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!


 

 

 

Jen Heemstra and Bill Wuest Named Scialog Fellows

Bill Wuest. Photo by Jessica Lily Photography for Work+Play.
Jen Heemstra. Photo by Jessica Lily Photography for Work+Play.

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

Bill Wuest. Photo by Jessica Lily Photography for Work+Play.
Bill Wuest. Photo by Jessica Lily Photography for Work+Play.

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!

 

Christine Dunham Receives ASBMB Young Investigator Award

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

Congratulations, Christine!

Emeritus Professor Al Padwa Gives Colloquium

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.

 

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]!

Welcome to the Fall 2018 Entering Graduate Class!

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

Ryan Allen
Villanova University

Paul Beasley
Earlham College

Tamra Blue
Georgia State University

Ting Cheng
Peking University

Adrian Demeritte
St. John’s University

Zackery Dentmon
Mercer University

Christella Dhammaputri
Emory University

Ordy Manuela Gnewou
Lehman College

Ayda Gonzalez de la Nuez
Bard College

Amber Harris
James Madison University

Sheng He
Dalian University of Technology

Cecilia Hendy
College of Charleston

Michael Hollerbach
College of Charleston

Yuesong Hu
Lanzhou University

Renke Huang
Southern University of Science and Technology

Alyssa Johnson
College of Charleston

Diane Karloff
Duke University

Sara Konecny
Georgia Institute of Technology

David Laws
Coastal Carolina University

Maizie Lee
California State University – Fresno

Qinyi Lu
University of Science and Technology

Andrew Mahoney
Gettysburg College

Brea Manuel
Louisiana State University – Baton Rouge

Sam Mckinnon
Mississippi State University

Quincy McKoy
University of Richmond

Duong Nguyen
Mount Holyoke College

Selma Piranej
Loyola University – Chicago

Jessalyn Rogers
Western Washington University

Chase Schultz
Alma College

Jack Sharland
Bowdoin College

Racheal Spurlin
North Carolina State University

Jiayue Sun
Syracuse University

Tiffany Trieu
University of Central Florida

Ailing Yu
Lanzhou University

Cassandra Zaremba
Xavier University

 

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!