Coblentz Student Awards

About the Award

The Coblentz Society has for many years encouraged young scientists to pursue studies in spectroscopy by seeking nominations of outstanding students for the Coblentz Student Awards. The awardees receive a copy of the Society’s Desk Book, a certificate, and a year’s membership in the Society. 

Nominate someone for the 2025 award. 

2024 Coblentz Student Awardee – Riley Alpuché

Riley Alpuché

Riley is a Ph.D. candidate working under Dr. Igor Lednev in the Chemistry Department at the University at Albany, SUNY, as well as a T32 NIH funded RNA Fellow. She received her B.S. from Augusta University, after completing an honors thesis under the tutelage of Dr. Brian Agee. Her research interests include the use of spectroscopy for forensic purposes, primarily analysis and identification of biological fluids and skin cells.

2024 Coblentz Student Awardee – Piyush Raj

Piyush Raj

Piyush Raj is a doctoral student working with Prof. Ishan Barman in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. Prior to joining the Ph.D. program, Piyush obtained his M. Tech in Nanoscience and Engineering from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore, where he worked on the stabilization of on-chip silicon ring modulator optical frequency combs and was awarded the Institute Medal for academic excellence. He completed his B. Tech in Mechanical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Guwahati, followed by a year-long stint as a workshop supervisor at L&T Heavy Engineering.

His current research efforts are directed toward improving existing Raman Spectroscopy (RS) techniques for biological applications. His recent work in this area has demonstrated the first realization of an in situ self-assembled Raman probe devoid of a plasmonic NP for targeted Raman imaging of tumors. With spatial offset Raman spectroscopy (SORS), his work has shown the first depth-dependent damage gradation in cartilage in a non-destructive manner. Alongside his efforts to improve RS, Piyush has also worked on standardizing optical phantoms for Raman spectroscopy, where he developed a layered skin-mimetic phantom designed to replicate critical features of human skin. Additionally, he developed a new approach to perform quantitative measurements with surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) for clinical applications with limited measurement data by integrating outlier detection in an unsupervised manner.

Overall, his research efforts have resulted in 20 peer-reviewed publications in journals such as Angewandte Chemie, Advanced Science, Biosensors and Bioelectronics, Small and Nano Letters, including a cover article in Angewandte Chemie and Advanced Science and several conference presentations, including oral presentations at SciX 2023 and SPIE Photonics West 2024. He was also an award finalist at the 2024 Department of Medicine and Whiting School of Engineering Research Retreat.

2024 Coblentz Student Awardee – Mireia Sainz-Menchón

Mireia Sainz-Menchón

Mireia Sainz-Menchón is a second-year Ph.D. student at the Department of Physics of the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), where she is working on the understanding of the vibrational and optical nature of nanoheterogeneous ceramic materials with a strong focus on the use of unconventional infrared spectroscopic techniques, such as emissivity measurements, far- infrared studies and quantitative analysis.

Mireia has demonstrated her commitment to physical sciences by earning two university degrees—one in physics and the other in electronic engineering- and successfully completing a master’s degree focused on materials science. Simultaneously, she engaged in practical research experiences, serving as a research fellow at the University of the Basque Country, undertaking internships in a Basque R&D center, and pursuing a research stay at the CNRS (French national scientific research center). Furthermore, Mireia has been actively engaged in disseminating scientific knowledge in her native language, Basque, showcasing her commitment to the scientific community of the Basque Country.

In the initial year of her doctoral program, her primary research focus involved the development of a methodology to attain quantitative insights into the glass structure of nanosilicates through micro reflectance FT-IR spectroscopy. This research is particularly significant in addressing a challenging aspect of condensed matter physics, namely, comprehending the complex intricacies associated with the structure of glass. Noteworthy for its innovation, Mireia’s research was recognized with the Young Researcher Forum Prize by the Royal Society of Chemistry in the Future Materials Conference in 2023.

2024 Coblentz Student Awardee – Arnaud Laramee

Arnaud Laramee

Arnaud delved into vibrational spectroscopy as a Ph.D. student under the supervision of Prof. Christian Pellerin at Université de Montréal, by working on the characterization of electrospun fibers. He develops and utilizes Raman methods to assess the impact of processing parameters on fiber molecular structure and establish protocols facilitating the preparation of fibers with desired characteristics. He applies this knowledge to develop fiber materials in partnership with a Department of National Defence agency. His work is supported by Canada’s Alexander Graham Bell scholarship, recognizing research excellence, leadership, and engagement.

In parallel with his research, Arnaud is dedicated to the academic success of STEM students. He played a key role in establishing a free online tutoring service at Université de Montréal, for which he also served as the lead chemistry tutor, and was awarded the 2023 Université de Montréal teaching assistant excellence award. He is also the coordinator and communications manager of the Scholarships Clinic of Université de Montréal, leading a team of ~40 graduate students in assisting peers with their applications for major research scholarships.

To promote research among students, he co-captained and coached the BiosensUM team, representing Canada at the international SensUs competition, dedicated to developing novel sensing technologies. He also became a member (and vice president from 2020 to 2022) of the student committee of the Quebec Center for Advanced Materials (QCAM), where he provides students with opportunities to share their research and attend professional development activities.

2024 Coblentz Student Awardee – Polly Lynch

Polly Lynch

Polly Lynch is a Ph.D. candidate in chemistry at the University of Minnesota. She completed a BS in chemistry at The College of William & Mary, where she researched single molecule fluorescence dynamics of eosin y photosensitizers under Dr. Kristin Wustholz. This sparked her interest in understanding the role of molecular conformation and structure on photophysical dynamics and led her to join Dr. Renee Frontiera’s group at the University of Minnesota.

Polly’s doctoral research aims to understand the role of low frequency vibrations in driving ultrafast dynamics in organic semiconductors. The exciton transport characteristics, like the speed of travel and lifetime, are powerfully shaped by the material’s molecular structure in addition to the crystal morphology. To that end, she has worked on the development of a new spectroscopic method called spatially offset femtosecond stimulated Raman spectroscopy (SOFSRS). SOFSRS combines the structural specificity and high temporal resolution of femtosecond stimulated Raman spectroscopy (FSRS) with microscopy techniques and can track ultrafast excited state structural changes on time and length scales relevant for exciton transport. By studying low frequency intramolecular vibrations, Polly’s research gives a better understanding of the role of crystal structure in driving exciton transport and will inform the design of new materials with improved transport efficiencies by identifying key structures responsible for driving favored dynamics.

Outside of the lab, Polly interned at Seagate Technology, where she worked on the Advanced Product and Technology Development team to develop lifetime testing methods for laser diodes on heat assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) hard drives. As part of the Women in Science and Engineering Chemistry chapter, she coordinates seminars that bring together female graduate students with female chemists in the Twin Cities to discuss career opportunities and navigating the unique challenges that women in STEM face.

2023 Coblentz Student Awardee – Sevde Erkok

Sevde Erkok, Coblentz Student Award winner

Sevde Dogruer Erkok is a Ph.D. candidate in Professor Bruce McCord’s trace laboratory at Florida International University (FIU). She is originally from Türkiye, where she obtained her bachelor’s degree with honors in Teaching Chemistry, as the highest-ranked student. While pursuing her Ph.D., she received two master’s degrees, one in Forensic Sciences and one in Analytical Chemistry.

Before starting her Ph.D., she visited Dr. McCord’s laboratory as a volunteer intern. She worked on the development of a method utilizing gold-silver nanostars to detect trace amounts of fentanyl in binary mixtures of both heroin and cocaine by portable Raman spectroscopy. Her current research mainly focuses on differentiating structurally similar fentanyl analogs with a theoretical and experimental analysis and detecting them in illicit drug mixtures by surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS).

Sevde was awarded a Dissertation Evidence Acquisition Fellowship twice from FIU, and she is involved in a collaborative project between Florida International University and the University of Amsterdam in the Spring and Summer of 2023. The ultimate goal of this project is to develop SERS paper substrates to detect fentanyl analogs by combining SERS and paper spray mass spectroscopy (PS-MS). She is leading a team under the supervision of Prof. Arian van Asten at the University of Amsterdam.

Her love of spectroscopy and analytical chemistry has motivated her to search for and obtain scholarships to attend important national and international meetings. Sevde has presented her research at numerous conferences worldwide. Her work has been recognized by national and international awards, including the best poster award at three conferences, the Young Scientist Travel Award, and National Science Foundation (NSF) travel award.

She is an active member of different organizations such as the American Academy of Forensic Science, The Coblentz Society, the Society for Applied Spectroscopy, etc. She also has a scholarship from the TÜBİTAK Directorate of Science Fellowships and Grant Programs (BİDEB) in Türkiye. Most recently she has received the Student Award of the Coblentz Society.

2023 Coblentz Student Awardee – Aleksandr Razumtcev

Aleksandr Razumtcev, Coblentz Student Award winner

Aleksandr is a Ph.D. candidate in Professor Garth Simpson’s group at Purdue University, where he conducts research at the intersection of vibrational spectroscopy and nonlinear optics. Prior to his graduate studies, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Saint-Petersburg State University, Russia.

During his undergraduate studies, he focused on characterizing multilayered thermoelectric semiconductor nanofilms fabricated by pulsed laser deposition. After joining Purdue University, Aleksandr has been working on developing a novel method for mid-infrared photothermal microscopy. This method relies on detecting temperature-induced changes in fluorescence intensity. By leveraging the high sensitivity of fluorescence quantum yield to local temperature variations, this new approach enhances the signal-to-noise ratio in sub-diffraction fingerprint region imaging by two orders of magnitude compared to conventional optical photothermal microscopy.

Aleksandr’s work in F-PTIR microscopy was recognized with the ALS Doctoral Fellowship awarded by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). This fellowship currently supports his research at LBNL, focusing on further advancements in F-PTIR. His ongoing research interests involve utilizing F-PTIR for sub-micron chemical-specific imaging of fluorescently-labeled brain tissue sections to study neurodegenerative diseases and exploring broadband imaging using synchrotron radiation as an infrared light source.

In total, Aleksandr has authored nine research publications and received several awards, including an outstanding poster award at the “Vibrational Spectroscopy” Gordon Research Conference.

2023 Coblentz Student Awardee – Danuta Liberda

Danuta Liberda, Coblentz Student Award winner

Danuta Liberda is currently a 3rd year Ph.D. student in the Biomedical Sciences Programme at the SOLARIS National Synchrotron Radiation Centre, Jagiellonian University in Kraków. She obtained her MSc with a dissertation devoted to the application of chemometrics tools to analyze variance in high-performance liquid chromatography data.

Her interest in FT-IR spectroscopy started during her work as a technician in Dr. Tomasz Wrobel’s project, devoted to pancreatic comprehensive histopathology based on IR chemical imaging. She was focusing on tissue measurements and their classification using machine learning tools, developing her knowledge in the data analysis field. After the end of the above project, she started working in the unique facility – Synchrotron SOLARIS – as the beamline scientist involved in CIRI (Chemical InfraRed Imaging) beamline construction.

At the same time, she obtained her first own financial support for research devoted to the improvement of IR-imaged breast tissue classification using data augmentation methods, from the National Science Center – PRELUDIUM grant. In the same year, she enrolled into a PhD program continuing her research projects. This year Danuta received a prestigious START stipend for outstanding young researchers with distinction.

Her research focuses on the influence of different optical setups: measurement modes (transmission and transflection), and objectives giving different spatial resolutions on classification results. Danuta is also highly interested in the development of classification machine learning models for different pathologies: she created and translated the esophagus cancer detection model to QCL modality and finalized research in pancreatic cancer detection project.

Currently, Danuta is broadening her knowledge about Neural Networks applying it to breast tissue classification. As a member of Tomasz Wrobel’s research group, she is involved in research devoted to determining 3D macromolecular orientation in polymers and tissue biopsies. Moreover, Danuta’s role as the beamline scientist is not only beamline construction but also helping CIRI users with data analysis.

She is the author of thirteen publications, including five as the first author. She has presented her research at seventeen local, national, and international conferences.

2023 Coblentz Student Awardee – Daniel Schäfer

Daniel Schafer, Coblentz Student Award winner

Daniel Schäfer is currently a second-year Ph.D. student in the group of Prof. Sebastian Schlücker at the University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE) in Germany.

Born and raised in a small town close to the former industrial heart of Germany, the Ruhr metropolitan area, he achieved his B.Sc. and M.Sc. in chemistry at the UDE.

His research is focused on the SERS-based kinetic reaction monitoring of model reactions in heterogeneous catalytic systems. This work requires expertise in the wet chemical synthesis of hybrid Pt-coated gold nanorods (AuNR), optical spectroscopy (UV/Vis; Raman, SERS), TEM/EDX and chemical kinetics. He demonstrated that bimetallic Pt-coated AuNR catalysts enable hydrogen-based reductions that proceed via a metal-hydride transfer.

Outside the lab, he is an animal lover and is active in cycling and skateboarding.

2023 Coblentz Student Awardee – Thulya Chakkumpulakkal Puthanveettil

Thulay Chakkumpulakkai, Coblentz Student Award winner

Thulya is pursuing a joint Ph.D. degree in analytical chemistry from Monash University, Australia, and the University of Bath, United Kingdom, under the guidance of Prof. Bayden R. Wood (Monash University), Dr. Paul De Bank (University of Bath), Dr. Keith Bambery (Australian Synchrotron), and Prof. Karen J. Edler (Lund University, Sweden).

In 2012, Thulya obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Physics with minors in Chemistry and Mathematics from the University of Calicut, India. Following that, she earned her Master of Technology degree in Materials Science from the University of Mysore, India.

In her PhD, Thulya has been working on a highly multidiscipline project combining microfluidics, spectroscopy and machine modelling to develop new diagnostic tests for blood and water borne pathogens particularly focusing on malaria parasites, leishmania parasites and bacteria.

During her PhD career, her work has been acknowledged on several occasions. She has published nine articles in internationally reputed journals, four of which are first author articles. She has been able to secure a highly prestigious Postgraduate Research Award from the Australian Institute of Nuclear Science and Engineering (AINSE) to conduct impactful research on malaria diagnosis at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) facilities. This top-up award provides additional funding to support experiments at ANSTO facilities such as Australian synchrotron.

In addition to this, she has been awarded an AINSE Technical Skills Scholarship for developing advanced machine learning skills to support her research on malaria diagnosis. She has been awarded the following accolades: The Association of British Spectroscopists Trust (ABS Trust) Student Bursary Award for 2023, a Research Development Grant from the Royal Society of Chemistry, study away travel grant from Monash University, and the Doctoral Recognition Award for 2023 from the University of Bath.

2022 Coblentz Student Awardee – Sayantan Mahapatra

Lamyaa Almehmadi

Sayantan Mahapatra is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Chemistry with a focus on single-molecule chemical analysis of surface structures at the University of Illinois Chicago. In 2015, he earned a bachelor’s degree (B.Sc.) in Chemistry with minors in Physics and Mathematics from the University of Calcutta, India. Following that, he obtained a master’s degree (M.Sc.) in Chemistry at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur in 2017 and moved to Chicago to pursue his doctoral studies in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Illinois Chicago under the supervision of Dr. Nan Jiang.

His current research interest is mainly focused on angstrom-scale chemical analysis of surface supported molecular structure (single-molecule) and two-dimensional materials using an ultrahigh vacuum tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (UHV-TERS) technique. His research integrates scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) with the optical spectroscopy inside UHV to understand some of the vital chemistry and physics-related problems in the single-molecule study ranging from spectroscopy to molecular-level catalysis. Besides single-molecule engineering of precursor molecules towards different desired products on the surface, there is another area that draws his attention. With atomically confined light at the STM tip apex, the highly energetic plasmons generated at the tip apex can be specifically utilized to probe certain chemical reactions. So far, he has six first-author publications, including one in JACS and one in Nano Letters.

Sayantan has received multiple awards during his time at the University of Illinois Chicago. In 2021, he received a Dean’s Scholar Fellow Award from the UIC Graduate College. He is a member of the American Vacuum Society (AVS), where he has earned the Morton M. Traum Student Award in 2020 and the Russel and Sigurd Varian Award in 2021. In India, he was an Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research (INSPIRE) fellow funded by the Government of India. Outside the lab, Sayantan loves to play soccer and cricket, hike, and watch the night sky.       

2022 Coblentz Student Awardee – Lamyaa M. Almehma

Lamyaa Almehmadi

Lamyaa M. Almehmadi is a Ph.D. student in Professor Igor K. Lednev’s laboratory at the University at Albany, State University of New York (SUNY Albany). Lamyaa is originally from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. She has received a full scholarship from her home country supporting her higher education in the United States. As a result, she obtained her B.S. degree in Chemistry with emphasis on Chemical Biology and within only one year she received her M.S. degree in Chemistry, both are from SUNY Albany. During her one-year master studies, she worked on the development of a novel, highly sensitive, and label-free platform for medical diagnostics using surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy. Her work was published in Scientific Reports, one of the Nature family of journals.

Currently, her work is focused on the use of surface-enhanced Raman Spectroscopy, deep UV resonance Raman spectroscopy, and conventional Raman spectroscopy for several applications ranging from the development of single-molecule and label-free platforms for drug discovery to the characterization of biopharmaceutical molecules. She has presented her work at both national and international conferences including SciX 2021, the Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy (Pittcon 2019) and the 35th International Symposium on Microscale Separations and Bioanalysis. She has received several awards including an honorable mention for the 2021-2022 National Graduate Women in Science Award. Lamyaa has been elected as the president of a local SAS chapter for two consecutive years and was appointed chair of the 2022 First Annual New York Capital Region Applied Spectroscopy Symposium. She taught General Chemistry twice as an instructor of record in the Chemistry Department at SUNY Albany.

2022 Coblentz Student Awardee – Ethan A. Perets

Ethan Perets

Ethan A. Perets received his Ph.D. in Chemistry at Yale University, where his research focused on the development and application of vibrational spectroscopies to study hydration structures around proteins and DNA. Ethan was born in Tampa, FL, and earned his B.A. in biochemistry at Columbia University. Ethan served in the Department of Scientific Research at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, where he combined antibody-based protein recognition with surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (immuno-SERS) towards the study and preservation of artworks. Ethan later obtained his M.A. in the history and conservation of art at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, followed by post-graduate internships at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and Yale’s Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage.

Ethan carried out his Ph.D. research in the laboratory of Professor Elsa Yan, exploring the use of vibrational spectroscopies to map hydration structures around proteins and DNA. Ethan used chiral sum frequency generation (SFG) spectroscopy to achieve the first detection of a chiral assembly of water molecules in a protein hydration shell. Ethan also applied chiral SFG, infrared, Raman, and terahertz spectroscopies to study protein and DNA hydration during binding and liquid-liquid phase separation. His research has improved understanding of the hydration of biomolecules at interfaces and suggests a possible role for water in the emergence of biological homochirality, offering new perspectives why water is necessary for life and how water helped life to begin.

Outside of the lab, Ethan represented his fellow graduate students as a member of Yale’s Graduate Student Assembly, and he was a member of Yale Chemistry’s Diversity and Climate Committee.

2021 Coblentz Student Awardee – Isabella Goodenough

Cynthia Pyles

Isabella Goodenough is a graduate research assistant earning her Ph.D. in physical and analytical chemistry with a focus in vibrational spectroscopy of complex nanoporous materials at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She is involved in a collaborative project between the University of Pittsburgh and Temple University, which seeks to develop superior sorbents capable of capturing and degrading hazardous chemical agents, such as chemical warfare agents and toxic industrial chemicals.  The ultimate goal of this work is to design protective equipment for military, industrial and civilian personnel using multifunctional, porous-hybrid nanomaterials, which couple Metal-Organic Framework (MOF) scaffolds and non-noble metal plasmonic nanoparticles. To date, Isabella’s role in this project has been to develop a fundamental insight on the interactions of the MOF scaffolds with select target analytes using in situ FTIR techniques under ultra-high vacuum conditions in order to understand the adsorption, transport and desorption phenomena in MOF-analyte systems. In addition she uses vibrational probe molecules to understand the nature and distribution of defects in these materials.

Outside of the laboratory, Isabella serves as the Chair of the Philadelphia Younger Chemists’ Committee (YCC) and is a founding member of the Eastern US YCC partnership. Her mission is to build a network of motivated young professionals that will empower and unite chemists in the community. She is passionate about pursuing social justice through community engagement and strives to advance accessibility, representation, and equality in STEM disciplines. In the future she hopes to expand the boundaries of leadership and teamwork to influence positive change and to inspire diversity and inclusion.

2021 Coblentz Student Awardee – Christopher Warkentin

Cynthia Pyles

Chris Warkentin is currently a Ph.D. candidate in experimental physical chemistry at the University of Minnesota. Prior to his academic career, he found work building trails in the Appalachian Mountains, restoring wetlands in the Midwest, establishing a sustainable farm, and managing a custom construction shop. These experiences informed his interest to pursue a career in sustainability and his eventual return to collegiate studies at Indiana University South Bend. Here his research career began, exploring a range of interests in chemistry and physics. As a SMART Research Fellow, under the advisement of Dr. Grace Muna, he developed nickel-palladium modified glassy carbon electrodes for the electro-analytical detection of steroid hormones in local surface waters. In 2017, he earned a BS in Chemistry with minors in Physics and Mathematics from IUSB and moved to Minneapolis to pursue his doctoral degree in Chemistry at the University of Minnesota under the advisement of Dr. Renee Frontiera. While pursuing his Ph.D., he obtained his master’s degree in Chemistry in 2018.

Today, his research interests center on using surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) to investigate the dynamics of plasmon-driven chemistry in a variety of plasmon-molecule systems. A better understanding of plasmon-molecule interactions could aid in the rational design of new plasmon-based green catalysts for more sustainable chemical production and solar energy generation. Chris’ work uses ultrafast (ps) time-resolved SERS and steady-state (ms) SERS in order to understand both the fast energy-transfer dynamics that occur on the timescale of plasmon decay and the slower reaction kinetics that result from the cumulative effects of continuous irradiation. His research, in collaboration with theorists and material scientists, has revealed new insights into nanoscale spatial control of plasmon-driven processes, ultrafast plasmon-induced charge transfer, and upconversion applications with new plasmonic materials.

Chris has earned a number of awards during his tenure at the University of Minnesota, where he is currently an Institute on the Environment Renewable Energy Commercialization Fellow. He is an active member of the Analysis and Compliance committee for the Departments of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering and Materials Science Joint Safety Team and involved with various student groups within the department. Outside of the lab, Chris enjoys hiking, fishing, gardening, and playing with his 11-month old son, Oliver.

2009-2020 Coblentz Student Awardees

The Coblentz Society member who nominated the student is also listed.

2020 Coblentz Student Awardee

    2019 Coblentz Student Awardee

      2018 Coblentz Student Awardees

        2017 Coblentz Student Awardees

          2016 Coblentz Student Awardees

            2015 Coblentz Student Awardees

              2014 Coblentz Student Awardees

                2013 Coblentz Student Awardees

                  2012 Coblentz Student Awardees

                    2011 Coblentz Student Awardees

                      2010 Coblentz Student Awardees

                        2009 Coblentz Student Awardees