Associate Professors Dr. Jen Heemstra and Dr. Bill Wuest have both been named Scialog Fellows for the Chemical Machinery of the Cell. Scialog, supported by the Research Corporation for Scientific Advancement and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, aims to advance human knowledge by supporting and empowering early career scientists. Fellows work in community with other scientists in their theme area to learn and discover through the give-and-take of community building among multidisciplinary teams.
The Scialog on the Chemical Machinery of the Cell is based on the conviction that the time is right to bring together chemists and biologists to spark collaborations and develop interdisciplinary
projects that will catapult us to a deeper understanding of chemical machinery and reactions in the intact cell. The group will explore questions such as “How does the cell organize reactions in functionally distinct compartments that are not bound by membranes?” and “What combination of new chemical tools including chemical probes, optical techniques, and quantum methods can bring about molecular resolution of the chemical machinery in intact, living cells?”
Jen and Bill will have the opportunity to engage with other Chemical Machinery of the Cell fellows at the upcoming Scialog conference in Tucson, Arizona.
Congratulations, Jen and Bill!
Dr. Christine Dunham, associate professor of Biochemistry at the Emory University School of Medicine and Associated Faculty in Chemistry, has been awarded the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Young Investigator Award. The award includes a $5,000 cash prize and recognizes outstanding research contributions to biochemistry and molecular biology by a scientist who has no more than 15 years postdoctoral experience. In addition to her research and teaching, Christine is an editorial board member of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, which the ASBMB publishes and has served on the ASBMB’s meeting program planning committee
Dr. Al Padwa, William P. Timmie Professor of Chemistry Emeritus, gave a lunch colloquium as part of an Emeritus College lunch series on Monday, June 18th. The colloquium, “Keeping Up with the Latest on Big Pharma, Drug Costs, and the Salutary Story of Cialis.” explored the history of the drug Cialis, including its unexpected “side effect” as a treatment for erectile disfunction and his own role as an expert witness following a legal challenge related to the drug’s patent from university researchers at Vanderbilt.
We are excited to announce the names of our 2018 entering cohort. This group of early career scientists is distinguished by their broad research experience and training, including summer REUs and participation in programs including:
- DAAD-Rise Fellowship
- Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP)
- Emory STEM Research Symposium
- Barry Goldwater Scholarship
- McNair Scholars
- NIH Initiative to Maximize Student Development (IMSD)
A majority of the class has at least one paper published or under review. Many students have experience with mentoring, including undergraduate TA, tutoring, and Peer Leader appointments. As a group, these students also share long-term engagement in volunteer projects and STEM outreach. While a majority of the class is joining Emory directly from their undergraduate careers, a handful are moving on to the PhD track from post-grad laboratory careers. Several will be the first in their family to earn a PhD.
In addition, this class includes:
- a former zookeeper/science educator
- a pair of former college roommates
- a Starbucks “Coffee Master”
- a “Most Athletic” award winner
- an Emory College alum and the child of an Emory College alum
Each of these students has their own story to tell and incredible potential to draw on Emory resources to forge an amazing scientific career.
Entering Class of 2018
Georgia State University
St. John’s University
Ordy Manuela Gnewou
Ayda Gonzalez de la Nuez
James Madison University
Dalian University of Technology
College of Charleston
College of Charleston
Southern University of Science and Technology
College of Charleston
Georgia Institute of Technology
Coastal Carolina University
California State University – Fresno
University of Science and Technology
Louisiana State University – Baton Rouge
Mississippi State University
University of Richmond
Mount Holyoke College
Loyola University – Chicago
Western Washington University
North Carolina State University
University of Central Florida
What is GRExit? A silly term for a big decision. Starting in Fall 2019, Emory’s Department of Chemistry is joining the “GRExit” wave by dropping the GRE test from our graduate application process.
The GRE (or “Graduate Record Exam”) administered by the Educational Testing Service has been a factor in graduate school admissions since the 1950s. At Emory, we have long required the test as one piece of a package intended to allow us to gauge how well students might do in our program. We are committed to the practice of whole file review, meaning we review all of the materials a student submits instead of using any one factor to “weed out” students from our applicant pool. In the past, we relied on this practice to mitigate any outsize impact on GRE scores. However, we were still faced with interpreting scores as a piece of the puzzle….and over time, our graduate committee found that it was very hard to look past particularly high or low scores as they reviewed the remainder of a file.
Added to that impression, we had access to data on students who accept our admissions offer and matriculate. We haven’t found the GRE to be a very good indicator for student success in the first year of our program. Our sample size is small compared to the large number of students who take the test, but there is more research out there that we can rely on. For instance, consider the following:
- GREs Don’t Predict Grad School Success. What does? (Science)
- The Limitations of the GRE in Predicting Success in Biomedical Graduate School (PLoS One)
Research has also consistently shown that the GRE introduces bias into the review process, disadvantaging women, minorities, and students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Some references of note:
- The Problem with the GRE (The Atlantic)
- Bias and Barriers Have Admissions Officials Asking: Why Require the GRE? (takepart)
- Student Performance Measures that Don’t Perform (Science)
We are very concerned about minimizing bias in our admissions process. Our entire graduate admissions team undergoes training about the role of implicit bias in their day-to-day life (a program that draws heavily on the book Blindspot.) We have also piloted the use of a shared evaluation form to help faculty review applications with the same questions in mind. And we are always considering new ways to minimize bias in our review process. With issues of efficacy, predictive value, and bias in mind, removing the GRE from our process seemed like the right path. It’s a decision we may revisit if new research or testing options make the GRE more useful. But for now, we are confident that “GRExit” is the way to go.
What does this mean for you as an applicant? Simply put, you do not have to take the GRE to apply to the Emory chemistry graduate program. We will still practice whole file review – we look forward to reading your personal statements, seeing your faculty of interest selections, and hearing the perspective of your recommenders. We also love when students submit the optional video statement!
Because we are committed to this path, we will not be accepting test scores in the application even if you want to report them. If we receive scores from some students but not from others, we reintroduce potential biases from this test, particularly as we suspect that students are understandably more likely to submit high scores. We will carefully review all of the information that we do request and feel confident in our ability to make a thorough review of each application without the assistance of GRE scores.
As another tangible benefit, we hope this will lessen the financial burden of the application process. You do not need to pay to send your scores to Emory, to take test prep classes or buy test prep books, or to sit the test itself.
What do you think about GRExit? Does it make you more or less likely to apply to Emory? Are you planning to take the GRE for other applications? Are you happy to skip it?
Please feel free to share your comments and, as always, to contact our program if you have any questions.
Planning to apply? Visit chemistry.emory.edu/apply. Applications open September 1st, 2018 and are due by December 1st, 2018 for entry in Fall 2019.
Want to learn more about chemistry @ Emory? Fill out an inquiry form to join our mailing list!
By: Elena Jordanov (EC ’18)
The Carbon Reduction Challenge (CRC) was started at the Georgia Institute of Technology by climatologist, Dr. Kim Cobb, over 11 years ago. The Challenge began as a course for students to take part in, pushing them to think of new initiatives to decrease carbon emissions in the atmosphere and develop cost-benefit analyses to incentivize Georgia Tech to engage in these initiatives.
In the past couple years, CRC evolved beyond the classroom via undergraduate and graduate students’ co-op programs with companies in the Greater Atlanta area. As increased involvement and success of the student-led CRC occurs, it will be demonstrated that carbon reduction initiatives are feasible for large companies, universities, and developed cities to implement.
This past Spring 2018 semester was the first semester Emory University joined the challenge. Through connections between Emory’s Climate Analysis and Solutions Team’s (ECAST) Daniel Rochberg and Dr. Cobb, the first CRC team at Emory was developed. The team includes Elena Jordanov (B.S. in chemistry, minor in philosophy), Miranda Mitchell (B.S. in environmental science, B.A. in political science) and Ken Wakabayashi (B.A in chemistry, B.S. in environmental science).
The Emory CRC team has partnered with the Office of Sustainability Initiatives (OSI) and developed an initiative to reduce carbon dioxide emissions through refrigerator and freezer management. Project Drawdown, a multi-national research effort that assessed the viability and effectiveness of possible strategies for decreasing potential global carbon dioxide emissions, ranked refrigerant management as the #1 strategy. After auditing a subset of the freezers and refrigerators in the Chemistry Department’s Atwood and Emerson buildings, the team estimates that at least 5.5% of these buildings’ total CO2 emissions results from powering cold storage equipment. The two buildings together emit 650,000 lbs of CO2 per month, and spend $38,000 each month on the energy creating these emissions.
In order to decrease these emissions, the CRC team has created an Emory Freezer Challenge, based off of the North American Freezer Challenge. In this challenge, chemistry labs will compete to implement fridge and freezer management strategies each month and gain the most points. To begin, a pilot challenge will take place from May 20th-August 31st in order to get feedback from Principal Investigators and lab managers on what works and does not work about the Emory Freezer Challenge. The Emory Freezer Challenge is 100% voluntary, and labs can get a substantial amount of points by choosing any management methods that work best for them. The Challenge has also been designed to not give labs with more equipment the advantage during the competition; labs get points for enrolling each of their equipment and supplying the manufacturer’s label. The label contains the power consumption information that are used in baseline energy consumption calculations.
One innovative aspect about the Emory Freezer Challenge is that the team will obtain a holistic picture of the total CO2 emissions produced from the Chemistry Department’s equipment by supplying energy consumption meters to labs that volunteer to use them. The team has been funded for a limited supply of meters and thus 3-4 meters will be implemented in laboratory equipment that are representative samples of different types of equipment, such as -80 and -20 freezers, 4 degree fridges and refrigerator-freezer cabinets.
Due to this structure, the first labs to volunteer for the Emory Freezer Challenge and to have a meter in their lab are more likely to win the most points. Labs who apply for Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 are all eligible for a meter. Follow the link below to sign up your lab and join the Emory Freezer Challenge!
Above is a great example of a before and after equipment organization from the Quave lab in the School of Medicine. On the left, you can see a more disorganized, frosted freezer. On the right, all samples are organized in racks, which the CRC team is happy to provide. The new, managed freezer has also been defrosted, which greatly increases the efficiency of the freezer. Also, making sure all equipment is full impacts the efficiency of a freezer or refrigerator. Placing foam blocks or ice packs where there is free space in a refrigerator or freezer, as well as consolidating as many samples as possible into one equipment, are all viable options for improving freezer and refrigerator management.
By properly managing samples within lab equipment, the goal is to not only make refrigerators and freezers more efficient, but lab members as well. By having a proper inventory of where items are and prioritizing accessibility, lab members will increase their efficiency during experiments.
Getting Green Lab Certified is a lot easier than most think. Follow this link to get more information on how you can do it, and be eligible for funding to implement sustainability innovations in your lab! The Blakey Lab and Wuest Lab in Chemistry have done it; you can too!
Congratulations also to Brendan Deal (Salaita Group) and Michael Hollerbach (Chemistry Graduate Program entering class of 2018) who received Honorable Mentions.
For the 2016 competition, NSF received over 12,000 applications and made 2,000 award offers.
The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based Master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited United States institutions. As the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind, the GRFP has a long history of selecting recipients who achieve high levels of success in their future academic and professional careers.
Meet the Honorees
Dayna Patterson came to Emory from Houston Baptist University where she had the opportunity to engage in undergraduate research with the Welch Foundation and as an NSF REU participant at Baylor University. Her research in the Weinert Group focuses on understanding how bacteria change their phenotypes in response to environmental signals. In January 2018, Dayna received the Carl Storm Underrepresented Minority Fellowship to attend the Gordon Research Conference on Metals in Biology and share her research. She has also shared her research with the Atlanta community through the Atlanta Science Festival. She is the current treasurer for Pi Alpha Chemical Society and an associate fellow with the NIH-funded Initiative to Maximize Student Development.
Brendan Deal is a second year Ph.D. candidate in the lab of Dr. Khalid Salaita. He completed his undergraduate studies at Davidson College just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. Brendan’s research is focused on the development of DNA-nanoparticle conjugates with potential applications in the fields of medicine and biotechnology.
Michael Hollerbach will be joining Emory this summer after receiving a B.S. in Biochemistry from the College of Charleston in South Carolina. He chose Emory after seeing all of the exciting research opportunities and looks forward to participating in upcoming research rotations, starting with a summer rotation in the McDonald Group. His research interests are in Organic Chemistry with a focus on small molecule synthesis and methodology development. Currently, he is teaching Honors Chemistry at a local high school and wrapping up his undergraduate research at the College of Charleston. At Emory, he looks forward to the opportunity to share his love of Chemistry as a TA and to participate in outreach in the Atlanta community.
Chemistry major Ashley Diaz has been awarded a 2018 Barry Goldwater Scholarship. The prestigious award supports highly promising undergraduates in mathematics, natural sciences, and engineering and Ashley was one of just 221 recipients out of 1,280 applicants. Ashley will use the scholarship to further her research in the Wuest Group.
Read more at the Emory News Center.
The Atlanta Science Festival brings STEM out of the lab and into the Atlanta community with two weeks of events culminating in the “Exploration Expo” regularly attended by over 18,000 people. ASF was founded in 2014 by a group of Emory staff and faculty, including former chemistry (now ASF!) staff Meisa Salaita and Sarah Peterson and chemistry faculty member David Lynn. Chemistry has sponsored at least one festival event every year. This blog series covers just some of chemistry’s involvement in the 2018 festival.
This year’s Atlanta Science Festival Exploration Expo took place in Piedmont Park on Saturday, March 24th. The Expo booth “The BIG World of Small Containers” celebrated the structure of the icosahedron. Visitors had the opportunity to build structures onto a 3-D printed icosahedron (twenty sides!) using legos and to manipulate a large icosahedral model.
The booth was a collaboration with Atlanta Makers and the Lutz Group in the Department of Chemistry. Visitors also had the chance to take a photo inside of the icosahedron structure. The images were used to create one giant, group photo mimicking the same structure–capturing the faces of the festival.