Former Members


 

Brian Atwood – Graduate Student

[2012–14 GAANN Fellowship]
[2014–17 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship]

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.

Brian is currently a postdoc in the Jung group at UCLA.

 

Susanna Liang – Undergraduate Student

The Vanderwal lab has never had a genuinely nice person in our group, and we are therefore suspicious of Susanna. Susanna was born in Singapore and grew up in the overly-friendly state of Alabama, but chose to move to California in search of the ocean and higher-learning. Her hobbies include hiking and beaching and other dubious activities. She sometimes walks around lab and offers Disney stickers, which has left various lab members suspicious of ulterior motives. Her weekly batches of brownies for the lab have thus far not contained any laxatives or otherwise harmful ingredients, in a clear attempt to win over our trust before she reveals her true nature. Susanna also likes plants, which is strange. We’re onto you, Susanna.

Susanna is now a graduate student at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

 

Alex Karns – Graduate Student

[2013–15 GAANN Fellowship]
[2015-18 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship]
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.

 

Alex now works in medicinal chemistry at Vertex in Boston Massachusetts.

Kimberly Buck – Undergraduate Student


Alex White – Graduate Student

Alex White

A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a great prophet foretold the coming of one who would bring balance to the Force. That someone was obviously Darth Vader, who killed Alex’s father for no reason. Alex’s mother, fearing for the safety of her only child, sent baby Alex through space-time to 20th Century New Jersey, a place beyond even the clutches of the Empire. There, baby Alex was adopted by a homeless man named Pompeii and his friendly pack of raccoons. Despite being homeless, Alex was home-schooled until he was 22, and is surprisingly socially well-adjusted – except for his uncontrollable urge to rummage through dumpsters on the last Saturday of every month. After becoming infatuated with chemistry in college, Alex adopted the last name White, after infamous meth kingpin Walter White. Alex has four middle names and is training to be a hipster under the tutelage of Sean and Zef.

Alex is currently a postdoc in the Nicewicz group at UNC.

Zef Könst – Graduate Student

Zef Konst
Believed to be a direct descendant of passengers on the Mayflower, Zef was born in rural Connecticut in a small shanty without heat or running water where his parents raised chickens, horses and goats. After high school, Zef took a brief hiatus from his scholarly studies to work as a torcedor in South America where he developed much of the physical dexterity and attention to detail that has allowed him to enjoy great career success. Zef is also an avid squash player although his court movement and shot-making skills have yet to surpass those of his colleagues in the northeast and for this reason, Zef decided to pursue his terminal chemistry degree out west. Zef is an early riser.

Zef now works in medicinal chemistry at Novartis in the Bay Area.

Dmitriy Uchenik – Graduate Student

Dmitriy was born in Kiev, Ukraine in 1988. After two years of debauchery leading to the collapse of the USSR and three years growing potatoes on his dacha, he abandoned the country of his birth for more promising lands, riding his pet bear, Kотик, to the sunny shores of Los Angeles, California. After Kотик was deported for eating a small dog and a customs official, Dmitriy was welcomed into his new home with the 1994 Northridge earthquake. As years passed, Dmitriy’s burgeoning affinity for fire drove him to major in Chemistry at UC San Diego, where he learned a passion for Organic Chem while the administration attempted to instill in him the highly Californian ideology of not lighting things on fire. Becoming a graduate student, Dmitriy was to fulfill his longstanding threat of moving to colder climes but only managed seventy miles before he was distracted by something inconsequential.

Alternate bio provided by group members, because Dmitriy was too slow to provide his own:

Dmitriy Uchenik escaped mother Russia and swam the mighty Pacific to land in San Diego. He is desperately seeking a sponsorship from Monster energy drinks, but so far has only landed a deal with Forever 21.

Alternate bio#2:

Dmitriy has too many letters in his name (or not enough, depending on where you look). He enjoys being in grad school and doing chemistry almost as much as he likes wearing t-shirts about being in grad school and doing chemistry. He came to California in search of nice beaches and nice people. He found both. Dmitriy now considers himself the luckiest man on the face of the earth, and can’t wait to soak in all the knowledge and good times that permeate the Vanderwal Lab. Some people question his musical tastes; he questions their ability to taste music.

Dmitriy now runs the Mass Spectrometry Facility at UC Santa Barbara.

 Biopic

Florian de Nanteuil – Postdoctoral Associate

[2015 – 2016 Swiss National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship]
 Florian
Florian, a.k.a. Flo Rida, joined the Vanderwal lab as a postdoc in 2015. He was born in New York, the home to some of the great artists such as Biggie Smalls and Jay Z. As a young aspiring rapper but not quite ready for the concrete jungle, Florian moved to France to practice his rhythms on a more tame audience. His “Flo’s” were well received and he quickly rose through the ranks of the French underground. With ambitions of lyrical world domination Florian moved to Switzerland to obtain a PhD and record some tracks in the lab of Jerome Waser, focusing on strained ring cycloadditions. After discovering his artistic persona, Florian legally changed his name to Flo Rida. You may know him from his hit singles, such as “Low” and “Elevator”. Nowadays, when he’s not rapping with T-Pain or singing with Ke$ha, you can find Florian in the lab working on natural product total synthesis. Make sure to keep an eye out for his upcoming hit single, “Cyclopropanation” featuring Rick Ross and Kendrick Lamar.

Florian now works at Firmenich in Geneva.

Kathy Dao – Undergraduate Student

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Kathy was born and raised in southern California, so it makes sense that she can only tolerate temperatures from 68-72°F.  She is currently a Chemistry undergraduate, and as an ochem peer tutor, she likes the power associated with drawing benzene rings and chair conformations very quickly.  In her free time, Kathy likes to listen to barbershop quartet and boy bands, and was among the many young ladies shedding tears when she heard One Direction would be no more. She also enjoys serenading her dog during his bath time and walks, and she likes to strive for things she shouldn’t have, such as dairy products and a second slice of pizza.

Kathy is now a process chemist at Gilead Sciences in the Bay Area.

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Philipp Roosen – Graduate Student

Philipp Roosen

As a German growing up in Michigan, Philipp doesn’t know whether to follow soccer or football. His embrace of American culture consists of blasting country music with the windows down, wearing deodorant (most of the time), eating bacon cheeseburgers and drinking canned beer. Although having come a long way assimilating, he still drives a Honda Civic. He hopes to take up shark wrangling, win a hot dog eating contest and prove 2Pac is still alive. Philipp is comfortably adjusting to So Cal life and more than ever considers baked goods an important part of his food pyramid. He loves Coscia and wouldn’t mind if married life increases his waistline.

Philipp is now a process chemist at Amgen in Thousand Oaks, CA.

Mary Beth Daub – Graduate Student

[2014-15 Allergan Graduate Fellowship]
Mary Beth Daub
In 1989, the crack commando operative known as “Mary Beth” was sent to prison by a military court for a crime she didn’t commit. This woman promptly escaped from a maximum-security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, she survives as a soldier of fortune/graduate student in the Vanderwal Lab. If you have a problem…if no one else can help…and if you can find her…maybe you can hire…The A- Team Mary Beth Daub.

Mary Beth is now an NIH postdoctoral fellow in Tehshik Yoon’s lab at UW-Madison.

Carl “Snarl” Vogel – Graduate Student

[2013–16 NIH NRSA Predoctoral Fellowship]
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Carl was born in the capital of Illinois, surrounded by a large amount of corn.  He moved to another central Illinois town, still surrounded by corn, and stayed there until he moved to Chicago to study at the University of Illinois at Chicago, correctly hypothesizing that there are cities out there not surrounded by corn. He started off as pre-pharmacy, but quickly learned chemistry wasn’t half bad, and wisely moved to the much sunnier, much warmer climate of southern California for his graduate work. His hobbies include motorcycles with more power than they need, food, and stating the obvious.

Alternate bio provided by group members, because Carl was too slow to provide his own:

Carl Vogel was harvested from a cornfield in Illinois in the late 80’s, and now enjoys vandalizing cornfields on his motorcycle. He likes long walks on the beach and Justin Bieber fan club meetings.

Alternate bio #2:

Carl comes from Illinois. He likes motorcycles and YouTube. He loves REO Speedwagon, but not as much as Gregg Schwarzwalder. He joined the Vanderwal lab in February and aspires to be more like Theo and Evan. He has a long way to go.

Carl is now a Research Scientist in Chemical Biology at Vertex in San Deigo.

 

Gregg Schwarzwalder – Graduate Student

[2013–16 NIH NRSA Predoctoral Fellowship]
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Gregg was born and raised in the northern (and better) section of the Jersey Shore state. After high school, he realized he needed to get away from all the landfills and people named “Snooki” so he set off to Cornell University in the middle of upstate NY. There he was introduced to the wonders of organic chemistry by a golden-haired Icelandic Viking named Jón. After 4 years there, Gregg had enough of the cows, gorges, and snow, and decided to try out for Jersey Shore, but his blowout was too small and his abs were too muscular. Instead, he settled on grad school at UC Irvine in southern California. When not doing chemistry, Gregg enjoys blue M&M’s, airplanes, and the beach. He aspires to one day be featured on Operation Repo.

Alternate bio provided by group members, because Gregg was too slow to provide his own:

Gregg Schwarzwalder hails from our nation’s most pristine state, New Jersey. In addition to combing his blowout, REO Speedwagon and fist-pumping, Gregg enjoys his Gym-Tan-Laundry routine and lamenting the lack of Wawa and water ice in California.

Alternate bio #2, also not written by Gregg:

Gregg comes from the East Coast. Some say that may excuse his love of REO Speedwagon and other over-the-hill bands, but most don’t. He has no idea why his girlfriend is so obsessed with Dave Matthews Band. He enjoyed working in the lab of Jón Njardarson at Cornell and was inspired to come to UCI after meeting Irvine alum Dr. Sean Devine. He loves working alongside some of the brightest young minds in the world of Chemistry, but wishes they were more understanding of his East Coast fist-pumping ways. He hopes to convert the lab into a bastion of East Coast culture. He will likely fail.

Gregg is currently a postdoctoral researcher in the Fu lab at Cal Tech.

Guillaume Masson – Visiting Researcher

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Vive la France!

 

 


 

Allen Hong – Postdoctoral Associate

[2013-2016 NIH NRSA Postdoctoral Fellowship]
  Allen Hong
Allen Yoda Hong will tell you he was born in San Francisco, but in truth, his origin can be traced to an era a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… After centuries of peace, the reemergence of the Sith lords led the extermination of a great many of his people. With no choice but to go into exile, Allen took refuge in this remote star system, hoping to return one day. He felt a stirring in the Force when he took his first courses at UC Berkeley and devoted himself to the quest to become a powerful Jedi. In the often foggy climes of the Bay Area, he sought out Jedi Master Sarpong and became a young padawan to begin learning the ways of the Force. Seeking to further understand the subtleties of the Jedi discipline, Allen solidified his training in the Force at Caltech in the perennially polluted air of Pasadena, where he honed his skills under the tutelage of Jedi Master Stoltz. There, he spent many years forging his personal lightsaber, which was crafted from pure palladium. At this point, the Sith struck again, nearly capturing him in an ambush. In a daring escape, he ventured further south to the warm shores of UC Irvine and joined Jedi Master Vanderwal, hoping to gain a new mastery of nitrogen and chlorine. Nowadays, he spends his time recruiting new allies to help him with his long-awaited return to save his people, but not before conquering the biggest burritos he can find.

Allen is currently employed at Genentech in the Bay Area.

Sean Feng – Undergraduate Student

Sean Feng
A female with the name of an Irish man, Sean actually does not know where she was born, but she grew up in Walnut, CA. She’s currently a super cool undergraduate at UCI, majoring in advanced potions. She thinks that the best Ben & Jerry’s flavor is Banana Split and anyone who tells her otherwise doesn’t exist. In her spare time, you can probably find her sitting in a pool of tears and mayonnaise as she indulges in the beauty of organic chemistry, in her pajamas of course. Her hobbies include riding her bike, going to local concerts, making everyone feel awkward, and being obliviously obnoxious. She loves cats, but sadly she has an EpiPen for just that–to stab the cat when it comes near her. She also likes avocados… and she knows Chris has an avocado tree.

Sean graduated in May 2015 and is currently a graduate student in the Reisman group at Cal Tech.

 

Sam Tartakoff – Graduate Student

[2009 UCI Chancellor’s Fellowship]
[2011 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship]

 Sam Tartakoff

 

From humble beginnings in Holliston, Massachusetts, Sam went on to pursue an even humbler education at Knox College, in Galesburg, Illinois as a lackadaisical education major.  Fortunately, a year off doing manual labor, and two years of missionary work in Russia changed his perspective, and he went on to  pursue more focused studies at Brigham Young University. There he met his wife, Stephanie, who is the source of all his success and good ideas. The bad ideas he comes up with on his own. Three years after starting at BYU, Sam graduated and headed for UCI, where, for the first time in his life, he saw no snow before Thanksgiving. Or after, for that matter. But enough about profiles…it’s time to get back to work.

Sam is now an Assistant Professor at St. Lawrence University in New York!

Joey Carlson – Graduate Student

[2011 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship]

Joey Carlson

Those who know him say that Joey was probably born in the wrong time period. More suited for the 1940’s and 50’s, by todays standard Joey is considered “old fashioned” and his existence is politically incorrect in 38 states (California is one of them). Growing up as a restaurant owner’s son, Joey aspired to be a chef. By age 15, to the dismay of the Santa Clara County Sheriff department, Joey’s chemistry career took off with the launching of potatoes out of home made “spud-zookas”. Then in college, a homemade water heater became a makeshift 55 gallon reactor for producing high quality biodiesel that he used to get around. As an undergraduate at Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo, Joey became intimately involved in the chemistry fraternity and research. His favorite solvent is methanol.

Alternate bio provided by group members, because Joey was too slow to provide his own:

Joey Carlson is a mild-mannered but homely tree-hugger from Northern California. In addition to being Hella cool, he stages regular anti-NRA protests and eats exclusively the three food groups: hot dogs, Jack Daniels and frozen burritos.

Joey is now a Research Scientist at Sandia National Labs.

Diane Lim – Postdoctoral Associate

[Singapore A*STAR Scholarship]
 Diane Lim

Diane started life in tropical Singapore where rumours of a phenomena known as ‘seasons’ in other parts of the world abounded. Determined to learn as much as she could about this mystery, she set off to London where it was said that entire conversations could center around the weather. After three years at Imperial College London, she emerged with some inkling about chemistry and a considerable vocabulary for different types of precipitation. Following a year at ICES in Singapore working on medicinal chemistry and recharging on sunshine, Diane journeyed to the Ed Anderson group in Oxford. There, while grappling with the total synthesis of incednine, she learned that too much light wasn’t always a good thing and to appreciate cloudy days and wellington boots. Most recently, she has found herself in the Vanderwal group in Irvine where the missing summers seem to have accumulated. When not performing Himbert cyclizations, Diane can be found exploring the backbay on a squeaky bicycle while trying to remember to stay on the correct side of the road.

Diane is now a Research Scientist at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, A*Star, Singapore.

Jonathan Lam – Graduate Student

[2011-2013 NSERC Graduate Fellowship]
[2013–2014 Allergan Graduate Fellowship]
 Jonathan Lam

Jon seems like a nice guy most of the time, but don’t let that mild exterior fool you. Beneath his friendly, and ridiculously handsome demeanor is a maniacally evil misanthrope, hell-bent on world domination; but beneath all that is the heart of a small child. He got it when he picked up the wrong lunchbox one time at the organ transplant unit in the pediatrics ward. Like most Canadians, Jonathan grew up in a small frontier town hugging the US border (mainly for warmth) and spent his formative years learning the violin, his multiplication tables, and kung-fu. It was during his undergraduate studies at UBC that Jonathan discovered his three scholarly passions: talking about chemistry, thinking about chemistry, and actually doing chemistry (sometimes). Upon migrating to the arid desertlands of southern California, he made his first home San Diego, where the burritos were great, and the baseball was terrible. Years later, his longing to be at a real university again, surrounded by fellow Canadians, brought him to UC Irvine where he joined the Vanderwal group. In his free time, Jon likes to douse things in sauce, cook them, and then eat them. He also enjoys watching hockey, drawing caricatures of the Queen, reading comic books, and plotting global conquest.

PS: Go Canucks Go!

Jon  is now a Medicinal Chemist at Amgen in Cambridge.

Evan Horn – Graduate Student

[2010-2012 California TRDRP Fellowship]
[2013 UCI Physical Sciences Dissertation Fellowship]
 Evan Horn

Evan was born in San Francisco in 1985 and lived in the hills outside of Berkeley until moving to Davis for college in 2003. Growing up, Evan spent many afternoons lighting things on fire in his parents’ backyard, which led to the Fire Department adding his name to a list of “people to watch.” In the sleepy college town of Davis, Evan raised chickens and refused to ride the bus. Also, he studied Chemistry. After 5 glorious years of being a lowly undergrad, Evan decided it was time to become a grad student for which he is now paying dearly. On any given day, you can probably spot Evan in a bleach stained and acid burned Sierra Nevada t-shirt dreaming of drinking a pint after a long day of skiing fresh powder. Evan wonders if he could pull off a mustache. He lives in Irvine with his girlfriend and his imaginary cat, Patches.

Evan is now a medicinal chemist at Celgene in San Diego.

Won-Jin Chung – Postdoctoral Associate

Won-Jin Chung
 Won-jin was born in Wonju city, South Korea. His hometown was surrounded by cornfield and most corn consumed in Korea was produced in that area. Naturally, he became addicted to corn. While studying in Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, he learned that a bigger world with bigger cornfield was out there. So, he decided to come to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. There, he enjoyed watching sunset over the vast cornfield and occasionally investigated chiral Lewis base catalyzed asymmetric transformations at Scott Denmark group. Unlike most people, he wanted to save the world and become a hero. He believed that someday he would be invited by the guardians of the universe at Oa and given the power ring, which then could be used to create endless cornfield, thereby solving the problem of world hunger. However, he was summoned by Korean Army, instead. After serving military for three years, he decided to come to California where there is enough sunshine for high quality corn. But, soon he was disappointed by the fact that the sunshine was just wasted on the cornless land and ocean. Nonetheless, he will stay in California because the sunset over the ocean is acceptable and he can turn the ocean into cornfield with his power ring in near future.

Won-Jin is now a professor at the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea. 

David Liu – Undergraduate Student

David Liu
David was born sometime ago in a small landlocked city in southern China. His homeland has imparted on him a taste for food saturated in chili peppers and a mild dislike for fish. He spent his childhood exploring the halls of the local hospital and medical school where his parents worked. At the turn of the century, he embarked on an epic journey to Southern California. He spent many long days attempting to master the flute and several martial arts as a child before finally finding his strengths in the sciences late in his high school career. David came to UCI in the fall of 2010 as a chemistry major and joined the group in January 2012. He has since expanded his interest and declared a second major in Biochemistry. When not absorbed in chemistry, David is an avid gamer and swimmer. He also enjoys good food, especially if they can be easily made at home. Currently, he aspires to be a professor at the university or professional level after graduate and/or professional school.

David began his MD/PhD studies at Vanderbilt in Fall of 2014.

Peter Mai – Postdoctoral Associate

  Peter Mai
 Peter Mai was born under a waxing crescent moon to family of grizzly bears in Portland, Oregon. Originally destined to walk across tightropes in the circus like his grizzly family, Peter instead decided to obtain a degree in chemistry from the University of Oregon. GO DUCKS! Peter then obtained a PhD in lifting weights from the University of Michigan, where he also occasionally worked on chemistry. Although he was well-suited to the cold weather of Michigan because of his bear DNA, Peter decided to move out west and join the Vanderwal group to work on total synthesis. Whether in lab or not, Peter enjoys talking with the woman working at the coffee shop, not being able to touch his elbows, and asking himself why he is always so hungry.

Peter left us in Spring of 2014, and currently works with Prof. Ryan Baxter at UC Merced.

Yvonne Schmidt – Postdoctoral Associate

[2006 Steinhofer Award for the best University Diploma in Chemistry (University of Freiburg, Germany)]
[2007-2009 Fonds der Chemischen Industrie PhD Fellowship (Germany)]
[2010 Roche Leading Chemists Symposium invited speaker (Switzerland)]
[2010 Syngenta Talented Young Chemists Workshop (Switzerland)]
[2011-2013 Humboldt-Foundation Feodor-Lynen Postdoctoral Fellowship]
  Yvonne Schmidt
Yvonne grew up around beautiful Lake Constance in Southern Germany and then left for the even greener (i.e. humid) surroundings of Freiburg, a town situated between Rhine and Black Forest. After saving America’s pumpkin crops from the striped cucumber beetle with her PhD research, she decided to find herself a spot with less humidity and warmer winters. In Southern California, she is now working hard on finding cures against cancer and is able to live out her cravings for free-refill coffees and spicy food. Her former colleagues refer to her as a nitpicker but miss her now as an editor for paper writing. In her spare time she loves to conduct experiments in her kitchen, most of which even taste quite good. When not in the lab Yvonne is a fashion victim (while her boyfriend doesn’t know) and wears her beloved shoes even if they hurt. This is also true for her climbing shoes, which are even more important than the high heels. Because of her free climbing ambitions her holiday pictures always show rocks instead of people‘s faces.

Yvonne is now in Medicinal Chemistry at Vertex in La Jolla!

Judy Suh – Graduate Student

Judy Suh

 You can check out what Judy has been up to most of her adult life from http://www.linkedin.com/in/judysuh and http://sites.google.com/a/jsuh.org/jsuh/, what she’s been reading these days from http://www.connotea.org/user/jsuh, what she does in her spare time from http://www.facebook.com/judy.suh, and for everything else, from http://www.google.com.


Anne Szklarski – Graduate Student

Anne Szklarski
 Anne Szklarski was born in the Bon Jovi state in 1985. South Jersey born and raised, she spent most of her childhood ‘down the shore’,  eating water ice and waiting for people to pump her gas.  After an illustrious career as a high school student/Domino’s chick, she attended THE College of New Jersey majoring in chemistry. There she did research under the guidance of Dr. Donald Hirsch and Dr. John Allison. She also spent a summer doing chemistry research in Thailand with the NSF-REU program. In 2007 she became an intern at Sanofi-Aventis, where she spent most of the time trying to reproduce sketchy procedures and playing around on Facebook. In a glorious return to academia, (or maybe after watching Arrested Development) Anne crammed all her worldly possessions in her Camry and trekked across the country to attend UC Irvine in the fall of 2008.  Once she earns her Ph.D., Anne hopes to open a Wawa somewhere in Southern California and bring that fresh-baked smell to the west coast. In her spare time, Anne enjoys making tandoori chicken, contributing to NPR, and raising her 39 year old son Brennan.

Anne graduated in July 2013, and is now Professor Anne at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, PA!

Danny Hadaya – Undergraduate Student

  Danny Hadaya
Danny hails from the Burbank, CA- he was born in October of ’91. Danny is beginning his third year of study at UCI in the Fall and is the youngest one around these parts. He is currently a Biology and Chemistry double major hoping to end up in some kind of professional/graduate school. He is currently a chemistry LARC tutor, but is hoping to find another job in the wee hours of the night. He spends his Vanderlab days working on different ways to open furan rings. To the dismay of most, Danny hated chemistry coming into college; organic chemistry soon became his favorite subject and he joined the Vanderwal Lab in the Spring of 2011. He has spent his past few weeks trying to decide what he wants to do with the rest of his life, but he is still unable to come to a decision. Danny loves to play sports in his free time, more specifically, basketball and football. He has a very strong addiction to candy and chocolate. Despite that fact, Danny is yet to have a single cavity in his mouth. Danny’s free hours are spent watching various TV shows.

Danny graduated from UCI in 2013, and will start Dental School. Congratulations, Danny!

Lucas Nguyen – Undergraduate Student

  Lucas Nguyen
Lucas was born and raised in the sunny city of San Diego, where he spent much of his childhood with his elder brother devising elaborate schemes to try to take over the world. While growing up, he took care of his pet lovebirds, and tried to teach them tricks – they never learned any. Upon entering UC Irvine as an undeclared major in 2007, Lucas aimlessly took classes until he somehow ended up with chemistry. In his free time, Lucas enjoys practicing Bach’s violin sonatas and preparing for the zombie apocalypse. His role models include Butters Stotch and Cookie Monster, and his biggest aspiration is to one day be a stegosaurus. In the meantime, Lucas spends part of his days being a Vanderwal, (which is almost as good as being a dinosaur), learning the way of the Zincke aldehyde with sensei Dave Martin.

Lucas graduated in Spring 2012, and started his doctoral work in chemistry in the Knowles group at Princeton.

Spencer Wood – Undergraduate Student

 Spencer Wood

Spencer Wood was born and raised in the small town of Alamo in northern California. As a child he enjoyed torturing his older sister with kitchen utensils and long boarding with kitten Tiger. After his second year in kindergarten he realized he was pretty sure there was more to life then being really, really, ridiculously good looking and was planning on finding out what it was. This discovery led him to studying chemistry in high school at San Ramon Valley in Northern California and now majoring as a chemistry major at UCI while conducting research as a member of the Vanderwal team. In his free time, Spencer enjoys growing a well-groomed mustache, defending his love for the Raiders football team, and practicing the “hella sick” language of his homeland. On a typical morning you can find him searching the ocean at Newport beach for a perfect wave to ride outside his beachfront home.

Spencer graduated and began graduate studies at Scripps Florida in summer 2012. He is currently in the Roush group.

Theo Michels – Graduate Student

[2011 Dissertation Fellowship]
Theo Michaels

Theo enjoys witty bumper stickers and long walks on the beach. He’s a Scorpio with romantic panache unparalleled in the greater UC Irvine chemistry department. Born in Maryland and raised in Illinois, Georgia, California, and Nevada, Theo’s childhood was as diverse as his tastes in music, food, and movie quotes. His greatest accomplishments include, among other things, winning the bellyflop contest in the 3rd grade and surviving a tumble down the stairs at the tender age of 6 days. He owns many leather bound books and his apartment smells of rich mahogany. Theo aspires to be a successful chemist and thereby garner himself an attractive wife with whom he will embark on great adventures around the world. For now he is focused on asymmetric synthesis and making the Vanderwal lab a fun and safe environment where learning and ribald humor are of paramount importance.

After a postdoc in the Boger group at the Scripps Research Institute, Theo joined eFFECTOR Therapeutics in San Diego.

Sarah Steinhardt – Graduate Student

[2006 UCI Chancellor’s Fellowship]
[2008–2010 California TRDRP Fellowship]
[2010 Eastman Chemical Summer Graduate Fellowship]
[2011 Graduate Dean’s Dissertation Fellowship]
  Sarah Steinhardt

Sarah grew up in the “wicked awesome” state of Massachusetts and still returns there when possible to spend time with her tribe of Wachusett alumni. After high school, she moved to the Midwest to attend Washington University in St. Louis, named, surprisingly, not after the Northwestern state or the District of Columbia, but the little-known first president of America. In fact, St. Louis is located in neither Washington state nor Washington DC, a fact which surprises most. Sarah then chose to move to southern California because the weather suited her ectothermic nature, and chose UC Irvine because of the anteater mascot’s superiority. When not destroying pyridinium ions, she enjoys the proximity of the beach and the desert. Sarah has been named head of the Latin Posse, Queen of the Chem Dorks, and Master Alchemist. She enjoys stargazing, green vegetables, Harry Potter, and hugging trees. In her free time she paints, dances, and turns lead into gold.

Sarah obtained her Ph.D. degree in November of 2011, and soon after started her career as a process chemistry at Bristol–Myers Squibb.

Dave Martin – Graduate Student

[2010-2011 BMS Graduate Fellowship in Synthetic Organic Chemistry]
[2010 Roche Excellence in Organic Chemistry Award]
[2009 UCI–Eli Lilly Graduate Fellowship]
[2009–2011 NSERC of Canada Graduate Fellowship]
  Dave Martin
Dave is a simple boy from the small town of Canada. Like his father, and his father before him, Dave enjoys hunting seals in the Spring, snowshoeing in the Summer, making meat-helmets in the Fall and fighting for survival in the harsh Canadian Winter. His interest in chemistry dates back to the night he realized that a high blood-alcohol level acts like antifreeze against the frigid cold of the Nordic tundra from whence he came. After settling and resettling in many Canadian villages, from Vancouver on the mighty shores of the Pacific, to Montreal on the muddy banks of la Fleuve St. Laurent, he grew wary that perhaps there was more to this world than just salmon and francophones. He dipped his foot in the Mediterranean, and found it too warm. He swam in the Baltic Sea, and found it too baltic. He sought the sunny skies of his childhood in the settlement of Calgary, mixed with the blondes he had come to love in Scandinavia. The destination was clear: Southern California. When Dave isn’t double-Diels-Aldering, he enjoys drinking fine Canadian import beer, dodging undergrads on Ring Road, watching hockey, collecting toques, unicycling and lounging aboot on his chesterfield listening to Burton Cummings, Neil Diamond and The Hip.

P.S. Go Flames Go!

Dave defended his Ph.D. dissertation in October of 2011, and started a postdoctoral appointment at Princeton in the lab of Prof. David MacMillan. Effective 1 July 2014, Dave is Professor Dave at UC Riverside.

Karl Bedke – Graduate Student

[2009–2010 UCI–Eli Lilly Graduate Fellowship]
[2010 Presenter at the Division of Organic Chemistry Graduate Research Symposium]
[2011 Roche Excellence in Chemistry Award]
[2011 Hal Moore Award for Excellence in Organic Chemistry]
[2011 Dissertation Fellowship]
[2011 UCI Rowland Award for Outstanding Graduate Student in Chemistry]
  Karl Bedke
Some would say the myth, nay, the legend of D. Karl Bedke is too great to write about. Nay! Tis a saga of epic proportions indeed, but one that must be told. It begins with a man standing on the edge of a cliff, his vibrant smile spanning as wide as the chasm before him. His mind and body reflecting the indomitable power of nature itself. He stands six feet 3 inches tall with a reach of 50 inches. His brown hair is speckled with grey, or as onlookers would call, strands of wisdom. Oh yes, D. Karl Bedke is a man that other men wish they could be and women wish they could be with. D. Karl Bedke is married to a woman of California origin, who calls herself Mary-Anne. She, of course, is equally as impressive as her husband, D. Karl Bedke. They are the parents of Blake, who is amazingly doubly impressive as both his parents. In addition, they have a newborn daughter, Madison, who is amazingly doubly as impressive as both her parents and equally amazingly doubly impressive as Blake – though, Madison does weigh less than Blake.

Karl graduated in June 2011, and is now employed at Amgen in Boston.

Grant Shibuya – Graduate Student

[2008–2009 UCI–GAANN Fellowship]
[2010 Physical Sciences Dissertation Fellowship]
  Grant Shibuya

Grant was born in Honolulu, Hawaii in December of 1983. In the fifth grade, he won his school’s science fair and decided to become a scientist. After living his first 17 years in the middle of the Pacific, Grant attended Santa Clara University in 2001. In 2003, he spent the summer doing research under Professor Marcus Tius at the University of Hawaii, where he learned many lab techniques and skills under the guidance of Professor Tius and his grad students. Grant then returned to SCU and researched the synthesis of HIV protease inhibitors under Professor Brian McNelis. During this time, he taught the techniques and glass washing skills he learned to his lab mates, most of which they ignored, forcing Grant to clean up after them. One particular time, he told a labmate that a vacuum could be used to pull any remaining solvent out of a flash column if it was connected from the stopcock to the vacuum. Instead, this labmate (who will remain anonymous) the column to the house air instead of the vacuum, blasting wet silica everywhere. Grant was not amused and decided to not give anymore useful advice since it was dangerous in the wrong hands. Grant graduated from SCU in the spring of 2005 with a B.S. in chemistry and has since come to UCI and joined the Vanderwal group so he can learn more about heterocycles and synthetic methods. In his spare time, Grant keeps his hand-eye coordination in check with computer games. He also practices karate and punches walls.

Grant graduated at the end of 2010, and spent a year as a postdoc in Brian Stoltz’s group at CalTech, and then moved to Noah Burns’s group at Stanford for a second postdoctoral stay. He is now employed at SiteOne Therapeutics in the Bay Area.

Matt Dowling – Graduate Student

[2010 UCI—Allergan Fellowship]
  Matt Dowling

1. Late 1970s-early 1990s: Growing up in the outskirts of Chicago, Illinois.

2. Early 1990s-late 1990s: Further growth in a leafy east side suburb of Cleveland, Ohio.

3. Late 1990s-early 2000s: College in Portland, Oregon.

4. Early 2000s-mid 2000s: Work in Albany, New York.

Mid 2000s-present: Graduate School in Irvine, California.

Matt graduated in the summer of 2010 and is now happily employed at Pfizer.

Lindsay Smith – Undergraduate Student

  Lindsay Smith

Lindsay was born in Foster City, CA in 1989. She grew up in Sacramento, CA . After attending high school at Rio Americano she decided to move to Southern California to be closer to warm beaches, so that’s how she ended up at UC Irvine. She majors in chemistry and is an undergraduate in Dr. Vanderwal’s lab doing Zincke chemistry. Lindsay enjoys playing tennis, eating a lot, and spending time with her boyfriend.

Lindsay is currently a graduate student in the Zakarian group at UC Santa Barbara.

Tim Blake – Undergraduate Student

  TIm Blake

Hi, my name is Tim Blake and I am down with O.P.P. (I don’t know exactly what O.P.P. means but I love rap music; Cash Money is an army!!). Aftershocks of my cosmic arrival (X-XX-1981) have been implicated in the current glacial shrinkage (tit for tat, low temperatures), and the demise of the Killer Bee. Preshocks have been rumored to have sent the Do-Do bird on its way. Articles such as “a” and “the” are frequently used in describing me in conjunction with superlatives like “chem-est” [ex: Tim Blake is THE OLD-EST CHEM-EST student in his class(2010)]. I enjoy novels but prefer epics and sagas. Hundreds of trophies including a 2nd place 12-16 year old Karate tournament trophy and many 1st place ribbons adorn my room. My personal long jump record is 10’6”. After a disappointing Olympic trial dashed my hopes of jumping in Beijing this summer, I decided to focus on my second greatest ability; chemistry. I joined the Vanderwal research group this June (Hi-Fives ensued) under the direct tutelage of Joel Silverston. I look forward to developing great chemical synthesis skills.

Tim is now a graduate student in the Waymouth group at Stanford University.

Scott Joseph – Graduate Student

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Scott spent his days with a woman unkind, that smoked his stuff and drank all his wine. He made up his mind to make a new start, and went to California with an aching in his heart. Someone told him there’s a girl out there, with love in her eyes and flowers in her hair. The girls of Orange County don’t exactly fit that description, but at least he escaped the hard land of the winter. Scott was raised in New Hampshire and received a BS from Boston College in 2008. His life so far has been an amusing testament to the motto “live fast die young,” but he has every intention of living forever. Scott has never been defeated in table tennis, is an accomplished procrastinator, dabbles in the arts, and will try anything twice.

Scott received his MS degree in 2010 and now works as a chemist at Universal Display Corporation.

Ben Mendoza – Graduate Student

  Ben Mendoza

Ben was born and raised and lived most of his life in vibrant Sacramento. Being the second youngest of nine kids he had to defend himself well during the nighttime dirty-sock wars he had with his brothers. Though his brothers were tough on him he experienced more pain through mishaps such as being bit on the buttock/leg by a dog, getting hit by a car, and getting closelined by barbed wired. After graduating from Sacramento State, Ben worked as a process chemist (6 yrs) for a pharmaceutical contract manufacture located on the outskirts of the Sacramento city limits. Besides making kilogram quantities of potential future drugs Ben enjoyed working along rattlesnakes, deer, turkeys, and a family of ducks. At an early age Ben dreamt of being a scientist. He currently dreams of being a rapper, actor, and professional gambler. He thinks he is a Master Roulette Player, but his bank account proves otherwise.

Ben currently works at AMPAC Fine Chemicals in Sacramento.

Matt Kier – Graduate Student

  Matt Kier

Matthew Kier was born in the city of Baltimore in 1985 and was raised in the nearby suburb of Pikesville, MD where he attended various Baltimore County Public Schools. Although the sport of soccer characterized much of his young life, he also managed to skip the first grade. Matthew moved with his family to Chelmsford, MA in 2000 where he graduated from Chelmsford High School in 2002. Returning to his home state, Matthew received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Goucher College in 2006 where he completed a major in Chemistry and a minor in Mathematics. Matthew began research in Chemistry under Dr. George Greco and is continuing studies at UCI in the Vanderwal Group.

Matt received his M.S. degree in 2010 and worked for Cambridge Isotope Laboratories. He is now a graduate student in the Micalizio lab at Dartmouth.

John Nguyen – Undergraduate Student

  John Nguyen

John Nguyen was born and raised on the mean streets of Long Beach, CA. At the age of four he made an unsuccessful run for the Senate in 1988 and decided to leave the political world behind forever. Eventually, he found his way to California Academy of Mathematics and Science where he finally learned how to add and what the meaning of life is. After gaining admission to UCI due to a clerical error of being confused with one of the many other Nguyens, he attempted to major in Undecided/Undeclared. After being informed that his choice was not a real major he chose chemistry in order to meet attractive women. Instead, he fell in love with chemistry, but has not yet mustered enough courage to express his feelings. After graduating from UCI in September 2007, Chris Vanderwal graciously accepted him into the Vanderwal Research Group to gain research experience for eventual graduate school acceptance. These days he’s preoccupied with tutoring, watching documentaries, bowling, wondering why he doesn’t refer to himself in the third person more often, and attempting to contribute to the total synthesis of cool natural products. However, his long term goal is to one day lecture about chemistry at some college. Either that or buy Pfizer, Eli Lilly, and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

John started graduate studies with Corey Stephenson at Boston University in summer of 2009. He’s currently a postdoc in the Buchwald group at MIT.

Jacob Kanady – Undergraduate Student

  Jacob Kanady

After learning the basics of working in a chemistry lab from a certain man raised by wolves, Jacob decided to join the team of the aforementioned man under the ever-watchful eye of Chris Vanderwal. Just recently did he accomplish this task–before this he learned other key (life-saving) skills such as table tennis, snowboarding, and an array of random sporting behaviors. He is still quite humble in the infinitely important knowledge of organic synthesis, however, he hopes to soak in as much knowledge as possible. Throughout this Jacob learned great spatial (and anti-social) skills by playing the original Nintendo Entertainment System’s Tetris many hours a day. Random note: key lessons of high school chemistry–“Boxes! Boxes! Boxes! (Referring to dimensional analysis), “Sig. Figs forever,” and that opening all the gas lines in a classroom and lighting them on fire is very fun and makes for good marshmallows.

Jacob started graduate studies at CalTech during the fall of 2009, and is now in the group of Theo Agapie.

Tram Nguyen – Undergraduate Student

  Tram Nguyen

Tram Nguyen was born in Vietnam and moved to the land of opportunities in 2005. She sees herself as a lucky person as she was brought up and educated by a wonderful mother. Her major was business and she had never thought of becoming a scientist. The idea of saving lives came from the death of her high school teacher’s son. Encouraged by her family, she took some chemistry classes and ended up loving organic chemistry. She also wants to prove to her mother that she can cook and cook “chemistry” successfully. She loves shopping and it has become an important part of her life since she came to America.

Tram is currently completing her undergraduate degree at UCLA.

Joel Silverston – Graduate Student

  Joel Silverston

The details of Joel’s life are quite inconsequential. At the age of five he was adopted by a pack of wolves. By the age of ten, he was smart enough to outwit the head wolf in his clan. After six years of wolf imperialism and manifest destiny, Joel and his wolfpack had conquered much of the forest that he had grown up in. Joel then decided to travel around the country and live in almost every state in America for the sole purpose of being able to start any story with, “When I used to live in…” About one year ago, Joel was inspired to embark on the quest of using pyridine ring openings in as many ways possible.

Other tidbits about Joel:

-Joel was the first member of his family to live in a treehouse.
-Joel has been featured in magazines such as US Weekly and YM.
-Joel was a hand model for two years.
-Joel’s hand has won many awards including 2002-2004 “best looking cuticles.”
-Joel has starred in Bollywood feature films such as Lagaan and Devdas.
-Joel takes it easy for all us sinners.

Joel’s work with us is done, but we hope that we can count on him for future help with writing our group member profiles. He is now employed at Incitor in Albuquerque.

Drew Dorshorst – Graduate Student

Drew Dorshorst

As an undergraduate taking his first semester of organic chemistry, Drew was under the impression that only a demented person could ever find joy in the study. However, after escaping the tedious lectures and moving into the laboratory he found the joys of working with dangerous, toxic, volatile, and flammable chemicals. Drew began his path towards the UCI chemistry program doing research as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. While studying there, he worked on a mechanistic study of the N-sulfonyloxaziridine mediated aminohydroxylation of styrene. He is currently working on elucidating the absolute stereochemistry of a variety of natural products.


Kim Caponera – Graduate Student

  Kim Caperona

*born in Vietnam

*lived in Thailand and Canada prior to coming to California

*love the outdoors and sports like volleyball, camping, hiking, etc.

*hometown is the small city of Abbotsford in beautiful British Columbia

*one day hope to return there with my husband

*the most interesting thing I’ve done is that I kayaked to a lagoon fringed with mangrove thickets at night and swam in the water full of bioluminescent

dinoflagellates that emitted light when agitated (Fajardo, Puerto Rico)

Kim is currently working at a medical device company in Irvine.

Scott Halpern – Graduate Student

  Scott Halpern

Scott Halpern (previously known as Seth Green) was born in Jerusalem Israel and moved to the United States when he was 1 year old. He grew up in New Jersey and moved out to California after college to pursue his acting career. He experienced much success as an actor as you may recognize him from hit films such as Austin Powers, Can’t Hardly Wait and The Italian Job.However, as time wore on, Seth became increasingly bored with the Hollywood lifestyle and thus he decided to turn his focus on something more intellectually stimulating. Like so many young actors had done before him, he decided to pursue synthetic organic chemistry. After changing his name to Scott Halpern he enrolled himself at UC Irvine where he is now a graduate student working under the supervision of Dr. Chris Vanderwal. His research interests include the application of novel synthetic methodologies to the total synthesis of natural products with interesting biological activity and potential therapeutic value. Scott’s eventual goal is to do research in drug discovery.

Scott obtained his M.S. degree in 2008, and is currently working at Bristol–Myers Squibb.

Jong Uk Rhee – Postdoctoral Associate

   Jong Uk Rhee

Jong was born in Iri-shi, a mid-sized city, and lived in Seoul, South Korea until 1996. He started his research career as early as July 1992 as an undergraduate researcher at Myong Ji University and got his B.S./M.S. degrees in February of 1996. At that time, his research interests were bioorganic chemistry, organic methodology, and heterocycle chemistry. In the same year, he was admitted to Iowa State University and became the last graduate student of the late professor Glen A. Russell. As a graduate student at ISU, he did research in the field of radical chemistry and physical organic chemistry. In the middle of 1998, he moved to Ohio State University and finally got his Ph.D. under the guidance of T. V. RajanBabu, focusing on radical chemistry, carbohydrate chemistry, transition metal chemistry, and total synthesis of natural products. Once he got his Ph.D. in February 2004, he joined Professor Michael J. Krische’s group as a postdoctoral research associate and did work with transition metal chemistry. He was especially interested in silver-catalyzed olefination of alkyne-aldeyde moieties as Wittig reagent equivalents and rhodium catalyzed asymmetric reductive cyclizations of ynals.

Jong currently works at Kosan Biosciences in San Francisco.

Evan Johnson – Undergraduate Student

  Evan Johnson

Hello, my name is Evan Johnson. I have been a native Newport Beacher for most of my life, so naturally I drive a Mercedes-benz, live in a multi-million dollar mansion, and have “the OC-esque” life problems. Err, not really… scratch that. Let’s just say that I’m a nice person. I enjoy the challenge of organic chemistry…math, not so much. Right now, I’m working with indoles and their analogs. I especially like working with the sulfur precursors since they smell so wonderful. One day I plan to make a perfume out of pyridine and sulfur compounds. Would anyone like a sample? If so, you can email me at evanj at uci.edu. If you’re not interested in my wonderful perfume ideas, you can send hate mail, love mail, or any kind of mail you want. Thanks for reading! Bye!

Evan currently works at a pharmaceutical company in Irvine.

Dustin Dixon – Graduate Student

  Dustin Dixon

Dustin Dixon, aka Dox, was born in the state of Tennessee. While still an infant he moved to the rural town of Mulberry, Florida. At the age of 13, Dox became ashamed of the back-country town he grew up in and from that point on referred to Lakeland, a larger, more technologically advanced city, as his city of residence. Dox’s main interest as a youth was soccer. In high school he lead his team to 5 consecutive state championships in the Florida small school league. Upon graduation of high school, Dustin headed to one of Florida’s most prestigious universities, the University of Northwestern Central Florida State (or as Dustin calls it, NWCFSU). On a side note, Dustin enjoys sweet tea and hopes to one day own a Chik-Fil-A.

Dox obtained an M.S. degree from UCI and is currently in Optometry School, somewhere near a Chik-Fil-A.

Aaron Kearney – Graduate Student

  Aaron Kearney

Aaron was born at 10:46 in the morning on the XXth day of the month of XXXXX in the year nineteen hundred and eighty-three. For the entirety of his childhood he resided in the rural San Diego community of Lakeside. After living a typical childhood comprised mostly of finger painting and little league, he was forced to enter society. With little to no social skills, Aaron embarked on a journey that would take him through the trials and tribulations of high school. With sarcasm as his only weapon, Aaron left Lakeside and headed for the land of the high maintenance girl, Orange County. After four years of wading through a sea of Gucci and Prada, Aaron decided that the only way he could accommodate such a clientele was to pursue a Ph.D in Organic Chemistry. Currently Aaron enjoys the obliteration of pyridinium ions and the sweet smell of conjugated pentadienal systems.

Aaron obtained his M.S. degree in 2006, and currently works at Johnson & Johnson in La Jolla.