On Friday, August 26th, the Department of Chemistry celebrated our new and returning graduate students with the Welcome Back Fourth Friday and Graduate Awards Ceremony. Students, staff, and faculty enjoyed Fox Bros. BBQ and cupcakes from Atlanta Cupcake Factory while cheering on award winners. In a new tradition this year, our 2016 graduate class was officially introduced to the community by their graduate student mentors at the end of the awards ceremony.
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.”
Congratulations to Robert Kubiak (Davies Group) and Roxanne Galzier (Salaita Group) for being awarded 2016 Graduate Research Fellowships from the National Science Foundation! Robert is a graduate student in the Department of Chemistry and Roxanne is a graduate student in the Emory/Ga Tech joint Biomedical Engineering program.
Congratulations also to Anthony Sementilli (Chemistry, Lynn Group) and Aaron Blanchard (BME, Salaita Group) who received Honorable Mentions.
For the 2016 competition, NSF received close to 17,000 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.
The thirty-five individuals in our entering class include high-achieving students from across the country and internationally. Students were selected from an applicant pool of over three hundred. Selected students share a rigorous educational background and a passion for chemistry. The selection committee placed particular emphasis on applicants’ previous and potential contributions to research.
Among the incoming students, we welcome two Emory Graduate Diversity Fellows. The Emory Graduate Diversity Fellowship (EGDF) is awarded to applicants who have demonstrated outstanding academic achievement and who will contribute to the development of a richly diverse student body. To be considered for the EGDF, applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents who plan to pursue a program of doctoral study. One of our students was also selected as a fellow in the NIH-funded Initiative to Maximize Student Development (IMSD) program. In addition, students in our incoming class were awarded a total of five Laney Fellowships. Laney awards recognize outstanding academic achievements as well as a student’s potential to excel as a research scientist. All of our incoming students have been awarded tuition waivers and stipend support for the duration of their graduate careers at Emory.
Graduate students are at the heart of our community-their presence energizes research and teaching in the department. We look forward to welcoming our 2015 incoming class to campus!
For more information about our incoming class-and the Department of Chemistry in general-please contact Kira Walsh, Outreach Coordinator.
If you are an admitted student who needs assistance, please contact Ann Dasher, Graduate Coordinator.