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2017 Awardees


The 2017 Award Ceremony was held at the Cottage Inn on April 19. Invited speaker was William Gehring, professor of psychology.

Alpha Chi Sigma (ΑΧΣ) Outstanding First Year Student Award

This award is presented to a student in first-year chemistry who has demonstrated an interest in chemistry, shown outstanding academic potential as judged by instructors, and has demonstrated leadership with fellow students.  Jeremy Tervo

Alumni First Year Achievement Awards

This award is presented to the Department of Chemistry students in their first-year chemistry program who have demonstrated exceptional performance in their laboratory and lecture work. The award is based on the recommendations of instructors, graduate student instructors and undergraduate advisors. Students received the Science/Chemistry book, We are all Stardust
Jess Adler | Brendon Brown | Chaitanya Dandu | Ammar Ibrahim | Jennifer Li | Michael Riehs

CRC Outstanding Achievement Award

Each year, around the country, Departments of Chemistry are asked to recognize a student taking introductory chemistry who has demonstrated exceptional performance in laboratory and lecture work.  The CRC Award has a long-standing recognition as the top honor for an early-career student.  Allison Batka


Alumni Outstanding Awards

The undergraduate awards committee established three awards in 1991.  These awards recognize academic excellence and leadership potential of second year, third year, and senior Chemistry, Biochemistry and Biomolecular Science, Chemical Science and Interdisciplinary Chemical Sciences majors.

3 students awarded- 2nd year, 3rd year and senior year. 

2nd year: Ethan Curtis  Ethan spends his spare time, on the rare occasion that he has some, by hanging out with friends, playing on his computer, or reading a good book. He is a member of the Zimmerman Group where he does computational research on the solvation of Grignard reagents used in living GRIM polymerizations. In a couple of years, Ethan plans to attend graduate school to earn a Ph.D. in Chemistry.

3rd year: Charles Nino  
Charles is currently a junior majoring in biochemistry. On campus he is involved in running the Pre-Surgical Club, Phi Kappa Phi, and organic chemistry tutoring and teaching. Off campus, Charles competes in powerlifting and does a lot of reading. He works in a lab with Dr. Brian Ross of the Department of Radiology on inhibition of oncogenic pathways in tumor cells. The lab is specifically interested in developing drugs that inhibit multiple oncogenic signaling pathways simultaneously to halt tumor growth. He is planning on applying to MD/PhD programs this upcoming cycle and plans to pursue the career of a physician scientist, hopefully here at the University of Michigan.

Senior year: Yaman Kherallah  From 2005 to 2013, Yaman lived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia where he attended high school at the American International School of Riyadh (AISR). He is originally Syrian, but was born in Detroit and spent part of his childhood in Fargo, North Dakota. Some of his hobbies include playing basketball, supporting the Detroit Pistons, playing chess with friends, and drinking tea. Yaman is not involved in research, but has been a psychology assistant at the Ann Arbor VA Hospital, where he administered psychological assessments to patients in 2 hour appoints. He is excited to be attending the University Of Chicago Pritzker School Of Medicine this fall.


Ash Stevens Undergraduate Research Award in Organic Chemistry

Established in 2012, this award is presented by Ash Stevens, a chemical process development company, to recognize an undergraduate doing outstanding work in the area of organic chemistry.

James Lawniczak James is a senior studying chemistry and mathematics, with interests in catalysis, chemistry education, and coding. His research in the Sanford Lab involved the development of new C-H functionalization methods with applications to pharmaceutical development, and one of his projects was published in Organic Letters. Previously, he has researched solar energy storage in the Nocera lab at Harvard, and developed bioinformatic software for the Martin lab here at Michigan. He teaches the SSG honors discussion section for Chem 210H and 215HH. In the future, James hopes to work as a research professor developing groundbreaking reactions. He recently received an NSF grant for graduate school, and will be attending Caltech next year for graduate school.


Walter Yates Award

The Walter Yates Award is one of the top honors given to recognize excellence and scholarly achievement by a senior undergraduate chemistry or biochemistry major.

Nolan Kavanagh: Nolan is an honors double major in biochemistry and Spanish. He does research in the Periodontics Department of the School of Dentistry for Dr. William Giannobile; his project focuses on the delivery of immobilized growth factors for tissue regeneration. His hobbies include running around campus, making videos, writing, and practicing his Spanish. Next year, Nolan will begin a Master’s in Public Health at the University of Michigan and he intends to eventually attend medical school.


Huron Valley Section Outstanding Student Leadership Award

Each year, the Huron Valley Section is pleased to recognize outstanding achievement in professional citizenship demonstrated by an undergraduate student.

David Vargas: David’s hobbies include playing and watching soccer as well as watching movies, especially horror movies. He is a member of the Lehnert lab where he works on modifying metalloproteins for non-native organometallic catalysis. After graduation, David plans to continue his education as a Ph.D. student at the University of Rochester in the inorganic cluster. He hopes to continue studying protein scaffolds for non-native organometallic catalysis.   


Merck Index Award to Outstanding Seniors

The Merck Pharmaceutical Company provides the University of Michigan Chemistry Department with awards each year in the form of The Merck Index, to be given to outstanding graduating Chemistry, Biochemistry and Biomolecular Science, Chemical Science and Interdisciplinary Chemical Sciences majors

Clark Pitcher: Clark is currently pursuing a degree in biomolecular science. In his spare time, he enjoys volunteering and is involved in two student organizations on campus. He has been on the board of Blood Drives United, a club through which he organized two campus-wide blood collecting competitions each year. Additionally, Clark has been a member of APO, the co-ed service fraternity on campus. His hobbies include watching movies and coding, which is something that he hopes to explore more in the future. Clark worked in Dr. Nichols’s research lab last year where he investigated peptide signaling in humans, rats, and zebrafish at the receptor level using computer ligand-receptor docking programs. On a daily basis, he analyzed modeled ligand data that was docked onto G protein-coupled receptors, and evaluated which peptide-receptor contacts were important for signal transduction. While Clark has no definite plans for the future, he is currently considering applying to medical school this upcoming cycle and getting involved in research somewhere in Michigan for his upcoming gap year.


American Chemical Society Organic Chemistry Award

This award is presented on behalf of the American Chemical Society to recognize an outstanding undergraduate who is conducting research in the field of organic chemistry.

Brian Carlson: Brian is currently researching biocatalysis in Professor Alison Narayan's lab and is focusing on SxtG, an amidinotransferase enzyme in the Saxitoxin Biosynthesis pathway. His hobbies include playing soccer, skiing, and home-brewing beer and wine. He will be continuing his education here at the University of Michigan next year with the Chemistry Department's Accelerated Master’s Degree Program.

American Chemical Society Inorganic Chemistry Award

This award is presented on behalf of the American Chemical Society to recognize an outstanding undergraduate who is conducting research in the field of inorganic chemistry.

Joanna Ciatti: Joanna is currently a junior studying chemical engineering with minors in chemistry and environmental engineering. She is advised by Professor Nate Szymczak and mentored by graduate student Jacob Geri. Her research interests include renewable energy and fuel storage, with her most recent project focused on reversible hydrogenation of carbon dioxide with a variety of homogeneous ruthenium catalysts. Last summer, she participated in an REU program at the University of Colorado, Boulder studying the thermal stability of thiol Self-Assembled Monolayers on metal oxide catalysts for biomass conversion to commodity chemicals. Outside of lab, Joanna is president of the engineering honor society, Tau Beta Pi and she spends her free time doing STEM outreach volunteer work with the group. She also enjoys weightlifting, black coffee, and the company of friends.


American Institute of Chemists Award

The American Institute of Chemists Awards are given by the recommendation of the awards committee based on a student’s excellent record of ability, character, and academic achievement.  We consider the American Institute of Chemists Award to be one of the top recognition for our graduating seniors. Two awards are made: 1 Chemistry and 1 Biochemistry. 

Biochemistry-Erin Finn: Erin is a member of the UM Varsity Track and Cross Country teams and is a 9-time individual Big Ten Champion, an 8-time NCAA Division I All-American, and a 2-time Lindsey Gallo Scholar Athlete Award winner. She is also a 2017 Big Ten Medal of Honor nominee. In her spare time, Erin volunteers at Michigan From the Heart at Mott Hospital and Ann Arbor Food Gatherers. She is matriculating into the U of M School of Public Health to pursue an MPH in Epidemiology this fall and received full tuition through the Dean’s Scholarship. She plans on continuing her education in medical school in the future, which may be delayed by pursuing an Olympic berth as a distance runner.

Chemistry-Melissa Lin: Melissa has been involved in research with the Basic Radiological Sciences Ultrasound group under Dr. Mario Fabiilli for two years. Her project focuses on the controlled sequential release of dual payloads from acoustically-responsive scaffolds for uses in tissue engineering and drug delivery. In her spare time, she volunteers with the Tzu Chi Collegiate Association on campus to teach English to Chinese immigrants and to promote environmental awareness. Her future plans include attending graduate school for chemistry research with an emphasis on medical applications.


Seyhan N. Ege—WISE Award

Seyhan N. Ege was one of the founders of the University of Michigan’s Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Program. Each year, the Program recognizes outstanding achievement by an undergraduate student from a group that is traditionally underrepresented in the chemical sciences.

Andrea Pesch: Andrea is graduating senior in Biochemistry currently conducting research in Dr. Rae's lab at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. Most of her undergraduate research has worked to characterize estrogen receptor mutations found in patients with metastatic ER-positive breast cancer. Outside of the lab, Andrea enjoys cooking and is an avid fan of Michigan athletics. After graduation, she will be joining the Program in Biological Sciences (PIBS) at Michigan to pursue a Ph.D. in Pharmacology.


Summer Undergraduate Research Support

Sara Alektiar | Olivia Bachteal | Allison Batka | Hailey Blinkiewicz | Brenna Budaitis | Guy Burke | Brian Carlson

Kimberly Chan | Kevin Gorman | Rami Hourani | Andre Kalenak | Jaeyoon Kim | Max Kuang | Brian Lam

Melissa Lin | Jingyi Luo | Madeline McCabe | Molly McNeely | Robert Moeller | Taylor Morgan | Zohaib Siddiqi 

Neil Sykes | Diamond Thomas | Peter Tirella | Jake Wilson


Honors College Vanko Award

Named for Roger B. Vanko, an Honors College student who was tragically killed in his junior year.  To honor and remember Roger, his parents, teachers, and friends established this memorial award to encourage outstanding young women and men in the field of Chemistry/Biochemistry.

Rishi Goel: Rishi is a senior studying Honors Biochemistry and Applied Statistics. In addition to his coursework, Rishi is actively involved in biomedical research with an emphasis on translational immunology. He is currently working with Dr. James R. Baker Jr. and Dr. Jessica J. O'Konek at the Michigan Nanotechnology Institute to develop a novel vaccine-based therapy for food allergy. Rishi has also received several research fellowships to support summer research projects, including a Modell Scholarship at Harvard Medical School and an Amgen Scholarship at Columbia University. Outside of the lab, Rishi directs the TEDxUofM conference on campus and works as a Study Group Facilitator through the UM Science Learning Center. He is also active in the community and volunteers weekly with Food Gatherers and CS Mott Children’s Hospital. After graduation, Rishi will be attending the University of Oxford for an MSc in Integrated Immunology. Ultimately, he hopes to earn an MD/PhD and pursue a career as a physician scientist.

Nils Strand: Nils will be obtaining a dual degree in Chemistry and Computer Science and plans to pursue a PhD in Theoretical Chemistry starting next year. His hobbies include running and playing the violin, and he is a member of the Campus Orchestras. He is advised by Dr. Paul Zimmerman and his research project involves elucidating a mechanism for the ruthenium-catalyzed CO2 reduction to methanol in the presence of amine base.