Coblentz Student Awardee Biographies

2013 Coblentz Student Awardees

  • Tomasz P. WrobelTomasz P. Wrobel graduated from “Advanced Spectroscopy in Chemistry” Erasmus Mundus master programme in 2010, yielding a double diploma of USTL Lille 1 (France) and Jagiellonian University (Krakow, Poland). He completed a master thesis about atherosclerotic tissue imaging with FT-IR spectroscopy and is continuing this topic throughout his PhD studies under supervision of Professor Malgorzata Baranska. He is also an assistant in Jagiellonian Centre for Experimental Therapeutics (JCET). He has published 10 peer-reviewed articles (another 4 are in the process of revision) and 2 book chapters (another one is being reviewed). He has received several awards and stipends including an award by the Polish Chemical Society for the best presentation of master thesis results, regional “Doctus” fund for the best doctoral students and an award given by the polish Ministry of Education for the best doctoral students.
  • SaSarah Holton received her B.S in chemical engineering at the University of South Carolina in 2008 before joining the Department of Bioengineering and the Medical Scholars Program (M.D/Ph.D) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. During her time at Illinois, she worked with Professor Rohit Bhargava, she focused on developing advanced cell culture models to study early breast tumor dynamics. She is interested in applying FTIR spectroscopic imaging to the practice of pathology in order to improve patient diagnostic and prognostic strategies. Sarah defended her doctoral thesis in Summer 2013 and is continuing her medical studies.

  • Rachel MasyukoRachel Masyuko is a chemistry PhD student in Dr. Paul W. Bohn’s research group at the University of Notre Dame. Her research interests include label- free molecular imaging of biological systems and the development of correlated imaging technologies for chemical analysis. Her work involves chemically communicating microbial communities in complex microenvironments. Her research focuses on understanding the biological processes and interactions that occur at the cellular and multi-cellular level during the biofilm formation process by following the spatial and temporal characteristics of the molecular species in the matrix.
  • Tao LiangTao Liang is a PhD candidate working on helium nanodroplet spectroscopy for Prof. Gary Douberly in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Georgia. His research focuses on using high resolution infrared laser spectroscopy to study species solvated in superfluid helium nanodroplets, which are ideal matrixes for trapping metastable molecules as well as for forming molecular clusters for fundamental research in chemistry. Currently he is working on gaining a molecular level understanding of the interactions that drive atmospheric chemistry involving the OH radical, such as its complexes with O2. He also uses state-of-the-art ab initio methods like Møller–Plesset perturbation theory and coupled-cluster theory to help with the interpretation of the experimental data, which is important for understanding the properties of these species. He published 10 papers, 3 of which he is first author, and is active in many projects that will make contributions to the field of molecular spectroscopy.

2012 Coblentz Student Awardees

  • Eduardo Berrios was born in Santiago, Chile.  He did his undergraduate studies at the University of Chile from 2002-2007, where he obtained his bachelor degree in chemistry and also his professional degree as chemist.  His graduation thesis was titled Effect of the presence of sucrose monoesters on the membrane of DPPC liposomes.  In 2007 he was awarded with a Fulbright-CONICYT scholarship to pursue a doctoral degree in The United States of America.  Since January 2009, he has been researching in Martin Gruebele’s group in The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. There his research involves the study of molecular vibrations and its application in quantum computing theoretically and experimentally.
  • Marleen Kerssens is currently pursuing her PhD in the Biophotonics Research Unit, Gloucestershire Hospitals, NHS Foundation Trust, under the supervision of Professor Nick Stone and Professor Pavel Matousek. Her research explores the relationship between breast calcification and cancer diagnosis. By utilizing deep-Raman techniques and FTIR molecular and structural information on calcifications and surrounding tissue interfaces is provided which can advance both diagnostics and clinical scientific understanding of the processes involved. Previously, she obtained a BSc and MSc from VU University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

  • In 2008, Rajesh Morampudi completed his Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Science degree from the College of Pharmacy at Andhra University, Andhra Pradesh, India.  As an undergraduate student, Rajesh performed research to evaluate the nootropic effects of Quercetin in normal and diabetic rats and later investigated the solubility and dissolution rate of Nimesulide by complexation with β-cyclodextrin.  In August 2008, Rajesh was accepted into the PhD program in bioanalytical and clinical chemistry at Cleveland State University in Cleveland, Ohio.  As part of his dissertation research, Rajesh has developed a new high resolution optical disperser based on a virtually imaged phased array for Raman and Brillouin line scan imaging of polymer bone implant materials.  The new imaging device will be used to non-invasively characterize electromechanical implant properties during periods of bone cell culture and will help establish cell response to electromechanical stress.  
  • Jonathan Schaefer is a chemistry doctoral student in the analytical division at the University of Utah in Joel M. Harris’s research group.  His work focuses on structural and chemical changes in single vesicle lipid bilayers. In order to study individual vesicles, he uses a single-objective optical trap to immobilize the vesicle at the focus of an excitation laser beam. Raman scattered light from the optically trapped vesicle is collected back through the objective and focused through a confocal aperture, isolating a ~1.5 fL detection volume around the vesicle. Jon has used Raman spectroscopy to study the polymerization kinetics and thermochromic phase transitions of individual diacetylenic phospholipid vesicles, research that was published in the Journal of Raman Spectroscopy. His more recent research efforts have focused on measuring temperature-controlled release from individual phospholipid vesicles found in formulations used in chemotherapy treatments. Results from the temperature-controlled release study were presented at FACCS in October, 2011 and are currently being written up for publication.
  • Andreas Wilk was born in Augsburg, Bavaria, Germany in 1980.  He performed his undergraduate studies at the University of Ulm, Baden-Württemberg, Germany, and has received his Diploma degree in Chemistry in 2008.  Having joined Prof. Dr. Boris Mizaikoff’s research group in the same year, he is currently pursuing his PhD in Analytical Chemistry with focus on next-generation gas sensors operating in the mid-infrared (3-12 μm) spectral regime.  His research involves the development of spectrally resolved simulation schemes of entire mid-infrared sensor platforms including modeling the spectral response to virtual analytes with particular interest in applications for enclosed space monitoring and breath diagnostics.  The experimental studies are focused on the development, fabrication, and characterization of innovative substrate-integrated hollow waveguides, which have been established during an ongoing collaborative work with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL, Livermore, CA, USA).  To date, he is author of two peer-reviewed research publications and one book chapter with four manuscripts currently in preparation, and is co-author on one filed patent.  He has contributed to international scientific conferences with three posters (EUROANALYSIS 2009, EUROPTRODE 2010) and one oral presentation (FACSS 2011).
  • Xiaohua (Sarah) Zhou is completing her Ph.D. degree in Chemistry at the University of Missouri-Kansas City with Dr. James R. Durig.  Her research is focused on understanding the structural properties and dynamics of quasi-linear molecules with a special emphasis on molecules containing the isocyanate moiety.   The research is conducted by utilizing infrared, Raman, and microwave spectroscopy along with theoretical investigation.  She has published 14 peer-reviewed papers and is expected to have five more prior to her graduation in May 2013.  During her graduate studies, she worked as a research assistant in the University of Kansas Medical Center carrying out research on the molecular and thermodynamic mechanism of allosteric regulations by utilizing Hydrogen/Deuterium Exchange Mass Spectrometry.  Xiaohua has received several awards which include the Gates Millennium Scholars-Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship fund, the Outstanding Merit Award from the UMKC Women’s Council and 1st place for her poster presentation at FACSS 2011.

2011 Coblentz Student Awardees

Rohith Reddy is a Bioengineering graduate student in the Chemical Imaging and Structures Laboratory, headed by Professor Rohit Bhargava at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. His research interests include design of novel instrumentation and imaging technologies for infrared spectroscopy. His current research is focused on creating and enhancing mid-Infrared Spectroscopic Imaging techniques for biomedical applications. His work also presents important advances in using FT-IR imaging for tissue type identification and cancer detection in prostate and breast tissue. Previously, he obtained his B.Tech and M.Tech. in Electrical Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras. In his doctoral work he has so far published 5 peer reviewed papers, 1 book chapter and filed 1 patent. As a graduate student he has won the FACSS student poster award in 2007 and 2009, the Bioengineering Student Award (2010) and Graduate Student Achievement Award (2009) at the University of Illinois and co-authored the bronze medal winning paper at Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference (GECCO) 2007 held at London.

Nathaniel Gomer graduated from the University of Florida in May 2008 with a B.S. in Biochemistry. During his time at UF, he performed undergraduate research with Dr. Richard Yost, analyzing polypeptides using Mass Spectrometry. Following his time at UF, he went to the University of South Carolina, where he currently studies spectroscopy under his research advisor, Dr. S. Michael Angel. His research has focused on the development of a spatial heterodyne spectrometer (SHS) to be used for Raman spectroscopy; an undertaking not yet published. He first presented his results at FACSS 2010 in Raleigh, NC and received 1st place in the FACSS Student Poster Competition. He also presented his research at Pittcon 2011 in Atlanta, Ga. His first paper was submitted to Applied Spectroscopy in March 2011, with a second paper submitted to Spectroscopy in May 2011. He earned further recognition when he was selected to receive a $2000 travel award from Eastman Chemical during their summer fellowship competition. Nathaniel currently lives in Lexington, SC with his wife, Anabel, and daughter, Sofia.

Esther is currently a graduate student in the group of Prof. Jaan Laane at the Chemistry Department at Texas A&M University.  Her work is focused on spectroscopic and theoretical investigations related to cyclic molecules with intramolecular π-type Hydrogen bonding. Esther attained her Master’s degree in August 2002 at Cornell University and her Bachelor’s degree at the National Engineering University (Universidad Nacional de Ingenieria), Lima Peru. 

After completing her schooling in Dubai, UAE, Savitha got her Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and Master’s degree in Physical Chemistry from the University of Mumbai, India. Thereafter, she received a post graduate training fellowship in National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) during which she was simultaneously applying for admissions to obtain a Ph.D. degree in the United States. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Spectroscopy at the University of Missouri-Kansas City under Prof. James R. Durig and will graduate soon.

Megan R. Pearl (Baranowski) was born in Kankakee, IL in 1985. She graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University in 2007 with a chemistry degree and biochemistry minor. She is expected to receive her Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry from Professor Michael L. Myrick’s lab at the University of South Carolina where she performed validation studies on a new infrared camera system, conducted extensive experimental work to understand the spectroscopy of coatings on fabrics and worked on developing unique algorithms for the analysis of spectroscopic imaging data. Her experimental and algorithmic work on molecular factor computing for chemical contrast enhancement gathered significant media attention and landed her several television and phone interviews about the “blood camera.” Megan also developed algorithms for the rapid classification of imaged phytoplankton using multivariate optical computing. During her time at USC, she has published 6 papers, submitted an additional 5 papers and authored 4 patents- one of which was recently licensed to Halliburton Corporation. She is also the recipient of the Murtiashaw Fellowship, Joseph W. Bouknight Teaching Award, Lipscomb Award, First Place Oral Presentation at the USC Graduate Student Day and the Charles Coker Trustee Fellowship. Upon graduation, Megan will be employed by Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque, NM.

2010 Coblentz Student Awardees

2009 Coblentz Student Awardees