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.

Research Spotlight: A Summer Start at Emory

By: Michelle Leidy (Scarborough Group)

Last summer, I began my graduate career at Emory University doing research for Dr. Nate Jui in the Department of Chemistry. In his lab I was exploring how ureas and carbamates can be taken advantage of for use as catalysts in the ortho-functionalization of aniline and phenol, respectively.

A visualization of reactions-- ureas (top) and carbamates (bottom)
A visualization of reactions– ureas (top) and carbamates (bottom).

I tested these reactions under several sets of conditions. By the end of the summer, I learned that neither of the reactions worked. I even tried making the palladium-carbamate complex to see if the first steps in the catalytic process were going as they should. It turns out, that wasn’t working either.

Visualization of the palladium-carbamate complex--this didn't work either!
Visualization of the palladium-carbamate complex. Also did not work!

This was frustrating for me, as my two undergraduate projects had been successful, with virtually no setbacks. But I learned that when nothing works, you sometimes have to go one step back to (eventually) go two steps forward. As someone who grew up afraid of failure, I am only now realizing that it is the thing that drives new ideas and creativity, as long as we can learn and grow from it.

Overall this rotation was a good learning experience. I was able to transition into graduate life, become familiar with the facilities, and make some new friends without the stress of classes. 

orange line

Michelle LeidyMichelle Leidy began her studies at Emory in the summer of 2015 and is an Initiative to Maximize Student Development (IMSD) fellow. Currently, she is a member of the Scarborough Group working on synthesizing catalysts that can activate hydrogen peroxide by using second sphere hydrogen bonding, which would be useful in challenging industrial oxidation processes. Outside the lab, Michelle enjoys music and the arts, and can often be found going to concerts, plays, or swing dancing the night away if not relaxing at home. After graduation, Michelle hopes to continue her career doing research in a lab. 

A version of this post originally appeared on the IMSD blog in February 2016.