Committee Members

Iowa State University

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Ding Yuan

Ding Yuan is a fifth-year graduate student in the Winter group. She received a B.S. in chemistry from Jilin University back in her home country China. As a Ph.D. candidate she works with Professor Winter on photochemistry which utilizes light as a stimulus to trigger chemical reactions. In her free time, Ding likes dancing and weightlifting. She also enjoys being outdoor and trying new things.

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Melisa Alkan

Melisa Alkan is a fourth year graduate student in Physical Chemistry at Iowa State University. She is in a co-advised program with Dr. Mark Gordon and Dr. Levi Stanley. Prior to graduate school, she received a BS In Chemistry at Illinois Tech in Chicago. Her current research focuses on developing an accelerated library for molecular integral evaluation in Gordon group and studying the mechanism of carboacylation reactions in Stanley lab. In her free time, Melisa likes to travel and meet people from different cultures.

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Jorge Luis
Gálvez Vallejo

Jorge is a 5th year PhD candidate at Mark Gordon’s group. He obtained his undergraduate degree in Chemistry at the Universidad de las Américas, Puebla in his native Mexico. Since 2017 he has been in Ames doing research in the areas of computational chemistry, specifically heterogenous catalysis and bonding in water molecules; and in high performance computing, using Graphics Processing Units to accelerate quantum chemistry methods. Jorge enjoys drinking tea, playing guitar, videogames, reading classical literature and trying to lift heavy weights at the gym.

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Sommer Osman

Sommer is a graduate student in the Anand group. She graduated from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette with an honors baccalaureate degree in chemistry. Her research at Iowa State focuses on two different projects 1) developing an electrochemical immunoassay for the diagnosis of Sjogren’s syndrome at the point-of-care and 2) quantifying the isolation of melanoma cells from buffy coat by dielectrophoresis. Sommer loves spending time with her husband and daughter, traveling, and reading in her free time.

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Darshna Paganya

Darshna Pagariya is a fifth-year graduate student in Prof. Robbyn Anand’s research group at Iowa State. She completed her integrated master’s in applied chemistry from NIT-Surat, India. In the Anand group, she works with developing label-free cancer detection platforms for personalized cancer therapy. In her free time, she likes to catch up with friends and family, attempt cuisines from different parts of the world in her apartment kitchen and trying new fitness classes

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Kira Rahn

Kira Rahn is a fifth-year graduate student in Prof. Robbyn Anand's research group at Iowa State University. She graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, MN in 2017 with a BA in ACS Chemistry and Mathematics. Her research area is electroanalytical chemistry, specifically utilizing electrokinetic and periodic voltammetric techniques to improve the sensitivity of point-of-care sensors. In her free time Kira enjoys hiking, travelling to new places, and cooking.

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Elizabeth Gehrmann

Elizabeth Gehrmann is a six year graduate student in Organic Chemistry at Iowa State University. She is currectly advised by Dr. Art Winter. Prior to attending Iowa State for graduate school, Elizabeth graduated with a B.A. in ACS Chemistry and B.A. in German from Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. Her research focuses on photochemistry for biological and medicinal applications. Specifically, she investigates boron-dipyrromethene (BODIPY) photocages with the use of visible-light irradiation.  Liz spends her free time cooking, crafting, and boxing.

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Brendan Wall

Brendan Wall is a second-year graduate student in Organic Chemistry at Iowa State University. He is advised by Dr. Brett VanVeller. Previously, Brendan graduated with a B.S. in Biochemistry from Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois. His research focuses on synthetic methods towards accessing the medicinally-important heterocycle, isothiazole. In his free time Brendan likes running, biking, video games, and spending time with his cat Mochi!

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Gayatri Viswanathan

Gayatri Viswanathan is a fourth year graduate student co-advised in the Kovnir and Miller groups at Iowa State University. She graduated from the University of Houston with a Bachelor of Science with University Honors in Chemistry. Gayatri's current research is focused on employing experimental and computational techniques to synthesize and characterize novel solid-state materials for energy-related applications, such as thermoelectric materials. In her free time, Gayatri enjoys bingeing Friends, traveling, and learning about random things. She loves dogs.

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Ernesto Soto

Ernesto is a 2nd year graduate student in Kirill Kovnir’s group, where he is studying the synthesis and properties of ternary metal silicon phosphides for applications in non-linear optics and electrocatalysis. During his undergraduate studies, he participated as a member of the 2017 McNair Cohort, where he conducted research on microplastic and pollutants, under guidance of Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza. Shortly after graduating from UW-Superior with his bachelors in Chemistry, he went on to pursue a Masters in Chemistry at Illinois State University, where he conducted research on the synthesis and reactivity of hexanuclear rhenium selenide clusters systems with alkynyl ligands, under the guidance of Dr. Lisa F. Szczepura. Ernesto is passionate about teaching and conducting research. He is proud to represent the Latinx population and the LGBTQ+ community. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling, reading, gaming, and eating.

School Representatives

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Leah Scharlott

University of Iowa

I’m Leah Scharlott and I am a PhD candidate at the University of Iowa researching chemistry education. I’m interested in how we, as instructors, can center curricula around real-world phenomena and provide students with opportunities to engage in the high levels of reasoning. I am from Cincinnati, OH and in my spare time enjoy walking around rivers, playing piano, and staying politically active.

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Indika Warnakula

University of Kansas

Indika Warnakula is a fourth-year graduate student in Prof. Susan Lunte's research group at the University of Kansas. He completed his bachelor's degree in physical science at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. His research area is bio-electroanalytical chemistry and current research work focuses on the development of a bipolar electrode-based fluorescence system for the detection of electrochemically active species with a better limit of detections. In his free time, Indika enjoys reading about history and watching sci-fi movies.