Four students receive NSF graduate research fellowships

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (04/21/2022)—Four Department of Chemistry students have received fellowships in the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) and two more have earned honorable mentions.

Fellowship recipients are:

  • Nick Kreofsky, advised by Professor Theresa Reineke
  • Kerstin Peterson, advised by Professor William Pomerantz
  • Alex Umanzor, advised by Professor Courtney Roberts
  • Casey Wouters, advised by Professor Christy Haynes

Honorable mentions are Brylon Denman who is advised by Professor Courtney Roberts, and Melissa Rey who is advised by Professor Aaron Massari.

The NSF GRFP recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees at accredited United States institutions.

The five-year fellowship includes three years of financial support including an annual stipend of $34,000 and a cost of education allowance of $12,000 to the institution. Fellows also benefit from opportunities for international research and professional development, and the freedom to conduct their own research at any accredited U.S. institution of graduate education they choose.

Nick Kreofsky is a second-year graduate student in the Reineke group. His research, which is at the interface of polymer chemistry and cellular biology, focuses on creating novel polymer-based gene delivery systems. His goal is to develop and optimize quinine-based polymers to serve as efficient gene delivery vehicles while providing novel insights into the biological mechanisms surrounding this therapy.

Kerstin Peterson is a first-year graduate student in the Pomerantz group. Her focus is on using chemical biology approaches to engineer new protein function. Her current goal is to create a new method to study protein-protein interactions by harnessing the intrinsic cellular machinery to synthesize and incorporate unnatural amino acids into proteins.

Alex Umanzor is a second-year graduate student in the Roberts group. His research focuses on the regioselective difunctionalization of late transition metal aryne complexes. He hopes to later expand this work to include heteroarynes as well. In the future, Alex would like to pursue a career in academia.

Casey Wouters is a first-year graduate student in the Haynes group currently working on plasmonic sensing. She is interested in bioanalytical chemistry and her goal is to leverage surface-enhanced Raman scattering for the detection of relevant biomolecules.

Brylon Denman is a second-year graduate student in the Roberts group. Her research focuses on developing new synthetic strategies to induce regioselectivity in metal-catalyzed aryne functionalizations. Currently, Brylon is working on using a C1 symmetric ligand system to induce regioselectivity in a palladium-catalyzed annulation. Her goal is to use her findings to investigate the phenomenon that governs metal-catalyzed aryne selectivity.

Melissa Rey is a second-year graduate student in the Massari Research Lab. Her current research focuses on using two-dimensional infrared spectroscopy (2DIR) to determine what factors most affect microscopic charge transfer in small molecule organic thin films. This information will be used to optimize the fabrication of small molecule films. She hopes to pursue a career as an industrial spectroscopist in the future.