Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Jose Soria Named “Emory Williams Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award” Winner

As Senior Lecturer for the Department of Chemistry, Dr. Jose Soria has taught lectures and laboratories ranging from introductory 100-level courses to 400-level advanced courses. His sees the classroom as a space for scientific discussion and the sharing of ideas, an approach which has been well-received by his students and undergraduate TAs. Dr. Soria’s dedication to his student’s and unique teaching style were recently recognized with the Emory Williams Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award. The award is given in recognition of a record of excellence in teaching, contributions to curriculum development in the awardee’s academic discipline, and pedagogical innovation.

As a young child growing up in Mexico, Dr. Soria was curious about science. He recalls playing with fireworks and doing “experiments” with his neighbors during his grade school years before he even knew what chemistry was. In middle school chemistry courses, he was fascinated by the changing structures and properties of compounds. After taking his first laboratory class, he was totally captivated.

Dr. Soria earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in chemistry from Universidad Nactional Atonoma before moving to the United States to pursue is doctorate degree here at Emory University. Following graduation, Dr. Soria opted to apply for his green card, allowing him to stay at Emory to complete a postdoc in the lab of Dr. Dennis Liotta. During this time, he became interested in teaching. He took a part-time position at a local two-year college where he could teach classes in the evenings. His experiences in the classroom lead him to apply for more permanent teaching positions, ultimately landing him back at Emory as a member of chemistry’s lecture-track faculty.

His classroom now is based primarily on free-flowing discussions. “When I go into the classroom, I have a plan of what we are going to discuss, but the way that it is discussed is not planned. It is not rehearsed because each community, each group, is different,” says Dr. Soria. He values creating a space that encourages students to speak up about their ideas, ask their questions, and grow as scientists together. Reflecting on an early experience during his teaching career, Dr. Soria explains that a group of minority students approached him and expressed their appreciation for the way he explained his research. That interaction influenced the way he continues to structures his class, with a focus on making the complex concepts more approachable through discussion and application.

Dr. Soria’s willingness to mentor also resonates with his students. “I think the thing that really stands out to me about Dr. Soria’s teaching style is his dedication to mentoring his students. When I told him I was going to be applying for grad schools, he asked to meet up with me so that we could talk about the process, what I should look for in a school, what questions I should ask, and what kinds of programs would be the best fit for me,” says recent chemistry graduate Daniel Salgueiro (EC’18, Blakey Group). “All in all, Dr. Soria is a very supportive and helpful professor, and I recommend all of his classes to anyone who asks me.”

Dr. Soria’s most recent undergraduate TAs, Eddy Ortega (EC’18, Liebeskind Group) and Nilang Shah (EC’18, Levin Group) also have wonderfully positive things to say about his teaching. “Dr. Soria values the environment of his class, the spirit of discussion, and teamwork,” says Eddy. “He loves pushing students to achieve their full potential and promotes students to give concise and well thought answers,” added Nilang.

Dr. Soria remembers seeing a colleague win the Williams Award twelve years ago and thinking “I want to be like him”. He worked hard to build his credentials since then, developing the courses that are now so greatly appreciated by his students. Support for his ideas from chemistry chairs—five in his career, so far!—and collaboration with other faculty and staff have also contributed to his development. The supportive community has helped Dr. Soria during his ongoing project of building a supportive, and now award-winning, classroom.

 

Undergraduate Spotlight Round-Up: Where are they now??

We have previously featured several undergraduate students to celebrate their unique experiences and amazing accomplishments within the Department of Chemistry. Recently, we checked in with some of these students to learn more about what they have been up to since being featured. Read on to find out what these bright minds are doing now!


Matthew Birnbaum

As an undergraduate student, Matt conducted research in the lab of Dr. Simon Blakey, served as co-editor-in-chief of the Emory Undergraduate Research Journal, and participated in both the Scholarly Inquiry and Research at Emory (SIRE) program and the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) program. Now, Matt works as a Research Associate at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc in New York, where he focuses on genomic engineering technologies.

Click [here] to read his spotlight!


Carolyn Cohen

In her senior year at Emory, Carolyn received the 2014 National Science Foundation Graduate Student Research Fellowship, which she was able to apply towards her current graduate studies in chemistry at Stanford University. She works in the lab of Dr. Noah Burns, whose research “explores the boundaries of modern organic synthesis”.

Click [here] to read her spotlight!


Ryan Fan

In 2016, Ryan wrote about his “Summer in Siena”, where he discussed his wonderful experience traveling abroad with activities ranging from studying chemistry to climbing the Basilica to see the view of Rome’s skyline. Now a junior, Ryan is preparing to take the MCAT this summer and is looking forward to starting with Teach for America in August 2019.

Click [here] to read his story!


Juan D. Cisneros

Juan, a chemistry and Spanish double major, wrote for The Lab Report about his experiences studying abroad in Salamanca, Spain and working in the lab of Dr. Daniel J. Mindiola at the University of Pennsylvania. Now, Juan is a Research Like A Champion (RLAC) investigator with the Harper Cancer Research Institute at the University of Notre Dame.

Click [here] to read his spotlight and [here] to read his story!


Sunidhi Ramesh

When Sunidhi was featured in the first semester of her sophomore year, she was working on earning her double major in Neuroscience and Sociology, while also volunteering as a chem mentor. Since then, she has spent some time pursuing neuroethics, working with the Atlanta Journal Constitution on race relations, and volunteering with several organizations. In the Fall, she will be attending Thomas Jefferson University for medical school.

Click [here] to read her spotlight and [here] to check out her AJC feature!


Julia Gensheimer

When we featured Julia last March, she was a few months away from a summer research experience in the Ahmed lab studying cancer immunology. A year later, Julia has continued her research in the Ahmed lab and is about a year away from graduating with her degree in chemistry.

Click [here] to read her spotlight!


Carli Kovel

We featured Carli for her research in the MacBeth lab and travel abroad experience in Sienna about a month before she was named as one of Emory’s Bobby Jones Scholars. At the time of her spotlight, Carli wasn’t sure what the future would hold. Now, Carli is looking forward to spending the next year at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland studying catalysis and “green chemistry”.

Click [here] to read her spotlight!


 

 

 

Graduate Student Spotlight: Tamra Blue Carries on the Family Legacy

For 38 years, Tamra Blue’s grandmother worked in food service at Emory so that her daughter, Tamra’s mother, could attend school here. So, when the time came for Tamra to apply to graduate school, Emory was at the top of her list. When she got her offer of admission, she remembers thinking, “I got into Emory. Emory University! That’s amazing!” And even though she had offers from several other universities, Emory had something that the others didn’t: Legacy. In fact, Tamra was so sure that she wanted to come here that she accepted her offer before recruitment weekend had even begun!

Tamra, her mother, her grandmother, and her aunt.

Tamra grew up in Lithonia, about half an hour’s drive from campus. She attended Georgia State for her undergraduate studies where she originally planned on studying biology. “While doing my biology degree, I had to take the equivalent of getting a minor in chemistry,” says Tamra. “I realized I really like chemistry.” She then began tutoring and teaching chemistry to other students, doing research in a chemistry lab, and falling even more in love with the subject. These experiences convinced her to go ahead with changing her major, and she never looked back.

In the lab of Dr. Suazette Reid Mooring, Tamra worked on synthesizing small-molecule CXCR4 antagonists. CXCR4 has been linked to breast cancer metastasis through a process whereby the CXCR4 transports cancerous cells around the body in pursuit of its high-affinity ligand, CXCL12. She used a metaphor to explain that the process of CXCR4-mediated metastasis is similar to a man driving his car to meet his wife, but with a serial killer in the trunk! “One of the ways we found to stop this or slow down this process is by making it so that CXCR4 has a higher affinity toward some other molecule,” she explains. “And we make that molecule.” Emory once again intersecting Tamra’s path, the molecules synthesized in the Reid Mooring lab are screened here at Emory in collaboration with Dr. Hyunsuk Shim in the Department of Radiation Oncology.

Tamra and her grandmother at her graduation.

The enthusiasm with which Tamra explains her research highlights not only her love for the subject, but also her passion for teaching. Her goal, after earning her PhD, is to get a job at a four year college where she can teach and mentor students. She remembers learning a statistic about the significant decline in mental health of individuals pursuing advanced degrees and is hoping to use her own degree to become a valuable resource for those people.

Her desire to interact with and help others extends even beyond the realm of teaching. “I just like talking to people!” she says as she explains how she hopes that she can improve someone’s day with something as simple as a smile. In fact, meeting new people is one of the things she is most excited about when she thinks about starting at Emory. “This is a whole different environment from Georgia State,” says Tamra. “Not only do I get to meet some really cool people, but I also get to do some really awesome research.”

Even though she had already accepted her offer to come to Emory, Tamra still took the opportunity to visit the campus for recruitment weekend. She spent the weekend learning all about the diverse research projects going on in the department and meeting as many students and faculty as she could. She particularly liked the faculty trading cards and explained they how were a fun little souvenir that also gave her a chance to really get to know some of the faculty on a more personal level.

Tamra and her mother.

Recruitment weekend only added to Tamra’s already overflowing excitement to follow in her family’s footsteps as a member of the Emory community. “I can’t wait to start discovering something and seeing something new,” says Tamra. Her adventure will kick off this May when she joins the Heemstra Group for a summer rotation. Until then, Tamra is going to keep working,  spending time with her family, and “being ‘weird’ because that’s my normal.”

Victor Ma Selected to Participate in the 2018 CAS SciFinder® Future Leaders Program

Victor Pui-Yan Ma, a rising 5th year graduate student in the lab of Dr. Salaita, has been chosen to participate in the 2018 CAS SciFinder® Future Leaders Program.

According to their website, “The CAS SciFinder Future Leaders program aims to expand professional networks among emerging researchers, increase knowledge and exchange ideas about the role of information within the research process, and share lessons from industry and academic leaders about the role of science in the global economy, academia and the media.”

Selected from hundreds of applicants, Victor will join 30 other outstanding Ph.D. students and postdocs from around the world during a visit to the CAS headquarters in Columbus, Ohio in August. During their visit, the researchers will collaborate on new initiatives to shape the future of scientific information and innovation.

Congratulations, Victor!

To read the full announcement, click [here]!

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

Analytical:

Alexia Prokopik (Dyer)

Ha An Nguyen (Dunham)

Physical:

Nicholas Stair (Evangelista)

Organic:

Amber Scharnow (Wuest)

Cameron Pratt (Jui)

General:

Victoria Snider (Hill)

Elaine Liu (MacBeth)

Physical:

Carson Powers (Widicus Weaver)