Tag: College of Sciences and Arts

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Spring 2022 Recipient – Chathura Adambarage

I joined the Department of Chemistry at Michigan Technological University (MTU) in Fall/2017 as a graduate student in chemistry. Before joining MTU, I obtained my BSc (Hons) in chemistry from the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Lanka and in parallel to that I completed my second BSc in chemistry at the Institute of Chemistry Ceylon, Sri Lanka. I had a strong desire to follow a Ph.D. in physical chemistry therefore, I joined Dr. Kathryn Perrine’s surface science research group. The reason why I decided to select surface science to pursue my Ph.D. is, it is an interdisciplinary subject area that connects several disciplines such as chemistry, vacuum technology, physics, and engineering. My Ph.D. research mainly focused on studying the influence of the chemical environment on interfacial corrosion at air/electrolyte/iron interface using surface sensitive infrared spectroscopy. I was able to develop a method to investigate interfacial corrosion and mineral formation at air/liquid/solid interfaces with the guidance of my research advisor. Also, I completed MS in chemistry on the way to my Ph.D. I was fortunate to obtain a lot of experience in vacuum science and technology as a part of my Ph.D. career. Furthermore, I gained knowledge and experience in studying chemical reactions of simple halogenated gas molecules on single crystal metal surfaces under in situ and operando conditions.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Department of Chemistry and the Graduate College of Michigan Technological University for giving me an invaluable opportunity to join the MTU community as a graduate student and for their continuous support for achieving my Ph.D. goals. My special thank goes to my research advisor Dr. Kathryn A. Perrine and also to all the graduate committee members (Dr. Loredana Valenzano, Dr. Rudy Luck, and Dr. Lei Pan) for their invaluable guidance and mentorship extended for me throughout my journey to the Ph.D.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Spring 2022 Recipient – Dhananjani Eriyagama

I obtained my BSc degree from the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, and I moved to Houghton in 2015 with my husband. I am fortunate to be enrolled in the Chemistry Ph.D. program at Michigan Tech in 2017 spring, and I joined Dr. Fang’s research group. As a student researcher, I learned the skills needed in the laboratory and improved skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, mentoring junior researchers, communication, and leadership. It is a privilege to collaborate with colleagues in our laboratory on many research projects with different disciplines.

One of my research projects is the development of non-chromatographic method for synthetic oligodeoxynucleotide (ODN) purification, and another is the automation of polyethylene glycol (PEG) synthesis. Synthetic oligonucleotides have applications in various fields. Even though ODN synthesis has improved significantly in the past decades, the purification of synthetic ODN still has many challenges. The most widely used HPLC purification is expensive and not suitable for large-scale and high throughput purification, and purification of long ODNs. We developed a non-chromatographic ODN purification method suitable for large-scale, high throughput, and long ODN purification. This method does not involve expensive reagents, solvents, or instrumentation, and it can significantly reduce the cost of synthetic ODN purification. Polyethylene glycols (PEGs) have found applications in many fields, including the pharmaceutical industry. Due to the high labor demand of current synthesis and purification methods, it is expensive to obtain monodispersed PEGs. The method that we developed does not require purification of intermediates, and more importantly the entire synthesis is automated. As a result, we can obtain pure PEGs for a significantly lower cost.

I would like to convey my gratitude to The Graduate Dean Awards Advisory Panel for providing the finishing fellowship award at a critical moment in my graduate study. The fellowship is important for me to focus on writing and defending my dissertation, and to graduate timely. I would also like to thank my advisor Dr. Shiyue Fang, and Dr. Marina Tansova for their indispensable guidance throughout the program.

KCP Future Faculty Fellow – Brittany Nelson

It started when I took a critical thinking class where I learned how irrational many of my, and most people’s decisions, are. Many hold a misconception that we are rational creatures that we weigh pros and cons of each choice and choose the option that has the most utility. I was immediately fascinated that this is not the case; decisions are influenced by biases, environment, emotions, fatigue, and more. As an undergraduate, I conducted a blind experiment that measured the impact of reading a free will philosophy pamphlet on behaviors such as stealing candy and donating money. (Those who read the pamphlet that suggests we don’t have free will are more likely to steal candy and not donate money!) After learning how little we make rational decisions —without even being aware— I understood the potential the field of cognitive science has for helping people.

My interest in teaching allowed me to take many powerful lessons from my Masters’ degree in Applied Cognitive Science and share them with students when I was a visiting professor at Finlandia University. This position opened my eyes to how instructors can empower students through teaching. From this experience, I gained a passion for and concrete skills in how to be a professor.

Under the advisement of Dr. Erich Petushek, my current Ph.D. research at MTU involves identifying, measuring, and improving key factors that impact healthy lifestyle decisions. Lifestyle behaviors cause 60% of premature deaths and lead to 10 years longer life expectancy free of major chronic diseases. I hope that the long-term impact of this research is saved lives and a significant improvement in quality of life.

It is my goal to become a professor in psychology. As a professor, I can empower students to reach their potential and lead a lab devoted to helping people make good decisions. I am so grateful and honored to receive the King-Chávez-Parks Future Faculty Fellowship. I know it will help pave my way toward my goal.