We’re continuing our celebration of all the great things our chemists do both inside and outside of the lab! In volume two, meet chemists who compete in roller derby and golf, an animal photography volunteer, and more!
On Tuesday, July 10th, Hyunmin “Ace” Park successfully defended his thesis, “Synthesis of small molecule therapeutics and ligands utilizing rhodium carbenoid chemistry”. Hyunmin’s thesis committee included his thesis advisor, Dr. Huw Davies, and members Dr. Nathan Jui and Dr. Hyunsuk Shim.
In the Fall, Hyunmin will be moving to South Korea to work for LG Chem.
On Monday, July 16th, Lara Patel successfully defended her thesis, “Changes in state: From phase transitions to nucleation and aggregation”. Lara’s thesis committee included her thesis advisor, Dr. James Kindt, and members Dr. Joel Bowman and Dr. Francesco Evangelista.
During her time at Emory, Lara contributed to the publication of four manuscripts:
1. Patel, L. A.; Kindt J. T., Simulations of NaCl aggregation from solution: Solvent determines topography of free energy landscape. J. Chem. Theory Comput. 2018. (Submitted)
2. Zhang, X.; Patel, L. A.; Beckwith, O.; Schneider, R.; Weeden, C.; Kindt, J. T., Extracting aggregation free energies of mixed clusters from simulations of small systems: Application to ionic surfactant micelles. J. Chem. Theory Comput., 2017, 13 (11), 5195–5206. (DOI: 10.1021/acs.jctc.7b00671)
3. Patel, L. A.; Kindt, J. T., Cluster free energies from simple simulations of small numbers of aggregants: Nucleation of liquid MTBE from vapor and aqueous phases. J. Chem. Theory Comput., 2017, 13 (3), 1023–1033. (DOI: 10.1021/acs.jctc.6b01237)
4. Patel, L. A.; Kindt, J. T., Coarse grained molecular simulations of DPPC vesicle melting. Soft Matter, 2016, 12, 1765-1777. (DOI: 10.1039/C5SM02560E)
On Wednesday, July 18th, Morgan Vaughn successfully defended her thesis, “Enzyme Dynamics Elucidated via Temperature Jump Fluorescence Spectroscopy”. Morgan’s thesis committee included her thesis advisor, Dr. Brian Dyer, and members Dr. Stefan Lutz and Dr. Vincent Conticello.
On Thursday, July 12th, Ban-Seok Jeong successfully defended his thesis, “The Dynamics and Kinetics of Proton Related Biological Processes”. Ban-Seok’s thesis committee included his thesis advisor, Dr. Brian Dyer, and members Dr. James T. Kindt and Dr. Khalid Salaita.
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 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.
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.
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.”
What is GRExit? A silly term for a big decision. Starting in Fall 2019, Emory’s Department of Chemistry is joining the “GRExit” wave by dropping the GRE test from our graduate application process.
The GRE (or “Graduate Record Exam”) administered by the Educational Testing Service has been a factor in graduate school admissions since the 1950s. At Emory, we have long required the test as one piece of a package intended to allow us to gauge how well students might do in our program. We are committed to the practice of whole file review, meaning we review all of the materials a student submits instead of using any one factor to “weed out” students from our applicant pool. In the past, we relied on this practice to mitigate any outsize impact on GRE scores. However, we were still faced with interpreting scores as a piece of the puzzle….and over time, our graduate committee found that it was very hard to look past particularly high or low scores as they reviewed the remainder of a file.
Added to that impression, we had access to data on students who accept our admissions offer and matriculate. We haven’t found the GRE to be a very good indicator for student success in the first year of our program. Our sample size is small compared to the large number of students who take the test, but there is more research out there that we can rely on. For instance, consider the following:
Research has also consistently shown that the GRE introduces bias into the review process, disadvantaging women, minorities, and students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Some references of note:
We are very concerned about minimizing bias in our admissions process. Our entire graduate admissions team undergoes training about the role of implicit bias in their day-to-day life (a program that draws heavily on the book Blindspot.) We have also piloted the use of a shared evaluation form to help faculty review applications with the same questions in mind. And we are always considering new ways to minimize bias in our review process. With issues of efficacy, predictive value, and bias in mind, removing the GRE from our process seemed like the right path. It’s a decision we may revisit if new research or testing options make the GRE more useful. But for now, we are confident that “GRExit” is the way to go.
What does this mean for you as an applicant? Simply put, you do not have to take the GRE to apply to the Emory chemistry graduate program. We will still practice whole file review – we look forward to reading your personal statements, seeing your faculty of interest selections, and hearing the perspective of your recommenders. We also love when students submit the optional video statement!
Because we are committed to this path, we will not be accepting test scores in the application even if you want to report them. If we receive scores from some students but not from others, we reintroduce potential biases from this test, particularly as we suspect that students are understandably more likely to submit high scores. We will carefully review all of the information that we do request and feel confident in our ability to make a thorough review of each application without the assistance of GRE scores.
As another tangible benefit, we hope this will lessen the financial burden of the application process. You do not need to pay to send your scores to Emory, to take test prep classes or buy test prep books, or to sit the test itself.
What do you think about GRExit? Does it make you more or less likely to apply to Emory? Are you planning to take the GRE for other applications? Are you happy to skip it?
Please feel free to share your comments and, as always, to contact our program if you have any questions.
Planning to apply? Visit chemistry.emory.edu/apply. Applications open September 1st, 2018 and are due by December 1st, 2018 for entry in Fall 2019.
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.