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    Seven outstanding students receive competitive dissertation fellowships

Seven Department of Chemistry graduate students have been award highly competitive Doctoral Dissertation Fellowships for the 2019-20 academic year, including Kajari Bera, Kiall Francis Suazo, Mukunda Mandal, Stephanie Mitchell, Amy Ott, Prachi Sharma, and Shuyi Xie.

Kajari Bera is a fourth-year graduate student who is advised by Professor Renee Frontiera. Kajari’s research is focused broadly on applications and advances in using an ultrafast Raman spectroscopy technique to examine solid-state materials. Her dissertation mainly focuses on determining how different molecular vibrational motions, or the collective motion of the atoms within a molecule, can be used to create more efficient solar cells out of organic molecules.

Kiall Francis Suazo is fifth-year graduate student working with Professor Mark Distefano. His research interests revolve on chemical proteomic profiling of prenylated proteins as well as on using biochemical assays and techniques to study protein prenylation. In a number of multi-collaborative projects, he is using an enrichment strategy in tandem with mass spectrometric-based proteomic analysis to identify prenylated proteins that could potentially serve as targets in diseases such as in Alzheimer’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). After finishing his doctorate, he hopes to pursue a post-doctoral work focused on addressing biological problems where his background in chemistry can largely contribute.

Mukunda Mandal is a fourth-year graduate student who is advised by Professor Christopher Cramer. His research is focused on developing innovative approaches toward more sustainable polymer materials from biomass. He uses computational modeling techniques to design new polymerization catalysts in silico, that has the potential to make bio-degradable polyester materials economically viable, more versatile and ever more popular compared to their petroleum-based counterparts. Mukunda is leaning toward a post-doctoral position following his graduate studies.

Stephanie Mitchell is a fourth-year graduate student who is advised by Professor Erin Carlson. Her general research interests focuses on addressing issues with nanoparticles that have been incorporated into technologies not being recycled and therefore wilikely enter the environment. The goal of her research is to investigate the environmental impact of nanotechnology, particularly on bacteria. Her dissertation work is exploring the mechanisms responsible for bacterial resistance to nanoparticles, with the goal of using this information to predict nanoparticle toxicity or engineer microbes to aid in environmental remediation.

Amy Ott is a fourth-year graduate student who is advised by Professor Joseph Topczewski. She is interested in catalytic methods for enantioselective synthesis. Her dissertation focuses on developing new methods for chiral amine synthesis using activated azides. 

Prachi Sharma is a fourth-year graduate student who is advised by Professor Laura Gagliardi. Her research interests focus on developing novel quantum mechanical methods that can accurately describe electron-electron interactions. She is using these methods to predict chemical properties of actinide-transition metal complexes, which are important for catalysis, study of electronic spectra and excited state properties of various organic and inorganic molecules. After earning her doctorate, she plans to pursue a post-doctoral position.

Shuyi Xie is a fourth-year graduate student who is advised by Professor Timothy Lodge. His general research interests encompass the thermodynamics of mixing and phase behavior of salt-doped ternary polymer blends. The special focus of his dissertation involves constructing the phase diagram of salt-doped polymer blends and obtain a co-continuous structure with optimal mechanical and electrical properties. After earning his doctorate, he plans to pursue a post-doctoral position and to continuer working on polymer physics.

The Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship gives the University's most accomplished doctorate candidates an opportunity to devote full-time effort to an outstanding research project by providing time to finalize and write a dissertation during the fellowship year.