The Chemistry department is pleased to recognize three outstanding graduate students, Tim Cholko, Emily Rigsby, and Chandler Greenwell with the 2020 Alumni Graduate Student Scholarships for their research excellence. Tim and Chandler are fourth-year graduate students, and Emily is in her fifth year.
Tim Cholko has been performing computational chemistry research in Prof. Chia-en Chang's group to understand molecular diffusion and recognition events. The key challenge lies in finding ways to handle the large system sizes over long-time scales on which these processes occur without losing sight of the vital atomistic details. Tim has been developing these methods in collaboration with other theoretical researchers at the University of Freiburg and Wayne State University, and he has been using them to assist experimental collaborators at UC Merced and the University of Texas Health Science Center. In addition to performing his own research, Tim mentored an undergraduate student who was participating in the National Science Foundation-sponsored MacREU research experience for undergraduates at UCR. Tim says, “After grad school, I plan to do a post-doc and then look for industry positions in the realm of computational biophysics or the pharmaceutical industry.”
Emily Rigsby's research with Prof. Ming-Lee Tang explores photon upconversion with quantum dot photosensitizers in thin films. This fundamental research will hopefully lead to highly efficient, next-generation photovoltaic platforms that can overcome the Shockley-Queisser limit. Emily's research has previously been recognized with a Best Poster award at the Spring 2018 meeting of the Materials Research Society. Beyond research, Emily has participated in the University Teaching Certificate Program at UCR and has been an active volunteer for middle-school outreach programs in the local community. She has helped organize the UC Chemical symposium at Lake Arrowhead and served for several years in the Chemistry Graduate Student Association. After she graduates later this year, Emily intends to pursue a teaching career at a primarily undergraduate institution: "I've always had my suspicions, but ever since I spent a year teaching at a secondary school in Kenya, I've known I wanted to teach." A Tennessee native, she hopes to return to the southeastern U.S. in the long-term.
Chandler Greenwell is a computational quantum chemist in Prof. Greg Beran's group developing new models for predicting organic crystal structures in pharmaceuticals and other species. His research has identified that current, widely used models exhibit serious failures in many flexible molecules, and these failures can lead to costly problems in the solid form screening of pharmaceuticals. He has been developing new models with dramatically improved ability to predict crystal structure stabilities. While a graduate student, Chandler also pursued a semester-long internship at NASA, where he gained software coding and machine learning skills while contributing to their cube satellite programs. After college and before starting at UCR, Chandler worked at a pharmaceutical company in Utah for about a year; he now hopes to return to the industry with a much deeper skill set: "I came to graduate school from the pharmaceutical industry, and I hope to return there or to the greater health care field. I'm passionate about how we can use modeling and data to accelerate discoveries that lead to healthier and longer lives."