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!

 

Chemistry Students Host Second Annual ComSciCon Conference

SciComATL swag for attendees. Photo by @ComSciConATL on Twitter.

Earlier this month, Emory University hosted the second annual ComSciCon ATL. ComSciCon is an organization that provides workshops hosted by and for graduate students with a focus on science communication. The ComSciCon ATL event was a collaborative efforts between organizers from UGA, Georgia Tech, and Emory. Dyer Group graduate students Helen Siaw and Brooke Andrews, both in their fourth year, were Emory’s event leads. The conference was funded, in part, by a generous gift from Emory’s Laney Graduate School among other sponsors. All conference expenses and meals were covered for participants.

SciComConATL participants (attempt to?) take a photo together on the stairs in the Science Commons Atrium. Photo from @SciConComATL on Twitter.

The event, which took place in the Atwood Chemistry Center, was two days full of professional panels, networking, activities, and breakout sessions. Attendees were given the unique chance to hone their communication skills, while hearing from a diverse cast of science communication experts.

The event included four panels:

SciComm Audiences

This panel was organized to address the questions surrounding the target audiences of science communications. The three panelists, Barbara Coble (Founder of Emory’s Graduation Generation), James Porter (Professor of Ecology and Marine Sciences at UGA), and Marc Merlin (Executive Director of the Atlanta Science Tavern), shared their unique experiences to provide insight into a variety of SciComm audiences.

Ethics of SciComm

This panel, which addressed some of the ethical considerations in the realm of science communication, was comprised of Veronica van Montfrans (Director of Learning Sciences Innovation and Research at Georgia Tech and the joint Emory/GA Tech Biomedical Engineering program), Aaron Levine (Associate Professor in the School of Public Policy at Georgia Tech), and Paul Root Wolpe (Professor of Jewish Bioethics and Director of the Center for Ethics at Emory).

Data & Visual SciComm

Mica Duran (Board-certified medical illustrator), Michael Shaw (MD, educational filmmaker), Alex Nazzari (Emory undergraduate student, President of Science.Art.Wonder), and Becky Scheel (Service Designer with Harmonic Design) shared about possible advantages, obstacles, and applications of visual media in science communication.

Advocacy & Policy

The panel of Jasmine Clark (Lecturer of Microbiology and Anatomy and Physiology at Emory University), Berry Brosi (Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences at Emory), John Bowers (Chief of Game Management for the Wildlife Resources Division), and Robert Butera (Associate Dean for Research and Innovation in the Georgia Tech College of Engineering) discussed how scientists can use their voice to influence political action.

The workshop also featured an afternoon of activities where attendees were given the chance to make use of the valuable information they were learning throughout the day. During a write-a-thon, attendees were given constructive feedback on writing samples. Mock interviews were hosted to give advice on best interview practices for the field. During “Improv Hour”, attendees had the chance to show up in front of an audience and participate in fun and informative improvisation-based activities led by Highwire Comedy Company.

After a full first day, the evening wrapped up with a pizza and movie night featuring the documentary “Chasing Coral“—one of the many projects from Dr. Porter. The film explores what coral reefs can tell us about the health of our globe and the future of our planet. In addition, the film also provides a wonderful example of how scientists can make an impact through film and other forms of communication.

Storytelling training with Janece Shaffer. Photo by @HelenSiaw on Twitter.

On the second day, panel sessions were punctuated with short breakout sessions. One session was hosted by Janece Shaffer, Founder and Chief Story Consultant for Storycentric. Storycentric collaborates with companies to build impactful stories for marketing, brand development, and public speaking. Another breakout session hosted by Dan Samorodnitisky gave attendees the chance to develop a pitch that could be submitted to a media outlet. As an Editor with MassiveSci, Dr. Samorodnitisky is familiar with the ins and outs of story pitching, passing along some words of wisdom to those who are interested in submitting. Finally, the third breakout session focused on developing an online persona. In this session,hosted by Social Media Strategist Manu Muraro, attendees were given practical advice on best social media practices for building a brand.

Dr. Shepherd’s keynote address in Atwood Hall 360. Photo by @MAjayi_907 on Twitter.

The event concluded with a keynote address from Dr. Marshall Shepherd, a leading international expert in weather and climate. He hosts The Weather Channel’s award-winning Sunday talk show, “Weather Geeks“, and serves as the chair of the NASA Earth Sciences Advisory Committee. He shared his unique experience with science communication and emphasized the importance of effectively communicating science to the public.

Overall, the two-day workshop was a wonderfully fun and informative event. The perfectly curated cast of science communicators was able to provide unique insights and advice from all corners of the science communications arena. Attendees were given practical advice, networking opportunities, and the chance to ask questions and develop their skills.

Professional development workshops like this one are undeniably valuable to graduate students, so a huge “Thank you!” to everyone who made this event possible.

2018 STEM Research and Career Symposium Recap

The 2018 STEM Research and Career Symposium, organized by the Laney Graduate School, took place earlier this week.  Faculty and students from diverse backgrounds were invited to present their research, engage in networking opportunities, and get to know Emory’s graduate program. Attendees shared ideas and STEM experiences during oral presentations, breakout meetings, poster sessions, and meals. The Keynote speaker at the event was Dr. Jose Antonio Bowen, President of Goucher College and author of Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning. In an entertaining and humor-filled presentation, he discussed the biology of learning, tips to success, and more.

Davies group members Robert Kubiak and Yannick Boni presenting the CCHF poster.

Dr. James Kindt served as a Co-Organizer for the event alongside Dr. Eddie Morgan from the Department of Pharmacology. Several graduate students in the Department of Chemistry were spotted at the symposium mingling with visiting undergraduate students and sharing their amazing research. The event even featured a poster highlighting all that the Center for Selective C-H Functionalization (CCHF) has to offer.

Thank you to everyone who attended and represented the Department of Chemistry!

Photo from @Wuestlab on Twitter.

Welcome to the Fall 2018 Entering Graduate Class!

We are excited to announce the names of our 2018 entering cohort. This group of early career scientists is distinguished by their broad research experience and training, including summer REUs and participation in programs including:

  • DAAD-Rise Fellowship
  • Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP)
  • Emory STEM Research Symposium
  • Barry Goldwater Scholarship
  • McNair Scholars
  • NIH Initiative to Maximize Student Development (IMSD)

A majority of the class has at least one paper published or under review. Many students have experience with mentoring, including undergraduate TA, tutoring, and Peer Leader appointments. As a group, these students also share long-term engagement in volunteer projects and STEM outreach. While a majority of the class is joining Emory directly from their undergraduate careers, a handful  are moving on to the PhD track from post-grad laboratory careers. Several will be the first in their family to earn a PhD.

In addition, this class includes:

  • a former zookeeper/science educator
  • a pair of former college roommates
  • a Starbucks “Coffee Master”
  • a “Most Athletic” award winner
  • an Emory College alum and the child of an Emory College alum

Each of these students has their own story to tell and incredible potential to draw on Emory resources to forge an amazing scientific career.

Entering Class of 2018

Ryan Allen
Villanova University

Paul Beasley
Earlham College

Tamra Blue
Georgia State University

Ting Cheng
Peking University

Adrian Demeritte
St. John’s University

Zackery Dentmon
Mercer University

Christella Dhammaputri
Emory University

Ordy Manuela Gnewou
Lehman College

Ayda Gonzalez de la Nuez
Bard College

Amber Harris
James Madison University

Sheng He
Dalian University of Technology

Cecilia Hendy
College of Charleston

Michael Hollerbach
College of Charleston

Yuesong Hu
Lanzhou University

Renke Huang
Southern University of Science and Technology

Alyssa Johnson
College of Charleston

Diane Karloff
Duke University

Sara Konecny
Georgia Institute of Technology

David Laws
Coastal Carolina University

Maizie Lee
California State University – Fresno

Qinyi Lu
University of Science and Technology

Andrew Mahoney
Gettysburg College

Brea Manuel
Louisiana State University – Baton Rouge

Sam Mckinnon
Mississippi State University

Quincy McKoy
University of Richmond

Duong Nguyen
Mount Holyoke College

Selma Piranej
Loyola University – Chicago

Jessalyn Rogers
Western Washington University

Chase Schultz
Alma College

Jack Sharland
Bowdoin College

Racheal Spurlin
North Carolina State University

Jiayue Sun
Syracuse University

Tiffany Trieu
University of Central Florida

Ailing Yu
Lanzhou University

Cassandra Zaremba
Xavier University

 

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.

Dunham Group Publication in Nature Chemical Biology

Graduate student Ha An Nguyen of the Dunham Group recently published a News and Views article for the journal Nature Chemical Biology entitled, “Genome Mining: Digging the Tunnel for Chemical Space” based on a July article published in the same journal, “Klebsazolicin Inhibits 70S Ribosome by Obstructing the Peptide Exit Tunnel”.

In her review, Ha An summarizes the major findings of the Metelev et al. paper and emphasizes the value of genome mining in the discovery of new antimicrobials. “We previously thought we had beaten bacterial infections with ‘miracle drugs’ but if you look at the numbers from the CDC, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections in the United States alone,” Ha An says. “Techniques such as genome mining used in this paper can help sift through tons of sequencing data and can lead us to places we would have never thought of to look.”

Beyond its scientific contributions to the field, this manuscript held particular value to Ha An. “As a novice scientist, this paper on klebsazolicin provides a nice story of a scientific study that walks through the project from conception in silico and into the laboratory for mechanistic and structural investigation,” she says. “It also let me dip my toes into making figures of ribosomes structures, which I am hoping to do a lot of during my time in the Dunham lab to tease out the details of bacterial translation with atomic-level resolution.”

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!

Applying to Graduate School 101: How do I request a reference letter?

A close up view of a chemical in Emory's Atwood Chemistry Center.
A close up view of a chemical in Emory’s Atwood Chemistry Center.

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 provides tips on requesting reference letters to accompany your application.

orange line

Hi, Dr. H,

Can you write a reference for me? It’s due next week. I loved your class!

Katie

orange line

Katie, Dr. H is not amused.

It’s hard to ask faculty for reference letters. You are literally asking them to say nice things about you, on paper, and then submit this nice note to strangers for review. And your future seems to kind of depend on what they say.

Make it easy for yourself and your recommenders. Send an email to your intended letter writer that includes the following information:

  • What you are asking for, including where you are applying and why
  • How they know you (including full name and course titles, if applicable)
  • Deadline for submission (send EARLY!)
  • Please and Thank You
  • Any materials (resume, personal statement, etc.) that the letter writer might need to review before writing

Use your judgement to tailor your request to specific faculty, but those are the basics. If you know someone really, really well, you might not need to offer a lot of specifics about how they know you. But it is still helpful to tell them why you are asking for the letter–what story can they tell about you that will help convince an admissions committee that you will be an awesome grad student?

Most faculty will want at least 2-3 weeks to complete a letter. Some might need longer. For Emory Chemistry, you can submit requests for letters as early as September 1st (when our application goes live) and we will pair them with your application as they arrive. You will need to indicate the contact information (email and snail mail address) of your letter writers to submit your application, so you’ll want to make sure your writers already know that you’re listing them even if they plan to submit the letter at a later date. We will send your writers a direct request for their letter via email to keep the correspondence confidential.

One thing that can confuse applicants is whether or not they should waive their right to review their reference letters. It is your legal right to review letters submitted on your behalf. Graduate schools give students the opportunity to waive this right to help ensure that faculty feel comfortable writing a thorough and honest letter. Even if faculty have nothing but nice things to say, they may not want you to be looking over their shoulder! Generally, admissions representatives might assume that letters will be more honest and comprehensive when a student waives their right of review, so it is a good idea to do this if you feel comfortable. Faculty might also disclose statistics related to OTHER students (such as your grade compared to others or a class ranking) in a confidential letter that they could not include in a letter that you would have access to in order to protect student privacy.

In terms of who to ask for letters, the key criteria is to choose people who know you well. This might include:

  • instructors from college courses
  • research supervisors
  • internship supervisors
  • academic advisors

Generally, each letter should come from someone who interacted with you in college (not earlier). For students applying to graduate school after being in the workforce, we are happy to review letters from people familiar with your college or work experience. Letters from friends, neighbors, and family are not useful (in the rare case that you were taught or supervised by someone in one of these categories, the letter should address these unique circumstances.)

It’s also helpful if letters can speak to your chemistry experience–three letters from non-chemistry professors might make it difficult for us to get a full picture of your preparation. Finally, keep in mind that it’s important to ask for letters from someone in a leadership role–a letter from your research supervisor is more appropriate than a letter from the graduate student who trained you on an instrument. If that graduate student really does know your work, you might ask them if it is okay to include them as a reference when you send that polite email to your P.I. to ask for the letter. For instance: “I worked closely with NAME on PROJECT and they are willing to provide you with details about my progress.”

Finally, it might be helpful to know that it is generally considered good practice for college faculty to decline to write a letter if they cannot be positive. This doesn’t mean that letters can’t provide real critique, but if a faculty member does not feel you are prepared for graduate school or actually didn’t enjoy working with you, custom dictates that they would decline to write a letter for you rather than sending a negative reference. This is a CUSTOM not a RULE. If you are in doubt as to whether a letter will be positive, you should have a professional conversation with your possible referee to ask if they would be willing to write you a supportive letter. If not, thank them for their time and, if you are comfortable, ask them for their advice on how you might improve your work so that they will feel comfortable writing for you in future.

Reference letters are a key component of your application. Request them early and thoughtfully. For the chemistry graduate program at Emory, we require three letters and allow up to four.

Additional Resources:

orange line

Ready to apply? Visit chemistry.emory.edu/apply. Applications are due by December 1st, 2018 for entry in Fall 2019.

Want to learn more about chemistry @ Emory? Fill out an inquiry form and join our mailing list!