Distinguished Majors Alum


Tina Chai

Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with Specialization in Biochemistry
Research with Research with Professor Robin Felder

Tina Chai is from Falls Church, Virginia and graduated from McLean High School. She is graduating from U.Va. with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with a specialization in Biochemistry and a Bachelor of Arts in English.

Tina has been a member of Dr. Robin Felder’s lab in the Department of Pathology since January 2018. Her independent project investigates the relationship between breast cancer and hypertension by determining an overlapping protein signaling pathway specifically related to three proteins: CAV1, D1R, and GRK4. She has also previously conducted breast cancer research at the MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Outside of lab, Tina enjoys writing poetry and busking at the Downtown Mall. She served as the editor for the Health and Science section of The Cavalier Daily and a teaching assistant for CHEM 4410, CHEM 1410/20, and CHEM 1411/21. She also enjoys furthering interdisciplinary thought and dialogue between science and literature through The Bird-Feeder Project, Whistle Words writing workshops, and a class she created and teaches, INST 1550 - Poetry and Healing: Understanding Illness. After graduation, Tina will be attending a writing program at Johns Hopkins University and plans to apply to medical school.

Lucas Frye

Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, with a specialization in Environmental Chemistry
Research with Research with Professor Brent Gunnoe

Lucas is from Severna Park, Maryland, and graduated from Severna Park High School. He is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, with a specialization in environmental chemistry.

Lucas has been a member of Brent Gunnoe's lab in the Department of Chemistry since May 2018. His project has focused on the development of new methods for the synthesis of stilbenes through Rh-catalyzed aerobic alkenylation of arenes. Stilbenes are used as dyes, pharmaceuticals, and precursors to electronic materials. Lucas hopes that his work will provide new tools for chemists to produce these useful compounds more efficiently and with less waste.

Outside of lab, Lucas has represented the American Chemical Society at the United Nations Climate Change Conference and helped lead the Students on Climate Change project, with the aim of improving climate literacy among students and the general public. He has also been a teaching assistant for CHEM 1411 and CHEM 1421. Lucas is a member of Alpha Chi Sigma, the professional chemistry fraternity, and Amuse Bouche, UVA's long-form improvisational comedy troupe. After graduating, he will attend graduate school to pursue a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry.

Colton Sheehan

Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with Specialization in Materials Science
Research with Professor Sen Zhang

Colton Sheehan is from Farmville, Virginia and graduated from Prince Edward County High School. He will be graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with a specialization in Materials Science, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Physics and a Minor in Math.

Colton has been a member of Dr. Sen Zhang's lab since his second year. His work focuses on the development of novel synthesis methods for various nanomaterials. The functionality of these nanomaterials as catalysts of energy conversion reactions using electrochemical analysis. Colton hopes his research will help propel society to a sustainable energy future. 

Outside of lab, Colton is involved with volunteering through Madison House and a local nonprofit, called Code Ana. In his free time, he likes to jog, spend time with friends, and watch Netflix. After graduation, he will attend graduate school in pursuit of a PhD in Materials Science.

Eric Wang

Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with Specialization in Biochemistry
Research with Research with Professor John Fu

Eric is from Boston Massachusetts but graduated from Oakton high school in Fairfax Virginia. He is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with a specialization in biochemistry and a Bachelor of Art in Computer Science with distinguished major. 

Eric joined Prof. John Fu’s lab in the Department of Pharmacology since his second year. His projects oriented around studying the mechanism and variants of Ciliogenesis associated kinase 1 (CILK1), with several main themes including the function of CILK1 c-terminal domain (CTD), the cellular effects of juvenile myoclonic epilepsy (JVM) variants of CILK1, and the
importance of Kif3a protein as a direct substrate of CILK1 in mouse models. Eric’s work with Dr. Fu has resulted in two co-first author publications and one more to be submitted. 

For his CS DMP with Prof. Yanjun Qi and QData lab, Eric studied the application of deep learning on CRISPR off-target prediction, protein folding and interaction, and epigenetic. His thesis discussed a novel dual-NeuralNet model that uses DNA sequence with epigenetic annotations and Hi-C map to rank variants based on their likelihood of causing coronary artery disease.

Outside of lab, Eric volunteered for the Department of Cardiology at the UVa hospital. He was also a committee member for Uva FoodAssist, a club that bridges food waste and food insecurity by gathering and donating food. Eric was a member of Team Virginia at iGEM2017. 

Upon graduation, Eric will apply to MD-PhD programs and spend his bridge year in Charlottesville as a lab technician for Dr. Lawrence Lum.


Elizabeth Lee

Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with Specialization in Biochemistry
Research with Professor Ken Hsu

Elizabeth is from Burke, Virginia and graduated from Lake Braddock Secondary School. She is graduating a year early with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with a specialization in biochemistry.

Elizabeth has been a member of Ken Hsu’s lab in the Department of Chemistry since September 2017. Her project has been based around expressing and purifying the mammalian enzyme, diacylglycerol kinase alpha (DGKα), in a bacterial system. DGKα has been recently recognized as a cancer therapy target due its important roles in regulating cell proliferation pathways. Elizabeth hopes that her project in the Hsu Lab will assist in the characterization of the enzyme in future proteomic experiments.

Outside of lab, Elizabeth played piccolo for the Cavalier Marching Band, worked with a company to train and develop AI software for colon cancer detection, and has been a TA for CHEM 2410 and CHEM 2321. After graduating, she will take a gap year to continue her project with DGK α and plans on pursuing an Md-PhD the following year.


Barat Venkataramany

Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with Specialization in Biochemistry
Research with Professor Wladek Minor

Barat grew up in Ashland, OH, and graduated as the valedictorian from Ashland High School. He will be graduating from UVA with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry (Specialization in Biochemistry) with ACS Certification and a minor in Psychology.

Upon beginning his studies at UVA, Barat joined the lab of Professor Wladek Minor in the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics (School of Medicine). Barat investigated serum albumin, the most abundant protein in mammalian blood plasma, and its interactions with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). The goal of his project was to determine structures of mammalian albumins in complex with NSAIDs and understand how the modes of binding compare across species. Barat has been a co-author of three structures in the Protein Data Bank and of two publications (one article as the second author and a book chapter). He has two more manuscripts in writing.

Outside of the lab, Barat enjoys reading, watching films, listening to music, attempting to learn new languages (he speaks four), and playing the violin for First Year Players (for which he has played in five musical productions). He has also served a a TA for CHEM 4410 (Biological Chemistry I) for two semesters and for GNUR 5390 (Introduction to the U.S. Healthcare System) for three semesters. He also worked with the Undergraduate Research Network (serving as the Vice-Chair for one year) and volunteered at the UVA Medical Center through Madison House for six semesters. He also loves supporting his Cleveland and Columbus sports teams and following tennis, cricket, and golf, among many other sports.

Following graduation, Barat will attend medical school at the University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences.

Samuel Wachamo

Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with Specialization in Biochemistry
Research with Professor Jill Venton

Samuel grew up in Hawassa, Ethiopia until he moved to the U.S. and resided in Alexandria, VA in 2013.  He attended T.C. Williams High School. The fact that Samuel has only been in the U.S. a few short years makes his success at UVA, and in general, that much more remarkable. Despite the myriad changes and challenges Samuel faced as his family resettled in northern Virginia, he graduated at the top of his class at T.C. Williams High School and received a full scholarship to the University of Virginia. He will be graduating from UVA with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry (Specialization in Biochemistry) with ACS Certification and High Distinction.           

Samuel got to know Professor Venton in her Analytical Chemistry Laboratory class, and he was attracted by her research program (Analytical Neurochemistry) which was in line with his aspirations. Venton lab is focused on the development of sensing and sampling techniques for the detection of new molecules in the brain. They aim to study the real-time release of many different neurotransmitters simultaneously to better understand healthy and diseased functioning of the brain. Samuel’s project in the Venton lab has a focus on electrochemical detection of Adenosine and ATP at carbon-fiber microelectrode (CFME) using Fast-Scan Cyclic Voltammetry (FSCV) and surfactant modification to promote selectivity. Adenosine and ATP are indispensable extracellular signaling molecules that are implicated in many disorders including neurodegenerative diseases. Given that the current techniques to measure the concentrations of Adenosine and ATP have slow time response, his project aims to develop a rapid analytical technique to discriminate and quantitate both Adenosine and ATP in real time. Samuel has successfully characterized the detection of Adenosine and ATP, and he is working on discriminating them. 

An Echols scholar, Raven Scholar, and NSCS Scholar, Samuel is a member of the American Medical Student Association; Ethiopian-Eritrean Student Association (EESA at UVA); OneWay Intervarsity Christian Fellowship; Peer Advising Program in the Office of African American Affairs (OAAA) at UVA; and was a Madison House volunteer for Medical Services at UVA Hospital among many others. Outside of the lab, Samuel enjoys listening to Contemporary Christian songs, reading books (especially the Bible), running, playing soccer, playing piano, and learning new languages (he speaks English, Spanish, Amharic, Sidamic and a little French). He has been a small group leader at OneWay Intervarsity Christian Fellowship for the last three years where he plans and leads small group meetings and bonding activities. He has also been a peer advisor for the last two years; he serves as a mentor and advisor to six entering class of first-year and transfer students. Following graduation, Samuel will be doing a research internship (SRIP) at UVA School of Medicine, and eventually, he will be pursuing MD-PhD.


UVA Chemistry People Nikki Aaron

Nikki Aaron

Bachelors of Arts in Chemistry
Research with Dr. Thurl Harris

Nikki grew up in Fairfax, Virginia and attended Robinson Secondary School. She will be graduating from UVA with a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry and a Minor in Psychology. Since August 2015, Nikki has been working in Dr. Thurl Harris’ lab in the Pharmacology Department in the School of Medicine. Dr. Harris’ lab studies how the enzymes involved in lipid metabolic pathways are regulated and how their deregulation can lead to pathological conditions such as obesity and Type II Diabetes. Over the last two years, Nikki has been exploring the stability of lipin-1, a phosphatidic acid phosphatase enzyme in the Kennedy pathway of lipid synthesis and an essential component of triacylglycerol synthesis in adipose tissue. She is working to identify critical residues that regulate lipin-1 ubiquitination and degradation by the proteasome. In light of the obesity epidemic, understanding what regulates lipin-1 stability and its ability to synthesize triacylglycerol may help to illustrate the mechanisms at play in metabolic derangements that physicians see every day. Following graduation, Nikki will be pursuing a Ph.D. in Pharmacology at Columbia University in New York City.

UVA Chemistry People Maggie Daly

Maggie Daly

Bachelors of Science in Chemistry with Specialization in Biochemistry.
Research with Professor Cassandra Fraser

Maggie grew up in Yorktown, VA, but went to high school at the International School of Provence-Alpes-Cote-D’azur in Manosque, France. She is pursuing a Bachelor of Science with Specialization in Biochemistry and a Minor in Religious Studies with a concentration in Islam.

Since May 2015, Maggie has been conducting research with Dr. Cassandra Fraser in the Department of Chemistry. The Fraser Lab studies the synthesis and applications of dual-emissive polymeric materials for oxygen sensing and imaging in biomedical contexts such as tumors, wounds and the brain. The dyes are luminescent difluoroboron b-diketonates that are covalently linked or blended with a biocompatible polymer, such as poly(lactic acid), and precipitated into nanoparticles. Maggie’s projects in the Fraser Lab have a focus on the molecular design of the luminescent boron dyes, with efforts to elucidate the trends for tuning their optical properties.

Outside of the lab, Maggie is an active member of Club Swim as well as Alternative Spring Break at UVA. She has also worked as an Organic Chemistry Lab TA for the past two years. Next year, she will begin pursuing a PhD in Materials Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

UVA Chemistry People Victoria Holt

Victoria Holt

Bachelor of Science in Chemistry
Research with Research with Professor James Landers

Victoria is from Herndon, Virginia and is studying chemistry with a minor in Russian language and literature. She began research with Dr. Landers in the fall of 2015, working with Shannon Krauss on an explosives detection project. The project is working to develop a portable device in which colorimetric reactions occur in the presence of various explosive materials. Reactions for nitrates, hydrogen peroxide, perchlorates, TNT, DNT, and tetryl have been implemented on the device. Victoria focused most of her work on the nitrates. By modifying the Griess reaction, which turns bright pink when reagents form an azo dye with nitrate, the reaction and limits of detection were optimized for use in the field.

When she isn’t working in the lab, Victoria loves to dance, read, and cook. She has been a member of University Dance Club throughout her college career, and joined University Salsa Club during her third year. She also volunteered as an elementary school tutor through Madison House and was a fundraiser for Dance Marathon for UVA Children’s Hospital.

UVA Chemistry People Anna Perkins

Anna Perkins

Bachelors of Science in Chemistry
Research with Professor Jim Demas

I am from Atlanta, GA, and I went to The Lovett School. I will graduate with a BSc in Chemistry and a BA in Studio Art, painting concentration. I stated research with the Demas lab Spring 2016, focusing on fluorescence anisotropy. I have worked with the oxygen sensor Ru(bpy)3, Fraser’s promising boron complex nanoparticles, and fluorescent dye-polymer equilibria that model biological binding systems. Measuring the anisotropy of these compounds gives valuable information about the excited state(s) and information about binding. Fluorescence anisotropy is the study of emission polarization and is commonly used to measure the binding of biological equilibria. When a polarized excitation source excites a fluorophore, that fluorophore can emit in the same orientation, or it can rotationally diffuse before it has the chance to emit, thus producing an unpolarized emission. Anisotropy is a ratiometric measurement of the extent of the emitted polarization.

In addition to painting, I sing in two different groups on Grounds, the Harmonious Hoos co-ed a cappella group and the Virginia Women’s Chorus.


UVA Chemistry Jack

Jack Cronk

Bachelors of Science in Chemistry with Specialization in Biochemistry
Research with Dr. Michael Brown

Jack Cronk grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia and graduated from Western Albemarle High School. He is currently pursuing a Bachelors of Science in Chemistry with a specialization in Biochemistry along with ACS certification. Jack conducts research in the School of Medicine in the laboratory of Dr. Michael Brown, Ph.D. Over the last 3 semesters, Jack has designed and utilized genetic approaches to systematically and specifically induce mutations in the genes of natural killer (NK) cell receptors. NK cells play an essential role in the innate immune response as cytotoxic lymphocytes that recognize cells infected with virus. Jack’s research investigates genetic mutations in NK cell receptors, the effects of which will ultimately be evaluated with respect to how these mutations impact receptor functionality. His thesis focuses on the validation of a meticulous experimental approach to study the immediate impact of these gene disruptions. Current and future work will involve testing his experimental design and evaluating the effects of the receptor mutations at the genomic level. Following graduation, Jack plans to continue his research at UVa, spend time with his two miniature dachshunds, Piper and Elly, and eventually pursue a Ph.D in Immunology.

UVA Chemistry People Youlim Ha

Youlim Ha

Bachelors of Science in Chemistry
Research with Professor Ken Hsu

Youlim was born in Seoul, South Korea and grew up in Nanjing, China. She is graduating with the Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with the ACS certification from the University.

Youlim is doing research with Professor Ku-Lung (Ken) Hsu in the Department of Chemistry. In order to understand protein function in human disease and physiology, the lab develops novel small molecules that enable molecular analysis of proteins with mechanistically-related reactivity and activity. Her research is focused on the synthesis of new chemical probes to identify novel small molecule binding pockets present in proteins that were previously undetected due to a lack of suitable chemical biology approaches.

She received the Undergraduate Poster Session Award from the American Chemical Society for her research. She also received the Department of Chemistry Award for Excellence in Chemistry. In the fall, she is moving to London for studying Advanced Chemical Engineering.

UVA Chemistry People Ellen Howerton

Ellen Howerton

Bachelors of Science in Chemistry with Specialization in Biochemistry
Research with Dr. John Bushweller

Ellen Howerton grew up in Fairfax, Virginia and graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.  She will graduate from UVa with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with a biochemistry specialization.

Ellen joined the Bushweller lab group in the Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics department in January, 2015.  For her distinguished major, she focused on the Ets-domain family of transcription factors, which are deregulated in multiple cancers.  Many Ets-domain proteins exhibit autoinhibition, a phenomenon that occurs when a separate portion of a protein inhibits the function of another domain.  As the autoinhibitory domain is likely unique between Ets family members, it provides a promising target for therapeutics.

Outside of her studies, Ellen is a violinist and an active member of Radio Music Society, a student-run group that writes and performs string quartet covers of popular songs.  She is also a Soprano 1 with the Virginia Women’s Chorus and a member of the Washington Literary Society and Debating Union.  After graduation, Ellen will be working at the National Human Genome Research Institute at the NIH and later hopes to pursue graduate study in Public Health.

UVA Chemistry People Daniel

Daniel Mulrow

Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with Specialization in Chemical Physics
Research with Professor Jim Demas

Daniel grew up in Arlington, Virginia and attended Washington-Lee High School. He will be graduating UVA with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with a Specialization in Chemical Physics and a Bachelor of Arts in Physics.

Since August of 2013 Daniel has been working for the Demas research group. His primary focus has been using fluorescence anisotropy to determine binding constants between fluorescent dyes and polyelectrolytes. This method has been shown to allow for more types of binding constants to be measured than using other fluorescent techniques. It also has shown that more complex binding occurs when the polymer concentration is much greater than that of the fluorescent dye.

Outside of lab, Daniel is very involved with UVA’s honor fraternity Phi Sigma Pi as well as being a First Year Seminar Facilitator for the Orientation and New Student Programs office at UVA. He has also served as a physical chemistry teaching assistant for the past year. After graduation, Daniel will be pursuing a Ph.D in nuclear/physical chemistry.


UVA Chemistry People Joshua Corbin

Joshua Corbin

Bachelors of Science in Chemistry with Specialization in Biochemistry
Research with Professor Lin Pu

Joshua attended Franklin County High School in Rocky Mount, VA. He is pursuing a B.Sc. in Chemistry with a Specialization in Biochemistry with ACS certification.

His research is in the lab of Dr. Lin Pu where he worked on a project with graduate student Shifeng Nian synthesizing a bimetallic catalyst to control the tacticity in atomic transfer radical polymerizations (ATRP) of functional alpha-olefins (e.g. acrylamide) by synthesizing a salen-derived macrocyclic ligand to coordinate a Lewis acidic metal and copper. Previous research showed that addition of a Lewis acid to Cu-mediated ATRP was promising for producing steroregular polymers. We confined the Lewis acidic center and the copper center in close proximity on a macrocyclic ligand to couple their roles in the polymerization and enhance the catalytic efficiency. Our work has provided evidence that these bimetallic catalyst systems incorporate a cooperative effect utilizing the Lewis acidic monomer activation with the copper-chlorine radical generation and stabilization process in order to provide stereocontrol and catalysis to the ATRP processes. Following the introduction of chirality into the catalyst system, the reaction of the Lewis acid coordinated monomer with the adjacent transient free radical, generated from the copper-chlorine abstraction at the polymer end, proceeds with significant stereocontrol to give the desired isotactic polymers. We are still working to optimize the degree of monomer conversion and stereocontrol.

In addition to research, Joshua has been a teaching assistant for CHEM 3410 and CHEM 3420 (physical chemistry, thermodynamics and quantum chemistry) under Dr. Dave Metcalf. Though still undecided on his particular focus, he will study organic, organometallics, or polymer chemistry in graduate school.

UVA Chemistry People Andrew Lankenau

Andrew Lankenau

Bachelors of Science in Chemistry
Research with Professor Dean Harman

Andrew was born in Silver Spring, MD but attended Oakton High School in Vienna, VA.  He will be graduating from UVA with a Bachelors of Science in Chemistry.  Since January 2012, Andrew has worked in the research group of Dr. W. Dean Harman.

For the majority of his time in the Harman group, Andrew’s project has been to separate the two enantiomers of a chiral tungsten dearomatization core.  To do so, a tartaric acid derivative was first used to create two diastereomeric salts.  From there, the salts were separated via a finely tuned precipitation reaction and then returned to their original state by removing the asymmetric anion with a base.  This research presents a novel approach for the enantio enrichment of chiral organometallic complexes.  Andrew is in the process of submitting a first author publication of this research and hopes to have it published before he graduates.

Outside of academics, Andrew is a dedicated fan of UVA basketball and religiously attends all home games.  After graduation, Andrew will be pursuing a Ph.D in inorganic chemistry.

UVA Chemistry People Nick Lee

Nick Lee

Bachelors of Science in Chemistry with Specialization in Biochemistry
Research with Dr. Anindya Dutta

Nick Lee is a fourth-year Distinguished Major in Biochemistry from Winchester, Virginia. He conducts research in the School of Medicine in the laboratory of Anindya Dutta, M.D., Ph.D., where he investigates the function of the CRL4(Cdt2), an E3 ubiquitin ligase, in the cell cycle. The complex is responsible for marking cell cycle regulators for degradation by the proteasome. Previously, he worked to elucidate the stabilizing role that 14-3-3 exerted over Cdt2. His thesis is focused on characterizing the interaction between BRAF35 and Cdt2. BRAF35 is relatively uncharacterized in the literature, but it interacts with BRCA2, the breast cancer susceptibility protein. For his research endeavors, he has received a U.Va. Summer Scholars Award, a Harrison Undergraduate Research Award, a College Council Fall Research Grant, and a Small Research and Travel Grant, along with being a published co-author in Molecular and Cellular Biology.

Currently, he serves as the Vice Chair for Trials for the Honor Committee, the Chair of the Undergraduate Research Network, and the President of the College Science Scholars Council. Outside of those commitments, Nick has taught his own CavEd class, Current Topics in Neuroethics, served as a TA for Organic Chemistry, and is an Echols Scholar, College Science Scholar, a member of the Raven Society, and a Lawn Resident. After graduation, he will be pursuing his M.D. with the desire to become a professor of medicine.

UVA Chemistry People Emily

Emily Schutzenhofer

Bachelor’s of Science in Chemistry with Specialization in Biochemistry
Research with Dr. Gary Owens

Emily M. Schutzenhofer is from Stafford, Virginia and is a graduate of Colonial Forge High School. She is an Echols Scholar double majoring in Chemistry with a Specialization in Biochemistry (including the ACS certificate) and Global Development Studies with a concentration in Global Public Health.

Emily conducts research in the lab of Dr. Gary K. Owens in the Robert M. Berne Cardiovascular Research Center. She studies the molecular mechanisms controlling the expression of an embryonic stem cell pluripotency gene, Oct4, in adult smooth muscle cells. Of particular interest to her are those mechanisms involving the vessel environmental cues typically associated with the development and progression of atherosclerotic lesions. The implications of her research include increasing understanding of the development of atherosclerosis, a condition characterized by the hardening of arteries due to the buildup of plaque. End-stage, catastrophic clinical events associated with atherosclerosis include myocardial infarction and stroke, provoked by plaque rupture and major thrombotic events. In addition, her research contributes to the field of knowledge surrounding smooth muscle cell phenotypic switching— control of which could constitute even more widely applicable clinical interventions related to cardiovascular diseases.

Outside of her academic pursuits, Emily proudly serves as the President of the National Leadership Council of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, one of the nation’s largest and most prestigious college honor societies. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Society. Emily is an aspiring physician and, as such, is passionate about health, wellness, and service— in addition to her research at the CVRC, she volunteers at the Charlottesville Free Clinic and Remote Area Medical Clinics in underserved regions of the state, has led the Women in Medicine Initiatives interest and advocacy group at UVA, has studied and participated in research on public health interventions in developing nations to improve chronic asthma management, and has founded and leads a service organization, the Virginia Cyber Leo Club at UVA, to help people with disabilities in the local community.