hUMNs of Chemistry #2

portrait of Chellina Angok

Chellina Angok

Sr. Laboratory Technician

Please give a brief description of your role within the UMN Chemistry department.

I work in the stockroom, supervising the general chemistry experiments and ensure the students are maintaining safety regulations. Provide chemicals and equipment for the TA’s and students.

Tell us about your journey to the University of Minnesota.

I started as a full-time employee, once I learned about the Regents Scholarship tuition benefit for staff I’ve taken advantage of them as a part-time student as well. I also volunteer for the DEI committee, I’ve been co-leading two working groups for two years now. Lastly, twice a year I help with the Energy and U.

Do you have a background in or like chemistry? Tell us about it!

I am studying biology and have taken chemistry course. I do enjoy chemistry even while struggling with the courses. It encompasses so much of our lives. The cosmetic side is probably my favorite because I’m a self-taught hairstylist as well

What professional successes are most important to you?

I want to pursue medicine, I want to end up working in regenerative medicine.

What do you hope to contribute to the chemistry community at the University?

Just to continue to create more community in the department.

What was your very first job?

I worked a news paper route when I was 13.

What do you do outside of the classroom/lab/office for fun?

I create hair content on social media, I like going to concerts, and trying out new recipes .

Where is your favorite spot in the Twin Cities?

I like water, I enjoy the lakes here.

Tell us about who makes up your household (including pets).

I live by myself, hoping to get a dog this fall.

Portrait of Brandon Hosford

Brandon Hosford

Graduate Student, Lamb Group

Tell us about your journey to the University of Minnesota.

I am originally from Texas and when it came time to apply to graduate schools, I was tired of the heat and not having much of a winter, so I primarily applied to schools up north. I am interested in polymer research so UMN definitely stood out to me. My decision was made after my recruitment event when I felt how welcoming everyone was. Now that I'm here, the first winter was a big adjustment, but I'm really enjoying it now! 

We would love to hear more about your research interests! What do you hope to accomplish with this work? What is the real-world impact for the average person?

I am interested in more fundamental problems in the synthesis of polymers - primarily the ability to create a polymer that involves switching between two completely different polymerization mechanisms by simply changing the stimuli applied to the reaction. This is important because it allows for incorporation of monomers of very different class without the need for extra synthetic steps between each switch. The real-world impacts of this work won't be felt by the average person for a while, but with lots of work, this could lead to the production of new polymeric materials that have previously been very challenging or impossible to make, and who's applications could be far reaching: from drug delivery to water filtration.

Tell us about an important mentor in your academic life?

An important mentor in my academic life was my second semester Organic Chemistry professor at UT Austin, Professor Anslyn. Up until that point, I knew that people did chemistry research, but it was a nebulous thing that didn't seem real to me. However, throughout my second semester of organic chemistry, Professor Ansyln would take time to connect what we were learning to his research group, and even bring in some of his group members to talk about their work and what academic research is like. His excitement for research and his support later as an advisor in his group is what led me to grad school and to making chemistry my career.   

What do you do outside of the classroom/lab/office for fun?

Recently, myself and a few other graduate students in my cohort have started playing disc golf. It's a lot of fun and a great way to get out and explore the many parks and woods we have available to us in the cities and the surrounding area.

Tell us about who makes up your household (including pets).

My household is geographically split at the moment. Here in Minnesota is myself and my cats, Calvin, Sami, and Goose. In Columbus, Ohio is my fiancé, Jazmin. She is currently in med school at the Ohio State University getting her MD/PhD.

Sapna Sarupria

Sapna Sarupria

Assoc Professor and co-Chair of the DEI committee

Tell us about your journey to the University of Minnesota.

My journey was tortuous and had many unexpected twists and turns. I immigrated from India in 2002 to do my PhD in Texas A&M University. However, circumstances forced me to move to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for my PhD. Then I moved on to do my postdoc in Princeton. I joined my first faculty position as an assistant professor in Clemson University. But a desire to explore more intellectually engaging and culturally rich environment made me move to Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota. This turned out to be quite an unplanned journey but I am glad for it and it has taught me plans are only guides!

We would love to hear more about your research!
What do you hope to accomplish with this work? What is the real-world impact for the average person?

I do computational molecular science -- in simple words, we convert natural phenomena to models at the molecular level so that we can study the detailed behavior of these natural phenomena. We answer questions like why do dust particles influence water precipitation in clouds, how do enzymes break down polymers, why do some materials foul faster than others, etc. We really answer the question "why and how" something happens at the molecule level. This helps in providing the basic design principles to develop new materials. For example, if I understand how dust particles or other surfaces affect ice formation we can design better cryopreservation and food preservation materials. We are also studying how small molecules stabilize vaccines -- this means our work can help design molecules that will enable us to store vaccines at room temperature. This would make the distribution of vaccines easier and cheaper, thus making them accessible! 

What courses do you teach? What can students expect to get out of your course?

I teach physical chemistry in Spring and statistical thermodynamics in Fall. In both my courses, the main theme is to connect molecular to macroscopic. How can we learn molecular behavior, model it, and then extract information about their properties from it.

When you visit other universities, what do you love to share about our UMN community?

The intellectual richness, and generally improved awareness towards equity and mental health.

Tell us about an important mentor in your academic life?

One of my important academic mentor is my postdoc advisor Pablo Debenedetti, and another is Valeria Molinero. They have both taught me what it takes to be an accomplished researcher while being a genuinely good citizen of the scientific community through their actions and advice.

What do you do outside of the classroom/lab/office for fun?

Hang out with my cats, landscaping, meditation, counseling, cooking, early stages of wood working, walking, reading....a lot of things :) 

What was your very first job?

Teacher in a primary school (substituting for my mom)

Where is your favorite spot in the Twin Cities?

My home :)

Are there any family or cultural traditions you want to share with our community?

India is a very diverse country and there is no one tradition that fits all. This is the essence of Indian culture -- unity in diversity. One of my favorite, Indian culture thing is -- chai and pakora (on a rainy day!) -- i.e., when its kinda rainy, often the family gets together to have tea (Indian style tea) with some freshly made fritters (pakora) yummy!