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!

2017 National Chemistry Week: Chemistry Rocks!

This week, October 22nd -28th, the American Chemical Society will be celebrating the 30th Anniversary of National Chemistry Week. The goal of National Chemistry Week is to promote the value of chemistry in everyday life. ACS members and science enthusiasts are encouraged to spread awareness of chemistry by organizing events for ACS local sections, schools, businesses, and the general community.

In 1987, former ACS President Dr. George Pimentel organized a national event to celebrate the impact of chemistry. This single day of celebrating science evolved into an annual week-longevent where the scientific community engages in education and outreach. The events of the week are accompanied by the publication of Celebrating Chemistry, a booklet designed to engage and educate children in the basic principles of chemistry and to inspire the next generation of future scientists.

The theme of National Chemistry Week for 2017 is “Chemistry Rocks!”, which focuses on geochemistry. Topics include the chemistry of salt, the types of rock within the Earth’s crust, and the difference between a rock, a mineral, and a gemstone. Some activities in Celebrating Chemistry include growing crystals from Epsom salt and testing mud samples for clay content.

Previous topics of National Chemistry Week include “Solving Mysteries Through Chemistry”, “Chemistry Colors Our World”, “The Sweet Side of Chemistry—Candy”, and “Energy: Now and Forever”. Next year, events will focus around outer space in “Chemistry Out of this World”.

To spark widespread interest and appreciation for chemistry is a goal also shared with our graduate student social and service organization, Pi Alpha Chemical Society (PACS). On Thursday, October 26th, PACS and Graduation Generation, a collaborative family-school-university-community partnership, will host an outreach event at Toomer Elementary School involving 20-minute science demonstrations for kids in third through fifth grade. In addition, ChEmory, our undergraduate chemistry club will host a series of events in honor of National Chemistry Week including an alumni career seminar, science demonstrations, and periodic table cupcake baking!

Outreach opportunities like those presented by PACS, ChEmory, and National Chemistry Week give us the chance to share our love of chemistry and science with the community. Through education and outreach, we can cultivate an appreciation for chemistry and inspire the next generation to become as passionate as we are.

Interested in learning more about National Chemistry Week? Check out the ACS website! If you are interested in getting involved with the PACS outreach event, contact Elaine Liu.

 

ChEmory events this week:

Tuesday, October 24th

Demo Show: 6:30-7:30 pm at Memorial Student Center E208

            Wednesday, October 25th

ChEmory at Wonderful: 12-2 pm in Asbury Circle

Periodic Table Cupcake Baking: 7-8 pm in the LSM Kitchen

            Thursday, October 26th

Periodic Table Cupcake Decorating: 7-8 pm in the LSM Kitchen

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!

2017-2018 Officers Announced for PACS and ChEmory

Pi Alpha Chemical Society, our graduate student social and service organization, and ChEmory, our ACS-affiliated undergraduate chemistry club both elected new officers for the 2017-2018 school year.

chemory logo

ChEmory welcomes…

President: Daniel Salguiero

Vice President: Ashley Diaz

Treasurer: Javier Omar

Secretary: Thomas Kowal-Safron

Green Chair: Jaipal Narula

Publicity Officer: Sydney Hwang

Demo Chair: Asma Syed

PACS logo

Pi Alpha Chemical Society (PACS) welcomes…

President: Cam Pratt

VP of Marketing and Communication: Ally Boyington

VP of Community Service: Michelle Leidy

VP of Social Affairs: Alexia Prokopik

VP of Outreach and Academic Affairs: Elaine Liu

Treasurer: Dayna Patterson

Congratulations to all! We can’t wait to see what you accomplish!

PACS on Facebook

ChEmory on Facebook

Event Report: ChEmory Alumni Career Panel

On Wednesday evening, April 12th, ChEmory held their inaugural alumni career panel in Atwood Hall 360. The event was well attended by both undergraduate and graduate students.

Featured alumni guests were:

Dr. Vicky Stevens (American Cancer Society)

Vicky Stevens received a B.S. degree in Chemistry and her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Emory University and then did a postdoctoral fellowship at Merck Research Laboratories in the area of lipid metabolism.  She returned to Emory to begin her independent research career in 1990 and was subsequently promoted to Associate Professor in the Division of Cancer Biology in the Department of Radiation Oncology.  While at Emory, Dr. Stevens’ research focused on glycolipid metabolism and its role in regulating folate transport.

In 2003, Dr. Stevens joined the American Cancer Society in 2003 as a Research Scientist in the Department of Epidemiology and Surveillance. In 2006, she became the Strategic Director of Laboratory Services and in 2008, assumed responsibility for the Biospecimen Repositories for the Cancer Prevention Studies

Dr. Holly Carpenter (Aeon and HiQ Cosmetics)

Dr. Carpenter earned her doctorate in chemistry at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia in the area of peptide and protein engineering. With over 10 years of experience at the highest levels of academic scientific research in protein materials, Holly leads the research and development division of Aeon as well as coordinates projects in University Partnership initiatives and business development. She has recently launched a new company and venture in skincare and cosmetics.  HiQ Cosmetics leads the market in offering all-natural, high-performance luxury skincare products.

After graduating from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, Holly accepted a tenure-track faculty position at the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega, Georgia, where she achieved a status of tenured Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Holly regularly taught courses for undergraduates in biochemistry and medicinal chemistry, as well as introductory chemistry courses.  For over 7 years, she conducted academic research with competitive national grants from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund in the area of protein engineering. Holly has also served as a reviewer for competitive grants at the national level for the National Science Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Nelly Miles (Georgia Bureau of Investigation)

Nelly Miles earned her Chemistry degree from Emory University in 1999.  In her undergraduate career, she served as a New Student Orientation Captain, President of the NAACP, and was a member of the Omicron Xi Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Upon graduation, she began working as a Forensic Chemist for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI).  After six (6) years, she was promoted to Assistant Manager of the unit.  A year later, she was promoted to the Forensic Chemistry Manager where she oversaw the daily operations of GBI’s Forensic Chemistry Unit for the next nine (9) years.

After 16 years with the GBI, she transitioned to the Public Affairs Office where she now serves as GBI’s Public Affairs Director.  In this role, she works with the media to communicate information to the public about the GBI.  Additionally, she serves as a legislative liaison to Georgia’s legislature and the Governor’s Office on behalf of the agency.

Mrs. Miles is a current member of Atlanta Metropol, the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors and holds past memberships in the Southern Association of Forensic Scientists and the American Chemical Society.

Mrs. Miles’ most significant role is that of wife and mother.  She resides in Stockbridge, GA with her husband, Cleveland Miles, and their three children.

The fourth panelist was current graduate student (and future alum!) Allyson Boyington who talked about graduate school as a career path. Ally is a second year PhD candidate in the Jui Group at Emory. She received her B.S. in chemistry and environmental science from Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA.

The panel was spearheaded by ChEmory freshman rep Ashley Diaz (with help from PACS and Emory development representatives Robin Harpak and Michelle LeBlanc.) “I had a lot of people say that they didn’t even know some of those career paths were options. There was a lot of excitement about the possibilities,” said Ashley. “We have to do this again!”

Thank you to our alumni guests. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for our current students

 

 

Alumni Spotlight: Chris Curfman’s Transition from Science to Law

Chris Curfman. Photo by Yuan Chang.
Chris Curfman. Photo by Yuan Chang.

By: Yuan Chang (Salaita Group)

When Chris Curfman (00G) entered Emory, he could not have imagined where he would end up two decades later. After completing a PhD in chemistry, Chris shifted his focus away from academic research to pursue a career in intellectual property law. Since then, he has been named a Georgia Super Lawyers “Rising Star” by Atlanta Magazine and became a founding member of Meunier Carlin & Curfman, which has since evolved into one of the largest intellectual property firms in the Southeast. In a climate where more PhD students pursue careers outside the professoriate, Chris’ story is an inspiration. “While we are all united by our intellectual curiosity and our love of science, this common drive can diverge into various fulfilling careers,” says Chris. From his trials and triumph with his research at Emory to his self-discovery and transformation into the rising star that he is today, Chris has accumulated a vast wealth of memories and insight, which is highlighted in this edition of Alumni Spotlight.

During graduate school, Chris joined the lab of Dennis C. Liotta, who would have a profound impact on his trajectory. Chris undertook a particularly difficult thesis project working with sphingolipid analogs. The process of constantly overcoming challenges instilled in him the crucial lifelong value of perseverance that would later prove pivotal outside of the lab. This determination was also critical in prevailing over another personal challenge. While Chris had always fostered a passion for teaching, he grappled with a fear of public speaking. As one of the graduate qualification exams, he was required to present his research in front of the entire Department of Chemistry student body. He recalls that he would “enter the conference room when it was empty and practice over and over again.” He went on to deliver a successful talk. Invigorated by this positive experience and his innate passion for teaching, Chris began to actively seek out opportunities for public speaking, which paved his way to standing on the podium of Emory law school as an adjunct professor.

Nonetheless, Chris’s time at Emory was not “all work and no play.” Chris has fond memories of his time as the president of the Pi Alpha Chemical Society. He recalls organizing graduate events, such as movie nights and picnics, to promote social interaction and collaboration amongst graduate students. To him, “It was a fun and great environment. It was a place where you could set aside the work and just talk and socialize.”

During Chris’ last year of graduate school, his advisor began to take notice of his skill at technical writing and public speaking, as well as his proficient interpersonal skills. Realizing that Chris’ skill set complemented the profession of patent law, Liotta catalyzed Chris’ foray into the world of patent law by inviting him to events where he could network with established lawyers. It was at one of these events that Chris had a fateful meeting leading to an interview offer. That was an electrifying time in Chris’ life. Within the span of that final summer in graduate school, Chris managed to simultaneously complete 3 milestones: defending his PhD, gaining acceptance into law school, and receiving a job offer working in a law firm.

After Chris completed his J.D. at Georgia State University, he practiced several years at a small intellectual property firm. However, that firm was acquired by a much larger general practice and Chris found himself at a crossroads. Chris felt that the large firm business model did not align with his own passions and goals. Chris wanted to retain the close relationships with his clients and have the opportunity to devote more time and attention to their needs, yet he found this more difficult in a large general practice firm. It was at this pivotal moment that Chris received a life-changing phone call from a former colleague who shared a similar vision. That initial conversation ultimately blossomed into a group of eight like-minded patent lawyers who pooled together their resources and brought their vision to a new company. When asked about his emotions at this time, Chris said, “this was both a thrilling and terrifying period in my life. I had to invest everything I had into this venture, including putting my life savings on the line, but I could finally do what I had originally set out to do.” At long last, he had the autonomy to become the champion he had dreamed of becoming for clients who must navigate the treacherous waters of patent law.

It has been nearly two decades since Chris made that decision to transition from lab work to law, but all the lessons he learned during graduate school still serve him well today. Chris says that he finds his current profession to be fulfilling and fun, and he feels fortunate to be involved in a career that allows him to intersect science with people, especially being in a position to be able to help others achieve their goals. When asked what words of advice he would give to current graduate students, he implored encouraged them to “never give up, finish their Ph.D., practice public speaking and effective writing, and network whenever you can.” Chris’ journey serves as an inspiration for the next generation of students looking to apply their doctoral studies to broader society.

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Yuan Chang

Yuan Chang is currently a graduate student in the lab of Dr. Khalid Salaita. She entered Emory in 2011 and has been studying live cell tension using molecular tension fluorescent microscopy (MTFM).

Pi Alpha Chemical Society Meets the Toxic Avenger!

PACS's view of the stage at Piedmont Park on Saturday, June 11th. Photo provided by Pi Alpha Chemical Society.
PACS’s view of the stage at Piedmont Park on Saturday, June 11th. Photo provided by Pi Alpha Chemical Society.

Members of Pi Alpha Chemical Society, chemistry’s graduate student social and service organization, volunteered their time on Saturday, June 11th to help Horizon Theatre bring their musical The Toxic Avenger to Piedmont Park. Students assisted with greeting guests, checking tickets and bags, and coordinating VIP and reserved seating. The show took place outside on the Promenade next door to the Atlanta Botanical Garden. The majority of the seats were free and student volunteers were able to stay and enjoy the show.

Toxic Avenger tells the story of an aspiring scientist who vows to save New Jersey from toxic waste. In the process, exposure to toxic waste turns him into a singing superhero…better living through chemistry!

Graduate Student Spotlight: Robert Kubiak (Davies Group) Awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

Robert Kubiak (far right) pictured at on outreach event in March 2016. Photo provided by Pi Alpha Chemical Society.
Robert Kubiak (far right) pictured at on outreach event in March 2016. Photo provided by Pi Alpha Chemical Society.

Graduate students aren’t often tasked with completing that classic elementary school assignment: “How I Spent My Summer Vacation.” But Robert Kubiak has a great answer. After being accepted into Emory’s graduate program in chemistry, he got a jump start on his research by completing a summer rotation in the Davies Lab. This experience contributed to his successful application for the prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program. Robert says: “One critical aspect that the reviewers said was helpful in my application was that I had already began to reach out to the community here in Atlanta and take on leadership roles at Emory. Doing a summer rotation before the fall semester was key to making these connections.”

The National Science Foundation received over 17,000 applications this year for the Graduate Research Fellowship program and made 2,000 award offers. As one of the 2016 awardees, Robert will receive three years of tuition and a stipend from NSF. The award is intended to recognize promising scientists at the beginning of their careers, giving them the resources to reach their career goals.

Before starting at Emory, Robert served as a platoon senior medic in the Army’s 3rd Ranger Battalion. He brings this unique leadership experience to his work in chemistry through a commitment to building community using science. “I am really interested in working to introduce scientific conversations to those who may not realize the profound impact science has on every aspect of our daily lives. I hope to encourage young students to embrace scientific discovery and pursue careers in the STEM fields,” he says.

Robert’s research at Emory takes place in the context of the NSF Center for Selective C-H Functionalization. “C–H functionalization is new, relevant, and rapidly changing the way we approach organic synthesis. C–H functionalization bypasses the need for traditional functional groups saving time, money, and reducing the waste associated with synthesis.” Robert’s research project focuses on developing novel catalysts for N-sulfonyltriazoles–nitrogen-based compounds. This research has the potential for broad impact as nitrogen is found everywhere in nature and is an important component of many pharmaceuticals. “Inserting nitrogen through functionalization will save time and money in pharmaceutical synthesis,” explains Robert.

The research also has the potential to lead Robert on new professional adventures. “The CCHF offers a study abroad component, and this research would facilitate a great opportunity to collaborate with the Iatmi group in Japan.” The NSF award also opens up the possibility to participate in NSF’s Graduate Opportunities Worldwide (GROW) program. “I would like to take advantage of GROW to study abroad,” says Kubiak. “It will be an opportunity to develop my ability to teach basic scientific skills—ideally in a community where access to higher scientific education is limited.”

Robert’s proposal was completed in chemistry’s Proposal Writing Course, led by Frank McDonald. Robert says that his experience in the course was “absolutely critical in articulating my past experiences in a meaningful way that made me a competitive applicant.” Robert hopes to draw on the resources of the award to further develop his own mentoring skills. “I plan on working very hard over the next couple of years to develop a robust understanding of organic chemistry, my skills as a research scientist, and my proficiency as a mentor in the field. Fortunately, these goals go hand-in-hand together.”