons Atrium on Monday, April 18 and Tuesday, April 19 from 4:30pm to 5:30pm where they will display their glass art and present posters about their work in the course.
Note: Emory College (McDonald Group) alum Alice Long, currently at Princeton, also received an Honorable Mention in the 2022 competition. Her bio and photo were not available at press time. Congratulations, Alice!