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Joseph Houck Named National Chemistry Olympiad Team Mentor

Joseph Houck Named National Chemistry Olympiad Team Mentor

Congratulations to Dr. Joseph Houck, assistant teaching professor at Penn State, who was recently selected to be a mentor for the US National Chemistry Olympiad Team (USNCO). As a mentor, Dr. Houck will work with some of the top high school students from across the country and accompany them to the International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO) next summer in Istanbul.

The IChO program is a chemistry competition for high school students that aims to encourage and recognize talented young scientists.

Dr. Houck first learned about the USNCO mentorship program during graduate school and notes that he was immediately drawn to the idea of working with driven young students and representing the United States at IChO.

“I have always enjoyed working with students—especially younger students—where there is an opportunity to spark an interest in science,” he explains.

As a teaching professor at Penn State, Dr. Houck spends a great deal of time working with aspiring young chemists. However, as a mentor, Dr. Houck will have a unique opportunity to inspire talented students to pursue careers in chemistry.

Mentors like Dr. Houck play an important role in the USNCO program. They work with twenty high school students from across the United States who earned top scores on the Chemistry Olympiad exam, helping them to prepare for the international competition during a study camp held in June.

While at the study camp, students learn about a variety of chemistry topics through instructional materials and lab exercises designed by the mentors. During the camp, four students are selected to represent the United States at the IChO. The mentors accompany the students to the international competition where they will review exam materials, assist with scoring, and support the students as they compete.

As well as supporting the students as they strive for excellence, Dr. Houck says that IChO will also be a chance to form relationships with other chemists from around the world. “I see this as not only an amazing opportunity to work with students in a unique way, but also as professional development,” he explains, “I will get to engage and work closely with two other US mentors.  During the international competition I will be able to network with mentors from around the world. I hope to deepen relationships with my colleagues and engage them in conversation about the preparatory problems and dig into chemistry topics that are outside of my area of expertise.”

Dr. Houck hopes his work as a mentor will help to inspire the next generation of chemists. “UNSCO is an opportunity for high school students to fuel their curiosity and deepen their knowledge in chemistry,” he says, “I want to support them in this journey!”

Maria Landschoot

Communications Coordinator

Department of Chemistry

Penn State University

Professor Jackie Bortiatynski Receives Atherton Award for Excellence in Teaching

Professor Jackie Bortiatynski Receives Atherton Award for Excellence in Teaching

Dr. Jackie Bortiatynski, Associate Teaching Professor in chemistry, has been selected as a 2019 recipient of the Atherton Award for Excellence in Teaching!

The award, named after Penn State’s seventh president, honors excellence in teaching at the undergraduate level.

Dr. Bortiatynski notes that, for her, teaching chemistry goes beyond imparting scientific knowledge. Her courses are designed to help students become self-directed learners, a skill that she believes is instrumental to a successful scientific career.

“STEM courses are known to be particularly challenging for students, so I feel it is extremely important to help them practice effective learning strategies to become self-directed learners,” she explains, “without these skills students find it difficult to meet the challenges that lie ahead and never learn how to apply what they have learned to real world problems.”

To that end, Dr. Bortiatynski works to engage students with learning strategies that promote problem solving and creative thinking, including peer to peer discussions, interactive clicker questions, and group problem solving activities. Outside of the classroom, she also encourages students to attend peer facilitated group work sessions as a way for students to gain immediate feedback on their progress.

Dr. Bortiatynski explains that she views herself as a “learning coach” who works with her team to create a positive learning community. She gathers feedback from her students on course climate and the effectiveness of learning strategies and uses their input to tailor her courses to the students’ needs. The students have certainly responded to this approach; they leave Dr. Bortiatynski’s classes with the tools and confidence to be successful students of science throughout their college careers.

Outside the classroom, Dr. Bortiatynski works to improve student learning experiences through her role as director of the Center for Excellence in Science Education at Penn State. The center aims to provide faculty and students with a collaborative educational network that promotes excellence in science teaching and learning through a variety of instructional development activities that focus on science teaching.

Dr. Bortiatynski was also recognized for her role in co-developing the Learning Assistant (LA) Program, which has trained more than 750 undergraduates as learning facilitators. LAs aim to enrich learning experiences in science and math classes and work to engage other undergraduates in collaborative, active learning. Dr. Bortiatynski taught the LA pedagogy course that is used to prepare LAs for their work as learning facilitators for five years.

Going forward, Dr. Bortiatynski plans to continue advancing science education at Penn State through the Center and in the classroom. “I want my students to develop as scientists,” she notes, “I know that every student is an individual and my role is to support the learning of all my students.”

Maria Landschoot

Communications Coordinator

Department of Chemistry

Penn State University

 News Lauren Zarzar Receives 2019 ACS Unilever Award

News Lauren Zarzar Receives 2019 ACS Unilever Award

Lauren Zarzar, assistant professor of chemistry at Penn State, was selected as the recipient of the 2019 Unilever Award by the Division of Colloid and Surface Chemistry of the American Chemical Society. Zarzar was nominated for the award by scientists across the nation in recognition of her pioneering work in harnessing complex fluids as responsive and active materials and driving emulsions into the forefront of adaptive optics and sensors.

The award recognizes and encourages fundamental work in colloid and surfactant science carried out in North America by researchers in the early stages of their careers. Awardees receive a three thousand dollar prize and are invited to present a talk at the Colloid Symposium in Atlanta, Georgia in June.

“It is really an honor to receive this award,” said Zarzar. “I’m looking forward to presenting my group’s research at the Colloid and Surface Science Symposium this summer, which is a great platform to share our work with the community.”

Dr. Zarzar’s research focuses on active fluids. Her most recent discovery of a previously unrecognized mechanism for generating structural iridescent color was featured on the cover of Nature. Over the past few years, her research group has found ways to control complex fluids and emulsions to harness liquids as materials in new ways. Her research in this area is supported by the National Science Foundation, Army Research Office, and the Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers.

Maria Landschoot

Communications Coordinator

Department of Chemistry

Penn State University

Professor Philip Bevilacqua Receives Priestley Teaching Prize

Professor Philip Bevilacqua Receives Priestley Teaching Prize

Congratulations to Professor Philip Bevilacqua, who is this year’s recipient of the The Priestley Prize for Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching in Chemistry.

The Priestley Prize was established in 2002 to recognize the best undergraduate teachers in the Department of Chemistry, as measured by the increase in learning and enthusiasm for the subject of the students in chemistry courses.

Dr. Bevilacqua was recognized for teaching Chem 110B, a course he developed with Dr. Aaron Garner, Assistant Teaching Professor at Penn State.

Dr. Bevilacqua and Dr. Garner were inspired to develop the course in the hopes that it would make chemistry more interesting to students in the life sciences and show them how chemistry can be useful in their fields.

“I want them to realize that chemistry is interesting and can be used to solve important problems,”  Dr. Bevilacqua explains, “no matter what they go on to do.”

To that end, Dr. Bevilacqua set out to create a comfortable and welcoming classroom environment that would encourage questions and inspire students to delve further into chemistry.

“I try to be approachable,” he adds, “I encourage the students to ask questions and come to office hours; I want them to know I’m on their side.”

The students of Chem 110B responded to this approach. In fact, many of them enjoyed the class so much that they nominated Dr. Bevilacqua for the Priestly Prize.  Dr. Bevilacqua notes that, to him, this recognition from the students is the most meaningful part of receiving the Prize.

“I was moved by the student comments,” he says, “I didn’t realize until then how much the students appreciated the course and the positive climate.”

In their comments, many students also praised the use of technology in the course. Dr. Bevilacqua incorporated many electronic resources, including a series of YouTube videos that explored the topics discussed in class in more depth. With the support of a Tombros Fellowship, Dr. Bevilacqua first began experimenting with incorporating electronic learning resources several years ago while teaching Chem 110H, the honors version of the class. He was eager to bring these teaching strategies to more students when he began teaching Chem 110B.

Closed Captioning

Dr. Bevilacqua with the LAs who worked on the closed captioning project. From left to right: Emily Kim, Dr. Bevilacqua, Isabel Fridenberg, and Ellie Alberti

Dr. Bevilacqua also hopes that adding technology to the course will enhance the experience for students with disabilities. During the Fall 2018 semester, a student with a hearing impairment signed up for Chemistry 110B. To make the YouTube videos used in the class accessible, Dr. Bevilacqua and four Learning Assistants—Isabel Friedenberg, Ellie Alberti, Emily Kim, Madelynn Holderman—learned how to add closed captions to the videos.

Dr. Bevilacqua explains that learning about accessibility was an eye-opening experience, “One of the things I’ve learned,” he says, “is that by making the course more accessible, it makes it better for everyone.  Many students benefited from the closed captioning!” He adds, “I was at the ACS meeting recently, and I noticed a banner that celebrated chemists with disabilities. Joseph Priestley—the namesake of the award—was highlighted; he had a speech disability. And I thought to myself that it was fitting that my class had a focus on accessibility last semester.”

In the future, Dr. Bevilacqua hopes to continue developing strategies to enrich undergraduate chemistry education. As the head of the Department of Chemistry, he plans to explore ways to transfer some of these approaches to other courses in the department.

Maria Landschoot

Communications Coordinator

Department of Chemistry

Penn State University

Sylvia Bintrim Named Recipient of Peter Craig Breen Memorial Award

Sylvia Bintrim Named Recipient of Peter Craig Breen Memorial Award

Congratulations to Sylvia Bintrim, winner of the Peter Craig Breen Memorial Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Chemistry Research.

This award was created in memory of Peter Breen to recognize a Penn State undergraduate chemistry major who has achieved excellence in academics and research.  Breen was an undergraduate chemistry major and a Schreyer Honors College student. He exemplified excellence in academics and research. Breen passed away in 2014; the Breen family generously established this award in his memory.

During her time at Penn State, Bintrim—who also double majored in math and minored in physics— served as a grader and a TA for physical chemistry courses, one of her favorite experiences at Penn State. Bintrim represented Penn State during a summer internship in Japan, a unique learning opportunity that she particularly enjoyed. She also conducted research with Dr. Gerald Knizia in theoretical chemistry and with Dr. Bratoljub Milosavljevic  in experimental physical chemistry. While working with Dr. Knizia, Bintrim worked on a density fitting multi-configurational self-consistent field method and then on theoretical covalent bond order. During her time with Dr. Milosavljevic, she studied excited state proton transfer from a photoacid to nanosized or supercooled water and also investigated how it is necessary that a certain number of water molecules surround the photoacid for proton transfer to occur.

Bintrim was recently awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, and she plans to pursue a PhD in chemical physics at Columbia University after graduation.

Maria Landschoot

Communications Coordinator

Department of Chemistry

Penn State University

Commonwealth Campus Transfer Students Receive Peter Gold Award

Students who transfer to the University Park campus from Commonwealth Campuses are an important part of the chemistry community. The Peter Gold Award was created to recognize the important contributions these students make to the department. and celebrate their academic success. Established in the memory of the late Dr. L. Peter Gold—a beloved long-time member of the chemistry faculty—the award is presented to transfer students with records of outstanding academic success who have also demonstrated outstanding service to the Department of Chemistry.

This year, three chemistry students will receive the award: Jieru Zhu, Shea Stewart, and Cameron Long.

Junior chemistry major Jieru Zhu began her chemistry journey at Penn State Harrisburg. Although Zhu enjoyed her time in Harrisburg, she notes that she never questioned her choice to  transfer to University Park. “There are greater competitions, more opportunities, as well as more advanced and interesting chemistry courses here at UP,” she explains, “the research opportunities have definitely been the best part of my time here so far.” Zhu is now a member of the Allcock group; her research focuses on polyphosphazene. Zhu notes that her time in the lab “gave me a real taste of the joys and frustrations associated with my future career, and I really enjoyed it.” Of winning the Peter Gold award, Zhu says “I was really surprised when I received the Peter Gold Award. I did not expect this at all and felt so honored.”

zhu

Jieru Zhu

Shea Stewart is a graduating senior, who began his Penn State experience at the York campus. He transfered to University Park to finish his degree. “The fantastic faculty and resources of the chemistry department at University Park have provided me with a very strong education,” Stewart explains, “I feel well prepared for my next steps.” During his time at University Park, Stewart conducted research with the Schaak group, focusing on synthesizing bulk and nano materials for use as catalysts to facilitate selective organic transformations. He was nominated for the Peter Gold award in recognition of his hard work in the lab and in the classroom. “Winning this award came as a surprise to me,” Stewart notes, “I feel very honored.” After graduation, he plans to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry at Temple University.

Stewart

Shea Stewart

Graduating senior Cameron Long began his education at Penn State York. Although his transition to University Park was initially difficult, Long says he “enjoyed experiencing both the small college and large college life.” During his time at University Park, Long conducted research in the Sen group, focusing on shape-directed self-assembly of active matter. “I was very surprised when I was told I was receiving the Peter Gold Award,” he adds, “I am so happy that I received it.” After graduation, Long plans to pursue a career in industry.

Long

Cameron Long

Please join the Department of Chemistry in congratulating these students on this exciting honor and celebrating the contributions transfer students bring to University Park.

 

Maria Landschoot

Communications Coordinator

Department of Chemistry

Penn State University

Conner Hoelzel and Nicole Famularo Recognized for Leadership and Service

Congratulations to Conner Hoelzel and Nicole Famularo, winners of the Department of Chemistry Student Leadership Award and Student Service Award respectively.

The Student Service Award was designed to recognize graduate students who have proven to be outstanding examples of dedicated service to either their research lab, student organization, or departmental committee.

This year, the Student Service Award was presented to Nicole Famularo. She is a member of the Keating group; her research focuses on directed self-assembly of nanoparticles.  

Famularo was recognized for her extraordinary dedication to STEM outreach activities within the department and in the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC). In addition to participating in various activities benefiting regional youth through student organizations, Famularo served as the MRSEC Outreach Team Leader, a role that required her to organize over one hundred volunteers for Arts Fest outreach activities that reached over one thousand youth and their guardians at last year's festival.

famularo

Nicole Famularo Receives the Student Service Award

“I am extremely honored to have been awarded the Student Service award from the Department of Chemistry for my work with the Graduate Women in Science and the MRSEC,” Famularo says, “I feel so privileged to have had these opportunities to bring outreach and professional development to the students in the Department of Chemistry, and I look forward to continuing my efforts in the future!”

The Student Leadership Award was designed to recognize graduate students who have proven to be outstanding leaders, within either the research lab or the science community at large.

The 2019 Student Leadership Award was awarded to Conner Hoelzel. Hoelzel is a third year graduate student in the Zhang group. “I’m honored to have received the Student Leadership Award,” Hoelzel notes, “I would like to thank the Student Counseling and Awards Committee along with my advisor, Dr. Zhang, for the opportunity and consideration.”

Hoelzel

Conner Hoelzel Receives the Student Leadership Award

Hoelzel was recognized for helping launch the Chemical Biology Seminar Series. This series, which meets every Monday for a presentation by a student or a postdoc working in the area of chemical biology, broadly defined. “In the establishment of the Chemical Biology Student Seminar, we have aimed to create a open platform for free scientific discussion between labs that typically might not communicate,” Hoelzel explains, “I hope these efforts in addition to others continue to make Penn State Chemistry a welcoming environment for work and study.” This year, Hoelzel helped to expand the series to include a student-invited outside speaker in the fall and to welcome a Penn State Chemistry alumna to speak in the spring.

The Department of Chemistry thanks Hoelzel and Famularo for their service to the chemistry community.

 

Maria Landschoot

Communications Coordinator

Department of Chemistry

Penn State University

Chemistry Undergraduates Sylvia Bintrim and Laine Mosco Named Commencement Marshals

The Department of Chemistry offers congratulations to graduating chemistry students Sylvia Bintrim and Laine Mosco, who will serve respectively as the Eberly College of Science student marshal and the Department of Chemistry student marshal at the spring 2019 commencement ceremony.

Student marshals play an integral role in commencement ceremonies; they represent their college or department and lead their fellow graduates in the procession to enter the commencement hall. The title of student marshal is one of the highest honors an undergraduate student can earn at Penn State.

Both Bintrim and Mosco were selected for this important role in recognition of their exemplary academic records and their contributions to the chemistry community at Penn State.

“I feel honored and humbled to receive this recognition from the department,” Mosco says of being named a marshal.

                                              Mosco

Laine Mosco

During her time at Penn State, Mosco conducted research with Dr. Tom Mallouk, focusing on electrochemistry. She also served as a grader for Dr. Kate Masters’ organic chemistry courses, an officer of the Nittany Chemistry Society, and a Learning Assistant for Chem 227 with Dr. Dan Sykes, which was one of her favorite experiences at Penn State. “I loved being able to help assist other undergraduate students learn analytical chemistry from a student perspective,” she explains, “I enjoyed being able to facilitate group discussions and problem solving, while also building relationships and connections with the students.” While at Penn State, she was also a recipient of the John and Elizabeth Holmes Teas Scholarship, an accomplishment that she is particularly proud of.

After graduation, Mosco will be working for Covestro, a polymer materials company located in Pittsburgh. As she prepares to graduate, Mosco notes that her time at Penn State has been life changing, “Chemistry helped me find my true academic passion, she says, “it brought me my closest friends, and provided me with professional mentors.”

During her time at Penn State, Bintrim—who also double majored in math and minored in physics— served as a grader and a TA for physical chemistry courses, one of her favorite experiences at Penn State. Bintrim represented Penn State during a summer internship in Japan, a unique learning opportunity that she particularly enjoyed. She also conducted research with Dr. Gerald Knizia in theoretical chemistry and with Dr. Bratoljub Milosavljevic  in experimental physical chemistry. While working with Dr. Knizia, Bintrim worked on a density fitting multi-configurational self-consistent field method and then on theoretical covalent bond order. During her time with Dr. Milosavljevic, she studied excited state proton transfer from a photoacid to nanosized or supercooled water and also investigated how it is necessary that a certain number of water molecules surround the photoacid for proton transfer to occur.

                                                 Bintrim

Sylvia Bintrim

Bintrim was recently awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, and she plans to pursue a PhD in chemical physics at Columbia University after graduation.

Please join the Department of Chemistry in congratulating Bintrim and Mosco on their many accomplishments as they prepare to represent Penn State chemistry during commencement.

 

Maria Landschoot

Communications Coordinator

Department of Chemistry

Penn State University

Chemistry Students Awarded National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships

Three Penn State chemistry students have been awarded National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowships! Katherine Marak, Megan Steves, and Sylvia Bintrim are recipients of the fellowship. Two additional students, Catherine Douds and Albanie Hendrickson-Stives, received honorable mentions from the NSF.  

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship (GRF) program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students studying science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. In addition to support for their research, awardees benefit from a three-year annual stipend, along with a cost of education allowance for tuition, and opportunities for international research and professional development.

Katherine Marak is a graduate student in the Freedman group. She is currently researching how the physical and chemical properties of aerosols influence their ice nucleation activity. Her research has significant applications in the study of Earth’s climate and weather. “Receiving an NSF GRF is really an honor,” she adds, “it will allow me more time to focus on my research as well as providing more research opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable to me.”

                                              Katie Marak

Katherine Marak

Megan Steves is a second year graduate student in the Knappenberger group. Her research focuses on understanding electron dynamics in a new class of materials: plasmonic 2D metals. In the future, she hopes to investigate the possibility of efficient energy transfer between 2D metals and other materials. “Being selected to receive an NSF graduate research fellowship is  encouraging,” she notes, “it will be very helpful as I pursue my dissertation research.”

                                                Steves

Megan Steves

Sylvia Bintrim is a graduating undergraduate student, double majoring in chemistry and mathematics. During her time at Penn State, she conducted research with Professor Gerald Knizia in theoretical chemistry and with Professor Bratoljub Milosavljevic in experimental physical chemistry. After graduating, she plans to pursue a PhD in chemical physics at Columbia University. Bintrim was also recently named Eberly College of Science student marshal for the spring commencement ceremony.

                                                   Bintrim

Sylvia Bintrim

Catherine Douds is a graduate student in the Bevilacqua lab. Her project focuses on combining experimental and computational approaches to improve the accuracy of RNA structure prediction genome-wide. She hopes that her work will improve structure prediction accuracy of biological RNA. Douds is excited about the interdisciplinary implications of this work; “I’m looking forward to seeing where it takes me,” she adds.

                                             Douds

 Catherine Douds

 

Albanie Hendrickson-Stives is a second year graduate student in the Keating group. Currently, she is conducting research on controlling the assembly behavior of particle suspensions for tunable optical properties. She is focused on using dielectric particles and solvents that have a high refractive index contrast, which will allow for stronger optical modulations.

                                                           Albanie

Albanie Hendrickson-Stives

Please join the Department of Chemistry in congratulating these students on this exciting achievement!

 

Maria Landschoot

Communications Coordinator

Department of Chemistry

Penn State University

 

Chemistry Students Receive ACS Awards

Congratulations to Shea Stewart, Nick Litak, and Maggie Kuzemchak, the winners of the 2019 American Chemical Society Undergraduate Awards!

Graduating senior Shea Stewart is the recipient of the ACS Undergraduate Award in Inorganic Chemistry. The award was established to recognize outstanding academic achievement in inorganic chemistry and to encourage further study in the field. During his time at Penn State, Stewart conducted research with the Schaak group, focusing on synthesizing bulk and nano materials for use as catalysts to facilitate selective organic transformations. After graduation, he plans to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry at Temple University. “Winning this award came as a surprise to me,” Stewart adds, “I feel very honored.”

                                             Stewart

Shea Stewart

Junior Nick Litak is the recipient of the ACS Undergraduate Award in Physical Chemistry. The award recognizes Litak’s outstanding achievements in academics and research. Litak is a member of the Lear group, where he has been conducting research on how the electronic properties of gold nanoparticles are changed upon the manipulation of the particles’ surface chemistry. “I am extremely honored to receive this award,” Litak notes, “I would like to thank Dr. Lear and all the professors I have had over the last three years that have allowed me achieve this.”

                                        Litak

Nick Litak

Graduating senior Maggie Kuzemchak is the recipient of the ACS Undergraduate Award in Analytical Chemistry. Kuzemchak is a member of the Freedman group. Her work focuses on atmospheric chemistry. Kuzemchak is currently studying scented home products, examining the particles released by the products when they are exposed to the air. Her work has the potential to help scientists understand how these products impact human health. Following her graduation, Kuzemchak will be taking her chemistry knowledge to Mozambique, where she will work as a science teacher with the Peace Corp.   

                                      Maggie

Maggie Kuzemchak, Conducting Research in the Lab

Please join the Department of Chemistry in congratulating these outstanding students on this exciting achievement!

 

Maria Landschoot

Communications Coordinator

Department of Chemistry

Penn State University

Sojung Kim Named Goldwater Scholar

Sojung Kim Named Goldwater Scholar

Chemistry major Sojung Kim has been named a 2019 Goldwater Scholar!

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship is the most prestigious undergraduate scholarship given in the natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics.  Each year, it is awarded to approximately three hundred college sophomores and juniors nationwide.

“Being named a Goldwater Scholar helped confirm my skills and potential as a young researcher,” Kim explains, “receiving this award gives me more confidence to pursue a research career in chemistry.”

Kim, who is a junior in the chemistry major, is one of the four awardees from Penn State. She conducted research with Professor Tom Mallouk before joining the Zhang lab last fall, where she co-authored a paper in ChemBioChem in 2019.

Please join the Department of Chemistry in congratulating Sojung Kim on this exciting honor.

 

Maria Landschoot

Communications Coordinator

Department of Chemistry

Penn State University

Ayusman Sen Receives a Humboldt Prize

Ayusman Sen Receives a Humboldt Prize

Congratulations to Professor Ayusman Sen, who was recently selected as the 2019 recipient of a Humboldt Prize. The award is granted in recognition of a researcher's entire achievements to date to academics whose fundamental discoveries, new theories, or insights have had a significant impact on their own discipline and who are expected to continue producing cutting-edge achievements in the future. This award recognizes Dr. Sen's pioneering work in the field of synthetic chemical motors and active matter.

Please join the Department of Chemistry in congratulating Dr. Sen on this exciting achievement.

 

 

 

Maria Landschoot

Communications Coordinator

Department of Chemistry

Penn State University

Student Spotlight: Maggie Kuzemchak

Student Spotlight: Maggie Kuzemchak

Maggie Kuzemchak, who is a senior double majoring in chemistry and earth science at Penn State, fell in love with chemistry as a high school student. While in high school, she even volunteered to help her teacher set up experiments so that she could spend more time learning about the subject.

However, Kuzemchak wasn’t sure how to put her love of chemistry to use until she arrived at Penn State. Kuzemchak fell in love with Penn State after visiting campus and decided to come to the University to study chemistry because of the many opportunities the University offered. “I knew that whatever I decided to do, I’d have the opportunity to do it here,” she notes.

Kuzemchak says that the variety offered by the Department of Chemistry was one of the unique features that drew her to Penn State. “There are so many different specialities being researched here,” Kuemchak explains, “no matter what you’re interested in, you have an opportunity to do research here.”

Kuzemchak found one such opportunity in Dr. Miriam Freedman’s lab. Kuzemchak enrolled in one of Dr. Freedman’s classes; she enjoyed the course so much that she asked Dr. Freedman if she could join her lab. Kuzemchak is currently conducting research in Dr. Freedman’s lab. Her work focuses on atmospheric chemistry. Kuzemchak is currently studying scented home products, examining the particles released by the products when they are exposed to the air. Her work has the potential to help scientists understand how these products impact human health.

Although, Kuzemchak loves chemistry, she found her true passion outside of the classroom. As a freshman, she became involved with Project Haiti at Penn State, an organization Kuzemchak is now the president of. Project Haiti raises money to support its partners in Haiti, including Maison Fortune Orphanage and Azil, an organization that serves the severely ill. Her time with Project Haiti— which included three trips to the country—instilled Kuzemchak with a passion for service to others, a passion that she has decided to combine with her love of chemistry.

Following her graduation in May, Kuzemchak will be taking her chemistry knowledge to Mozambique, where she will work as a science teacher with the Peace Corp. Kuzemchak says her time with Project Haiti inspired her to join the Peace Corp. The experience will allow her to combine her love of chemistry with her passion for service, and Kuzemchak is looking forward to using her chemistry degree in a unique way. “I wasn’t sure how I wanted to use chemistry in my life,” she explains, “I wanted to do service work, so joining the Peace Corp was the perfect combo.”

Although her work with the Peace Corp will present some challenges—such as learning Portuguese—Kuzemchak is looking forward to experiencing a new culture and learning from the people she meets. She is also looking forward to sharing her love of science with high school students in Mozambique.

In her spare time,  Kuzemchak is active in her church community, and she enjoys hiking, camping, and travel.

 

Maria Landschoot

Communications Coordinator

Department of Chemistry

Penn State University

Andy Gilreath (‘11) Discovers Beauty in Chemistry

Andy Gilreath (‘11) Discovers Beauty in Chemistry

Andy Gilreath—who earned her BS in chemistry from Penn State in 2011—became interested in makeup and art as a young child, but she didn’t realize that chemists were behind her favorite beauty products until she started high school. “Like most of us, I had never really thought about how these products get on the shelves or why they felt or smelled a certain way,” she explains, “but once I realized I could actually make a career out of creating makeup and skin care, I didn't want to do anything else.”


As she prepared to apply to college, Gilreath did some research and discovered that most cosmetic chemists had degrees in biology or chemistry, a subject she had enjoyed in high school.


After visiting Penn State, Gilreath knew it was the place to achieve her goals. “I didn’t want to feel like a large fish in a small pond, I wanted an ocean!” Gilreath explains, “when I first visited for a tour, the campus just clicked with me and I could see myself being happy there, so I knew it was the right choice. After learning about the college of science and the type of research being done, I knew it would be a solid foundation for my career goals.”


Gilreath was not disappointed. Within the Department of Chemistry, she found a supportive network of faculty and students who were eager to help her launch her dream career. “I specifically pursued a chemistry degree to support my desire to become a cosmetic chemist,” she adds, “my advisors and research professors were extremely supportive of my career goals and allowed me to really carve out my own space in my four years at Penn State.”


Today, Gilreath is a group leader in the makeup group at L’Oreal, where she leads the team that is responsible for formulating cosmetic products like foundation, primer, and concealer. Gilreath loves her work, noting, “It's such a cool opportunity to be creative and artistic, and I get the added perk of seeing my launches in the store and knowing that I’m helping to give people a sense of confidence and empowerment. It's pretty great.”


She credits her experience at Penn State as an important factor in her professional success. “After being in the industry for a few years and comparing undergrad experiences with my professional peers, I realized just how well the Department of Chemistry prepares its students for a future in science,” Gilreath says, “It’s a very rigorous and demanding program that has many classroom and research opportunities to help push students to learn and grow.”


One such opportunity was participating in research. After her junior year, Gilreath received a fellowship for summer research, allowing her to work independently on cosmetic focused research within an analytical lab. She notes that this experience gave her a professional edge after graduation.


However, Gilreath’s connection to Penn State goes deeper than professional development. “I definitely felt a sense of community and support that I am still so thankful for,” she says of her time as an undergraduate, noting that she made lifelong friends at Penn State.  Since graduating, Gilreath has continued to be involved in the Penn State chemistry community, serving as a mentor and resource for other students who are interested in a career in the personal care industry.


She encourages young scientists who are considering chemistry to take a closer look at Penn State. “The programs are top-notch, the campus is beautiful, and downtown is a blast,” she adds, “there are a multitude of opportunities at Penn State, you just have to set a goal, be relentless in your pursuit, and let any failures or missteps that might happen along the way strengthen you.”


In her free time, Gilreath enjoys traveling, visiting friends and family, and spending time outdoors.



Maria Landschoot

Communications Coordinator

Department of Chemistry

Penn State University

 
Jacqueline Bortiatynski has been selected for the 2019 George W. Atherton Award for Excellence in Teaching

Jacqueline Bortiatynski has been selected for the 2019 George W. Atherton Award for Excellence in Teaching

Professor Jacqueline Bortiatynski has been selected for the 2019 George W. Atherton Award for Excellence in Teaching This University-Level award recognizes excellence in teaching at the undergraduate level.  Jackie has made many contributions to teaching at the University level, especially in establishing and directing the Center for Excellence in Science Education (CESE), which benefits all of us in Chemistry, and in co-developed the Learning Assistant (LA) program, which trains our undergraduates to facilitate learning in the classroom.  Please join me in thanking Jackie for her invaluable contributions to education and in congratulating her on this well-deserved recognition.

Department of Chemistry Welcomes Stephanie Hill

Department of Chemistry Welcomes Stephanie Hill

The Department of Chemistry is pleased to welcome Stephanie Hill as the department’s new Graduate Program Assistant. She holds a degree in administration, management,  and marketing. Hill will be assisting Crista Spratt in coordinating all programs. She will serve as the point of contact for students within the graduate program and will make sure that each student has the tools to meet all the requirements to graduate with their desired degree.


Hill is a native of Centre County. In her free time, she enjoys knitting, painting, hiking, and spending time with her family— her husband, 7-year-old daughter, Lotti, and dog, Mogi.

 

Join us in welcoming Stephanie Hill to the Department of Chemistry!

 

Maria Landschoot

Communications Coordinator

Department of Chemistry

Penn State University

Current Student Profile: Santina Cruz

Current Student Profile: Santina Cruz

Santina Cruz grew up listening to her older cousins—both Penn State alums—talking about how much they loved their school. So, when it was time to apply to graduate school she decided to research at Penn State’s chemistry program. When she learned that Penn State had one of the top graduate programs for research in chemistry in the country, she knew she had to apply.


In the end, her choice came down to two schools. But, after visiting Penn State’s campus, she knew that it was the place for her. However, Cruz wasn’t just drawn to the University’s status as a top research school or it’s state-of-the-art facilities. The friendly, welcoming chemistry community at Penn State stood out to her, as did the State College community. “I could live a more comfortable life in State College,” Cruz explains, noting that the safety and affordability offered by the town were important considerations for her.


Cruz is now a Ph.D. student conducting research in Dr. Ben Lear’s lab. Her work focuses on changing the surface chemistry of metallic nanoparticles using a novel technique called conduction electron spin resonance. The group studies how these changes impact the electronic structure of the nanoparticles.


Although Cruz came to the Department of Chemistry in search of excellent research opportunities, she says that the department’s desire to constantly improve is what makes it special. “The department is very open to self-reflection.” Cruz explains, noting that the department is always open to suggestions from all members of the chemistry community. “There’s a commitment to making positive, impactful change,” she adds, “the department is always looking for ways to improve the climate for students and staff.”


This culture of inclusivity is particularly appealing to Cruz, who works hard to create positive change on campus. Outside of the lab, Cruz is active in the University community. She is currently serving her third year as the treasurer for Graduate Women in Science, an organization that works to build a global community to inspire, support, recognize, and empower women in science. Cruz is also the president of the Chemistry Graduate Student Association at Penn State. Additionally, she sits on the departmental Climate & Diversity Committee and organizes the Lion Lectures, which is a series of informal lectures that gives other grad students a chance to practice presenting a talk. She also mentors graduate and undergraduate students in Dr. Lear’s lab.


For her efforts to create a positive environment within the department and the University, Cruz was awarded the department’s Student Services Award in 2018, an achievement she is very proud of. Her advisor, Dr. Lear, nominated her for the award. He noted, “Santina exhibits a selfless and sustained commitment to improving the life of others...I truly believe she is an exceptional example of a good community citizen.”


Cruz advises graduate students who are considering coming to Penn State to think about the sort of community that they want to have around them during their time in graduate school. “Think about the home you’re going to be building for yourself,” she says, “think about the people you’re going to surround yourself with. I’ve had life changing experiences at Penn State. This is a really supportive environment; you don’t realize until you’re in graduate school how much you need those supportive people on tough days. I’ve found that supportive group here.”

 

In her free time, Cruz enjoys going to the gym, reading, baking, shopping, attending sporting events, and spending time with her family.

 

Maria Landschoot

Communications Coordinator

Department of Chemistry

Penn State University

Dr. Megan Matthews (‘11) Finds a Culture of Collaboration at Penn State

Dr. Megan Matthews (‘11) Finds a Culture of Collaboration at Penn State

When Dr. Megan Matthews began searching for graduate programs, she knew that she wanted to attend a top research institution that would offer her the opportunity to develop as a scientist.


Fortunately, Dr. Matthews—who earned her Ph.D. in Chemistry in 2011—found everything she was looking for at Penn State. She notes that she was particularly impressed by the University’s state-of-the-art facilities, “the new building with beautiful chemistry labs makes PSU Chemistry one of the nicest research facilities that I have seen and had the pleasure to work.” However, it was the enthusiasm of the chemistry community at Penn State that made the University stand out. “The faculty are excited to do science, and the administration does everything it can to enable their research programs,” she says, “There are no barriers or fears - diving into science with passionate researchers was both inspiring and motivating.”


After arriving at Penn State, Dr. Matthews conducted research with four different faculty members; she says that “the resources and individualized faculty support makes PSU a special learning environment.” The breakthrough moment in her graduate research came during her fourth year at Penn State. “I was watching the mass spectrometer acquire the key piece of data that nailed our hypothesis and cracked open the project that would become the major direction of the lab for many years to come,” she explains, “That day I learned that as grad students, we are only a single experiment away from making a big discovery and having an impact on a field.”


Although Penn State’s top-of-the-line research and academic programs ultimately convinced Dr. Matthews to come to the University, it was the people, the culture, and the positive working environment within the Department of Chemistry that made her graduate school experience special.


“Penn State gave me what I needed to succeed when, at the time, I felt like I was taking a big risk,” she explains. “The collaborative culture at PSU was exactly what I was looking for in my graduate experience,” she continues, “students learn together, work hard together, and, most importantly, having fun throughout our graduate careers in and outside of lab. The combination creates a team-based culture that opens endless opportunities...The department is spot on in terms of knowing how to create an inclusive culture that truly defines everyone as equals.”


After graduating from Penn State, Dr. Matthews joined the discovery proteomics program at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA. While there, she worked with Dr. Ben Cravatt to discover new drug targets by capturing functionality on proteins that cannot be predicted from gene or protein sequence. Her work eventually resulted in a publication in Nature Chemistry.


Shortly afterwards, Dr. Matthews said goodbye to the beaches and boardwalks of California to return to Pennsylvania. She is now Assistant Professor of Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania, and her group is studying chemical proteomics technologies to discover functional protein modifications and novel drug targets.


Dr. Matthews says that her time at Penn State gave her the skills and confidence to propel herself to success at Scripps and as a professor. “Penn State inspired me to think big, be bold and trust myself,” she explains, “The science and the people at Penn State taught me how to focus my creativity, how to ask pressing biological questions, and how to communicate compelling results across disciplines—the essential components of scientific research.”


She adds that several of the professors she worked with at Penn State are still actively involved in her career. She explains that their support has helped her overcome challenges she faced as a woman in a male-dominated field. “At Penn State,” Dr. Matthews explains, “mentorship is for life.”


“I would not be where I am today without the spectacular training and continued support I received from PSU,” she continues when asked what advice she would give to students considering Penn State’s graduate program. “There are many factors to consider when choosing a graduate program, but with Penn State you cannot go wrong.” She notes, “for me, I never doubted that I made the right decision to go to PSU.”


In her free time, Dr. Matthews enjoys traveling, cooking, and wine tasting with her husband, as well as online shoe shopping.


Maria Landschoot

Communications Coordinator

Department of Chemistry

 

Penn State University

 
Department of Chemistry Hosts MilliporeSigma Lectureship

Department of Chemistry Hosts MilliporeSigma Lectureship

The Department of Chemistry at Penn State thanks MilliporeSigma for its support of its eponymous lectureship for the third year in a row; the lectureship is part of the company’s ongoing efforts to “deepen scientific relationships” between industry and academics. The primary objective of the MilliporeSigma lectureship is to connect our scientists with the broader community of researchers in the hopes of forging more collaborative partnerships. This year, Dr. Tyrel McQueen, professor in the Department of Chemistry at Johns Hopkins University, traveled to University Park to participate in the lectureship and present a seminar entitled “The Dawn of the Chemistry of Quantum Materials: Discovery, Synthesis, and Potential Applications.”

 

Beth Rosenberg, Manager of the Research Technology Specialist at MilliporeSigma, explains that the company supports the lectureship because of its strong belief in the importance of collaborative science. She notes that the company aims to “advance science and work toward solutions to the toughest scientific problems facing people today” through the lectureship.

 

Dr. McQueen’s research is addressing some of these very problems. His lab focuses on fundamental and applied research within quantum materials, research that is leading to the  discovery of new materials that will be the building blocks of the technology of the future. This field of study has the potential to make the production of everyday items cheaper and more efficient, while turning out products that are smaller, lighter, and more durable. Dr. McQueen notes that many of his group’s discoveries “will probably be used in ways that we can’t even imagine right now.”

 

Penn State faculty and students enjoyed attending the lectureship and speaking with Dr. McQueen about his work. Helping chemists make these important connections is part of MilliporeSigma’s goal of building productive scientific partnerships.

 

Dr. McQueen notes that he decided to participate in the lectureship because “it’s important to talk about the design and creation of new materials.” He explains, “If you look at the technological achievements people have unlocked in the past century – all of human history really, right down to the ability to create bronze and then iron – much of what we’ve achieved has been tied to the ability to create new materials with new properties...Our next age of technology will be the same – it will depend greatly on the creation of new materials with new properties, and a leading candidate is the wild world of quantum materials.”

 

The Department of Chemistry at Penn State thanks MilliporeSigma for their support and Dr. McQueen for his participation. The department looks forward to hosting future MilliporeSigma lectureships.

 

Maria Landschoot

Communications Coordinator

Department of Chemistry

Penn State University

 



Professor Ayusman Sen Selected as the 2019 Recipient of the Langmuir Lecture Award

Professor Ayusman Sen Selected as the 2019 Recipient of the Langmuir Lecture Award

Congratulations to Dr. Ayusman Sen, Professor of Chemistry at Penn State, who has been selected as the 2019 recipient of the Langmuir Lecture Award. This award recognizes outstanding contributions in the field of colloid, interfacial, and surface chemistry broadly defined.Dr. Sen will be recognized and present a plenary lecture on his research on catalytic nano/micromotors at the Fall 2019 American Chemical Society Meeting in San Diego.

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