On Friday, March 23rd, Leann Teadt successfully defended her thesis, “Engineering the Stereospecificity and Regioselectivity of Flavoenzymes.” Leann’s thesis committee included her thesis advisor, Dr. Stefan Lutz, and members Dr. Dennis Liotta and Dr. Emily Weinert.
Leann is currently wrapping up a few final experiments in the lab while she looks for a job in industry.
Victor Ma, a fourth-year graduate student in the lab of Dr. Khalid Salaita, was recently selected as one of twenty-six Predoctoroal to Postdoctoral Fellow Transition Award Fellows from the National Institute of Health. This award will provide Victor with two years of funding to complete his doctoral thesis and an additional four years of funding for future postdoc training. In the Salaita lab, with co-mentorship by Dr. Brian Evavold, Victor’s research focuses on developing technologies to study mechanobiology at the molecular scale. With an ultimate goal of establishing an alternative mechanism for regulating T cell activity, he studies the roles of mechanical forces in T cell activation, whether these forces are coordinately controlled by mechano-sensitive proteins, and the importance of these forces for T cell biological function. The findings from these studies can provide insight into a potential strategy for developing effective immunotherapies.
In his postdoc, Victor plans on transitioning into the field of tumor immunology, where he hopes to capitalize on his skillset to elucidate the physical mechanisms responsible for preventing T cells from interacting with tumor cells. “My ultimate career goal is to become an independent investigator at a research-intensive university, where I can assume teaching duties and direct a research lab that combines knowledge from various disciplines to innovate career research,” says Victor. “This award will surely serve as a stepping stone to help achieve my goal!”
On Friday, September 29th, the Department of Chemistry welcomed back one of our distinguished alumni, Dr. Xiaohong Wang. Since earning her PhD in Chemistry, Dr. Wang has been working as a software engineer with Snap Inc. During her talk entitled “First Impression of Working in Industry- From Chemistry PhD Student to Engineer at Snap Inc.”, Dr. Wang outlined her professional journey and gave us a peek into her life as a Snap Inc. software engineer.
Dr. Wang earned her Bachelor’s degree in chemical physics from the University of Science and Technology of China. From there, she joined the Emory community and completed both her Master of Science in computer science and her Doctor of Philosophy in computational science in the Bowman Group before taking up her position at Snap, Inc.
The transition from chemistry to computer science, although seemingly a major change in profession, turned out to be quite a natural one for Dr. Wang. During her graduate studies in chemistry, she received training in numerical techniques, data analysis, programming, writing, and problem solving. These skills have proven to be invaluable for her engineering position with Snap, Inc., and she credits much of her success as a software engineer to the training she received during her time at Emory. For instance, during the interview process, Dr. Wang was asked to write a program on her own computer—something that came naturally thanks to her PhD work.
Perhaps more difficult than the change in profession was the transition from graduate school to industry. “There are many things we need to learn, like new techniques, how to communicate with managers and colleagues, and how to adjust our expectations,” Dr. Wang said. She explained that her current position relies heavily on teamwork and maintains a fast working pace in a way that is very different from graduate school. Xiaohong also shared that she is the only woman on her particular team at Snap, Inc. Overall, she finds the environment welcoming and has developed relationships with fellow women in tech.
Overall, while this transition from graduate school to industry required her to acquire a new set of skills and adapt to a new environment, Dr. Wang has hit her stride with the company. Having spent several months working on the company’s first piece of hardware, Spectacles that let users take photos directly from the frames, Dr. Wang said, “The launch of the product is really exciting for the whole team, the whole company, and I feel very proud to be part of it.”
The Emory Department of Chemistry is fortunate to have an amazing group of alumni who have gone on to pursue impressive careers in a variety of fields. The successes of these individuals remind us how capable we are of reaching our own goals and motivate us to continue chasing our dreams. Thank you to Dr. Wang for taking the time to visit Emory and share her journey with us!
This special seminar was made possible via support from the Emory Laney Graduate School Alumni Office.
Rolando Rengifo successfully defended his dissertation, “From Amyloid to Copper Arrays: The design of a functional Metalloamyloid Nanostructure (MAN),” on July 6th, 2017. His committee was chaired by David Lynn with Khalid Salaita and Vincent Conticello as additional members.
In addition to his accomplishments in the lab, Rolando was a dedicated student leader during his time at Emory. He served as President of Pi Alpha Chemical Society immediately followed by a term as President of the Graduate Student Council. During his time as a fraternity house director, he was named Fraternity House Director of the Year. Rolando has also been recognized for his leadership with the Student Impact Award and the Laney Development Council Leadership Award. He is a member of the Omicron Delta Kappa national leadership honor society.
Next up, Rolando plans to attend law school at the Notre Dame School of Law on his path towards a future career as a patent attorney.
Eric Andreansky successfully defended his dissertation, “Synthetic Studies Toward Methanoquinolizidine-Containing Akuammiline Alkaloids” on Wednesday, April 26th, 2017. Eric’s committee was led by Simon Blakey with Frank McDonald and Lanny Liebeskind as additional members.
Michael Neal Sullivan successfully defended his dissertation, “Electronic Spectroscopy of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) and Group IIA Metallic Oxides ” on Monday, April 10th, 2017. Michael’s committee was led by Michael C. Heaven with Tim Lian and Susanna Widicus Weaver as additional members.
During his time at Emory, Michael received the 2012 Outstanding TA Award for his work in physical chemistry lab. He also completed two internships (summer 2013 and 2014) at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) in Albuquerque, NM.
Next up, Michael will start a postdoctoral position with Dr. Lei Zhu at the New York Dept. of Health, Wadsworth Center in Albany, NY at the end of June.
Kornelia Galior successfully defended her thesis, “Protein-Based Tension Probes: From Mapping Integrin Adhesion Forces to the Mechanopharmacology of Smooth Muscle Cells” on Wednesday, April 12th, 2017. Kornelia’s thesis committed was led by Khalid Salaita with Vince Conticello and David Lynn as additional members.
During her time at Emory, Kornelia received two Quayle awards. She will start a clinical chemistry fellowship at the Mayo Clinic in July.
Marika Wieliczko defended her thesis, “Innocent and Non-innocent Countercation Interactions in Transition Metal Oxidation Catalysts” on Wednesday, April 5th, 2017. Marika’s thesis committed was led by Craig L. Hill with Cora MacBeth and Brian Dyer as additional members.
During her time at Emory, Marika was a founding member of SciComm, the graduate student science communications group. She was also an organizing member of the recent “Sickle & Flow” benefit concert that raised money for research into sickle cell disease.
Following graduation, Marika will be based in Washington, D.C. where she has a position in editorial development for the Royal Society of Chemistry in North America. Specifically, she will be working with the inorganic, nano, materials, and chemical engineering as well as general chemistry journals.
Christian Wallen successfully defended his thesis, “The Coordination Chemistry of Hydrogen Peroxide” on Monday, December 5th, 2016. Christian’s thesis committed was led by Chris Scarborough with Lanny Liebeskind and Simon Blakey as additional members.
During his time at Emory, Christian received the Osborne R. Quayle Advanced/Senior Student Award (2016) and Outstanding TA Award for Organic Chemistry Laboratories (2014). Next up, he plans to work as a postdoctoral scholar with John Berry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Lewen Yang successfully defended his thesis, “Line tension assisted membrane permeation at the transition temperature in mixed phase lipid bilayers” in Fall 2017. Lewen’s thesis committed was led by James T. Kindt with Joel Bowman and Michael C. Heaven as additional members.
During his time at Emory, Lewen worked on explaining a phenomenon that was first observed in the early 1970’s, that ions can move more quickly through lipid bilayers when the temperature is close to the bilayer’s melting point. At that temperature, zones of ordered lipids, which are very hard to pass through, exist next to zones of disordered lipids. The experiments suggest that the presence of the ordered lipids make the disordered lipids even more permeable than they would be on their own. The explanation proposed originally, and widely cited still, is that the boundary between these zones is exceptionally leaky. Lewen performed simulations on a highly simplified model that pointed to a different explanation – that leakage doesn’t actually occur at the interfaces themselves, but rather that the line tension of the interface exerts a tension on the disordered lipids that makes them more permeable. He followed up this study with demonstrations, using a more realistic model, that the effect of the interface on the energy barrier to permeation could be predicted quantitatively. His work has opened up a whole new perspective on an interesting phenomenon that is relevant to efforts to use thermally activated lipid containers for targeted drug release.
Lewen started a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Delaware with Prof. Ed Lyman in April, where he continues to use molecular simulation to understand lipid phase behavior.