2019 Keynote Speakers

Ursa Lecture

Heavily influencing the emblems and symbols of the University of California system, the bear also has been chosen to represent the iconic nature of our conference and our opening keynote address. The invitation for this talk is decided upon by graduate student and post-doc attendees to honor and hear from someone who they consider to be one of the most influential members of our field. It is the opening keynote address for the University of California Chemical Symposium and addresses the career and work of the speaker and serves to address the state of chemical sciences as a field.

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Professor Rudolph Marcus

California Institute of Technology

Professor Marcus’s research has focused on formulating theories to explain new and unexpected experimental results and the relationships between phenomena in different fields. For his development of the Marcus theory of electron transfer reactions in chemical systems, he received the Nobel Prize in 1992. Professor Marcus has numerous accolades and awards, including 18 honorary degrees, the Wolf Prize in Chemistry (1984), the William Gibbs Award (1988) and the National Medal of Science (1989), and many more.

The organizers of the University of California Chemical Symposium are honored bring one of the most influential scientists of our time before the next generation of the world’s great leaders.

Lux Lecture

The motto of the University of California system is “Let there be light”; this call to action serves as the origin of the name of our closing keynote address. This lecturer must be nominated by multiple former attendees in recognition of their roles as a researcher, a mentor, and an inspiration to strive ever further. This lecture addresses the career and work of the speaker as well as should serve as an inspiration to return to our universities and continue our noble pursuits.

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Professor Michelle Chang

University of California, Berkeley

Professor Chang’s research focuses designing new biosynthetic pathways for in vitro cellular production of biofuels and pharmaceuticals. Her group designs and creates these new biosynthetic pathways in microbial hosts, where they can be used to convert abundant crop feedstocks into biofuels, or natural products into pharmaceuticals.

Professor Chang was born in San Jose, California to Chinese immigrant parents from Taiwan. In addition to earning a B.S. in Biochemistry, she also earned a B.A. in French Literature from the University of California, San Diego. She completed her PhD at MIT under JoAnne Stubbe and Dan Nocera. She also did a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley, where she is currently a faculty member. She has won numerous awards, including 3M Young Faculty Award (2013), the Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award (2013) and the Arthur Cope Scholar Award (2015).

Career Panelists

Career panel will be held on Tuesday, March 26th from 9:00-10:15a

Dr. Marshall Brennan

Publishing Manager at ChemRxiv

Marshall received his Bachelor’s in Chemistry with honors from Northeastern University in Boston, MA, during which time he carried out research at Harvard University under the supervision of Professor Tobias Ritter. He completed his graduate work in 2015 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the laboratory of Prof. Alison Fout, studying low-valent cobalt complexes featuring strongly-donating bis(silyl)amide ligands and their catalytic reactivity toward C—N bond formation. He then carried out postdoctoral research on rhodium-mediated C—C activation methodology before joining Nature Chemistry in 2016. In 2017, Marshall was recruited to lead the launch and development of the American Chemical Society’s new preprint server, ChemRxiv, where he now oversees day-to-day operations and business development. Marshall is based in the Washington, D.C. office.


James Moore

Senior Editor of Chemical Science of the Royal Society of Chemistry

James is the Senior Editor for Chemical Science and oversees the production elements of the journal. He started at the Royal Society of Chemistry in 2015 as a publishing editor after completing a Master’s degree at the University of Birmingham working on porous materials for radioactive ion remediation. Prior to taking on the senior editor role, James worked on the general chemistry portfolio as first a publishing editor and then as a senior publishing editor, overseeing ChemCommChemical ScienceChemSocRev and RSC Advances.


Prof. Alex Spokoyny

Assistant Professor of Chemistry at the University of California, Los Angeles
Alex Spokoyny is currently an Assistant Professor in Chemistry and Biochemistry at UCLA and a faculty member of the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI). Prior to this he received a Ph.D. degree in 2011 from Northwestern University in inorganic and materials chemistry and conducted a post-doctoral stint at MIT in chemical biology until 2014. His group’s research encompasses an interdisciplinary approach focusing on pressing problems in chemistry, biology, medicine and materials science with emphasis on developing new molecular cluster chemistry. You can follow Alex on twitter @organomimetic.


Prof. Heidi McMahon

Department Chair and Professor of Chemistry at College of the Canyons
Heidi McMahon is a Professor of Chemistry at College of the Canyons in Valencia, CA, where she started in 2011, and has been the Chemistry Department Chair since 2015. Born and raised in the Midwest, she obtained a M.S. in Chemistry (emphasis on Analytical) at the University of Iowa, studying nanoparticle synthesis, modification, and applications to separation science. After moving to California in 2010, she continued her education at UCLA, working in Dr. Paul Weiss’ lab researching self-assembled monolayers and surface modification and functionalization. She earned her M.S. in Physical Chemistry in 2011 prior to beginning her career at COC.


2nd Lt. James Wymer

High Power Electromagnetics Physicist in the United States Air Force

Lieutenant Wymer received his Bachelor's in Physics and Mathematics from The University of Arizona in Tucson. During his time at UofA he conducted research and performed data analysis for UofA's High Energy Particle Group in support of LHC's ATLAS experiment. He was commissioned as an Air Force Officer in 2017 after which he was stationed in Albuquerque, NM. Lieutenant Wymer now works as a Subject Matter Expert for the Directed Energy Directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratory. His research involves the investigation of Ultrashort Pulse Laser filamentation and the development of associated diagnostic techniques.


Dr. Ash Ward

Battery Engineering Lead at Sila Nanotechnologies

Ash is an Engineering Lead at Sila Nanotechnologies, an Alameda-based battery materials start up. She manages a battery engineering group working on silicon-dominant anode materials for lithium-ion battery applications in the consumer electronics and automotive markets. Prior to her role at Sila, she was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Lawrence Berkeley Lab and conducted research on polymer membrane materials for flow battery applications with the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research. She earned her PhD in Chemistry from the University of California Berkeley in 2014, studying inorganic synthesis with a focus on novel metal-metal bonding and reactivity.


Dr. Rebecca Caravan

NPP Postdoctoral Fellow, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Rebecca studied Chemistry at the University of Bristol and undertook her PhD at the University of Leeds in the laboratories of Professors Dwayne Heard and John Plane, specializing in experimental gas-phase reaction kinetics.  In 2015 she joined the Combustion Research Facility at Sandia National Laboratories as a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of Dr. Craig Taatjes, conducting gas-phase kinetics and mechanistic studies of reactions pertinent to low-temperature combustion and the troposphere. In March 2019, she joined the Earth Science section at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a USRA NPP fellow.


Workshop Facilitators

Workshops will be held during the afternoon of Monday, March 25th, between 2p and 4:30p


Dr. Yu Bi

Licensed Clinical Psychologist, UC Berkeley Counseling and Psychological Services

Mental Health’ Workshop 2:00-3:15p

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Yu Bi is a licensed clinical psychologist and a senior staff psychologist at the UC Berkeley Counseling and Psychological Services. Dr. Bi has been primarily working with College of Chemistry students over the last four years. She earned her bachelor and master degree of Clinical Psychology at Beijing Normal University. She graduated with a Ph.D. from the University of Missouri completed her post-doctoral fellowship at UC Berkeley. Dr. Bi has nearly fifteen years of clinical training experiences in both China and the United States. Her expertise includes managing stress, coping with imposter syndrome, depression, and anxiety, helping transfer, international, and graduate students. She has published multiple manuscripts in both Chinese and American Journals and is a current member of the American Psychology Association.


Dr. Kyle Bentz

Postdoctoral Researcher, Cohen Lab, UC San Diego

How to Find a Postdoc’ Workshop 3:30-4:15p

Kyle completed his Ph.D. in December 2017 at the University of Florida and is currently beginning the second year of his postdoctoral work in the lab of Professor Seth Cohen at the University of California, San Diego. His graduate work at the University of Florida involved the design of complex polymer architectures, including hollow polymer nanocapsules, as well as the development of novel characterization techniques for polymer gels. At UC San Diego he works on the hybridization of polymers and metal-organic frameworks (MOFs). He will be applying for faculty positions at research-intensive universities beginning in the fall of 2019.


Dominik Stemer

Graduate Student, Weiss Lab, UC Los Angeles

How to Find a Postdoc’ Workshop 3:30-4:15p

Dominik is a Materials Science and Engineering Ph.D. candidate working in Professor Paul Weiss' group at the University of California, Los Angeles. He previously completed his M.S. in MSE at the University of Washington, where he studied the morphology of organic semiconducting thin films for transistor and photovoltaic applications. He now focuses on utilizing photoelectron spectroscopy to elucidate the molecular and environmental parameters giving rise to unique electron-filtering capabilities in oriented chiral biomolecules. He hopes to leverage his research toward the design of low-cost, ambient-condition organic spintronic devices.


Dr. Marika Wieliczko

Assistant Editorial Development Manager, the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC)

Crafting Your Elevator Pitch & Networking 101 For Scientists’ Workshop 3:30-4:30p

Based in downtown Washington, DC, Marika manages relations for RSC journals, books, and databases in the US and Canada; she effectively studies scientific research in these regions and develops activities to support these communities along the RSC’s mission to advance excellence in the chemical sciences. Prior to this position, Marika earned her PhD from Emory University in 2017, where she studied the cation interactions in transition metal oxidation catalysts for renewable energy and chemical industry; during this time she also worked extensively in science communication and community engagement in the Atlanta area. As an undergraduate, she worked in an industrial development laboratory (Ashland, Inc.) while earning a B.S. in Chemistry, as well as a B.A. in French Literature, from Eastern Kentucky University.


Publishing Drop-In Hours

Publishing drop-in hours will run in the morning & afternoon on Monday, March 25th

Dr. Jacilynn Brant

Associate Editor, Nature Communications

Jacilynn received her Bachelor’s in Chemistry from Frostburg State University, and carried out undergraduate research at Louisiana State University. She obtained her MS and PhD degrees in solid-state chemistry from the University of South Florida and Duquesne University, respectively. She held a National Research Council Fellowship and an Assistant Professorship, and has research experience in materials design and synthesis for nonlinear optics, Li-ion conductivity, superconductivity, magnetoelectronics, catalysis and gas storage. In 2018, Jacilynn joined Nature Communications as an associate editor where she handles manuscripts dealing with energy storage and conversion. Jacilynn is based in the New York office.


Dr. Marshall Brennan

Publishing Manager, ChemRxiv

see profile under ‘Career Panelist’ section

James Moore

Senior Editor, Chemical Science

see profile under ‘Career Panelist’ section