Chemistry Major Sam Zinga Receives Prestigious McMullen Award

Chemistry major Sam Zinga has been named the 2019 McMullen Award Winner. The McMullen Award is one of the most prestigious awards given by Emory College to graduating seniors. Sam joined the Widicus Weaver Group as a high school intern from the Gwinnett School of Mathematics and Technology in the summer of 2014. In addition to continuing undergraduate research with the Widicus Weaver Group, Sam served as a peer leader with Dr. Antonio Brathwaite in physical chemistry courses during his time at Emory. He is headed to Yale University School of Medicine to pursue a year-long research position next fall. In future, he plans to pursue an MD/PhD.

Read more about Sam’s Emory journey and future plans in this Emory News Center profile.

Alumni Spotlight: Suk Cho Thrives “Living Life to the Fullest”

Dr. Suk Cho, Chief Scientific Officer and Co-Founder of Joy Nutritionals, is no stranger to hard work. Guided by the mindset of “living life to the fullest”, he has seized numerous opportunities to expand his knowledge, gain experience, and truly develop as a scientist. The way he sees it, attitude is everything. “You don’t have to be the best chemist, and you don’t have to be the best manager,” he says. “But do your best.” His accomplishments have fueled his motivation, raising him through the ranks from graduate student to senior scientist to Chief Scientific Officer.

After earning his undergraduate degree from Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, Dr. Cho attended Miami University, where he earned his master’s degree in organic chemistry. Having kept an eye on some of the great research going on here at Emory, he officially joined the Emory community in 1985 as a PhD student in the lab of Dr. Lanny Liebeskind.

“Suk Cho was a confident and strong PhD student during his tenure in graduate school at Emory University,” says Lanny. “His research generated high-quality scientific results and led to a number of significant peer-reviewed publications.  I remember him as very personable, with an assured and engaging personality that, in retrospect, portended the future successes in his professional endeavors.”

Originally, Dr. Cho assumed he would use his expertise in chemistry to pursue a career in pharmacy. However, the more he learned about the importance of chemistry in the production of cosmetics, food, and other diverse products, he became more drawn to this side of research and development. “Everything is chemistry,” says Dr. Cho. “I’m very proud of becoming a chemist. I can apply it to just about everything.” As a curious, creative, and committed student, Dr. Cho felt confident that he could succeed in such an industry setting. Having assimilated to a new way of life after immigrating from Korea during his teenage years, Dr. Cho was prepared for a transition from academia to industry

With this can-do attitude and a freshly earned doctorate degree, Dr. Cho went on to work for Unilever, a company that strives to make sustainable living commonplace, supplying over 400 household brands from Dove and Vaseline to Lipton and Ben & Jerry’s. While working at Unilever, Dr. Cho was motivated to learn as much as he could about his industry. Beyond the basic chemistry behind the efficient production of household products, Dr. Cho learned about toxicology and environmental impact, large-scale production and its consequences, consumer demands, and sales and marketing. He also learned that these aspects of the industry truly guide the science behind production.

Dr. Cho went on to spend a brief couple of years as Sr. Scientist with PPG before becoming the Vice President of Research and Development at Melaleuca: The Wellness Company. In this role, he oversaw the production of hundreds of products for nutrition, personal care, skin care, and the household to be used around the globe. Dr. Cho then transitioned to Chief Science Officer at Isagenix, a company built to inspire and empower individuals to “live their best life through a journey of nutrition, health, and overall wellness.” He led the Product Innovation, Research and Science, Quality Assurance, and Regulatory teams at Isagenix, while also serving as Consultant/Owner of Ideate, LLC.

Now, with over 30 years of research and product development, he serves as Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Joy Nutritionals. With a mission to “promote healthy, energetic, active lifestyle choices”, Joy Nutritionals offers lifestyle-based solutions supported by science, community, and technology. The company strives to provide high quality, good-for-you products to promote everyday health and wellness. Dr. Suk Cho is responsible for developing such products, giving everybody a chance at a healthy life.

Echoing the messages of health and wellness that define his industry, Dr. Cho also hopes to encourage people to make decisions that guide them towards a healthier lifestyle. “A lot of our diseases stem from our poor lifestyle choices,” he says. “I want to advocate for investing in yourself mentally, physically, psychologically, and emotionally.” By reminding us to live life to the fullest, while protecting our health and well-being, Dr. Cho shows us a stunning example of how we, too, can find joy.

While his work has broad potential impact, Dr. Cho has already inspired the work of a very important future leader – his daughter, Belle. The business major and chemistry minor is studying at the University of Arizona where she is focused on a future in game development. (Her first game, “Furthest Reach,” has a release date set for 2020.) “There has never been someone to inspire me as much as my father has,” says Belle. “My dad came to the United States from Korea when he was sixteen years old, knowing very little English and [the] school he attended wasn’t really ‘prepared’ for a non-English speaking student at that time. However, it didn’t stop him from going to college and majoring in one of the most challenging science fields. My outlook on education has changed so much in the last two years and I really have my dad to thank for that. I am grateful for the life I have and all the things he has provided for the family.”

 

Congratulations, Dr. Shannon Rivera!

Shannon Rivera

Shannon Rivera successfully defended her dissertation, “Elucidating the Various Roles of the Globin Domain from Globin Coupled Sensors”, on March 21st, 2019. Shannon’s committee was led by Emily Weinert with Brian Dyer and Stefan Lutz as additional members.

During her time at Emory, Shannon was supported by an Emory Graduate Diversity Fellowship as well as a Carl Storm Underrepresented Minority (CSURM) Fellowship. She was also recognized with the department’s Outstanding T.A. Award for Analytical Chemistry in 2014 and the Quayle Outstanding Student Award in 2018.

Shannon has also been involved in several student organizations including Pi Alpha Chemical Society (PACS) where she served for one year as Vice President of Community Service and the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) where she served consecutive terms first as Co-Social Chair and then as Communications Chair. She has also been a long time member of the Chemistry Graduate School Prep Club sponsored by the NSF Center for Selective C-H Functionalization, serving as President in 2017 and 2018. CGSPC connects Atlanta-area undergraduates from PUIs and HBCUs (including Agnes Scott, Spelman, Morehouse, and Clarke-Atlanta) with mentors who help them to connect with mentors who can help them navigate the graduate school application process . Shannon was instrumental in bringing CGSPC students to Emory for an on-site mentoring event. “They got to talk to faculty, grads, and post-docs about admissions and the struggles of being under represented in the sciences. The effect the event had of them and the fact that it cemented the drive to go to graduate school for those students, that is what made it a huge accomplishment for me,” says Shannon.

Scientifically, Shannon’s work was recently recognized with an invitation to give two oral presentations at SERMACS and GRS/GRC Metals in Biology. SERMACS receives well over 1,000 applications for oral applications and awards only 12-15 spots. “Scientifically though, the most fun and impactful accomplishment was successfully crystallizing my protein, BpeGlobin,” says Shannon. “It was fun because my protein is red, so my crystals are red! They came in different shapes, but you could always see them.  It is also very important for my scientific community because its the first crystal of  the signaling domain of a Globin-coupled sensor with oxygen in the pocket; the gas responsible for activating the protein.”

Shannon plans to pursue a career in industry.

Congratulations, Shannon!

Alum Caitlin Davis (Dyer Group) Accepts Assistant Professor Position at Yale

Caitlin Davis

Caitlin Davis, a recent alum of the Dyer Group, has accepted an Assistant Professor position in the Department of Chemistry at Yale University.

At Emory, Caitlin’s work focused on developing structurally specific time-resolved infrared techniques to probe fast protein dynamics in vitro. Her work at Emory was supported by the highly competitive Clare Booth Luce (CBL) Scholar Program Graduate Fellowship as well as a Scholarly Inquiry and Research (SIRE) at Emory HHMI Fellowship, both from Emory’s Laney Graduate School. “As part of the fellowships, I spent about ten hours a week meeting with students and developed a course around professional development, science communication, and science ethics,” says Caitlin. “The positive experience I had mentoring these students was one of the reasons I decided to pursue a career in academia.”

Caitlin’s work at Emory was also recognized with the 2010 Outstanding T.A. Award for Physical Chemistry and a 2013-2014 Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) Scholarship. In 2014, she won the Public Dissertation Abstract Award in Emory’s annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition.

More recently, Caitlin was an NSF Center for the Physics of Living Cells Postdoctoral Fellow in the Gruebele Group at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Work in the Gruebele lab allowed Caitlin to take her Emory experience in new directions as the lab pioneered efforts to move the temperature jump technique that she learned in the Dyer lab into living cells. Caitlin investigates bimolecular interactions between proteins and RNA using 2- and 3-color fluorescence microscopy and to collect measurements in cultured cells and zebrafish larvae.

At Yale, the Davis Lab will use spectroscopic imaging to quantify biomolecular interactions in living cells, contributing to a better understanding of diseases arising from the misregulation of proteins and RNA.

Caitlin credits Dr. Dyer’s mentorship with helping her to develop as an independent researcher and cultivating her interest in academic research. “When I entered Emory, I was interested in pursing a career in industry,” explains Caitlin. In the Dyer Group, Caitlin was allowed to pursue her own research ideas. Her original ideas resulted in two publications (among nine total published during her time at Emory) and sparked her interest in an academic career that would allow a similar level of creative control over her research. Furthermore, she decided that an academic career would allow her to pursue a passion for mentoring young scientists sparked through her Emory fellowship experiences. “I find it incredibly fulfilling to see my mentees succeed. I’m excited to be in an environment where I can continue to assist with the development of future researchers.”

Caitlin will carry her Emory experience into her work at Yale. “The faculty at Emory have been my role models for how to balance research, teaching, and mentoring. As a graduate student I was supported not only in my research, but also to mentor in the lab or teach a course. This prepared me for the job market, because I had the hands-on experience to build an approach for teaching, mentoring, and outreach in addition to research.”

Congratulations, Caitlin!

First Person: Caitlin’s Career Advice to Graduate Students

My tip for graduate students and postdocs is to start early and have a career development plan.

Dr. Dyer had us meet with him once a year to discuss our goals for the upcoming year. I used it as an opportunity to not only discuss my projects and publications, but also my professional and career development. For example, one of my goals was to improve my public speaking. We worked to find as many opportunities to present at local and regional meetings as possible so that I could become more comfortable presenting my work. This helped me better understand how I personally need to prepare to give a great talk.

I felt confident going into the job market this year, because I had prepared the first versions of my documents as a graduate student! As part of one of my graduate fellowships I developed a teaching statement and my original research proposal became part of one of my research proposals. Because I’ve been revisiting these documents for years, I’ve had time to refine them.

There are also many workshops specifically designed to assist with preparing for the job market. I participated in the NextProf Science workshop at University of Michigan, the Postdoc to Faculty workshop at the National ACS Meeting, and the Illinois Female Engineers in Academia Training (iFEAT). These workshops pair you with faculty and other applicants who review your application and give you feedback. Having many perspectives on my proposal helped me better balance project specific details with the broader impacts.

For more from Caitlin, follow her on Twitter @thedavislab!

 

Alum Wallace Derricotte Receives NSF Grant

Alum Dr. Wallace Derricotte (Evangelista Group) has been awarded a Research Initiation Award from the National Science Foundation in the amount of $224,936.  Wallace is currently an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Morehouse College. The award, entitled “A Symmetry-Adapted Perturbation Theory Approach to Reaction Force Analysis”, will increase the research capacity of the Chemistry Department at Morehouse while creating more opportunities for STEM students.

Wallace received his B.S. in chemistry from Morehouse College in 2013 and his Ph.D. from Emory in 2017. During his time at Emory, he received the prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Award.

Congratulations, Wallace!

Sam Zinga Named Class of 2019 100 Senior Honorary

Congratulations to Sam Zinga for being named a Class of 2019 100 Senior Honorary! This award, given by the Emory Alumni Board and the Student Alumni Board, recognizes the success of 100 outstanding students in the current senior class. These accomplished individuals have made significant contributions to the Emory community by serving as leaders, mentors, athletes, influencers, volunteers, and thinkers. In alignment with their love for Emory, the 100 Senior Honorary members will act as alumni leaders after graduation by staying active in the Emory alumni community.

Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Anne Gorden, a Scholar in Translation

“It was kind of like there were two of me! On Monday, Wednesday, Friday I was doing chemistry and laboratories, and on Tuesday and Thursdays I studied the classics.” says Dr. Anne Gorden (EC’ 96) about her undergraduate experience at Emory. Her desire to study chemistry dated back to high school. Learning that her AP credits left her with space in her schedule opened up the opportunity to choose another field, too. So, between chemistry lectures and labs, (including undergraduate research with Emeritus Professor Al Padwa), Anne began taking classes in English, literature, classics, and Spanish. By the time she graduated, she had earned enough credits to double major in Chemistry and Literature.

Early in her academic career, Anne recognized the value of merging the fields of science and language. As an undergraduate, she had the unique chance to TA for a Quantitative Analysis course. She found that she needed to be creative and deliberate with her choice of words to effectively teach complex scientific concepts to a diverse student population. “You have to think about your audience when you’re putting together a presentation as a way to make it more approachable,” says Anne. Her ability to translate dense scientific topics into a language that everyone could understand mirrored her work in comparative literature, a field that explores culture, theory, and history across literary, disciplinary, and linguistic boundaries.

Anne opted to continue her education at the University of Texas at Austin, where she earned her PhD in Organic Chemistry working with Prof. Jonathan Sessler. Her graduate research focused on developing organic compounds for selective detection of actinides. Although the research laboratory  was based in Austin, Anne spent about half of her graduate career traveling to Los Alamos National Laboratory to test her compounds. Once again, Anne was a scholar in translation, bridging her chemical interests in organic chemistry to an in actinide and lanthanide chemistry, ultimately steering her towards a postdoctoral appointment with the same theme at the University of California in Berkeley with Prof. Kenneth Raymond.

Now, as an Associate Professor in Chemistry and Biochemistry at Auburn University, Professor Gorden is making great use of all aspects of her education. Research faculty spend a lot of time writing. Grants, manuscripts, course curriculum, reference letters… the list goes on. Fortunately for Dr. Gorden, her literature degree helped prepare her for the writing that accompanies her current position.

Before being hired, however, Professor Gorden remembers recognizing that she bridges the fields between organic and inorganic chemistry. The seemingly opposite fields can seem as unrelated as… well… chemistry and literature. Instead of viewing her situation as being split between two fields, she began to view it as an opportunity, as she had done back in undergraduate days at Emory. The two independent chemistry disciplines inform each other, making each more dynamic and well-rounded, just as her training in chemistry and literature do.

As a mentor, Professor Gorden aims to help her students reach their goals by presenting as many opportunities as possible. She serves as an advisor for the Association of Women in Science at Auburn University and helps to provide undergraduate women with a platform for support and networking. For Anne, the most important thing for graduate students is to be guided by passion and scientific creativity. “You have to find the spot that you fit in,” she says, “where there is a project that really inspires you, and where you are going to get the skills, the tools you need for your career.”

Twitter: @anniegorden

Alumni Spotlight “Round-Up”

The Emory University Department of Chemistry is fortunate to have an outstanding group of alumni with diverse career trajectories in academia, industry, and beyond. Here’s what a few of them are up to…


Susan Richardson

With over 20 years of experience, former research chemist at the Environmental Protection Agency, Dr. Susan Richardson shares her insights about working at a government agency.

 


Shana Topp

After earning her doctorate degree in chemistry from Emory and completing a post-doctoral fellowship at UC-Berkeley, Dr. Shana Topp shifted her focus from bench science to consulting with the Boston Consulting Group.

 


Yang Liu

At Emory, he developed a method for visualizing mechanical signaling now used in labs across the country, earning him the Quayle Outstanding Student Award. Dr. Yang Liu works as a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. Taekjip Ha at John’s Hopkins University Medical School.


Chris Curfman

Once a determined graduate student in the lab of Dr. Dennis Liotta, Dr. Chris Curfman has capitalized on his passion for science with a career in intellectual property law and has been recognized as a “Rising Star” in the legal profession in Atlanta.

 


Kristoffer Leon

Upon earning his undergraduate degree in chemistry and completing his honors thesis with notable acclaim, Kristoffer Leon enrolled at the University of California, San Francisco where he is pursuing his MD/PhD.

 


Kornelius Bankston

With a deep-rooted passion for innovation and impact, Kornelius Bankston was motivated to develop a career at the intersection of science and business. As the Director of Bioscience Ecosystem Expansion with the Metro Atlanta Chamber, he is helping to enhance the diverse scientific ecosystem in Georgia.


Brian Hays

Dr. Brian Hays, recipient of the American Chemical Society’s Astrochemistry Dissertation Award, is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Purdue in the lab of Dr. Tim Zwier, where he works on chirped pulse microwave spectroscopy.

 


Xiaohong Wang

As a software engineer with Snap Inc., makers of the popular “Snapchat” app, Dr. Xiaohong Wang capitalizes on the skills she gained during her graduate work at Emory to contribute to the development of a platform for digital communication and storytelling.

 


Anthony Prosser

Strength in communicating scientific information won Dr. Anthony Prosser the Three-Minute Thesis Competition while at Emory and is now benefitting him as a Patent Agent with Knowles Intellectual Property Strategies, LLC.

 


Carolyn Cohen

At Emory, Carolyn Cohen explored chemistry in the lab and abroad as a participant in the popular Summer Studies in Siena study abroad program in Italy. Today, she is a PhD student in the lab of Noah Burns at Stanford University.

 


 

Alumni Spotlight: Kornelius Bankston, From Bench to Business

Kornelius Bankston

When reflecting back on his graduate work with the Emory University Department of Chemistry, Kornelius Bankston remembers his scientific endeavors with the Lynn Group to be ambitious. “I had this grandiose idea to develop a therapeutic using amyloid fiber sequences that self-assemble into tubes,” says Kornelius. “That was my big vision statement.” This “think big” mentality and enthusiasm for progress led him to seek opportunities that would couple science with business. “I enjoy innovation and have been able to navigate towards roles that really help express that part of my interests.”

After graduation, Kornelius worked for a startup company led by Dr. Dennis Liotta, where he got the chance to truly experience the interface between science and business.  From there, Kornelius took on a project manager role with the Georgia Department of Economic Development, where he worked to bring large scientific companies, such as Baxter Pharmaceuticals, to Georgia. During his time with the department, Kornelius refined his business acumen and developed invaluable professional networks, but he missed the scientific and technical aspects that motivated his interest in business to begin with. To bring the scientific context back to his business ventures, he opted to go to business school at Georgia Tech to study management of technology.

With his MS in biomolecular chemistry and his MBA in management of technology, Kornelius was equipped with the training to pursue his professional goals. He worked at Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) as Program Manager for the Office of Translational Technologies. During his time in this position, he developed the first marketing campaign for MSM’s intellectual property at the 2012 BIO International Convention, developed and implemented protocols for licensing of the intellectual property, and negotiated the first industry sponsored clinical trials in the Division of Industry Collaborative Research.

Now, Kornelius is involved in several business ventures. He started a campaign called “I AM YOUR” to bring awareness to communities that lack engagement in healthcare regarding men’s health and prostate cancer. In addition, as the Director of Bioscience Ecosystem Expansion with the Metro Atlanta Chamber, he is helping to enhance the diverse scientific ecosystem by seeking funding opportunities to retain, recruit, and grow companies in Georgia. He is a member of several boards including the Innovation Crescent Regional Partnership (ICRP) for publicizing Georgia as a life-science hub and the Georgia Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) board focusing on the health-IT community in Georgia.

Although his educational and professional history is full of diverse experiences, there are two clear themes that have steered him along his path: community engagement and scientific progress. He explains that he wants to 1) show that science can be fun and exciting and 2) improve the health of people through technology and therapeutics. “I enjoy innovation,” says Kornelius. “Hopefully, one day, I will get to lead a company around this whole concept of developing a therapeutic or technology, and taking it to the next level so people can actually utilize it on a broad spectrum.”

While Kornelius gathered the skills necessary to be successful in the realms of science, technology, and business through academic experiences and professional training, he lends credit to Emory for his problem-solving skills. “The graduate school experience helped my problem-solving ability across sectors, across disciplines. To look at a problem and say, ‘Okay, this is a problem’ and ‘How do I address this problem in a systematic way?’” This skill has proven to be indispensable in his current pursuit of a diagnostic for prostate cancer, where he is motivated to solve the problem of healthcare access for minority men in a way that is engaging and effective.  Kornelius also emphasized the importance of networking during the process of transitioning into the workplace.  He explains that, while it can sometimes feel a bit unnatural to initiate new relationships with people in the field, the ability to communicate effectively to people across a spectrum of familiarity with the science is vitally important. To connect with people in this way allows one to share ideas, learn from others, and potentially open doors to new and exciting opportunities.

Overall, Kornelius wants to encourage students to listen to their guiding internal voice when deciding a career path. “One of the things that I would like students to know is to not be afraid to challenge the norm,” says Kornelius. “Take all the advice and feedback people give you, but also be true to yourself and what you are really led to do.” He explains that he always had an innate interest in business, but the opportunities to engage with people and learn how business operates would have been missed had he not listened to his internal voice and challenged the idea at the time that academia was the best path. “Be true to what you are passionate about because I think it will always pull you back.”

Congratulations, Dr. Kyle Giesler!

On Friday, October 20th, Kyle Giesler successfully defended his thesis, “The Design, Synthesis, and Evaluation of Novel LipidProdrugs for Nucleoside Analogues.” Kyle’s thesis committee included his thesis advisor, Dr. Dennis Liotta, and members Dr. Khalid Salaita and Dr. Frank McDonald.

During his time at Emory, Kyle designed a novel prodrug strategy for tenofovir and other antiviral nucleosides that “unlocks” their therapeutic potential and significantly rivals well-accepted conjugation strategies used in the clinic. His research contributed to 8 publications and a patent application. In addition, Kyle initiated a collaboration between Emory and Morehouse School of Medicine, developed analogs for the treatment of chronic viral infections and cancer, and was awarded the Graduate Diversity Fellowship awarded to outstanding graduate students showing academic excellence and “exceptional promise as future leaders in their fields”.

Looking forward, Kyle plans to pursue a post-doctoral position at U.C Berkeley with Dr. Nirem Murthy where he intends to jump into bioengineering and develop delivery strategies for genome editing technology. After that, Kyle hopes to land an industrial position at the interface of chemistry and biology and be a part of a creative and team that operates at the forefront of human knowledge to design and discover novel therapeutics to change the course of human disease.

Congratulations, Dr. Giesler!