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ACS News

Announcing the 2022 CAS Future Leaders

CAS honors this year’s class of chemical information scholars

by Nina Notman, special to C&EN
August 14, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 28

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This year’s class of CAS Future Leaders includes 29 participants from 10 countries. This program, which is in its 12th year, provides PhD students and postdocs the opportunity to gain leadership skills and learn about the chemical information industry. CAS, a division of the American Chemical Society, produces the scientific information solution, CAS SciFindern. This year’s cohort will visit the CAS headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, Aug. 15–20 and attend the ACS Fall 2022 meeting in Chicago Aug. 21–25. Listed below are the affiliations and qualifications of this year’s Future Leaders as of the time of the award.

Salma Ahmed.
Credit: Courtesy of Salma Ahmed
Salma Ahmed

Salma Ahmed

Graduate student at the University of Queensland

Education: BSc, chemical engineering, University of Khartoum, 2011; MSc, chemical engineering, American University of Sharjah, 2015

Research: Developing polymeric nanoparticles for use in chemotherapeutic drug delivery

Role model: “Marie Curie is my scientific role model. Marie is mostly recognized as the first woman Nobel Prize winner and the only woman to win one twice. What inspires me about her most though is her courage, motherhood, resilience, and perseverance despite all the grief, hardships, sickness, and suffering she endured.”

Ernest Awoonor-Williams.
Credit: Courtesy of Ernest Awoonor-Williams
Ernest Awoonor-Williams

Ernest Awoonor-Williams

Postdoc at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research

Education: BSc, chemistry, Mount Allison University, 2014; PhD, computational biochemistry, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2020

Research: Exploring computer modeling approaches for studying drug binding and pathogenesis

Career goals: “My professional goal is to be a leader in medicinal chemistry, where I can contribute to developing novel, innovative, and life-changing medicines to help patients, particularly in the developing world.”

Progna Banerjee.
Credit: Courtesy of Progna Banerjee
Progna Banerjee

Progna Banerjee

Postdoc at Argonne National Laboratory

Education: MSc, physics, 2010, and MTech, solid state technology, 2012, Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur; MS, physics, 2014, and PhD, physics and nanomaterials chemistry, 2018, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Research: Studying exotic physical phases for use in quantum information processing and batteries

Role model: “My scientific role model is Johannes Kepler. His meticulous approach to analyzing logical contradictions led to major contributions to the heliocentric theory. He also used the same faculties to successfully defend his mother against false accusations of witchcraft in 17th century Germany.”

Magda H. Barecka.
Credit: Courtesy of Magda H. Barecka
Magda H. Barecka

Magda H. Barecka

Postdoc at Cambridge Centre for Advanced Research and Education in Singapore

Education: BS, environmental engineering, 2012, and MS, chemical engineering, 2013, Lodz University of Technology; PhD, chemical engineering, TU Dortmund University, 2017

Research: Developing processes for scaling up decarbonization technologies

Advice for others: “If you really love science, do not be afraid to choose science. Many of us, in particular the individuals representing minorities in science, may feel that our career choices are not being appreciated, making it more challenging to pursue our dreams. Power your curiosity to go your own way.”

Laura Bickerton.
Credit: Courtesy of Laura Bickerton
Laura Bickerton

Laura Bickerton

Graduate student at the University of Oxford

Education: BSc, biochemistry and biological chemistry, University of Nottingham, 2018

Research: Synthesizing supramolecular anion receptors to aid transport of biologically relevant anions across cell membranes

Advice for others: “My advice to students is always ask for help when you don’t understand something, be yourself, and when it comes to boosting confidence: ‘fake it until you make it,’ push yourself out of your comfort zone, and challenge yourself to seek out as many opportunities as possible.”

Kurtis M. Carsch.

Credit: Courtesy of Kurtis M. Carsch
Kurtis M. Carsch

Kurtis M. Carsch

Postdoc at the University of California, Berkeley

Education: BS and MS, chemistry, California Institute of Technology, 2016; PhD, chemistry, Harvard University, 2021

Research: Utilizing crystalline porous materials to capture and separate industrially relevant gases from complicated mixtures under practical working conditions

Career goals: “I aspire to make tangible advances toward energy-efficient transformations and processes that can help mitigate the effects of climate change.”

Steven Crossley.

Credit: Courtesy of Steven Crossley

Steven Crossley

Steven Crossley

Postdoc at the University of California, Berkeley

Education: BSc, chemistry, University of British Columbia, 2012; PhD, chemistry, Scripps Research Institute, 2018

Research: Developing and applying chemical tools to problems in cancer, redox biology, and cellular signaling

What he hopes to get out of the program: “I hope to learn how to be a better leader as well as meet like-minded scientists.”

Jacky Deng.

Credit: Courtesy of Jacky Deng

Jacky Deng

Jacky Deng

Graduate student at the University of Ottawa

Education: BSc, chemistry, University of British Columbia, Okanagan, 2018

Research: Conducting chemistry education research to support chemistry learners from diverse language backgrounds

Advice for others: “Doing science is hard, but I’ve realized that giving yourself permission to take a break can be even harder. Prioritize your well-being, not only because it will help your work, but because it’s what you deserve.”

Silvina A. Di Pietro.

Credit: Courtesy of Silvina A. Di Pietro

Silvina A. Di Pietro

Silvina A. Di Pietro

Postdoc at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Education: AA, chemistry, Broward College, 2010; BS, chemistry, 2012, MS, chemistry, 2018, and PhD, environmental chemistry, 2021, Florida International University

Research: Developing additive manufacturing into a viable technology for nuclear applications

Role model: “My scientific role model is Bill Nye the science guy. As a teenager, I could not get enough of his shows. I admired how he taught science to his audience in a captivating and fun way. I hope one day to be known as Silvi the science girl.”

Stanna K. Dorn.

Credit: Courtesy of Stanna K. Dorn

Stanna K. Dorn

Stanna K. Dorn

Graduate student at Indiana University Bloomington

Education: BS, chemistry, and BA, music, Hope College, 2017

Research: Developing cooperative catalysis methods for alkene carboboration

Career goals: “My dreams involve being a researcher, leader, and educator in organic chemistry. I want to advocate for students while working to dispel the culture of shame and elitism that often permeates graduate education. I hope to positively represent my hometown and inspire students from rural, low-​socioeconomic backgrounds to pursue STEM.”

Liang Feng.

Credit: Courtesy of Liang Feng

Liang Feng

Liang Feng

Postdoc at Northwestern University

Education: BS, chemistry, Wuhan University, 2016; PhD, chemistry, Texas A&M University, 2020

Research: Developing new porous materials and adsorption mechanisms for gas storage and separation, catalysis, and biomedicine

What he hopes to get out of the program: “I am eager to learn the skills of developing leadership and effective mentorship in academia. I am also excited to meet with many talented participants and explore future collaboration opportunities.”

Ikuya Fujii.

Credit: Courtesy of Ikuya Fujii

Ikuya Fujii

Ikuya Fujii

Graduate student at Kyoto University

Education: BEng, chemistry, Kobe City College of Technology, 2018; MEng, chemistry, Kyoto University, 2020

Research: Developing catalytic inert bond transformations using precisely designed bimetallic complexes

Career goals: “I want to be a role model for the next generation of scientists and increase the proportion of the population interested in science. To achieve this, I aim to be a leader who produces excellent results that solve various problems and also clearly communicates my results with the world.”

Sylvia L. Hanna.

Credit: Courtesy of Sylvia L. Hanna

Sylvia L. Hanna

Sylvia L. Hanna

Graduate student at Northwestern University

Education: BS, chemistry, Rowan University, 2017

Research: Investigating crystalline transformations of uranium-based metal-organic frameworks for sustainable nuclear power and stockpile stewardship applications

Advice for others: “Value and respect every human you interact with. As scientists, we often forget that at the very root, our research is human affecting and people driven. Even successful networking is based on mutual respect and genuine interpersonal connections that result from such a mindset.”

Kevin M. Jablonka.

Credit: Courtesy of Kevin M. Jablonka

Kevin M. Jablonka

Kevin M. Jablonka

Graduate student at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne (EPFL)

Education: BS, chemistry, Technical University of Munich, 2017; MS, chemistry, EPFL, 2019

Research: Using computational tools including databases, electronic lab notebooks, and machine learning to develop a digital assistant for chemists

What he hopes to get out of the program: “I hope to meet awesome people and to make new connections!”

Elisabeth Kreidt.
Credit: Courtesy of Elisabeth Kreidt

Elisabeth Kreidt

Elisabeth Kreidt

Postdoc at the University of Manchester

Education: BS, chemistry, 2012, and MS, chemistry, 2014, Ruhr University Bochum; PhD, chemistry, Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen, 2018

Research: Combining the physical properties of lanthanoids with concepts and strategies from supramolecular chemistry

Career goals: “I hope to genuinely improve our understanding of a small aspect of nature and our ability to utilize it and to contribute to others being able to do the same.”

Gabriele Laudadio.
Credit: Courtesy of Gabriele Laudadio

Gabriele Laudadio

Gabriele Laudadio

Postdoc at Scripps Research Institute

Education: BSc, chemistry, 2013, and MSc, organic chemistry, 2016, University of Pisa; PhD, chemistry, Eindhoven University of Technology, 2020

Research: Applying technology to synthesize organic molecules in a more efficient and sustainable way

What he hopes to get out of the program: “I hope to learn more about how to become a good leader. I think that this program will be an invaluable opportunity to improve both as a scientist and as a person by connecting and sharing my experience with other talented researchers.”

Richard Y. Liu.

Credit: Courtesy of Richard Y. Liu

Richard Y. Liu

Richard Y. Liu

Postdoc at Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Education: AB, chemistry and physics, Harvard University, 2015; PhD, chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2019

Research: Designing transition metal catalysts to improve organic synthesis

Advice for others: “As scientists we tend to take our work (and ourselves) very seriously. This is because our career trajectories and self-esteem are so closely tied to our productivity and results. I think it is very important to be able to laugh at ourselves and find humor in our daily situations.”

Rajat Maji.
Credit: Courtesy of Rajat Maji

Rajat Maji

Rajat Maji

Postdoc at Max Planck Institute for Kohlenforschun

Education: BS, chemistry, University of Calcutta, 2009; MS, chemistry, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, 2011; PhD, chemistry, Texas A M University, 2018

Research: Developing sustainable catalysts by harnessing the synergy between experiment and theory

Career goals: “To start an independent research group at the intersection of chemistry, data science, and technology with the aim of addressing organic chemistry problems and creating a new generation of chemists with an interdisciplinary mindset.”

Helena Mannochio Russo.
Credit: Courtesy of Helena Mannochio Russo

Helena Mannochio Russo

Helena Mannochio Russo

Graduate student at São Paulo State University

Education: BS, chemistry, University of Campinas, 2015; MS, chemistry, São Paulo State University, 2018

Research: Using metabolomics to study natural products from plants in an evolutionary context

Advice for others: “Always follow your dreams and never let anyone discourage you. Be humble, and don’t be afraid to take one step back before taking two steps forward. Science is dynamic and interdisciplinary, and working on the frontiers of knowledge requires strong adaptation skills.”

Erin J. Peterson.
Credit: Courtesy of Erin J. Peterson

Erin J. Peterson

Erin J. Peterson

Postdoc at Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Education: BS, chemistry, Villanova University, 2017; PhD, chemistry, Duke University, 2022

Research: Developing optically addressable molecular qubits for quantum sensing

Role model: “My undergraduate research adviser, Jared Paul, is one of the best people I know. He is a fantastic example of what it means to be truly passionate about student success, how to integrate passion for research into teaching, and the value of work-life balance.”

Aleksandra Popowich.
Credit: Courtesy of Aleksandra Popowich

Aleksandra Popowich

Aleksandra Popowich

Postdoc at Metropolitan Museum of Art

Education: BSc, chemistry, University of British Columbia, 2012; PhD, chemistry, University of Alberta, 2018

Research: Studying proteins, lipids, and other biological materials in works of art and cultural heritage objects using mass spectrometry

Career goals: “My dream is to apply my chemistry background to heritage and conservation science research working with museum collections. This work supports the efforts of conservators, helping to preserve objects for future generations, and facilitates research on the materiality of objects, providing insight into manufacturing, artist choices, trade, and much more.”

Dylan Sherman.
Credit: Courtesy of Dylan Sherman

Dylan Sherman

Dylan Sherman

Graduate student at the University of Oxford

Education: BSc, chemistry, and BLaws, University of Sydney, 2018

Research: Functionalizing metal-organic framework nanosheets, by sandwiching guests between the sheets.

What he hopes to get out of the program: “I’m looking forward to networking, learning, and growing through the program to maximize the positive impact and change possible for society through our scientific research. A critical step in doing so is communication and awareness of scientific development to the wider community, which I hope to strengthen through the Future Leaders program.”

Jinwoo Shin.
Credit: Courtesy of Jinwoo Shin

Jinwoo Shin

Jinwoo Shin

Postdoc at Korea University

Education: BS, chemistry, Hallym University, 2015; PhD, chemistry, Korea University, 2021

Research: Developing advanced fluorescent chemosensors and multifunctional phototherapeutic agents for diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and senescence

Career goals: “My ultimate career dream is to become a professor of prosperous research and spread the research knowledge and education I have accumulated for many years to future generations.”

Ruijie Teo

Postdoc at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Education: BS and MS, chemistry, California Institute of Technology, 2015; PhD, chemistry, Duke University, 2020

Research: Developing drug combinations for drug delivery using machine learning and molecular simulations


Role model: “My first formal adviser, Harry Gray. I like how he is really down to earth and approachable. Even though I was only an undergraduate at that time, he would always listen to my research questions and ideas intently.”

Julio Terra.
Credit: Courtesy of Julio Terra

Julio Terra

Julio Terra

Graduate student at McGill University

Education: BSc, chemistry, Federal University of Lavras, 2015; MSc, inorganic chemistry, Federal University of Minas Gerais, 2017

Research: Designing hierarchical silica-based nanostructures to be used as catalysts toward green and sustainable chemistry

Role model: “As a gay person in STEM, I look up to all LGBTQIA+ people making an impact in their fields. Those scientists make me feel represented and included. They open doors for me and others to be our full selves, move forward in our careers, and bring our contributions to STEM.”

Olivia H. Wilkins.
Credit: Courtesy of Olivia H. Wilkins

Olivia H. Wilkins

Olivia H. Wilkins

Postdoc at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Education: BS, chemistry and mathematics, Dickinson College, 2015; PhD, chemistry, California Institute of Technology, 2021

Research: Studying ultraviolet-photolyzed cosmic ice analogues using rotational spectroscopy and high-mass star-forming regions using observational astrochemistry

Advice for others: “Apply for things that interest you, even if you don’t feel qualified—you probably are. Similarly, don’t be afraid to try things outside your field or expertise; you might learn about a fascinating area, and perhaps even a career path, you didn’t know existed.”

Ashley G. Woolfork.
Credit: Courtesy of Ashley G. Woolfork

Ashley G. Woolfork

Ashley G. Woolfork

Postdoc at the University of Pennsylvania

Education: BA, chemistry, Rutgers University–New Brunswick, 2016; PhD, chemistry, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, 2021

Research: Studying effects of a functional circadian clock on brain metabolites associated with neurodegeneration using mass spectrometry imaging

Advice for others: “Always keep your ‘why’ in mind. There will be times you want to quit. There will be times when you fail and want to stop. But if you do stop, it will be a lot harder for you long term. Knowing your why is what will keep you going.”

Saigopalakrishna Yerneni.
Credit: Courtesy of Saigopalakrishna Yerneni

Saigopalakrishna Yerneni

Saigopalakrishna “Sai” Yerneni

Postdoc at Carnegie Mellon University

Education: MS, biomedical engineering, 2015, and PhD, biomedical engineering, 2021, Carnegie Mellon University

Research: Enabling RNA medicine for central nervous system disorders

Advice for others: “One of my favorite quotes is, ‘There is no good in anything until it is finished’ by Genghis Khan. As a researcher, it’s easy to think of different ideas and projects, but a true leader is someone who knows how to see their ideas through to the end.”

Maha Yusuf.
Credit: Courtesy of Maha Yusuf

Maha Yusuf

Maha Yusuf

Graduate student at Stanford University

Education: BE, chemical engineering, National University of Sciences and Technology, Pakistan, 2013; MS, chemical engineering, Stanford University, 2017

Research: Studying the failure mechanisms of lithium-ion batteries during extreme fast charging using high-resolution neutron and X-ray imaging

Advice for others: “Quality science is hard; patience and perseverance is the key. So, hang in there! And, don’t forget to enjoy life while building your career.”

Nina Notman is a freelance writer based in Salisbury, England.


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