“It is one of my favorite events of the year," says Chemistry professor John Wolfe, the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Education in the Department of Chemistry. Wolfe presided over an award ceremony this spring that recognized outstanding undergraduates. The awards winners are based on the recommendations of instructors, graduate student instructors and undergraduate advisors. Learn a bit about these outstanding students from the remarks that Wolfe presented about each student [lightly edited].
Early Career Student Awards
ALUMNI FIRST YEAR ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS
These awards recognize exceptional performance in laboratory and lecture work. Seven students awarded this year are Nithya Arun, Paul Brandfonbrener, Sreya Gutta, Alexandre Levashkevich, Hani Nasr, Caroline Shah, and Veronica Sikora.
ALPHA CHI SIGMA (ΑΧΣ) OUTSTANDING FIRST YEAR STUDENT AWARD awardee is Max Hammer. The fraternity recognizes a first year student in chemistry who has demonstrated an interest in chemistry, shown outstanding academic potential and has exhibited a productive interaction with fellow students.
CRC OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT AWARD has a long-standing recognition as a top honor for an early-career student. This year the award went to Michael Nunu.
Department of Chemistry Awards
ISABELLA KARLE MEMORIAL AWARD
The Department of Chemistry presents this award to a top graduating senior. It is named in honor of Dr. Isabella Karle, who earned her B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in Chemistry at U-M. Among her contributions to science is her work on the Manhattan Project, where she developed techniques used for the extraction of plutonium chloride. She was also a pioneer in the field of X-ray crystallography. She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and received the National Medal of Science among numerous honors.
This year’s award went to Carolyn Suh. She was part of Assistant Professor Alison Narayan’s lab, working to develop biocatalytic methods for oxidative dearomatization. Her current project involves the chemoenzymatic synthesis of a natural product. Carolyn was awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. She will join the MIT PhD program in organic chemistry in the fall. Her hobbies include cooking, reading and listening to podcasts.
WALTER YATES AWARD
The Walter Yates Award is one of the top honors given to recognize excellence and scholarly achievement by a senior undergraduate chemistry or biochemistry major.
Allison Batka [not pictured] works in Nicolai Lehnert's lab on the synthesis and testing of copper catalysts for the production of nitric oxide on demand. She will be continuing her work in the Lehnert lab as a Master's student next year, and she will be applying for chemistry PhD programs in the fall. She plans to pursue a career in academia. Outside of lab, Allie's interests include ice cream, Pokemon, and hanging out with friends.
ALUMNI OUTSTANDING AWARDS
Alumni Outstanding Awards recognize academic excellence and leadership potential.
2nd year Award: Mark Whitton just finished his second year as a biochemistry major on a pre-health track. He is a huge ice hockey fanatic that has played the sport for a total of 13 years. He plans on attending medical school in the future and ultimately training in the field of anesthesiology.
3rd year: Jenna Manske is a Junior working towards an Honors B. S. Chemistry degree. She has a passion for chemistry, mentorship, and education and is involved in the SLC as a course leader and facilitator for CHEM 210. She helped re-design the CHEM 211H course, which was successfully implemented this past fall. She is a founding member of the Undergraduate Research Committee that planned the first campus-wide multidisciplinary undergraduate symposium. She has been an undergraduate teaching assistant for multiple Organic lab courses. She is a mentor through the Michigan Mentorship Program and serves as the Vice President of the Pre-Professional Chemistry Fraternity. Through each of these roles, she strives to create welcoming environments and promote learning and community. In John Wolfe’s research lab she works on the synthesis of 2,3-dihydroquinazolinone derivatives in collaboration with the Ramamoorthy group. These compounds are used to increasing understanding of Alzheimer’s and type II diabetes. Her future plans include attending graduate school to pursue a Ph.D. in Chemistry and master’s in education with the goal of entering academia to make an impact on the field of chemistry through research and education.
Senior year: Vivek Nair is a Biomolecular Science and Spanish double major, with a minor in Writing. His hobbies include weightlifting, running, writing, and watching movies. He also volunteers with a local hospice organization and at a Spanish-language Saturday school. He is currently working in a biomedical research lab at U of M’s Cancer Center. In J. Chad Brenner’s lab, Nair’s project involves the use of combination therapies in the treatment of head and neck cancer. He will be starting medical school this summer.
SUMMER UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH FELLOWS
This year, thanks both to endowment funds and the generous donations, we are able to support 25 students for summer research. Selections are based on recommendations by the faculty, as well as their academic records.
James E. Harris Scholarship Award: Kirk Baughman, Jillian Genova, Myles Lovasz, Oscar Mota, Kevin Nguyen
Albert Euclid Hinsdale Memorial Endowment: Mason Faculak, Andre Kalenak, Anna Trzcinski
William Smeaton Memorial Award: Alexander Postmaa
Margaret and Herman Sokol Endowment Award: Stephanie Camarena, Lesley Escobar, Chuang Feng, Keerthi Sajja
May-Walt Summer Fellowship Award: Michaela Barber, Alexander Cooke,Bennett Hendricks, Michael Petterson, Anshul Puli, Drew Tarnopol, Austin Wang, Matthew Whalen, Gillian Wright
Walter Yates Award: Amos Nissley, Michael Riehs, Nicholas Watson
Society, Institute, Other Unit Awards
AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF CHEMISTS AWARD
The American Institute of Chemists Awards are one of the top recognitions for our graduating seniors. The awards recognize student excellence in ability, character, and academic achievement.
Biochemistry: Jack Twarozynski majored in biochemistry. For the last three years Jack has worked in Dr. John Traynor's pharmacology lab. The focus of their study is on opioid drugs. Specifically, over this last year Jack has been working to characterize new fentanyl analog compounds. This is important as these drugs pose a serious problem with the current opioid epidemic, and there is currently little information on them. As for his future plans, this summer Jack will be applying to medical school. In his spare time he enjoys running and reading.
Chemistry: Carrie Yu
Chemistry major Carrie Yu graduated in May 2019. During her years at the U-M, she worked in a Theodore Goodson III’s research group, using a nonlinear two-photon absorption methodology to elucidate the binding mechanisms of small-molecule fluorophores to RNA. She is also a peer facilitator in the Global Scholars Program, encouraging first-year student engagement as interculturally competent global citizens. Her passions for science and community-building come together in her pursuit of a Doctor of Pharmacy at the University at Buffalo, beginning this fall.
AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY AWARDS
The American Chemistry Society awards recognize outstanding work in each of these areas: Analytical, Inorganic, Organic and Physical Chemistry. This year's awardees from (l to r) Sara Alektiar, Ammar Ibrahim, Jin Yi Tan, and Michael Riehs.
Analytical Chemistry Award—Jin Yi Tan
Jeanie is an international transfer student from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She started doing research in Mark Meyerhoff's Lab in Winter 2018 under the mentorship of Joe. With their strong guidance and support, She was given the opportunity to synthesize, characterize, and explore further applications of NO-releasing compounds using analytical and organic techniques to help find improvements for biomedical implants and devices. Both of them have been extremely encouraging and inspire Jeanie to continue doing research in graduate school in the U.S despite being so far away from home. This semester, she wanted to gain experience in environmental chemistry and is now in Dr. Pratt's Lab analyzing snowpacks from Alaska and Maine using Ion Chromatography. Outside of chemistry, Jeanie enjoys going to Group X workout classes and is involved in Alpha Chi Sigma, the Michigan Malaysian Student Association, and Rotaract Michigan.
Inorganic Chemistry Award—Michael Riehs
Michael is a Junior majoring in chemistry and works in Charles McCrory's lab. His project focuses on developing new mixed metal oxide catalysts for electrochemical alcohol oxidation. After undergrad, Michael plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Chemistry. Outside of school, he is a member of the Michigan Ballroom Dance Team and the design chair for a club called D/ART: Art on the Diag. In his free time, Michael enjoys listening to music and watching way too many movies on Netflix.
Organic Chemistry Award—Sara Alektiar
Sara works John Montgomery's lab and has been a part of several projects ranging from synthesis to methodology development. Currently she works on a glycosylation project to form beta-mannosides (which tests all of her patience and prepares her for the frustrations to come in grad school). After graduation she plans to pursue her PhD at Wisconsin in organic chemistry studying either photo- or electrochemistry. Outside of lab she enjoys drinking coffee and binge watching The Office.
Physical Chemistry Award—Ammar Ibrahim
Ammar works on the synthetic modification of the secondary coordination environment for a cobalt bis (pyridylmonoimine) molecular catalyst for electrocatalytic carbon dioxide reduction in Charles McCrory’s lab. He is attending CalTech graduate school in the fall. His dream job is to become a professor/principal investigator because he loves answering questions, and he loves to help others answer questions, whether it be in the lab, or the classroom.
HURON VALLEY SECTION OUTSTANDING STUDENT LEADERSHIP AWARD
Adam Eckburg graduated with a major in chemistry and a minor in Business Administration. He worked in the Chen lab for the last two years studying the structure and orientation of surface-immobilized antimicrobial peptides using circular dichroism spectroscopy. On campus he was a tour guide for the admissions office and for four years was a Science Learning Center facilitator for Adam enjoys fishing and golfing. From Rockford, Illinois, he will be working and volunteering at various hospitals in Chicago while applying to medical school.
MERCK INDEX AWARD TO OUTSTANDING SENIORS
Hannah Wang is from Kalamazoo, MI, and her hobbies include baking and playing the violin. This coming fall Hannah will be attending pharmacy school at the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy.
SEYHAN N. EGE—WISE AWARD
Seyhan N. Ege was one of the founders of the University of Michigan’s Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Program. Each year, the Program recognizes outstanding achievement by an undergraduate student from a group that is traditionally underrepresented in the chemical sciences.
Jenna Menard is a senior studying Biomolecular Science with a minor in Medical Anthropology. At U-M, she has been involved with the Science Learning Center, the Pre-Veterinary Club, Alpha Chi Omega, and a variety of volunteer organizations. During her sophomore and junior years, Jenna was a lab assistant at the Castro/Lowenstein Brain Tumor Biology and Therapeutics Lab where she aided Vivek Yadav, Ph.D, with his research on treatments for malignant brain tumors. Jenna will be spending her next four years at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine where she will obtain her Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine and pursue a future in small animal specialty medicine.
Two Chemistry students are recipients of the Vanko Award from the U-M Honors College, named for Rogeer B. Vanko, an Honors College student killed in his junior year. His parents, teachers, and friends established this award in his memory.
Suzie Kim pursued a degree in Honors Biochemistry and a minor in Spanish, and she will be starting medical school in the fall. For the past three years, she has done research with the Yang Lab in the Biophysics Department. Her honors thesis investigated a novel method to obtain extracts derived from zebrafish embryos to emulate the cellular environment with the goal of elucidating the biological oscillator behind the cell cycle. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with friends, playing the ukulele, and traveling
Ethan Curtis has been working in the Zimmerman lab since he was a freshman, and is currently using computations to understand the thermodynamics and kinetics of the Schlenk equilibrium for thiophene Grignards. He plans to pursue a graduate degree in theoretical and computational chemistry, starting at Stanford in the fall. When Ethan is not doing chemistry, he can usually be found playing board games with friends, playing computer games without friends, or doing math homework.