Graduate Students


Brian Atwood

[2012–14 GAANN Fellowship]
[2014–17 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship]
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The Saga of Brian Atwood (credit to Kelsey Galanter)
Born in the south half of the Golden State
Things were so simple in the sun and sand
But north had weather and seasons, how great!
He thought he would explore this distant land.
No further north he went, now you can see
For it became quite colder than he feared,
In Davis, learned of love and chemistry
And there he worked and lived for two whole years.
But he felt in the wind, change had begun
‘Twas time to return south once and for all
Back to the land of suburbs and the sun
To learn of chemistry from Vanderwal.
He puts chlorine where it does not belong
And realized t’was his purpose all along.

 Fifth Year


Alex Karns

[2013–15 GAANN Fellowship]
[2015-18 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship]
 Alex Karns
A mad lib for Alex filled out by his labmates:

Alex Karns was born in Worcester a test tube, in Massachusetts as a 16-kilogram baby. He excelled early in the art of nose pickingthrowing and was soon chosen to be a member of The Wu Tang Clan  The French Foreign Legion  Order of the Ham Sandwich  the Church of the FSM. By age 4, he was already capable of lifting Won-Jin. As he entered high school, full of angst, Alex decided to would pursue a career in chemistry avoiding columns. Alex went on to Boston College Starfleet Academy to work under the supervision of Professor James P. Morken Professor Samuel L. Jackson, where he was known in his lab as a grease burger. He earned several awards at BC SA, including world’s tallest hobbit. In his free time, Alex enjoys My Little Pony cartoons, driving on the wrong side of the road, the NY Yankees SF Giants NY Giants, and “lo-fat” Pringles. He has twenty-three different Tinder accounts.


 Fourth Years


Bryan Ellis

 Bryan Ellis

Kidnapped as a young child in Corvallis, Oregon, Bryan became the first test subject for a government research project for the development of “enhanced hipsters”. He possesses the uncanny abilities to sneak into an occupied room without making a sound, and to wear tight pants without the slightest hint of discomfort. Bryan pursued his undergraduate education at The University of Texas at Austin, conducting research in the Anslyn and Rose groups. In the Vanderwal group, Bryan is the current research sidekick to Alex White. He is most easily identified by his IKAplate that has been modified to allow for use as a record player. Bryan has chosen not to get a facebook, so he can be reached by carrier pigeon.


Sharon Michalak

Sharon Michalak
To satisfy Vanderlaw 14.3 stating: “there must always be one Canadian in the Vanderwal Group,” Sharon was allowed to join as a replacement for Jon.  The lovechild of Tim Horton and a bowl of poutine, Sharon was born and raised in Welland, Ontario. As a child, she spent the winters knitting toques and perfecting the recipe for her patented Maple Syrup scented perfume. During the short summers, she would practice her apologizing and pole vaulting. Sharon conducted research in the Kerr group at the University of Western Ontario on the total synthesis of indole alkaloids. Now a member of the Vanderwal group, she has embraced her life as a dirt squirrel, and spends most of her time fending off Dmitriy’s cat videos with her weapon of choice, the pole-vaulting pole.

 Third Year


Michael Freidberg

[2017-20 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship]
Michael Freidberg
The identity of Michael Freidberg is clearly an intricate cover story, and he may instead be a secret agent whose motives remain unclear. The first indications of Michael’s alternate identity are his striking resemblance to former lab member Gregg, in addition to the mysterious circumstances of Gregg’s departure (a perfectly timed post-doc offer? How convenient…). Then, it was the all-too-convenient injury that required his hand be set to look like a “finger gun”! If you aren’t a spy, why do you need a “finger gun”? Next is his outdated vernacular, including use of the word “tight” non-ironically. Michael’s skills outside of the lab have also raised red flags: playing the marimba is not something non-spies know how to do. His periods of absence during the day are highly suspect: no one believes he is eating lunch at 4:00 PM, and it seems clear that he is instead conducting espionage. Finally, Michael survives almost exclusively off of oatmeal and ramen, in a blatant attempt to appear as a “typical graduate student”. Michael is not to be trusted until he can verify his identity, but he is expected to continue doing chemistry.

Second Years


Glynis Coyne

We are suspicious that Glynis is a fugitive on the run. Born and raised in New York City, she joined a gang as a child and developed her love for gangster rap, which she still demands we listen to on Fridays. After an unsuccessful rap career, Glynis turned to a life of crime and spent several years in juvenile prison for stealing a boat and crashing it within 10 seconds. In prison, she developed her interests in crochet, running, America’s Next Top Model, and Sims 4. Upon her release, she broke parole to join the Crimmins group at UNC under her alias, the elvish name, Ivanneth. After Glynis joined the Vanderwal group in 2017, we grew suspicious her troubled past when she refused to pull over our boat for the Coast Guard and instead led the group on a high-speed pursuit. We were barely able to escape, and Glynis continues her run from the authorities to this day.

 Glynis Coyne

Ryan Kozlowski

We believe Ryan was born on some obscure lengthy island somewhere on the East coast, but we really can’t be entirely sure due to his strange dialect. What we have ascertained, however, is that he single-handedly carved a dugout canoe to escape said island after he depleted their Kool-Aid supplies; in the process, he grew what has to be the most complete beard the Vanderwal lab has ever seen. (Seriously, is that what it takes to grow a beard??) After capsizing sometime in the night while trying to make yet another peanut butter and jelly sandwich, he washed up onto the shore of Delaware and was promptly taken to the lab of Professor Don Watson to work on copper-catalyzed coupling reactions of alkylboronates. Ryan has since found his way to sunny Southern California, where he still professes his love for sports teams that are thousands of miles and several time zones away. He maintains peak physical performance by playing Civilization all day, hoping someday to destroy the empire of the person who wrote this biography. Lastly, he claims to have a medical condition that forces him to eat constantly, but we all know better than that.

 Ryan Kozlowski

Darius Vrubliauskas

[2017-20 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship]

Darius was born in Kaunas, Lithuania. Upon hearing wonderful things about America, he packed up and moved to Philadelphia and was immediately disappointed. To deal with having to live in Philly, Darius took to playing chess so he wouldn’t have to look around. While furiously honing his chess skills, Darius developed a taste for foods that could be prepared without looking away from the board—canned lentil soup and prepackaged juice smoothies. Darius breaks his gaze from the chess board for only two reasons—to conduct chemistry, and to do chin-ups. He began his chemistry career in the Sieburth lab at Temple, and joined the Vanderwal group in 2017. His hobbies now include botany and winning chess matches against grown men named Sunshine.

 Darius Vrubliauskas