2017 Fellows

Group photo of 2017 REU fellows, co-directors, and coordinator

2017 Chemistry REU Fellows (Front row, left to right): Dr. Blanton Tolbert, Emma Whiting, Joshua Ross, Daphney Bonner, Dr. Emily Pentzer, Kelsey Forester (Back row, left to right): Austin Allen, Eduardo Guzman, Michael Lu-Diaz


Austin Allen – Denison University

Daphney Bonner – Howard University

Eduardo Guzman – University of Rhode Island

Michael Lu-Diaz – University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez

Joshua Ross – Morgan State University

Emma Whiting – Washington University in St. Louis


2016 Fellows


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Laura Alonso

I am a third year undergraduate student majoring in Chemistry. I am from Chicago and I attend Elmhurst College, a small private liberal arts college in the suburbs of Chicago. My interest in Chemistry comes from the subject itself. I enjoy learning anything and everything about the subject, no matter what area. After graduation, I intend to continue my education and receive a PhD in the field. Ultimately, I would like to focus my studies on Cosmetic Chemistry, in pursuit of becoming a Cosmetic Chemist. In my spare time, I like to relax, sleep, and listen to music.

Summer Research Title: Simultaneous Reduction and Functionalization of Graphene Oxide via Ritter Reaction




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Jesba Bas-Concepcion

I am from Carolina, Puerto Rico. I am a Chemistry major at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus (UPR-RP) and am a part of the RISE and MARC Scholars. My chemistry interests are based on Medicinal Chemistry (Bioimaging and Photothermal based-ligands) and Pharmacology (drug synthesis/delivery) areas where I plan to focus on my doctorate degree after I graduate. Other than working at my research lab, in my spare time I like to run, go to the beach, and do community work with the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) and the American Chemical Association (ACS), UPR-RP Chapter.

Summer Research Title: Synthesis of Zn-doped Iron Oxide Nanocubes for Hyperthermia Studies and the Fabrication of a Magnetic Hydrogel Drug Carrier System





luis ortiz thumbnailLuis Ortiz-Rodriguez

I am studying at the University of Puerto Rico-Humacao Campus. I am interested in the study of photochemical properties of compounds and drugs using spectroscopy techniques as a tool. I am most interested in its use to find new photosensitizers for photodynamic therapy (PDT) for treatment of different skin cancers and psoriasis. After graduation, I plan to begin work on my doctorate degree with a focus on Photochemistry. When I’m not in the lab, you might find me at the gym, running, swimming, or lounging on the beach.

Summer Research Title: Are Photochemical Side Effects Induced by the Azathioprine Drug or Its Metabolites?




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Rachel Polak

Summer Research Title: Identification of a 4-Hydroxy Acyl-CoA Kinase Via a Functional Assay









taylor turley thumbnailTaylor Turley

I am from Saint Louis, Missouri. I am a junior at Jackson State University pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry. I gravitated towards Chemistry, so I may help others through researching the cause and possible cures of life-threatening illness. I plan on attending graduate school to obtain a PhD where I will be able to continue contributing to the world of medical research. In my spare time, I enjoy working with children to enhance their math and science skills, as well as doing volunteer work.

Summer Research Title: Structural Insights Into G-tracts Recognition by the hnRNP H Recognition Motif





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Melissa Yamsek

I grew up in Brecksville, Ohio and currently attend school at the University of Toledo, studying medicinal biochemistry. I have been involved in research since my freshman year and have found the experience to be highly rewarding, having had the opportunity to travel to several conferences and earn co-authorship on a couple of publications. I find biochemical pathways to be extremely intriguing and would like my future work to be within the fields of drug development and proteomics. I intend to continue onto graduate school to obtain a Ph.D. in either bioanalytical or medicinal chemistry. In my free time, I enjoy trying out new recipes, biking, and snowboarding. I am really interested in animals and have a hedgehog named Hedgey, in addition to a couple of fish. I am also the proud owner of a Venus fly trap and my life goal is to travel into space.

Summer Research Title: Determination of the RNase P Mechanism for the Observed 3’ to 5’ Directional Processing of Polycistronic ptRNA



Group Picture


2016 Chemistry REU Fellows (Second row, left to right), Taylor Turley, Rachel Polak, Melissa Yamsek, Jesba Bas-Concepcion, Laura Alonso, Luis Ortiz-Rodriguez, (First row, left to right), Co-director, Dr. Emily Pentzer and Program Coordinator, Kelsey Forester.