The department of Chemistry is pleased to announce three recipients for the 2021-22 Advancing Faculty Diversity in Chemistry Graduate Fellowships. These fellowships recognize outstanding graduate students with a promising future in academia who combine research excellence and a commitment to advancing diversity at the university or in their surrounding communities. All three students will receive multiple quarters of graduate student researcher support for the 2021-22 academic year. Funding for these awards was provided by a grant from the University of California Office of the President.
Courtney Ngai, a fourth-year PhD student in Prof. Richard Hooley’s group, has already published four papers at UCR, including a first author one in Angewandte Chemie International Edition based on her work synthesizing biomimetic self-assembling organic cages. Given her own experiences attending high-school in a low-income area and being a first-generation college student, Courtney has invested considerable effort into her teaching and outreach. She has worked with UCR faculty to implement a “flipped classroom” approach in undergraduate organic chemistry, and she has volunteered through the environmental education program Sprout Up at under-served elementary schools. Her faculty letter writers praise her persistence in overcoming research obstacles and her determination to learn and succeed.
Pablo Unzueta, a fourth-year PhD student in Prof. Greg Beran’s group, has pioneered the use of machine learning techniques in the group’s research, developing models capable of predicting nuclear magnetic resonance chemical shifts 1-2 orders of magnitude faster without sacrificing accuracy. He combines scientific independence and strong research output (including 3 published papers) with an outstanding commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion through a senior leadership role in the UCR Graduate Student Association. The ability to achieve highly in both areas is a remarkable accomplishment!
Kristen Wang, a fourth-year PhD student in Prof. De-en Jiang’s group, is using computational chemistry to understand the role of lattice hydrides in tuning catalytic properties of perovskite materials. Before coming to UCR for graduate school, Kristen taught chemistry at two San Diego county high schools, where she saw first-hand the challenges faced by lower-income students and the difference that high-quality instruction, engaging instruction can make. Her commitment to diversity has continued through her participation as a summer instructor in the UCR Upward Bound program and tutoring for the Schools on Wheels program. Kristen has shown herself to be a very hard-working, self-motivated, and meticulous graduate student who is eager to improve herself and to help those around her.