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.”

Join the CRC Emory Freezer Challenge!

By: Elena Jordanov (EC ’18)

The Carbon Reduction Challenge (CRC) was started at the Georgia Institute of Technology by climatologist, Dr. Kim Cobb, over 11 years ago. The Challenge began as a course for students to take part in, pushing them to think of new initiatives to decrease carbon emissions in the atmosphere and develop cost-benefit analyses to incentivize Georgia Tech to engage in these initiatives.

In the past couple years, CRC evolved beyond the classroom via undergraduate and graduate students’ co-op programs with companies in the Greater Atlanta area.  As increased involvement and success of the student-led CRC occurs, it will be demonstrated that carbon reduction initiatives are feasible for large companies, universities, and developed cities to implement.

This past Spring 2018 semester was the first semester Emory University joined the challenge.  Through connections between Emory’s Climate Analysis and Solutions Team’s (ECAST) Daniel Rochberg and Dr. Cobb, the first CRC team at Emory was developed. The team includes Elena Jordanov (B.S. in chemistry, minor in philosophy), Miranda Mitchell (B.S. in environmental science, B.A. in political science) and Ken Wakabayashi (B.A in chemistry, B.S. in environmental science).

The Emory CRC team has partnered with the Office of Sustainability Initiatives (OSI) and developed an initiative to reduce carbon dioxide emissions through refrigerator and freezer management.  Project Drawdown, a multi-national research effort that assessed the viability and effectiveness of possible strategies for decreasing potential global carbon dioxide emissions, ranked refrigerant management as the #1 strategy.  After auditing a subset of the freezers and refrigerators in the Chemistry Department’s Atwood and Emerson buildings, the team estimates that at least 5.5% of these buildings’ total CO2 emissions results from powering cold storage equipment.  The two buildings together emit 650,000 lbs of CO2 per month, and spend $38,000 each month on the energy creating these emissions.

In order to decrease these emissions, the CRC team has created an Emory Freezer Challenge, based off of the North American Freezer Challenge.  In this challenge, chemistry labs will compete to implement fridge and freezer management strategies each month and gain the most points. To begin, a pilot challenge will take place from May 20th-August 31st in order to get feedback from Principal Investigators and lab managers on what works and does not work about the Emory Freezer Challenge.  The Emory Freezer Challenge is 100% voluntary, and labs can get a substantial amount of points by choosing any management methods that work best for them.  The Challenge has also been designed to not give labs with more equipment the advantage during the competition; labs get points for enrolling each of their equipment and supplying the manufacturer’s label.  The label contains the power consumption information that are used in baseline energy consumption calculations.

One innovative aspect about the Emory Freezer Challenge is that the team will obtain a holistic picture of the total CO2 emissions produced from the Chemistry Department’s equipment by supplying energy consumption meters to labs that volunteer to use them.  The team has been funded for a limited supply of meters and thus 3-4 meters will be implemented in laboratory equipment that are representative samples of different types of equipment, such as -80 and -20 freezers, 4 degree fridges and refrigerator-freezer cabinets.

Due to this structure, the first labs to volunteer for the Emory Freezer Challenge and to have a meter in their lab are more likely to win the most points.  Labs who apply for Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 are all eligible for a meter. Follow the link below to sign up your lab and join the Emory Freezer Challenge!

Sign up: https://goo.gl/forms/mdiPxIY3jztsq7hk1

Above is a great example of a before and after equipment organization from the Quave lab in the School of Medicine.  On the left, you can see a more disorganized, frosted freezer. On the right, all samples are organized in racks, which the CRC team is happy to provide.  The new, managed freezer has also been defrosted, which greatly increases the efficiency of the freezer. Also, making sure all equipment is full impacts the efficiency of a freezer or refrigerator.  Placing foam blocks or ice packs where there is free space in a refrigerator or freezer, as well as consolidating as many samples as possible into one equipment, are all viable options for improving freezer and refrigerator management.

By properly managing samples within lab equipment, the goal is to not only make refrigerators and freezers more efficient, but lab members as well.  By having a proper inventory of where items are and prioritizing accessibility, lab members will increase their efficiency during experiments.

Getting Green Lab Certified is a lot easier than most think.  Follow this link to get more information on how you can do it, and be eligible for funding to implement sustainability innovations in your lab!  The Blakey Lab and Wuest Lab in Chemistry have done it; you can too!

Green Labs at Emory

Anyone can be a part of the CRC team, including undergraduates, graduate students, and post-docs.  If interested, please email crcemory [at] gmail [dot] com or fill out the form below!

Sign Up: https://goo.gl/forms/pzkOjA8jMv7jibaX2

 

Emory Chemistry Students Celebrate NSF GRFP Awards

Congratulations to Dayna Patterson (Weinert Group) and Kevin Hoang (EC 17′; Davies Group) for being awarded 2018 Graduate Research Fellowships from the National Science Foundation!

Congratulations also to Brendan Deal (Salaita Group) and Michael Hollerbach (Chemistry Graduate Program entering class of 2018) who received Honorable Mentions.

For the 2016 competition, NSF received over 12,000 applications and made 2,000 award offers.

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based Master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited United States institutions. As the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind, the GRFP has a long history of selecting recipients who achieve high levels of success in their future academic and professional careers.

Meet the Honorees

Dayna Patterson came to Emory from Houston Baptist University where she had the opportunity to engage in undergraduate research with the Welch Foundation and as an NSF REU participant at Baylor University. Her research in  the Weinert Group focuses on understanding how bacteria change their phenotypes in response to environmental signals. In January 2018, Dayna received the Carl Storm Underrepresented Minority Fellowship to attend the Gordon Research Conference on Metals in Biology and share her research. She has also shared her research with the Atlanta community through the Atlanta Science Festival. She is the current treasurer for Pi Alpha Chemical Society and an associate fellow with the NIH-funded Initiative to Maximize Student Development.

Kevin Hoang conducted undergraduate research in the Davies Group at Emory and graduated in 2017 with a B.S. in chemistry. He is now at Yale University in the Herzon Laboratory.

Brendan Deal is a second year Ph.D. candidate in the lab of Dr. Khalid Salaita. He completed his undergraduate studies at Davidson College just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. Brendan’s research is focused on the development of DNA-nanoparticle conjugates with potential applications in the fields of medicine and biotechnology.

 

 

Michael Hollerbach will be joining Emory this summer after receiving a B.S. in Biochemistry from the College of Charleston in South Carolina.  He chose Emory after seeing all of the exciting research opportunities and looks forward to participating in upcoming research rotations, starting with a summer rotation in the McDonald Group.  His research interests are in Organic Chemistry with a focus on small molecule synthesis and methodology development.  Currently, he is teaching Honors Chemistry at a local high school and wrapping up his undergraduate research at the College of Charleston. At Emory, he looks forward to the opportunity to share his love of Chemistry as a TA and to participate in outreach in the Atlanta community.

Atlanta Science Festival: Chemistry Carnival Recap

The Atlanta Science Festival brings STEM out of the lab and into the Atlanta community with two weeks of events culminating in the “Exploration Expo” regularly attended by over 18,000 people. ASF was founded in 2014 by a group of Emory staff and faculty, including former chemistry (now ASF!) staff Meisa Salaita and Sarah Peterson and chemistry faculty member David Lynn. Chemistry has sponsored at least one festival event every year. This blog series covers just some of chemistry’s involvement in the 2018 festival.

One particularly fun event, the Chemistry Carnival, provided children and families with an evening of entertainment and education through a series of hands-on activities. The Atwood Commons was abuzz with enthusiastic young learners playing games, asking questions, and learning about science and technology.

Some highlights of the carnival included Peptide Jenga, where participants learned about attraction and repulsion, Pin the Tail on the Substrate, where guests were blindfolded and tasked with “pinning the polar-head to the [3.3.0] bicycle-octene”, and Electron Transfer Ring Toss, complete with glow-sticks and illuminated Erlenmeyer flasks. On the second floor of the commons, visitors could Build a Bio Material out of clay, play the Bacteria Board Game, or pop balloons with darts in Superbug Pop.

The event wouldn’t have been complete without a few science-y sweets. Guests could enjoy hand-spun cotton candy or Dippin’ Dots made with liquid nitrogen.

A huge “Thank you!” to everyone who helped make the Chemistry Carnival such a successful and fun night! We couldn’t have done it without you!

More: Read postdoc Claire Jarvis’ (Wuest Group) interview with festival organizers Anthony Sementilli and Elaine Liu on the Emory Postdoctoral Association blog!

Pin the Tail on the Substrate
Peptide Jenga
ALEX visited the Science Commons Library
Colorful Ring Toss chemistry props
Bacteria Board Game
Students welcoming guests to the Chemistry Carnival
Build a Bio Material
Superbug Pop
Liquid nitrogen Dippin’ Dots
Laser Maze, Photo by Mallory Theis
Laser Maze, Photo by Mallory Theis
Laser Maze, Photo by Mallory Theis

How to Respond to an Offer of Admission to the PhD Program in Chemistry

Students shake hands at a Recruitment Weekend poster session.
Students shake hands at a Recruitment Weekend poster session.

If you received a 2018 offer to join our PhD program, congratulations!

Emory University’s Laney Graduate School is a member of the Council of Graduate Schools and we do not require any student to respond to an offer of admission prior to April 15th. However, we would love to hear from you as soon as you know your decision!

To officially accept an offer of admission, you should log in to CollegeNET and follow these instructions.

If you have questions–about your offer, the program, or anything else–please feel free to contact us at gradchem [at] emory [dot] edu.

10 Great Things About the Emory Chemistry PhD Program

Curious to learn more about the Chemistry PhD Program here at Emory? Look no further! From research and resources to community and collaboration, Emory provides the perfect environment for cultivating ideas and inspiring innovation. Here, we have provided a comprehensive list to highlight some of the wonderful attributes that our university has to offer its graduate students.

1. Diverse Research Opportunities

The research opportunities within the Emory Department of Chemistry are far from limited, with over 20 research groups exploring topics ranging from catalysis to sustainable energy. Our research groups span the four major subdisciplines—inorganic, organic, biomolecular, and physical chemistry—providing graduate students the opportunity to pursue research in a variety of topics.

2. Size of Program

The chemistry PhD program at Emory is considered to be a mid-sized program. A program of this size, with 141 graduate students, 21 research groups, and 15 full-time staff members, is large enough to span most areas of chemistry, but small enough to facilitate effortless intradepartmental relationships. Graduate students in this scientific community find themselves surrounded by like-minded individuals and a supportive faculty providing a personalized and productive research environment.

3. Funding

With $11.7 million in research funding in the 2017 fiscal year, the research endeavors in the Emory Department of Chemistry are well-funded. External financial support affords our program high-end technologies, top of the line equipment, and all necessary laboratory resources.

4. Resources

As mentioned above, Emory is fortunate to be equipped with the latest and greatest instrumentation. With the Mass Spectrometry Center, the Solid-State NMR Center, the Robert P. Apkarian Integrated Electron Microscopy Core, the NMR Research Center, and the X-ray Crystallography Center, chemists in our department have access to an arsenal of state of the art equipment for all their scientific inquiries.

5. Collaboration Opportunities

Motivated by the idea that the best teaching and research happens in the context of a scientific community, everything from building design to department events are poised to promote collaboration. Graduate students in the chemistry department can connect with other researchers across the campus through seminars and courses and across the world through study abroad opportunities.

6. Support

Students in the department can find themselves armed with support throughout the duration of their graduate career. New students are paired with a senior graduate student at the start of their studies for mentorship and their progress is measured with yearly checkpoints. In addition, every new graduate student is automatically inducted into the social and service organization, Pi Alpha Chemical Society, where they will have the opportunity to strengthen relations with other graduate students in the program.

7. Future Careers

Graduate students from our department are uniquely equipped with the skills and training to be successful in a multitude of future careers. Some graduate students have gone on to hold faculty positions in colleges and universities across the country, while others hold positions in industry at companies such as DuPont or Pfizer. Our graduates are not limited to research-driven careers, with many branching out into law, medical practice, tech start-ups, government, science writing, or teaching. Strong alumni connections provide current students with networking opportunities and career resources.

8. Amazing Building

The heart of the program is centered in the beautiful, recently-renovated Sanford S. Atwood Chemistry Center on Emory’s main campus. With plenty of lab space, a glass-fronted atrium, numerous collaborative spaces, and an aroma-filled coffee shop, the Atwood Chemistry Center provides the perfect arena for innovation and discovery.

9. Beautiful Campus

Our main campus has been ranked by The Best Colleges as one of the top ten “most amazing college campuses”, ranking number 8 on the most beautiful campus list. Located in the magnificent Druid Hills neighborhood, the 630-acre campus features unique marble architecture amongst splendid trees and lush greenery.

10. Awesome City

Emory is situated in northeastern Atlanta, a city bursting with culture. The city, the capital and most populous city in Georgia, is home to Zoo Atlanta, the World of Coca-Cola, the Georgia Aquarium, the Atlanta Botanical Garden, and countless parks and museums. Atlanta takes pride in its dynamic culture, diverse cuisine, and southern hospitality, with no shortage of experiences for its tourists and residents.

Interested in learning more about our graduate program? Refer to our website or contact us at gradchem [at] emory [dot] edu.

Applying to Graduate School 101: A Letter from the Director of Graduate Studies

Director of Graduate Studies Susanna Widicus Weaver gives a research seminar to new graduate students in August 2017.
Director of Graduate Studies Susanna Widicus Weaver gives a research seminar to new graduate students in August 2017.

This Fall, we are publishing a special series of blog posts about applying to graduate school–at Emory and in general. Our goal is to demystify the application process and help applicants feel confident as they seek a home for their graduate studies. This post is the first in the series, a letter from our Director of Graduate Studies, Dr. Susanna Widicus Weaver.

orange line

Susanna Widicus Weaver. Photo by Jessica Lily Photography.
Susanna Widicus Weaver. Photo by Jessica Lily Photography for Work+Play.

Dear Applicants to the Emory Chemistry Graduate Program,

As Director of Graduate Studies, I want to welcome you as you begin a truly fantastic journey on the path to becoming a scientist. Applying to graduate school is an important step in your journey, and I hope that our Emory Chemistry community can help guide you along this career path. This is a special year for me to lead our admissions team as I recently started my own journey by taking on the role of Director of Graduate Studies. I look forward to getting to know each of you via your applications and am committed to building a great graduate class for entry in Fall 2018.

It is an exciting time in our Department as many changes are taking place. In 2015, we moved in to a new, beautiful addition to Atwood Hall, giving us room to grow our research capabilities and expand our teaching endeavors. This new space inspired the reform of our teaching mission, and we are implementing “Chemistry Unbound” this fall. This full revision and rebranding of our undergraduate chemistry curriculum opens up new opportunities for graduate students to become involved in our teaching mission. Additionally, we are aggressively hiring faculty members who, through both research and teaching, offer innovative pathways into a deeper understanding of Chemistry. Lastly, we always strive to disseminate our science through an active outreach program that seeks to inspire and engage our community.

The Graduate program is at the heart of our Department, and our success in these endeavors depends on its students. Graduate students participate in our teaching mission by serving as undergraduate teaching assistants, aid in outreach activities to engage the community in our work, and contribute to the research endeavor via their own independent research. To join our Department as a graduate student is to fully immerse yourself in the world of Chemistry.

Emory Chemistry has a wonderful team in place to help you on your journey.

  • If you have questions about the application process or our outreach activities, please contact Kira Walsh, our Outreach Coordinator.
  • If you have questions about our graduate program, please email gradchem [at] emory [dot] edu; this will connect you with our entire admissions team, including Graduate Coordinator Ana Maria Velez, Kira Walsh, and our faculty Graduate Committee.
  • If you have questions about research, please contact any research-active faculty member in this Department. (At this link, you can also see a list of faculty accepting students in Fall 2018.)
  • If you have questions about our teaching mission, please contact Dr. Douglas Mulford, Director of Undergraduate Studies.
  • And if you have general questions about our Department or our Graduate Program, please contact me or Dr. Stefan Lutz, our Department Chair.

I wish you all the best as you begin your Chemistry journey.

Sincerely,

Dr. Widicus Weaver

Director of Graduate Studies

orange line

Ready to apply? Visit chemistry.emory.edu/apply! Applications received before October 31st will receive an automatic waiver of the application fee (scores and letters may arrive later.) The final deadline is January 1st.

#WeJoinedTwitter!

The Emory University Department of Chemistry is excited to announce that we have officially joined Twitter! We hope that this platform will provide another opportunity to connect to our current students, prospective students, faculty, and the global scientific community. We will use this Twitter account to post updates and announcements from the Department of Chemistry, share new and exciting findings in the field, answer questions about our program, and more. We really look forward to connecting with you, so be sure to follow us @EmoryChem!

CCHF Receives $20 Million Renewal from NSF

Center Director Huw Davies (right) in the CCHF lab at Emory.

Emory’s Center for Selective C-H Functionalization has received a five year, $20 million renewal from the National Science Foundation. The CCHF is part of NSF’s Centers for Chemical Innovation (CCI) program that supports research centers focused on major, long-term fundamental chemical research challenges. The CCHF aims to bring about a paradigm shift in the logic of chemical synthesis, one that has the potential to impact the construction of all organic molecules. The Center is headquartered at Emory, but has satellite centers at research universities across the U.S. and internationally including UC Berkeley, Stanford, Princeton, and Georgia Tech, among others. The CCHF also works with industrial collaborators, including Novartis, Merck, and AbbVie.

Center Director Huw Davies says, “We are very excited with this opportunity because we feel the momentum of the CCHF continues to build.   An Outlook of the CCHF has just been published, which summarizes what we have achieved so far and where we plan to go in the future.”

As with all CCI, the CCHF also has an outreach mission, seeking to share their science with the public. They are regular participants in the Atlanta Science Festival and sponsors of the Graduate School Prep Club. The CCHF has also pioneered the use of virtual symposia offering talks by researchers that take place at one institution and are simulcast to partner centers and the public worldwide, reaching thousands of viewers.

The CCHF is profiled in-depth in a recent article in ACS Central Science.

Congratulations to Dr. Davies and all Center staff, students, and faculty on this major grant renewal!

Congratulations, Dr. Rolando Rengifo!

RoRolando 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.

Congratulations, Rolando!