hUMNs of Chemistry #8

Headshot of Rene Boiteau

Rene Boiteau

Assistant Professor

Tell us about your journey to the University of Minnesota.

I was an undergraduate chemistry major that ended up taking an aquatic chemistry course that sparked my interest in pursuing ocean sciences. During my PhD in marine chemistry at MIT and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, I started to recognize the importance of analytical method development, and this drove me to join the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory as a postdoctoral fellow, where I had a chance to learn from leading experts in cutting edge instrumentation. I started my independent academic career in the Ocean Sciences program at Oregon State University before moving to the University of Minnesota in 2023. The amazing combined strengths in both chemistry and environmental research at the University of Minnesota has made it a fantastic place for me to grow as a researcher and teacher. 

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?

My research group develops analyses that help us understand and predict how carbon, nutrients, and metals are transported through the environment and impact ecosystem and human health. I hope that our findings will provide insight into environmental problems and propose solutions that can help inform management and policy decisions. 

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

I am looking forward to teaching general chemistry and analytical chemistry. I love to connect the rules of chemistry to the important environmental issues of our time such as climate change, ocean acidification, and pollution. I find that these examples help students appreciate that chemistry exists beyond the textbook and lab, and can help us understand the world around us. 

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

I hope to help strengthen the bridges between chemistry and the many other pockets across the university that engage in environmental research and policy. 

Tell us about an important mentor in your academic life?

When I was an undergraduate student, I had an amazing chemistry professor that spent time helping me revise fellowship applications. He taught me the importance of developing your scientific narrative into a story that is targeted to a particular audience. 

Tell us about an important mentee in your academic life?

The best part of working at a university is having the chance to work with many mentees that are full of energy and passion for learning about chemistry and using it to make a positive impact in the world. 

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

I enjoy hiking, running, and swimming. I also love to cook. 

Where is your favorite spot in the Twin Cities?

Any of the many lakes and parks, and bakeries with good bread

Portrait of Rowan Matney

Rowan Matney

Graduate Student, Gadkari Group

Tell us about your journey to the University of Minnesota.

Although I'm not originally from Minnesota, I did my bachelor's in Chemistry (with a minor in Medieval & Renaissance Studies) at Carleton College. I then left Minnesota and worked in several different fields (condensed matter physics, geosciences, undergraduate college admissions) in a variety of places (Switzerland, Ohio, Pennsylvania) before joining the mass spectrometry core facility at Stanford as a staff scientist. When I decided to come back to grad school, Minnesota had the best fit for my research interests and the cold weather I'd been missing, so it was an easy choice!

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 study intact gas-phase proteins and protein complexes using native ion mobility-mass spectrometry. I am very curious about the structures of biological macromolecules and particularly in protein folding. Some types of proteins (i.e., intrinsically disordered proteins) are too flexible and heterogenous for other methods of structural characterization. Because I work in the gas phase, I can get information about tertiary and quaternary protein structure without limitations on sample purity or crystallizability. The long-term impact of my work is learning the ways that protein folding changes when proteins bind to each other, which could aid in our understanding of Alzheimer's disease progression.

What advice do you have for incoming chemistry students?

Take advantage of all of your opportunities to learn. Even if you know exactly what kind of research you want to do, avoid narrowing your focus so much that you miss out on the other amazing science happening here. Attend seminars beyond the requirements, read papers outside of your specific subfield, and take advantage of our entire scientific community. You never know when something could turn into a collaboration or when inspiration could strike from a completely different field.

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

One thing I do outside of my research is serve on the Chemistry Department D&I Committee. I'm hoping to contribute to our larger departmental effort to improve inclusion, access, and equity for all members. This takes a lot of forms - finding ways to get community feedback, bringing in D&I area seminar speakers, and planning new departmental events are just a few of our activities. I really like that our department is always striving to be a more welcoming place and I am grateful to be part of that effort. (If any of that also sounds exciting to you, the D&I committee is always looking for new volunteers!)

What’s your favorite piece of chemistry/science pop culture media? Why do you love it?

I love the genre of science fiction in general because I'm fascinated by how authors are able to blend familiar scientific concepts with the broader landscape of their imaginations. To me, science fiction shines a spotlight on the inherent creativity and scope of science. I especially adore the author Nnedi Okorafor, whose work really transcends genres but definitely has threads of science fiction and Africanfuturism. She's maybe best known for 'Binti' (a trilogy of novellas), but my favorites include 'Lagoon' and 'Noor.'

Tara McCoy headshot

Tara McCoy

Shipping and Receiving Coordinator

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

I deal with all incoming and outgoing shipments within the Chemistry department. I check them in, and deliver them, and if anyone needs anything shipped out, I am the one to talk to. I am also in charge of taking care of the dry ice, LN2, and both flammable and non-flammable gas tank rooms.


Tell us about your journey to the University of Minnesota.

I actually have my Bachelors of Science dregree here at the U in Animal Science! My first two undergrad years I was pre-vet, but after shadowing a vet a few times, I very quickly realized that was NOT the job for me. I was still very much interested in animals though, so stuck with my major until the end. The September after I graduated I actually got a job here at the U working within RAR (Research Animal Resources), taking care of the research animals. Counting my 4 years of schooling here, I have been here at the U for around 16.5 years!

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

I love anything outdoors. Nature is calming and a good place for me to recharge. Hiking in the woods with my husband and my dogs is the best.

What non-chemistry interest or activity of yours might surprise department members?

I am crafty and recently started selling what I make! Not online or anything, but out of two shops near where I live! 10% of what I make goes towards a local animal rescue that I foster for. If you want to check out my Facebook page just to see some of what I make its called Crafty Cat Gifts. Some of you may have seen me doing tiny embroidering for my keychains a few times at my desk.

Three dogs in a field of grass

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

  • My husband, Hudson
  • Oakley (German Wirehaired Pointer, 5 yrs old)
  • Emma (Goldendoodle, 4.5 yrs old)
  • Willow (Havanese X Mini Poodle, 2.5 yrs old