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

 

 

AWIS Hosts Networking Event at the Fernbank Museum

Alumni having fun at Martinis and Imax. From left to right, they are: Holly Carpenter, Entrepreneur; Elizabeth Ellis, Clinical Psychologist; Alicia Lyle, Assistant Professor of Medicine; Meagan Jenkins, Medical Writer; Virginia Vachon, Medical Writer; Emma Nichols, Medical Writer. Photo provided by AWIS.
Alumni having fun at Martinis and Imax. From left to right, they are: Holly Carpenter, Entrepreneur; Elizabeth Ellis, Clinical Psychologist; Alicia Lyle, Assistant Professor of Medicine; Meagan Jenkins, Medical Writer; Virginia Vachon, Medical Writer; Emma Nichols, Medical Writer. Photo provided by AWIS.

The Emory chapter of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) hosted a networking event for Emory Laney Graduate School students and alumni last Friday, July 29th, at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History. The group enjoyed cocktails, appetizers, and live music as well as an IMAX movie. The event was organized by Samantha Summer (Liotta Group), AWIS Networking and Social Chair.

Chemistry graduate students are well-represented among AWIS leadership–Amanda Dermer (Heaven Group), AWIS President and Helen Siaw (Dyer Group), AWIS Graduate Student Council Representative were among those who attended the event. Alumni and student attendees came from GDBBS and psychology as well as chemistry.

Founded in 1971, AWIS is the largest multi-disciplinary organization for women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Their mission is to drive excellence in STEM by achieving equity and full participation of women in all disciplines and across all employment sectors. AWIS reaches more than 20,000 professionals in STEM with members, chapters, and affiliates worldwide. Membership is open to any individual who supports the vision and mission of AWIS.

Wallace Derricotte’s EPiC Summer

EPiC students in the classroom, instructor Wallace Derricotte at the board. Photo by the Emory University Department of Chemistry.
EPiC students in the classroom, instructor Wallace Derricotte at the board. Photo by the Emory University Department of Chemistry.

Solar powered cars, boulders, and the expiration date of milk—these are just some of the everyday touchstones that Wallace Derricotte (Evangelista Group) connects to the chemical equations on the chalkboard during a recent classroom session for students taking part in the EPiC Summer Experience. Campers are engaged and attentive—and not at all passive. The class progresses as a conversation, with students connecting the lesson to previous classes as well as their own lives. Wallace handles the student-teacher interaction with calm and good humor and it’s clear to an outside observer that his enthusiasm for what he’s teaching is instrumental to making the classroom exchange so lively.

EPiC students travel between the classroom and the lab. Photo by the Emory University Department of Chemistry.
EPiC students travel between the classroom and the lab. Photo by the Emory University Department of Chemistry.

EPiC—which stands for the Emory Pipeline Collaborative—is a science enrichment program offered through the Emory School of Medicine. The program gives high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds a hands-on opportunity to explore careers in the health professions through labs, lectures, and field experiences. For many campers, their engagement with EPiC begins during the school year with Wednesday evening session on Emory’s campus. However, students can also apply and be accepted into EPiC for the summer only.

In addition to familiarizing students with science careers, EPiC introduces students to the college experience. Participants stay on campus for eight weeks, living in the dorms and eating in the dining halls.

After a recent classroom session on reaction processes, I had an opportunity to speak with four campers—Chanaya, Dakota, Omar, and Prynce.  Eager to share their thoughts on how well the program approximates college life, the students were quick to hone in on one of the major differences between college and high school: the food.

EPiC participants (from l-r) Chanaya, Dakota, Omar, and Prynce. Photo by the Emory University Department of Chemistry.
EPiC participants (from l-r) Chanaya, Dakota, Omar, and Prynce. Photo by the Emory University Department of Chemistry.

“We really eat like college students,” said Chanaya.

“I’ve only eaten pizza since I’ve been here,” admitted Dakota.

Beyond the food, students described getting a real sense of what college is like, including being responsible for their own schedules and being a part of a busy community. “We get to experience the hustle and bustle of college life,” said Prynce. “I like that we had a lot of freedoms we don’t usually get at home,” added Omar.

The residential program also allows students to fully immerse themselves in the coursework—which covers a broad range of core concepts, from bonds to reaction processes to chemical equilibrium. “The classes are really rigorous,” says Chanaya. But, she adds, the more you learn, the less intimidating chemistry seems. “Mr. Wallace makes chemistry so much easier.”

Students work in small groups to solve problems on the chalkboard--with Wallace's help (far right). Photo by the Emory University Department of Chemistry.
Students work in small groups to solve problems on the chalkboard–with Wallace’s help (far right). Photo by the Emory University Department of Chemistry.

Listening to Wallace’s students talk about how much they’re loving math—even calculus—the potential long-term impact of EPiC on students’ comfort level with science is clear. The students speak confidently about possible careers in a broad range of STEM fields. Chanaya wants to be a teacher or a nurse. Dakota and Prynce are both interested in engineering. And Omar is open to a broad range of careers, as long as it has to do with science: “Before, I kind of wanted to do something in an office or something. But now I know I want to do something scientifically related.”

Wallace Derricotte, an NSF GRFP awardee, become involved in EPiC in early 2015 when the administrators of the program approached him to take over for a graduate student teaching EPiC’s chemistry courses. “Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity,” says Wallace. “I’ve lived in Atlanta all my life and I relish the opportunity to give back something to the community that has given so much to me.”

The program also supports Wallace’s career goals for after the PhD. He hopes to be a professor at a primarily undergraduate college or university. “Even though the students I’m teaching are in high school, I teach the class at a college level,” says Wallace. “I’m able to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t when teaching chemistry. It’s good to get a feel for what teaching methods resonate with students and which ones don’t.”

EPiC campers observe an experiment in the lab. Students move between classroom and bench work, giving them an opportunity to directly apply classroom concepts through lab experiences.
EPiC campers observe an experiment in the lab. Photo by the Emory University Department of Chemistry.

Atasha Sutton, Instructional Lab Specialist for chemistry and an administrative lead for EPiC, praises Wallace’s approach. “Wallace is an excellent instructor, who made sure students were engaged during his lectures and had a thorough understanding of the material being taught.” Research advisor Francesco Evangelista echoes that praise, connecting the teaching opportunity to Wallace’s NSF award: “Wallace’s NSF fellowship recognizes both his excellence as a researcher and a genuine dedication to teaching and mentoring young scientists.”

The experiment comes together! Photo by the Emory University Department of Chemistry.
The experiment comes together! Photo by the Emory University Department of Chemistry.

Some of the demands of EPiC’s curriculum have given Wallace, who is a computational chemist, an opportunity to get outside his comfort zone and step back in to the environment of a wet lab. During a recent laboratory session with EPiC, he laughed with the students while having a brief struggle during the set-up of a demonstration on reaction kinetics. “I’m a theoretical chemist,” he reminded the students, as they laughed. His willingness to laugh at his own hiccup, however brief, is clearly part of what makes the students comfortable in the classroom and the lab. Everyone is learning.

“The opportunity with EPiC has truly been a learning experience for me,” agrees Wallace. “Every time I step into the classroom I feel sharper and more prepared that the previous class and that’s an experience I feel a lot of PhD students don’t get. The unique opportunity to design, implement, and teach your own course is a valuable skill for anyone looking to go into academia.”

Omar Villanueva Defends Thesis, Now Assistant Professor at Dalton College

The Department of Chemistry is pleased to congratulate Dr. Omar Villanueva on successfully defending his thesis, “Design and Development of Novel Bis(amidophenyl)amine Redox-active Ligands to Promote Novel Reactivity at First-row Transition Metal Centers.”

Omar’s thesis committee included Cora MacBeth (advisor), Craig Hill, and Khalid Salaita. He is now Assistant Professor of Chemistry in the Department of Natural Sciences at Dalton State College.

Congratulations, Omar!

Chemistry Students Receive NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

Three  students  received NSF awards in the 2014 cycle–congratulations to Carolyn Cohen, an undergraduate major, and to Wallace Derricotte and Keon Reid, Department of Chemistry graduate students. Alum Kelly Burke who completed undergraduate research in the Dyer Group and now attends CalTech also received a 2014 award.

Graduate Student Attends International Nobel Laureates Meeting

Graduate student Yoshie Narui (Salaita Group) attended the 63rd Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting in Germany. Once every year, 30–40 Nobel Laureates convene at Lindau to meet the next generation of leading scientists: undergraduates, PhD students, and post-doc researchers from all over the world. The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings foster the exchange among scientists of different generations, cultures, and disciplines.