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!

I’m a chemist and…Vol. 2

We’re continuing our celebration of all the great things our chemists do both inside and outside of the lab! In volume two, meet chemists who compete in roller derby and golf, an animal photography volunteer, and more!

Click the image below to go to the full article!

Congratulations, Dr. Morgan Vaughn!

On Wednesday, July 18th, Morgan Vaughn successfully defended her thesis, “Enzyme Dynamics Elucidated via Temperature Jump Fluorescence Spectroscopy”. Morgan’s thesis committee included her thesis advisor, Dr. Brian Dyer, and members Dr. Stefan Lutz and Dr. Vincent Conticello.

During her time at Emory, Morgan was awarded a Dean’s Teaching Fellowship and was selected as an ARCS Scholar. In addition, she served for a year and a half as the president of Emory’s graduate chapter of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) and is the proud author of a JACS Communications paper that was featured in JACS Spotlights.

Looking forward, Morgan plans to pursue a career in facilitating science communication in the classroom, to the general public, and/or among scientists.

Congratulations, Dr. Vaughn!

Congratulations, Dr. Noel Xiang’ An Li!

Photo credit: Dr. Shaoxiong Wu

On Wednesday, April 25th, Noel Xiang’ An Li successfully defended his thesis, “Amyloid-beta strain amplification and their connection to tau in Alzheimer’s Disease”. Noel’s thesis committee included his thesis advisor, Dr. David Lynn, and members Dr. Stefan Lutz, Dr. Vincent Conticello, Dr. Lary Walker (Emory Neurology), and Dr. Yury Chernoff (GA Tech Biological Sciences).

Noel is applying for jobs in the pharmaceutical/biotech industry while wrapping up some experiments in the Lynn Lab.

Congratulations, Dr. Li!

Atlanta Science Festival: Lutz Group Icosahedral Photo Project Captures the Faces of the Atlanta Science Festival

The Atlanta Science Festival brings STEM out of the lab and into the Atlanta community with two weeks of events culminating in the “Exploration Expo” regularly attended by over 18,000 people. ASF was founded in 2014 by a group of Emory staff and faculty, including former chemistry (now ASF!) staff Meisa Salaita and Sarah Peterson and chemistry faculty member David Lynn. Chemistry has sponsored at least one festival event every year. This blog series covers just some of chemistry’s involvement in the 2018 festival.

This year’s Atlanta Science Festival Exploration Expo took place in Piedmont Park on Saturday, March 24th. The Expo booth “The BIG World of Small Containers” celebrated the structure of the icosahedron. Visitors had the opportunity to build structures onto a 3-D printed icosahedron (twenty sides!) using legos and to manipulate a large icosahedral model.

The booth was a collaboration with Atlanta Makers and the Lutz Group in the Department of Chemistry. Visitors also had the chance to take a photo inside of the icosahedron structure. The images were used to create one giant, group photo mimicking the same structure–capturing the faces of the festival.

 

Emory Report: Chemistry synthesizes radical overhaul of undergraduate curriculum

The Emory Report features a story on chemistry’s new undergraduate curriculum, Chemistry Unbound.

For the science dedicated to studying how properties interact and change, chemistry has been static for decades in how it is taught.

That changes this fall, as Emory College of Arts & Sciences positions itself as a leader in teaching undergraduates the “central science” that links biology, physics and more with a revamp of its entire undergraduate chemistry curriculum.

While some colleges have changed individual classes, Emory is the first major research university to completely overhaul how it teaches chemistry, from introductory courses to capstone senior seminars

Read the entire article at the Emory Report.

Student Spotlight: For Julia Gensheimer, Chemistry is a Passion

Julia Gensheimer in an ACS chemistry t-shirt that she designed.
Photo: Julia wears a t-shirt she designed for a contest prior to the 2016 ACS meeting. Julia’s design—designed in ChemDraw – won over 70% of the votes in an online contest to choose a conference t-shirt. “It began as chemistry doodles that I thought looked like letters,” says Julia. The shirt was for sale during the ACS conference in Philadelphia.

“I can’t imagine doing chemistry anywhere else!”

That was what Julia Gensheimer (EC ’19) told her mother after going on a tour of the new addition to Emory chemistry’s Atwood Hall. With its soaring atrium, shiny new labs, and innovative teaching space, it’s easy to see how the Atwood Addition could get a student excited about chemistry. However, Julia’s tour took place in the summer of 2015, while the building was still being built.

“It was exciting to have an exclusive tour for students interested in chemistry,” says Julia of the hard-hat tour of the construction site led by chemistry Director Todd Polley.

Julia’s ability to see potential in the unknown brought her to Emory and it’s part of what makes her such a successful chemistry major. Julia is excited about what chemistry offers—and what it doesn’t.  “In the lab, you are looking for an answer to some research question and if you answer that question, you ask another one! You search and you re-search,” says Julia. “There is always something to discover.”

As a freshman, Julia enrolled in CHEM 221Z, an accelerated course for students with AP credit. The class was taught by Jose Soria and Dennis Liotta. Julia was excited to be working with top researchers as a freshman and the course further fueled her interest in chemistry. Dennis Liotta says, “Julia has excelled at everything she’s done at Emory. As far as I’m concerned, she’s a future superstar.”

“Julia is great,” agrees Stefan Lutz, Julia’s sophomore biochemistry instructor. “She is an enthusiastic student and a hard worker.”

While Julia is a rising star (and a self-described “chemistry fangirl”) that doesn’t mean coursework and research come easy. In fact, says Julia, “chemistry doesn’t come naturally to me at all!” Like many students, Julia found organic chemistry challenging, but the community she built in the classroom carried her through. “They are some of my best friends,” she says of her organic classmates, “We formed a little organic chemistry family and continue to take classes with each other. We study together and support one another.”

A "Sciku" submitted by Julia during the 2017 Atlanta Science Festival. The poem was selected as a first-round winner for the Sciku contest.
A “Sciku” submitted by Julia during the 2017 Atlanta Science Festival. The poem was selected as a first-round winner for the Sciku contest.

Outside the classroom, Julia has been involved in research in the Rafi Ahmed Lab in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology since February 2016. She’s building on experience she gained in high school after spending two summers in the lab of Dr. Michael Jensen at the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research in Seattle.

How did a high schooler end up traveling across the country to get involved in cutting-edge cancer research?

She asked.

“I saw an advertisement about a cancer treatment without radiation or chemotherapy, known as immunotherapy at Seattle Children’s. The initiative was led by Dr. Michael Jensen and in minutes, I became his number one fan. So, I emailed him. To my surprise and utter joy, I received a reply and got the internship! I flew from my small town in Kentucky to Seattle where I volunteered full-time in the Jensen laboratory.”

The lab invited Julia back the next summer for ten weeks (funded in part by Emory’s Civic Scholars Program) where she completed an independent project. Her time in the Jensen lab also sparked another interest: triathlons.

Of course, in chemistry you can work hard and achieve. But triathlons—you must have an aptitude for those, right? Or at least experience?

“Maybe,” says Julia. “I did a triathlon my sophomore year of high school because I competed on the swim team at the time. After a triathlon hiatus, my lab members convinced me to participate in a triathlon relay over the summer. I enjoyed it so much that I joined Emory’s club triathlon team and finished my second triathlon last September. I will race again in the spring! I’m a terrible runner though so I really have to train for that part.”

Taken together, Julia’s accomplishments tell a story about a student who isn’t afraid to try, to test, to take risks. “I wouldn’t be happy if I wasn’t constantly challenged in some way.” Her next challenge? A summer research experience in the Ahmed Lab continuing her work in cancer immunology.

She isn’t exactly sure what she wants to do next – maybe a career in chemistry and biology research, most likely on the MD/PhD track. Or possibly on some track that hasn’t been built yet. Because if anyone can find the next cool thing and take off in pursuit, it’s going to be Julia Gensheimer.

Fred Menger Teaches Last Emory Class

Tim Stephens hugs Fred Menger after giving him a gift--a new pair of jeans!--as Fred's wife Lib looks on.
Tim Stephens hugs Fred Menger after giving him a gift–a new pair of jeans!–as Fred’s wife Lib looks on.

Faculty, students, and staff gathered this afternoon to recognize Fred Menger‘s last day in the classroom. Dr. Menger held his last in-class session of the popular “How Things Work” freshman seminar. After a demonstration of the inner workings of the defibrillator, the class emerged for a surprise champagne toast. Following remarks by department chair Stefan Lutz and co-teacher Tim Stephens, everyone enjoyed cake in Fred’s honor.

Fred will remain on the Emory faculty, taking a sabbatical next semester but continuing to serve on several committees. Following his retirement in August, Fred intends to maintain an office at Emory and stay active as Emeritus Faculty.

Congratulations, Fred! We will miss you! Thank you to everyone who participated in the celebration!

Stefan Lutz Discusses Everest Trip in The Emory Wheel

Stefan Lutz. Photo by Jessica Lily Photography.
Stefan Lutz. Photo by Jessica Lily Photography.

Stefan Lutz spoke to The Emory Wheel about his summer Everest trip. From the article:

“Mountain climbing requires a certain stubbornness in pursuit of your goals. It requires a commitment, a dedication, time wise, effort wise, and I think that is a quality that comes through in when you do research,” Lutz said. “Research involves a lot of failure. [But] to be able to go back and pick yourself up after a setback, those are qualities that I think mountaineering and research can share.”

[Full Article]