Chemistry Postdocs Featured in the Science Writers Committee Quarterly Newsletter

The Science Writers Committee (SWC), part of the Postdoctoral Fellows Association (PDA),  is a group of postdocs with a knack for writing. In addition to disseminating information and announcements for the PDA, the SWC publishes a quarterly newsletter, each with a unique topic of interest. This Spring 2018 edition of the newsletter focused on Infectious Diseases and featured articles from Michelle Kim, Claire Jarvis, and Kim Clarke.

“The postdoc science writers magazine is a great venue to practice a different, important style of science communication,” says Claire, co-chair of the committee with Michelle Kim and editor of the newsletter. “As PhDs and postdocs we’re taught to write about our research in a very technical, formulaic way for publications or grants: we become very fluent in that language. To actually communicate our science to the public, we need to deprogram ourselves.” In addition, she hopes the magazine will give postdocs the confidence to communicate science to a diverse audience. “Some of the writers tried to downplay their writing abilities with me before they started…then they produced great pieces!”

Click here to check out the full newsletter.

Want to get involved with the science writers? Contact the PDA at emorypda [at] gmail [dot] com!

CCHF and Fusion Science Theater Communicating Science Workshop

At the end of April, the CCHF hosted a Communicating Science Workshop given by playwright, chemist, and educator Holly Walter Kerby. During the workshop, Kerby provided training in the tools and concepts behind story-telling to an audience of enthusiastic students and faculty members. As Founder and Executive Director of Fusion Science Theater (FST), Kerby uses her own scientific story-telling in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) outreach. The idea behind FST is to engage children in learning science by capitalizing on the techniques of theater. Through entertaining and educational demonstrations, FST promotes curiosity in the next generation of scientists.

In the first of two workshops, Kerby’s workshop taught the techniques of FST to graduate students and postdocs with a focus on the techniques of story-telling from scientific question to conclusion. Attendees were encouraged to use their research as a “plot” to develop their own stories. Participants used small graphic visual aids to help move the story along. Kerby helped Emory scientists to see how the ability to design and deliver a story is unquestionably valuable in the scientific community. From giving a presentation at a conference to participating in outreach events, scientists are required to engage and inform a wide audience. Story-telling has been proven to be a more impactful way of sharing information, making it particularly useful in the scientific arena.

In her second workshop, Kerby helped attendees capitalize on their storytelling skills to develop demonstrations to be used at future outreach events. Students put together presentations covering topics from catalysis to C-H functionalization, primarily targeted towards young audiences. The presentations were also designed to encourage audience participation using a show of hands or a vote. Kerby explained that engaging the audience in this way peaks their enthusiasm for the material and provides meaningful feedback regarding the effectiveness of the presentation.  The afternoon was spent developing ideas, building props, and rehearsing.

When the second day of the workshop rolled around, presenters were prepared to show off their demonstrations in front of an audience. The room was filled with guests—including chemistry faculty and staff— who served as the audience for the demos and then provided valuable feedback on how to further refine them for future use. Keep an eye out for some of the unique demonstrations at next year’s Atlanta Science Festival!

Thank you to the CCHF and Holly Walker Kerby for fantastic workshop!

Interested in participating in more CCHF events? Clickhere!

Interested in learning more about FST? Click here!

Francesco Evangelista Receives Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award

Francesco Evangelista has been selected as a Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar for 2018. The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, established in 1946, aims to “advance the science of chemistry, chemical engineering, and related sciences as a means of improving human relations and circumstances throughout the world.” The award, given to only 13 individuals nationwide, recognizes young faculty who have “created an outstanding independent body of scholarship and are deeply committed to education.” The $75,000 unrestricted research grant will help fund Dr. Evangelista’s ongoing work on quantum renormalization group methods for excited states of strongly correlated electrons.

Congratulations, Dr. Evangelista!

Congratulations, 2017-2018 Graduates!

On Monday, May 14th, the Department of Chemistry celebrated the graduation of 63 undergraduate chemistry majors and 16 new PhDs. Congratulations to all of our graduates!

Jonah M. Adler
Raviteja Alla
Yusur Alsalihi
Eric Andreansky, Ph.D.
Rebecca Anne Bartlett, Ph.D.
Nia Nicole Bilal
Nika Braiman
Yulei Cao
Mandy Chan
Yuan Chang, Ph.D.
Bryant Chica, Ph.D.
Lekha Chilakamarri
Emily Bridget Crawford
Marika Deliyianni
Wallace Derricotte, Ph.D.
Long Di
Jose Armando Espinoza
Richard Xin Feng
Divine Joseph Francis
Up Next: Graduate School
Kyle E Giesler, Ph.D.
Akash R Gogate
You Na Ha
Ian I Heaven
Gillian G Hecht
Up Next: Graduate School at Columbia University Mallman School of Public Health(Future plans to attend medical school)
Daisha Holton
Up Next: PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences (Job offer for Teach for America in Houston)
Lillian Theresa Hough
Heejin Hur
Jessica Anna Hurtak, Ph.D.
Currently: Postdoc in the Tan Laboratory at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan
Cheston Husein
Ban-Seok Jeong, Ph.D.
Lisa Wang Jin
Yao Jing, Ph.D.
Verka Elena Williams Jordanov
Se Min Jung
Shashank Kalanithi
Parisa Keshavarz-Joud
Up Next: Research Technician with the Lutz Lab at Emory
(Future plans to attend graduate school for chemistry)
Carly Ryan Kies
2017-2018 Excellence in Undergraduate Educational Support Award (1st Year Mentor)
Up Next: Campus ministry in Australia for a year
Mooeung Kim, Ph.D.
Vishaal Kondoor
Georgia Kossoff
Carli Brooke Kovel
2018 Bobby Jones Scholar
Sang Don Kwan
Up Next: Medical school in Korea
Thomas Lampeter
Adonias C Lemma
2017-2018 Excellence in Undergraduate Educational Support Award (1st Year Lab TA)
Up Next: Emergency Department Medical Scribe with the Emory University Hospital
Yichen Li
Up Next: Grow Trainee in Manufacturing Department for BASF in Shanghai, China
Kuangbiao Liao, Ph.D.
Up Next: Senior Scientist at Abbvie Inc.
Yuhgene Liu
Samir Martin
Garett Michael
Charles Modlin, Ph.D.
Eddy Cristian Ortega
Analia Parana
Lilanni Perez
Thomas Nicholai Preiser
Chengyang Qian
Zheng Qiao
Ashwin Ragupathi
Up Next: Research Technician at MSKCC (Future plans to attend medical school)
Shambavi Jay Rao
Rolando Felipe Rengifo, Ph.D.
Adam M Ring
2017-2018 Excellence in Undergraduate Educational Support Award (2nd Year Lab TA)
Gabriela Rodriguez Bengochea
Daniel Rodriguez
Daniel Cristian Salgueiro
2017-2018 Outstanding Chemistry Major Award
2017-2018 Undergraduate Award in Organic Chemistry
Vivek Sawhney
Noah Allen Setterholm, Ph.D.
Nilang Nandlal Shah
Zoe Simon
Up Next: PhD in Chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh
Houston Hartwell Smith
2015 Recipient of the Early Career Achievement Research Grant
2017-2018 Excellence in Undergraduate Research Award
2017-2018 ACS P-Chem Award
Andrew Donald Steele, Ph.D.
Leann Quertinmont Teadt, Ph.D.
Matthew John Tucker
Catherine Urbano
Up Next: Medical School at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
Katherine June Woolard
2016 Excellence in Undergraduate Education Award (General Chemistry Lab)
Benjamin Aaron Yosen
Junchu Zeng
Up Next: MS in Operations Research at Columbia University
Qingwan Zhang
Xiancong Zhang
Xiaoyi Zhang


Congratulations, 2017-2018 Award Winners!

Congratulations to all of our 2017-2018 award winners!

 Undergraduate Student Awards

Outstanding Chemistry Major:

Daniel Salgueiro

Excellence in Undergraduate Research:

Houston Smith

Excellence in Undergraduate Educational Support:

Analytical: Frances Connor

1st Year Mentor: Carly Kies

2nd Year Mentor: Brett Weingart

1st Year Lab TA: Adonias Lemma

2nd Year Lab TA: Adam Ring

Outstanding 1st year Chemistry Student:

Alex Tang

Sarah Hanson

Early Career Achievement Research Grant:

Nathan Harper (Widicus Weaver)

ACS P-Chem Award

Houston Smith

Undergraduate Award in Analytical Chemistry       

Liz Enyenihi

Undergraduate Award in Organic Chemistry

Daniel Salgueiro

William Jones Scholarship

Sam Zinga

Laura Briggs

Dian Ruby Ding

Paul Greenstein

Graduate Student Awards

Quayle Outstanding Student Award

Pui Yan “Victor” Ma (Salaita)

Quayle Senior Student Award

Colleen Keohane (Wuest)

Qiuyang Li (Lian)

Quayle Student Achievement Award

Benjamin Fontaine (Weinert)

Qi Yu (Bowman)

Amy Solinski (Wuest)

Ziwei Guo (Kindt)

Shannon Rivera (Weinert)

Ally Boyington (Jui)

Outstanding TA Award


Alexia Prokopik (Dyer)

Ha An Nguyen (Dunham)


Nicholas Stair (Evangelista)


Amber Scharnow (Wuest)

Cameron Pratt (Jui)


Victoria Snider (Hill)

Elaine Liu (MacBeth)


Carson Powers (Widicus Weaver)

Dr. Tianquan (Tim) Lian Awarded $7.5 Million for Fuel Cell Research

Dr. Tianquan (Tim) Lian was recently awarded $7.5 million from the U.S. Department of Defense for research on the electrochemical basis of fuel cell technology. Research in the Lian lab centers around the advancement of solar energy conversion particularly through the preparation, characterization, and fundamental understanding of photovoltaic and photocatalytic nanomaterials. The tools and techniques being developed in the Lian lab will contribute to the advancement of fuel cell technology, supporting the widespread efforts for innovation and discovery.

““A deeper understanding of electrochemical processes is important in the quest for more efficient, renewable forms of energy,’ Lian says. “We hope to make a lasting impact in the field, opening doors to do things with electrochemistry that are currently out of reach.’”

[Read Full Article]

Congratulations, Dr. Noel Xiang’ An Li!

Photo credit: Dr. Shaoxiong Wu

On Wednesday, April 25th, Noel Xiang’ An Li successfully defended his thesis, “Amyloid-beta strain amplification and their connection to tau in Alzheimer’s Disease”. Noel’s thesis committee included his thesis advisor, Dr. David Lynn, and members Dr. Stefan Lutz, Dr. Vincent Conticello, Dr. Lary Walker (Emory Neurology), and Dr. Yury Chernoff (GA Tech Biological Sciences).

Noel is applying for jobs in the pharmaceutical/biotech industry while wrapping up some experiments in the Lynn Lab.

Congratulations, Dr. Li!

Congratulations, Dr. Andrew Steele!

On Friday, April 13th, Andrew Steele successfully defended his thesis, “Natural Products Enabling Biological Discovery: Promysalin and Baulamycins”. Andrew’s thesis committee included his thesis advisor, Dr. William Wuest, and members  Dr. Huw Davies and Dr. Dennis Liotta.

Since moving with the Wuest Group to Emory, Andrew has published two papers, bringing his publication count to five. Andrew will be starting a post-doctoral position at Scripps in Florida where he will be working in the lab of Dr. Ben Shen.

Congratulations, Dr. Steele!

Achievement, Part 2: Don’t just work harder, work better

By: Dr. Jen Heemstra

Reposted with permission from Things that change the way I think. Originally published on March 18th, 2018.

I’ve had a great year for running – since last spring, I’ve set a personal record in every race I’ve entered.  Much of that success has come from hard work and strategic training.  But, as I alluded to in my last blog post, while hard work and training are very important, they aren’t everything.  Over the same time period, I’ve also gone swimming often, and despite working hard and finishing every session exhausted, I still garner a look from lifeguards that suggests they’re thinking “Is that woman swimming, or is she drowning? Does she need help?” I’m slow and awkward, making surprisingly little forward progress for all of the effort I seem to be expending. And then there are my kick flips, from which I emerge gasping for breath, often with water up my nose, and sometimes not even in the same lane where I started.

What is the difference between my progress in running and the continued frustration of my swimming?  Form.  It’s not just about working harder, but working better, and the best athletes know that if your technique is not dialed in, much of the effort of training is wasted.  Over the past year, I’ve focused intensely on my running form, constantly adjusting to achieve greater efficiency.  However, I’ve neglected doing this with swimming, and it shows.

So, how does this translate to science?  As researchers, our days are filled with tasks.  If you work in a lab, this could be running reactions, analyzing compounds, passaging cells, etc, mixed in with reading the literature, fixing instruments, and preparing presentations.  As a faculty member, days are no less task oriented – there’s teaching class, going to meetings, editing manuscripts and proposals from your lab, reviewing manuscripts and proposals from other labs, answering emails… It can feel great to schedule out all of the tasks that need to be accomplished in a day, then systematically tick each of them off the to-do list before going home.  However, this can give a false sense of security that you’re doing your job well. In reality, you can complete every task on your list, but not have actually done your job.

Just as with sports, it’s not only about what you do, but how you do it. Form matters.  While the tasks that make up your daily plan will probably change dramatically as you progress in your career, the form required to do your job well can remain surprisingly similar. Among the key elements of this are:

Be strategic – What are the most important things to get done today? Am I doing those as efficiently as possible? Are there things I’m not doing that I should be doing? Are there things I’m doing that I should not be doing?

Be skeptical – What could go wrong with this experiment or project?  Is there a way to avoid that? Is there something making the data look like things are working, even though they’re really not?

Be creative – If this doesn’t work, what else can I try? Is there a better way to do this? Where are the knowledge or technology gaps in my field and can I think of ways to fill them?

Be courageous – Is there something I’m not doing because I’m afraid it might fail? What is the riskiest part of this project, and how can I run at that first? Am I making decisions based on what other people might think of me if I don’t succeed?

Be collegial – Do I care about the people around me? Am I using my expertise to help others with their projects? Am I invested in the success of my lab, my department, my university or company?

As with sports, it’s about the combination of getting out the door and moving, while keeping an eye on form throughout the effort.  As you work through the tasks of your day, be aware of your form and make adjustments when needed.  Ask yourself: Which elements of form am I already executing well, and where do I need to improve? The encouraging news is that the more you practice good form, the more it comes naturally. 

Click here for the original article.

Click here for Achievement, Part 1: What are you training for?

Achievement, Part 1: What are you training for?

By: Dr. Jen Heemstra

Reposted with permission from Things that change the way I think. Originally published on February 19th, 2018.

In my last post, I used the analogy of personal training to think about what motivates us and how we can harness that to consider career options and push through the rough patches that we’ll inevitably encounter in our career trajectories.  I’m going to continue with the sports analogy for a bit longer, thinking about how we can apply the training habits of athletes to our work life.

I’ve been pretty athletic throughout my life, but over the past two years, I’ve started taking my fitness much more seriously.  I have many friends who can tell you their 5k personal record or cycling watts/kg without thinking.  When I meet these people, the first question they typically ask is “What are you training for?”  When I return the question, the answer is occasionally “I’m in a rest season,” but this is almost always directly followed by “…then I’m training for…”  It has struck me that even among amateur athletes like me, almost nobody says “I’m just hoping to maintain the fitness that I have.”

So, how does this apply to our careers? It can be easy to fall into the habit of thinking that if you get your job done every day, then you’re doing well.  But, that’s just maintaining.  It’s the equivalent of saying “I’m not training for anything.  I just want to run a few miles every morning even if I never get faster.” If this sounds good, then you can still have a very happy career.  But, if you thrive on challenges and growth, then you should be thinking about your training practices.  There are several principles we can take from sports to think about our professional growth and development. In this post, I’ll explore six habits of successful athletes. Next post, I’ll wrap up with the final, and what I think is the most important, habit of athletes that we can apply to our work lives.

Goals. It’s really hard to push yourself if you don’t know what you are training for. Last post, I talked about how to envision career goals.  As a note, it’s completely fine for these to change over time.  Chances are that whatever you are doing now to move toward one career goal is developing important skills that will transfer, if and when your goals change in the future.  Training is rarely wasted – hitting the track with a 5k goal in mind will absolutely help you if you decide to do a triathlon instead.  Don’t be afraid to set big, ambitious goals.  Even if you don’t quite hit what you’re shooting for, you’ll get a lot farther than if you’re only training to achieve an easy goal.  In a practical sense, it’s important to have both short- and long-term goals.  Where do you want to be in 1 month? 1 year? 5 years? At the end of your career?  Make these goals as specific as possible.  When my athlete friends ask me “What are you training for?” and I answer, their next question is inevitably “What is your goal time?”  If you’re in grad school, your overarching goal is probably to earn a PhD, but you should have more detailed goals than that.  How many papers do you want to publish? Do you want to gain teaching experience?  It’s these specific things that will help you as you apply the next principle, which is that you need a…

Plan. “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” I love this quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.  It makes so much sense, but it’s also so easy for us to get caught up in daydreaming about goals and forget to make a plan.  Just as an athlete lays out their training plan immediately after setting a goal, you should be looking at your goals, asking yourself what you need in order to get there, and planning out how and when you are going to get that done.  No matter what your career stage, find mentors who are in the place you aspire to be, and ask them what it takes to get there.  For example, to get my job, students usually know that they will need a solid publication record.  But, they may not realize that they also need to hone their ability to formulate and refine ideas or develop excellent communication skills.  You should have a plan for each of your goals, from the shortest term to the longest term.  A good check is to ask yourself whether your short-term plan and goals are helping you accomplish your long-term plan and goals.

Conditioning.  If you’re not regularly pushing outside of your comfort zone, you’re probably not growing.  Here is where the running example is especially relevant.  Think about a pace that feels difficult to maintain.  If you run at that pace frequently, you’ll find that you can maintain it for longer, and eventually it might even start to feel easy.  At that point, you’ll find there is a new, faster pace that feels difficult.  But, again, you can eventually make that feel easy if you push yourself often enough.  As you go about your work, think about how you can push yourself – what is it that you don’t know you’re capable of?  Is there a level of multi-tasking in lab that feels overwhelming?  Does writing terrify you? (It terrified me for a long time!)  Frequently push yourself beyond what you think you can do, and I can almost guarantee that you’ll look back and wonder why it ever felt difficult in the first place…then be sure to look ahead to the next level.

Have fun. This one may seem strange, and your immediate reaction may be “Jen, if you want me to have fun, then you really should stop talking about running.”  Training is hard and often painful, but it’s much less so if you can find ways to make it fun.  I joined an indoor bike training program last winter, where I showed up 2-3 times per week, got on my bike in the basement of a nondescript building, and suffered through an 80 minute workout. And I paid money for this!  Why?  It’s because there were 10 other people there with me every time, and while we did occasionally resort to our respective “pain caves” during hard intervals, we spent much of the time getting to know each other, joking around, listening to fun music, and watching cool you tube videos on a big screen tv.  Even if you take your hobbies and work seriously, you should still be having fun with both.  My research group members are amazing in many ways – they’re incredibly bright, creative, and driven, and they also know how to make the job fun.  The walls of our lab and offices are decorated with their own custom research memes, and though everyone is working very hard, there is a consistent background of joking around.  Grad school is hard, but they have the insight to realize that it can feel a little less hard with some intentional fun. Wherever you are in your career, it’s important to cultivate fun. If possible, choose groups where people take the science seriously, but don’t take themselves too seriously.  If you’re stuck in an un-fun workplace, think about ways that you can slowly change the culture, or find others in your same position outside of your group who you can joke around with.

Perseverance. One of my science heroes recently shared with me the analogy that sometimes research is like running up a hill with a bend in the road.  You’re struggling just to maintain your pace, and you don’t know what’s around the bend.  Is it more uphill?  Steeper?  Flat?  Downhill?  This is where perseverance comes in.  Even when we think we know what the immediate future holds, we really don’t.  When things feel tough, sometimes you need to just keep going.  I can think of many times that my project wasn’t working, we got scooped, I didn’t know if I’d ever get a job, I didn’t know if I’d ever get a grant funded.  The list goes on – the key in nearly all of those situations was to just keep going.  In these times, your short-term goals are your friend.  It may feel overwhelming to think about achieving your 5 year goal, but you can hopefully muster the energy to work toward a 5 hour goal.  That being said, sometimes you also need a rest, which brings us to…

Periodicity.  If you’re not into sports, periodicity is the intentional practice of alternating between pushing hard and resting.  It’s a physiological fact that you don’t get stronger while exercising; you get stronger while resting and fueling after exercise. Similarly, if all you do is push yourself professionally, eventually you will burn out.  I’ve found that it’s incredibly important to alternate between times of pushing hard and times of taking it easy.  And, this spans multiple timeframes.  Most days, I treat myself to a workout and end the day with a relaxing beer or glass of wine.  Each week, I take one day where I do essentially no work.  You may be working crazy hours in lab and at an insane intensity for several weeks to get all of the data for a manuscript, but once you do that, it’s wise to take at least a short vacation.  After both undergrad and grad school, I took about four months off and travelled the country.  While it can feel hard to take time off when there is still more work to be done, I’ve found that this is the time when I step back, put everything into perspective or see things in a new way, and the renewed energy and creativity I have upon returning more than makes up for the time lost.  As you think about your short- and long-term plans, think about the points at which you can engineer in rest hours, days, or even seasons.  Savor the rest time and enjoy it without guilt.

I know that I’ve centered this around sports, but my hope is that whatever pursuit drives you outside of work, you can see the training practices there and apply them to your work life as well. Stay tuned for my next post on what I think is the most important training practice of all.

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