The 2019 Best PhD Dissertation of the Year Competition, our 5th annual event, was held remotely on December 11th, 2020. We long held out hope for an in-person event, but ultimately did not want to delay any longer and so held the event via Zoom. It turned out to be a great success with speakers and guests attending from around the world!
The 2019 finalists for the Best PhD Dissertation Award were Patrick Avery, PhD (advisor: Prof. Eva Zurek), Nita Chavez Soria, PhD (advisors: Profs. Diana Aga and Ekin Atilla-Gokcumen), and Tomasz Wdowik, PhD (advisor: Prof. Sherry Chemler). Finalists delivered 15-minute seminars highlighting their PhD research, ranging from Avery’s computational predictions of structures and properties of materials to Chavez Soria’s mass spectrometry-based metabolomics to Wdowik’s copper-catalyzed organic transformations. Each seminar was followed by a brief question and answer period. The talks were outstanding, and the competition was close. A panel of external judges ultimately selected Nita Chavez Soria, PhD, as the 2019 Best Dissertation of the Year awardee!
This competition and seminar event are a great opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of our most successful graduate students. It’s also a chance to reconnect with these recent PhD alumni once they have begun their post-PhD careers. Congratulations to Nita, Patrick, and Tomasz!
The department’s Foster Colloquium series, BCOOL (Biological Chemistry, Organic and Organometallic Lecture) series, and Chemistry MEETS (Materials, Energy, and EnvironmenT Seminar) series have been held virtually throughout this academic year. Virtual seminars are, of course, not quite the same as our typical in-person events; however, the revised format has enabled our department to host many international speakers this year. Zoom is second nature at this point, and these seminar events allow faculty and students to engage with speakers from academia and industry throughout the day of their virtual visits. Seminars are always a great chance to showcase our department and our research enterprise, even in the virtual format. Students, staff, and faculty look forward to in-person or hybrid seminars when conditions allow.
Due to the pandemic, so many of our annual department events have been put on hold during the 2020-2021 academic year. The Howard Tieckelmann Memorial Lecture, our department’s signature seminar event, was postponed in spring 2020 and 2021. Holding this event in person, rather than on Zoom, feels essential, as it brings together alumni, faculty, staff, and students to engage throughout the day and evening with a renowned guest speaker. We thank the Tieckelmann family and friends for their ongoing support of this event, and we eagerly anticipate the return of the Tieckelmann Memorial Lecture in spring 2022.
The Graduate Student Symposium was canceled in spring 2020. The GSS, a longstanding student-run event, always attracts distinguished keynote speakers and enthusiastic graduate-student participation from throughout the US and Canada. The GSS will resume in summer 2021 in a virtual format, and we eagerly await the event!
Finally, our department had planned to hold a reception for alumni and friends at the Spring 2020 National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Philadelphia. The response from our alumni was enthusiastic, and many current faculty and students had planned to attend. This event was, of course, canceled along with the meeting at the onset of the pandemic. We aim to reschedule at an upcoming in-person ACS Meeting and will be in touch with details.