Chemistry and Biochemistry Student Ambassadors

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Reena Thara

A biochemistry major, Reena has been accepted in the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program and plans to practice medicine as a primary care doctor.

 

Why did you choose to attend UM?
I chose to attend the University of Mississippi partly because of the roots I already established as a kid attending Ole Miss football games, but the excellent reputation the research department has was a huge interest to me. I always wanted to be a part of some sort of research and gain experience in that field and the University of Mississippi has provided me with that opportunity.

Why did you decide to study biochemistry at UM?
Biochemistry allows you to study two fields of science in great depth. For someone like me, who didn’t know whether I wanted to study just biology or chemistry because I love both subjects, this option was most ideal. I’m glad I chose to study biochemistry at UM because I’ve enjoyed all of my classes.

What are your career plans?
I want to spend my life serving an underserved area in Mississippi as a primary care physician. I’ve been accepted into the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program, which is an excellent opportunity for students interested in giving back to their Mississippi community as a healthcare provider and becoming a part in combating the state’s current health crisis. I hope to be part of a larger mission in building rural communities as a whole through improved healthcare, education, and economic development.

Have you had an experience that made you feel empowered at UM?
I work as a student researcher in Dr. Pomin’s lab, which works with medications, specifically blood thinners. Blood thinners have a lot of side effects, so we hope to lessen these side effects with our research. It’s empowering working directly to improve drug discovery as a student researcher at the university.

Is there a professor who has been particularly helpful to you?
Dr. Jason Ritchie has been very helpful to me from the beginning. He taught me general chemistry my freshman year and now I have a strong foundation in chemistry, making upper-level chemistry courses easier to grasp. Also, he is my academic advisor and he helps me map out my course plans each semester. Of course, he always gives great advice and lots of words of encouragement as well!

What is your go-to meal in Oxford?
Jinsei’s sushi and their signature Asian wings, but also the kimchi fries with beef at Mi and Tea! I don’t think you could really go wrong with Asian food lol. Also, boba milk teas… those are heavenly!

What are you binge-watching/reading/listening to?
Kim’s Convenience, which I find very cute and comforting to play in the background as I binge read my MCAT textbooks (okay maybe not “binge” read as I should). Lastly, I listen to Hayley Kiyoko when I’m not listening to Kahn Academy explain the process of cell respiration.

Nick Kruse

Nick Kruse

An ambassador for both the College of Liberal Arts and the Sally McConnell Barksdale Honors College, Nick Kruse is an aspiring physical chemistry professor. Nick is equal parts researcher and Star Wars fanatic. When he’s not spending his time building the latest Lego model or debating Clone Wars lore, he likes to spend his time attending UM football games, swimming, and playing classic rock on the piano.

 

Why did you choose to attend UM?
When I visited campus in the Fall of 2017, I was blown away by the research being performed by the physical chemistry faculty. After a private tour of the research labs with Chemistry Department Chair, Dr. Tschumper, UM rose to the top of my list of potential universities. But it wasn’t until the following spring that I made my final decision after meeting with the Physics Department faculty, Dr. Bombelli and Dr. Labuda, and my current chemistry research advisor, Dr. Nathan Hammer. This was the one university that I felt truly cared about both its students and research, and that is why I came here.

When and why did you choose your major(s)/minors?
I have always found the natural sciences to be fascinating, especially Physics, so I’ve known since middle school that I wanted to pursue a career in some branch of Physics. It wasn’t until high school, though, that I discovered my passion for Chemistry as well. Learning about the quantum realm and its intricacies was exhilarating, so when it came time to choose a major, I chose the two that would explore that world more thoroughly.

What are your career goals?
After completing my Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry, I plan to become a professor in the subject where I can both perform groundbreaking research and pass on what I’ve learned to the next generation of Physical Chemists.

What will be your legacy at UM?
Throughout my collegiate journey, many people, from high school guidance counselors and teachers to friends and mentors, have told me that my path was “too hard.” They said attaining two Bachelor of Science degrees in Physics and Chemistry, two of the most complex disciplines in the entire university, was impossible, that I would either fail or have no life outside of my work. But as the past few years have proven, this could not be further from the truth. I hope my legacy is one of reassurance. Not only am I a student ambassador for these departments and the Honors College, but my research flourishes, my GPA hasn’t fallen, and I still have enough time for church, barbeques, and karaoke at Rooster’s. In my tenure here so far, I’ve proven to never let someone else shoot down your “impossible” dream.

Is there a professor who has been particularly helpful to you?
Dr. Nathan Hammer has been a better mentor than I could have possibly imagined. Equal parts helpful and inspiring, he truly has helped to shape my UM experience into one I will look back on fondly decades from now. I cannot imagine working under anyone else, and because of his guidance I am able to achieve any dream I have.

What do you like to do outside of school (hobbies, interests)?
I’ve been playing piano for 16 years, and although my background is in classical music, I absolutely love Rock & Roll and learning to both play and sing classic songs from artists such as Guns N’ Roses, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Metallica. From serving in my church’s band to rocking out at Rooster’s karaoke, music is an integral part of my life. I’m also a huge Star Wars nerd and have a massive collection of over 300 Lego Star Wars sets.

What are you binge watching/reading/listening to?
I am a huge fan of How I Met Your Motherand Friendsas well as all of the Marvel series. I also loved Breaking Bad, HBO’s Westworld, and the crime drama Person of Interest.

What is your favorite place to eat in Oxford?
My top three restaurants in Oxford are Oxford Grillehouse, Boure, and El Agave.

Rachel Hammond

Rachel Hammond

Rachel is an award-winning B. S. chemistry major with a biochemistry emphasis and minors in biological sciences and mathematics. President of the student chapter of American Chemical Association, she has received multiple undergraduate awards from American Chemical Society. She has been a researcher with the laboratory of Dr. John Rimoldi in bimolecular sciences and in Dr. Saumen Chakraborty in biochemistry. Rachel has even been an author on a journal publication.

 

Why did you choose to attend UM?
When I was looking at universities, my main goal was finding an institution that emphasized getting undergraduates into research. When I came to campus for a visit, I happened to run into Dr. Cleland who chatted with me about the department and his experiences with his honors general chemistry classes. Dr. Cleland assured me I’d be able to get involved with research during my first year—exactly what I was hoping for!

When and why did you choose your major(s)/minors?
In high school, I took AP Chemistry figuring it would be useful for premed in college. I ended up having a fantastic experience in the class, in large part because of an excellent teacher, and I fell in love with chemistry. Ever since that class, I’ve wanted to pursue a research career as a chemist. My minors are both natural additions to chemistry. All BS chemistry majors end up with a math minor at UM simply as a part of the chemistry curriculum. My research interests are at the interface between chemistry and biology, so I’ve also minored in biology.

What are your career goals?
Short term, my initial goal is to earn a PhD in chemistry. Long term, I aim to someday lead my own research group!

Is there a professor who has been particularly helpful to you?
Lots of professors have helped along my academic journey, but definitely the most influential are my research advisor, Dr. Rimoldi, and the research scientist I work with, Dr. Gadepalli. I’ve also been greatly supported by my academic advisor (and physical chemistry professor), Dr. Hammer.

What has been a particularly meaningful way you have engaged in a community – either on or off-campus?
Last year I had the opportunity to serve as secretary for the Students of the American Chemical Society (SMACS), an organization focused on getting students engaged with chemistry—for fun, for outreach, and for career development! Although we couldn’t have the same experience last year as in a regular, non-COVID year, it was still a unique opportunity to engage students with scientists both from UM and around the country. This year I’ll be serving the organization as president, and I am very excited to see what new ways we can engage with chemistry this year!

What do you like to do outside of school (hobbies, interests)?
Outside of school and research, my main activity for fun is going to the gym and listening to podcasts, often at the same time.

What are you binge watching/reading/listening to?
Usually if I’m listening to something, it’s podcasts. Some of my favorites right now are This Podcast Will Kill You, which is about human diseases, and This Week in Virology, which is a group of scientists discussing new literature in the field of virology.

Carly Clisham

Carly Clisham

Majoring in forensic chemistry with minors in biology and mathematics, Carly is a Dean’s Honor Roll student and a FASTrack Peer Leader, who helps high school students transition to college life while assisting in teaching a freshman experience class at the University. She is a member of the American Cancer Club, the Ole Miss Health & Nutrition Club, the Ole Miss Anthropology Club, and a student member of the American Chemical Society. Carly is looking forward to a future of making a difference in the justice system through a career as an environmental toxicologist.

 

Why did you choose to attend UM?
I chose UM because I loved the community feeling. The first time I stepped foot on campus I felt so welcomed andincludedin not only the OleMiss community but the Oxford community.

When and why did you choose yourmajor(s)/minors?
I knew what I wanted my major to be all through high school. I absolutely fell in love with forensics and chemistry the second I learned about it. I chose this major specifically because it felt like a way to make a difference in the justice system all while using chemistry. I chose my math minor because I love to problem solve and I chose my biology minor so I could be well-versed inmultiple scientific fields.

What are your career goals?
As of right now my career goal is to go into a PhD program for toxicology and work as an environmental toxicologist.

Is there a professor who has been particularly helpful to you?
Dr.Kerri Scott has made all the difference to me in my studies in forensics so far. She has pointed me in any direction I wanted to explore with her full support. Another professor that has been incredible to me is Mrs. Suzanne Wilkin in the FASTrack department. She was my EDHE 105 professor and I’m now working under her as a FASTrack peer leader! She has helped me in every aspect of college and I cannot be more thankful for her.

What has been a particularly meaningful way you have engaged in a community – eitheron oroff-campus?
This summer I worked as an Ecology Day Camp counselor for the Ole Miss office of pre-college programs. By doing this I felt so connected to the community as I helped teach the young kids in the Oxford area about the importance of taking care of their environment as well as teaching them about the animals around them everyday. I’m very passionate about taking care of theenvironment, so this was a very incredible experience for me.

What do you like to do outside of school (hobbies, interests)?
I absolutely love to read and to run. I also love all types of sports, but particularly hockey.

What are you binge watching/reading/listening to?
I’m currently reading “The Devil Wears Prada.” I am also watching the show “Longmire” on Netflix. That being said, I watch at least one episode of “Forensic Files” everyday.

What is your favorite place to eat in Oxford?
Hands-down my favorite place to eat in Oxford is Volta.

What do you want to change about the world?
I would love for more people to be informed on how to be environmentally friendly and sustainable. There is no wayto be fully perfect when saving the environment, but every little bit counts and the Earth appreciates it!

What are some dream travel destinations (and why)?
My mom is from Nicaragua, so I have always wanted to visit there so I could meet some more of my family. I have also always wanted to visit Bali as I’m fascinated by the culture and the beautiful sights there.

Meghan Gorniak

Meghan Gorniak

Meghan is a Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and Chancellor’s Honor Roll Scholar earning a B.S. in chemistry with an emphasis in biochemistry and minors in mathematics, psychology, and biology. Currently, she works with the Tanner Lab Research Group specializing in the treatment of white blood cells with ionic liquid-coated nanoparticles, and is also an ambassador of the Jackson Free Clinic. On Campus, Meghan is the Vice President of Internal Affairs of Kappa Kappa Gamma Sorority, an Ole Miss Diamond Girl, and a member of the Panhellenic Standards Board. She is a member of Phi Kappa Phi, Alpha Epsilon Delta, and Gamma Beta Phi Honor Societies. When she can, volunteers with More Than a Meal and the Ole Miss Food Bank to give back to her community and help others.

 

Why did you choose to attend UM? 
I chose to attend Ole Miss for so many reasons. It was the perfect distance from home at five hours & I loved that I could be involved in so many things. I knew I had wanted to be a part of the Honors College & the University of Mississippi allowed me to pursue my degree while enjoying the path along the way.

When & why did you choose your major/minors?
Coming into college, I always knew I wanted to pursue a degree in the science field, but I had no idea whether it would be biology or chemistry. I settled on biochemistry initially, but quickly changed to chemistry when I learned that the degree would allow me more freedom for electives I would enjoy.  I decided to minor in mathematics for my genuine love of calculus (it sounds crazy, I know) and am so thankful that the chemistry path was aligned for that! I have always found psychology interesting and after taking PSY  201, I knew I wanted to take more classes. What I love so much about the psychology and biology minors I’ve chosen is the possibility of exploring topics that I found exciting, rather than just taking random classes to arrive at a minor.

What are your career goals? 
Eventually, I hope to go on to medical school & become a practicing physician. Long-term, I would also like to get my Master’s in Public Health.

What will your legacy be at UM?
I have no idea what my legacy will look like, but I know what I hope it to be. I hope people are able to look at me as a woman in STEM and know that it is possible to do it all! Throughout college, I have loved being a member of my sorority and being a Diamond Girl, as they have allowed me to expand my circle of friends and pushed me out of my comfort zone. Volunteering with More than a Meal and at the Jackson Free Clinic in Jackson, Mississippi has been so rewarding and helped me find my purpose. Most importantly, I have been able to be a part of a research group that has inspired me in ways I never thought possible all while earning a degree I am passionate about. I am forever grateful to the University of Mississippi for all the opportunities I have been afforded, and hope I can inspire other to call this place home.

Is there a professor that has been particularly helpful to you?
I would like to thank Dr. Hammer for being amazing. Taking his class my junior year, I was terrified that I knew nothing about physical chemistry.  But within a few short weeks, it became clear that Dr. Hammer was always willing to help on concepts I was lost on or even just to talk about my future plans. He has been one of my favorites and reminded me to be confident in myself even when I wasn’t so sure.

What are you binge watching/reading/listening to?
I have gotten back into reading over the summer, and have been loving the works of Colleen Hoover! I have also been watching Bachelor in Paradise & Game of Thrones!

What is your favorite place to eat in Oxford?
It is so hard to choose because there are so many great restaurants, but I love Volta & Jinsei!

Brendan Kelly

Brendan Kelly

While Brendan pursues a B.S. in forensic chemistry with minors in biological science and anthropology, he is also an active member of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity and has held positions of treasurer and president of Delta Delta Epsilon Forensic Honors Society during his time at the University of Mississippi. Brendan maintains a spot on the Chancellor’s Honor Roll and has worked as a game operations worker with Hospitality Management Services at the UM Athletics Department during his time as an undergraduate.

 

Why did you choose to attend UM?
I chose to attend Ole Miss specifically for the Forensic Chemistry major. I grew up in Acworth, Georgia, and no universities in my home state offered any Forensic Chemistry programs. After looking at all of the local options in nearby states, I fell in love with Ole Miss right away.

When and why did you choose your major(s)/minors?
I am a major in Forensic Chemistry and a minor in Biological Sciences and Anthropology. I chose these programs because I was always fascinated with forensic methods in the news, movies, TV shows, and murder mysteries as a teenager, and I wanted to learn how to apply them myself. My interest in anthropology, however, didn’t develop until I had started attending Ole Miss. Human culture is something I am very interested in learning more about, as I think our differences in culture are what make humanity so beautiful and unique.

What are your career goals?
I would love to work in a forensic crime lab in the future, either running tests on crime scene evidence, autopsies, or analyzing ancient human remains.

Is there a professor who has been  particularly helpful to you?
Dr. Scott, my Chem 106 professor, has been an unquantifiable influence on mytime here at Ole Miss. She is not only an excellent advisor, suggesting plenty of different minors and pathways to achieve your goals during your time in college, but she also makes learning chemistry entertaining and engaging while still teaching the material extremely well.

What will your legacy be at UM?
I hope that my legacy at Ole Miss is to be remembered as a student that empowered the underclassmen below me and supported my classmates and peers of other majors. I aim to build up my community around me rather than tearing people down just for my own success. I believe that shows in the way I help friends from other departments study and prepare for exams and projects, as well as my connections with my friends within the Forensic Chemistry program.

What is your favorite place to eat in Oxford?
My favorite place to eat in Oxford is Ajax Diner. They have the best chicken and dumplings I have ever eaten in my entire life, not to mention the incredibly cozy atmosphere for a place right on the Square. I actually don’t think I can name asingle bad item on their menu. (And between you and me, my upperclassmen friends in my fraternity say it used to be BETTER.)

Ember Suh

Ember Suh is a forensic chemistry major with minors in biology and psychology who also works as an undergraduate researcher with the UM department of chemistry and biochemistry. Ember is a Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College scholar, president of the Korean Students Association, and a member of the Gamma Beta Phi Honor Society and the Chancellor’s Honor Roll. She is also a C19 and Global Ambassador, a provost scholar, and is fluent in Korean and English. In 2019, Ember was awarded the Cynthia Krieser Outstanding Freshman Writing Award for her narrative, “Closing the Gap Between South Korea and America: A Reflection of a Korean-American’s Learning.”

 

Why did you choose to attend UM?
When I first visited Ole Miss as a middle school student, I really loved the beautiful campus! I also saw how caring the people on campus were. From just researching what I should do at Ole Miss when I was applying, I saw the different opportunities that I could be a part of — FASTrack, the Sally McDonnell Barksdale College, organizations and clubs, and even in the individual academic departments!

When and why did you choose your major(s)/minors?
I am interested in chemistry, biology, and law. At first, I was a Biology major, but I realized during my sophomore year that Forensic Chemistry was the right “mix” of chemistry, biology, and law. I couldn’t leave Biology behind, so I decided to minor in Biology. I was also interested in Psychology, so I also decided to minor in Psychology.

What are your career goals?
Honestly, I am mixed between medical school and graduate school. I want to go to graduate school and earn a Ph.D. degree so that I can work at a crime laboratory, but I also want to go to medical school to become a physician. All I know is that my advisors at Ole Miss will guide me to a career path that best suits me.

Have you had an experience that made you feel empowered at UM?
I have always had a hard time writing for classes and in general, but Dr. Deidra Jackson’s Writ 101 class has made me feel comfortable and strong at writing. I was a very introverted person when I first came to Ole Miss, but FASTrack has introduced me to peers who were also in my position. I became more social and more open thanks to Dr. Jackson, Mrs. Wilkin, and the late Mrs. Jackie Certion, who has always made me smile even during my bad days.

Is there a professor who has been particularly helpful to you?
As a Korean-American, I had a hard time with my personal identity, but Dr. Deidra Jackson, my Writ 101 professor, helped me find where I truly belonged. Dr. Ryan Fortenberry, my Chem 105 professor, also encouraged me to take new challenges every day, and I eventually enjoyed chemistry while taking his class (he is one of the reasons why I chose Forensic Chemistry as my major). My former FASTrack instructor and mentor, Mrs. Suzanne Wilkin, and my current advisor and professor, Dr. Kerri Scott, also encouraged me to explore personally and academically.

What do you like to do outside of school (hobbies, interests)?
I like to draw birds and watch Korean and American shows! And, of course, I can’t forget about watching Korean dramas and listening to K-Pop! (I can learn new Korean words this way!)

What are some dream travel destinations (and why)?
I want to go to Australia and Iceland! I would love to go to Australia to walk along their beautiful beaches and marvel at their scenery, particularly the Great Ocean Road, and see Australian wildlife! I want to go to Iceland to also see the Blue Lagoon, Northern Lights, and the Gullfoss Waterfall (If you have never heard of the Blue Lagoon and the Gullfoss Waterfall, I highly recommend you to look it up! They are absolutely gorgeous!)