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Graduate Awards & Honors

2014 Graduate Student Scholarship & Award Recipients

Two awards are given out to graduate students annually for recognition in research and teaching.  The Jay and Carol Taylor Graduate Scholarship is named after Dr. Jay Taylor and his wife Carol.  Dr. Taylor was a long-time faculty member in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and endowed this award in his retirement.  This award is given to students who have made excellent progress in their research.  The winners are invited to give a 10 minute presentation of their research during the Chemistry and Biochemistry Honors Week celebration.

The winners of this year's Jay and Carol Taylor Graduate Scholarship are Rohan Dassanayake, Zachary Graber, Murthi Kandanapitiye, and Nilantha Wickramaratne.

Rohan joined the graduate program in Fall of 2009, and is currently working in Dr. Nicola Brasch's research group.  His submitted research summary was titled, "Pulse Radiolysis Studies on the Reactions of the Carbonate Radical with Vitamin B12 Complexes: Evidence for Destruction of the Corrin Ring by the Carbonate Radical."

Regarding his interest in chemistry, Rohan says, "When I got the opportunity to enter the university in Sri Lanka, my initial intent was to major in computer science.  However, my freshman year chemistry class and lab were so interesting I decided to study chemistry instead.  One of the most fascinating things that attracted me to chemistry was the chemistry magic show event in our first semester.  I was amazed by those chemical reactions that demonstrated blowing things up; you can even set money on fire and watch it burn without damaging it!"

Zachary joined the graduate program in Spring 2010, and is co-advised by Dr. Edgar Kooijman in the Department of Biological Sciences and Dr. Arne Gericke in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. His submitted research summary was titled, "Phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisophosphate ionization in the presence of cholesterol, calcium or magnesium ions."

When asked what drew him to chemistry, Zach says, "I was drawn to chemistry because of the way chemistry can explain biological problems at a fundamental level.  I really enjoy learning how small chemical interactions can make up the complex biological systems we see around us."

Murthi joined the PhD program in Fall of 2009 and is advised by Dr. Songping Huang.  His submitted research summary was titled, "Development of Bismuth Oxyiodide Nanoparticles as a CT Contrast Agent for Liver, Spleen, and Lymph Nodes Imaging."

Murthi says, "When I was seventeen years old, I was shown a model of the Yuri-Miller experiment that was done in the early 50s to demonstrate the way matter transforms into simple precursors of biomolecules.  Among many other reasons, this event really drew me into the field of chemistry and became the turning point in my life."

Nilantha joined the PhD program in Spring 2009, and is advised by Dr. Mietek Jaroniec. His submitted research summary was titled, "Activated Carbon Spheres for CO2 Adsorption and Supercapacitors."

When asked why he enjoys chemistry, Nilantha said, "Having done mainly science subjects in high school, I am greatly fascinated about chemistry. It can be applied to almost any situation from medicine through environmental sustainability to energy. I had a belief that the increasing world energy crisis and controlling the global warming will only be solved with the help of chemistry, and the possibility to be involved in this research is an ambition of mine."

Dr. Michael Tubergen and Rohan Dassanayake.

Dr. Michael Tubergen and Zachary Graber.

Dr. Michael Tubergen and Murthi Kandanapitiye

Dr. Michael Tubergen and Nilantha Wickramaratne
From top to bottom: Dr. Michael Tubergen presents the Taylor Award to Rohan Dassanayake, Zachary Graber, Murthi Kandanapitiye and Nilantha Wickramaratne.

The Bush Prize for Graduate Teaching is awarded to a graduate student who has had outstanding feedback from his or her teaching assignments within the past academic year.  The winner of this year's Bush Prize for Graduate Teaching is Debmalya Bhattacharyya.

Debmalya, a doctoral student, was a TA for a number of different labs, including Chemistry in Our World, and General Chemistry I & II Labs.  When asked about teaching, Debmalya says, "Teaching gives me the opportunity to express myself and interact with a younger, dynamic population.  I believe that it is the inquisitiveness of these young students that has driven us to this juncture of scientific development.  As a teacher, I appreciate their interest and try to encourage them on their quest for knowledge."

The Honorable Mention for the Bush Prize is Kristin McLaughlin, a TA for the Physical Chemistry Lab.  She says, "The thing I enjoy most about teaching is helping students become problem-solvers and then witnessing their growth."


Dr. Michael Tubergen and Debmalya Bhattacharyya
Debmalya Bhattacharyya won this year's Bush Prize for Graduate Teaching.  Here, Dr. Tubergen presents him with the award. 

The University Fellowship is awarded by Graduate Studies to doctoral students who have passed the candidacy examinations and who are committed to full-time dissertation research or writing.enrolled for the study of physical chemistry. Each department/school is eligible for up to two University Fellowships.

This year, both Chamila Gunathilake and Matthew Worden were awarded University Fellowships (effective Spring 2015).

Chamila joined the doctoral program in Spring 2011 and is advised by Dr. Mietek Jaroniec.  His research focuses on the soft-templating synthesis of mesoporous silica-based materials for environmental applications, especially to the development of sorbents for carbon dioxide capture at ambient as well as flue gas conditions.  He feels that chemistry helps him to better understand issues regarding carbon dioxide capture and wastewater treatment, and gives him a chance to make the earth a better place to live.  Chamila has two original papers published in high-impact journals - J. Mater. Chem. and J. Phys. Chemistry C, and another submitted to J. Mater. Chem. devoted to mesoporous organosilicas and alumina-organosilica composites.

Matthew became interested in chemistry in high school due to a great teacher he had, who "had an infections enthusiasm for chemistry and science in particular."  Matt was a PhD student at the University of Manitoba under Dr. Torsten Hegmann.  When Dr. Hegmann relocated to Kent State University, Matt followed him here and joined our PhD program in Spring 2012.  Matt's research involves the study of role surface change and shape of magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles to either pass the blood brain barrier and deliver a drug to specific brain regions, or specific take-up by brain endothelial cells.  He has had six papers published in the past three years, and currently has another manuscript under review.  Together with one pending patent application (jointly between Kent State and the University of Manitoba), he will also be the co-inventor on a total of three patents.

Dr. Michael Tubergen and Chamila Gunathilake. 
The University Fellowship recipients for Spring 2014 are Chamila Gunathilake and Matthew Worden.  Above: Chamila Gunathilake and Dr. Michael Tubergen.

The Bender Award is a renewable merit scholarship that is typically given to a strong incoming graduate student.  Sean Carney is the recipient of this award.  Sean joined the doctoral program in the Summer of 2013, and is advised by Drs. Paul Sampson and Alex Seed.

Dr. Michael Tubergen and Sean Carney
Dr. Michael Tubergen presents Sean Carney with the Bender Award. 



Previous Award Recipients

Jay & Carol Taylor Graduate Scholarship

  • 2013 - Tawfik Khattab
  • 2013 - Deepak Koirala
  • 2012 - Harishchandra Subedi
  • 2012 - Zhongbo Yu
  • 2011 - Stacy Grant
  • 2011 - Mark Morris

Bush Prize for Graduate Teaching

  • 2013 - Shuo Li
  • 2013 - Philip Yangyuoru
  • 2012 - Sonya Adas
  • 2012 - Zhongbo Yu
  • 2011 - Gretchen Laubacher

University Fellowship

  • 2013 - Zachary Graber
  • 2013 - Nilantha Wickramaratne
  • 2012 - Deepak Koirala
  • 2011 - Zhongbo Yu