These outstanding students offer a snapshot of the nearly 215 undergraduate students that major in Chemistry at UConn. Click on their photos below to learn about their favorite classes, research experiences, and why they chose to major in Chemistry!

Omar Allam
Chris Chapman
Istvan & Emese Kanyo
John Ovian
Ayushi Pathak
Vincent Pistritto
Gabriella Reggiano
Taryn Wisniewski

Meet:

Omar-Allam

Omar Allam

Expected Graduation: '16

Hometown: Glastonbury, CT

Awards/Scholarships: Oaklawn,
University Scholar,
Rowe Scholarship,
Dr. Glenn Irani Chemist Scholarship,
Dr. Victor Rizza Scholarship,
IDEA Grant Recipient, &
SURF Grant Recipient

Clubs/Activities: University and Rowe Scholar,
Research in the Seery Group,
Volunteer EMT,
Community Outreach Food Recovery, &
CLAS Leadership

Why did you choose to major in Chemistry?

I decided to major in Chemistry because my high school teacher Mr. Jaffe instilled in me a curiosity to seek an understanding of what makes up the world. I followed that curiosity into college and realized that chemistry is the art and the science of understanding the substituents that constitute our surroundings. By understanding what makes up our world on an atomic scale, then one would say it is possible to understand it on a macroscopic caliber. Thus, I decided to major in Chemistry.

What has been your favorite class at UConn so far?

I have had a lot of great classes, but my all-time favorite has to be Inorganic II with Dr. Leadbeater. I learned all about D-Block elements, but what made the class really interesting was that we applied the knowledge taught in class to real world applications such as the Monsanto acetic acid process. In addition, Dr. Leadbeater has a unique personality and even more interesting sense of humor (it's British humor) which made the class really enjoyable and fun.

What are you plans after graduation?

I will be attending UConn School of Medicine next year, and I aim to repair our current broken health care system by removing the financial and social barriers we face to receive comprehensive care.

Please describe your research experience abroad and how this influenced your studies.

I was fortunate enough to partake in the China chemistry exchange program. Through UConn, I was able to carry out my University Scholar research at the prestigious Fudan University in Shanghai, China. I was able to learn new laboratory techniques. In addition to research, I took the opportunity to travel along the eastern region of China and learn about Chinese culture and cuisine. I also immersed myself in the language and was able to converse with the locals by the time I left. (Check out my Vlog!)

How has your research experience impacted you?

I have been conducting research with Seery group at the Institute of Materials Science for the past 3 years. My research aims at i) synthesizing hydrogels with a unique double network structure in order to improve their mechanical properties (in particular, their toughness) and ii) characterizing the physical properties of these new hydrogels to determine their suitability for possible biomedical applications such as artificial cartilage, contact lenses, and scaffolds for delivering medicine. I have attained SURF/IDEA Grants, and was awarded a University Scholar for this research.

Has a certain advisor had a significant impact on you?

My advisors (Thomas Seery and Osker Dahabsu) have been monumental into making my UConn experience into a phenomenal and memorable one. They were always there when I needed help, and they have provided me opportunities to attain scholarships and study abroad which has really enriched my education. My advisors are the best resource I have on campus for whenever I feel lost, need help, or just want to be heard.

What advice would you give to incoming freshmen?

Pursue your true interests, whether it is Chemistry or Botany. Not only will you enjoy your classes, but it will make your college experience so much better. Also, don't stop asking questions and ALWAYS try to sit in the first row of the class, you will do so much better (it's scientifically proven).

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Chris-Chapman

Chris Chapman

Expected Graduation: '17

Hometown: Stonington, CT

Clubs/Activities: UConn Marching Band,
Tour Guide, &
Chemistry Club (President)

Why did you choose to major in Chemistry?

It’s incredible to be able to manipulate matter at the atomic level.

Why did you choose UConn?

I chose UConn because of the incredible amount of undergraduate research, the in-state tuition, and the solid 50/50 guy to girl ratio. In addition, it’s nice that UConn is essentially its own town: everyone here is a Husky!

Please describe your research experience abroad and how this influenced your studies.

I went to Fudan University in Shanghai, China this past summer to take part in a supramolecular lab. I got to work on the synthesis of ion channels, so I got my synthetic organic chemistry fix. It was nice because I typically make materials, so changing it up was nice. I know in the future I want my research to include organic synthesis because I truly loved it.

What research are you currently conducting?

I conduct research on boron nitride nanocomposites in a polymer lab in IMS. Essentially these nanocomposites are very flame retardant and can have varied physical attributes based on the monomer used. Polystyrene leads to a very stiff rigid structure, while butyl acrylate leads to a soft absorbent structure. We’re exploring applications of the composites.

Were there any challenges that you had to overcome while at UConn so far?

I’m incredibly busy all the time. What I had to realize is that it’s possible to balance everything with enough planning. If you complete your tasks in full and are confident in your abilities, you can take on as much as you want. It’s helped me become more efficient in the way I plan my day and execute tasks. I’m not perfect by any means, but I don’t quit anything I start and at the end of the day, all that matters is if you’re satisfied with what you’ve done. If you can answer yes, then you should have no regrets.

What has been your favorite class at UConn so far?

Organic chemistry of course! It was one of the first classes I took at UConn and I was driven to master the subject. To be able to understand organic chemistry, or chemistry in general, gives insight to how to alter the world around us down to the atomic level. It’s mind blowing how much occurs every day to keep us alive and we don’t even realize it. Being able to characterize and intervene in chemical reactions is the most rewarding ability I could have.

What is your favorite memory of UConn?

That’s easy, when the men and women basketball teams both won the championship in 2014. It’s an understatement to say campus was flipped upside down. I’ve never felt more connected to the student body: everyone in one place at one time cheering for the love of the UConn Huskies!

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Istvan & Emese Kanyo

Istvan Kanyo

Expected Graduation: '15

2nd Major: Biological Sciences

Hometown: North Haven, CT

Clubs/Activities: UConn Men's Soccer Program

Emese Kanyo

Expected Graduation: '17

Hometown: North Haven, CT

Awards/Scholarships: Academic Excellence Scholarship

Clubs/Activities: UConn Women's Track and Field Team,
Dodging for Dollars Committee Member, &
North Haven Special Olympics

Meet Istvan

Why did you choose to major in Chemistry?

I chose to major in chemistry and biology because my parents instilled in me a love for science, and that was reinforced by my experience in chemistry and biology at UConn.

What has been your favorite class at UConn?

My favorite class at UConn has been inorganic chemistry with Dr. Leadbeater.

Are there any colleagues that you would want to thank that have helped you at UConn?

I would like to thank my friend Anton Gudz for all the work we accomplished together.

How has your research experience impacted you?

I have done research with Dr. Jie He’s group with a focus on nanoparticle/polymer self-assembly. It has been tremendously rewarding to research and expand my knowledge beyond the information in traditional courses.

What is your favorite memory of UConn?

My favorite memory of UConn was Alumni Night for the Men’s soccer team, where I was able to enjoy seeing great friends that have graduated from UConn.

What are your plans after graduation?

I have aspirations to study in medical school and become an orthopedist.

What advice would you give to incoming freshmen?

My advice to incoming freshmen is to go out and meet my little brother Janos, he’s a great kid and you won’t regret it!

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Meet Emese

Why did you choose to major in Chemistry?

I think chemistry is a really amazing subject because at its core, almost everything in this world is chemistry. It’s fascinating how the differing properties of such small elements make life possible.

Please describe your research experience abroad and how this has influenced your studies.

I am currently studying abroad at the University of Edinburgh. Taking courses in the same buildings as notable scientists such as Peter Higgs and James Clark Maxwell has not only given me a new perspective into the incredible achievements of past scientists but also has instilled in me the belief that through had work, anyone can impact their field.

What has been your favorite class at UConn so far?

My favorite class at UConn so far was also Intermediate Inorganic Chemistry with Dr. Leadbeater.

How has your research experience impacted you?

I am a part of Dr. Howell’s research group. Last spring, my work centered on the synthesis of sphingolipids. Research helped open my eyes to many techniques and critical thinking skills that are not taught in the traditional teaching lab setting and really helped me grow as a chemist.

Please describe your internship experience and how this influenced your studies.

For the past two summers I have interned at Melinta Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical drug company. Doing chemistry in the discovery group at the company gave me real-world experience in one of the many job possibilities for chemistry majors and also sparked an interest in medicinal chemistry. 

Were there any challenges that you had to overcome while at UConn so far?

My first semester at UConn I found it a bit difficult to manage my time with practice and classes and whatnot, but with all the resources available it has become easier and easier to manage even as my workload and commitments increase.

What are your plans after graduation?

After graduating, I plan on either heading to medical school to attempt to become a pediatric surgeon or getting a Ph.D. in chemistry and becoming involved with pharmaceutical research.

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John-Ovian

John Ovian

Expected Graduation: '17

Minor: Mathematics

Hometown: Madison, CT

Awards/Scholarships: Catherine Isabella DeStefano Rossi Scholarship,
Raymond F. Gates, Jr. Memorial Scholarship,
Office of Undergraduate Research Grant,
UCLA Amgen Scholar,
Babbidge Scholar,
Holster Scholar,
Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society,
Academic Excellence Scholarship,
Dean’s List, &
Honors Scholar

Clubs/Activities: Leadbeater Laboratory (Undergraduate Researcher),
Honors Organic Chemistry (Teaching Assistant),
Fundamentals of General Chemistry I (Teaching Assistant),
Extreme Measures Co-Ed A Cappella (Director), &
Peer Allies Through Honors (Mentor)

Why did you choose to major in Chemistry?

I have always been fascinated by the intricacies of molecules. It is amazing that we are able to manipulate and change harmful compounds into substances that treat diseases and advance technology. Chemistry also provides insight into the fundamental properties of the world around us.

Why did you choose UConn?

UConn offered me the best education for my dollar. I knew that as a part of the Honors Program I would gain access directly to faculty in smaller classes. What I found once I arrived was that most of the professors were very open to interacting with undergraduates, whether through coursework, research, or “chemistry in the news.”

What has been your favorite class at UConn so far?

My favorite class at UConn was the Honors organic chemistry sequence (CHEM 2443/2444). Drs. Leadbeater and Bailey taught the first and second semesters, respectively, and stirred in me a passion for organic synthesis. Both exuded enthusiasm for the subject and encouraged their students to think deeply and critically about the topics they were learning.

What are your plans after graduation?

I plan on attending graduate school to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry and eventually obtain a tenure-track faculty position at a leading research institution. As of now, my intended area of research is broadly defined as organic synthesis, though I do not know whether that will be in total synthesis, methodology development, or catalysis.

Please describe your research experience abroad and how this influenced your studies.

During the summer of 2015, I performed research at UCLA in Dr. Neil Garg’s laboratory as a part of the Amgen Scholars Program. There, I worked on the total synthesis of tubingensin B, utilizing heterocyclic aryne methodology to assemble vicinal quaternary centers stereospecifically. I also was able to network with other scholars and representatives from other institutions such as Caltech, Harvard, Stanford, and MIT. The experience gave me a completely different view of organic synthesis, broadening my perspective on the possibilities for graduate research.

How has your research experience impacted you?

I joined Dr. Nicholas Leadbeater’s lab in the spring of 2014. I was awarded the Holster Scholar First-Year Project, a prestigious grant for honors freshmen, which allowed me to perform an independent research project during the summer of 2014. My research focuses on synthetic methodology development using oxoammonium salts, including allyl ether cleavage and oxidative nitrile formation from aldehydes, which were published in Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry and Angewandte Chemie International Edition, respectively. I have also investigated the mechanistic pathway for oxoammonium salt oxidations through a combined experimental-computational study, which was published in the Journal of Organic Chemistry. Performing cutting-edge research has endowed me with critical analytical and investigative skills that could not be obtained in the classroom and has prepared me for graduate school.

What is your favorite memory of UConn?

My favorite memory is being at Gampel Pavilion when we won the men’s national championship; it was one of the most electrifying atmospheres I have ever experienced. The tension during the game and the subsequent elation (and celebration) that ensued bound the student body as a whole, uniting us in our peers’ incredible achievement.

What advice would you give to incoming freshmen?

Get involved early and reach out to professors. They are incredible resources to explore things about which you are passionate, and they are very accessible if you show initiative. Outside of chemistry and research, there is a plethora of opportunities to get involved in campus life. Be open and explore your interests wherever they may lead you.

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Ayushi-Pathak

Ayushi Pathak

Expected Graduation: '18

Hometown: Edison, NJ

Awards/Scholarships: STEM Scholar

Clubs/Activities: Indian Students Association,
Red Cross Club,
Peer Allies Through Honors, &
UNIV Facilitator

Why did you choose to major in Chemistry?

I chose to major in Chemistry because in high school, I was intrigued by the concepts in general chemistry. I thought it was amazing how after learning one topic, we would build upon it, learning more and more new material on that same topic. It’s incredible to think that we start with a basic concept and by learning more about it, we figure out more about how the world around us works. As I continue to take more advanced courses in Chemistry, I realize how much more there is to everything I already learned. There’s never a dull moment when learning Chemistry.

Why did you choose UConn?

When I visited UConn for the first time, I fell in love with the campus. UConn provides me with the perfect environment needed for my success. There are great resources for whatever questions I may have and hundreds of clubs that cater to everyone. At the same time, UConn allows me to be independent and grow as an adult.

What has been your favorite class at UConn so far?

My favorite class a UConn was a class I took my first semester, Problems in Philosophy. Everything I learned in that class was very different from anything I had taken in high school and it allowed me to question many things I took for granted. It helped provide a nice distraction from the science and math focused classes I was taking along with it. 

What are your plans after graduation?

I hope to go to medical school after graduating from UConn. I believe that a strong chemistry background would be advantageous and provide me with a different outlook than I would have achieved by taking mostly biology classes. 

How has your research experience impacted you?

This summer, I conduced research at PTC Therapeutics in South Plainfield, NJ. I worked with a group researching Huntington’s Disease. I was able to learn many different lab procedures and lab etiquette. Working there had an enormous impact on me because I was able to get experience working in a company, I made a lot of contacts, and I got to apply what I learned in my classes to an application in the real world. It helped me want to pursue research opportunities at UConn as well. 

What is your favorite memory of UConn?

My favorite memory of UConn is attending the different events put together by the Indian Student Association. I came into UConn not knowing anyone and ISA provided me with opportunities to meet knew people and it helped build a sense of community which helped a lot with the transition into college last year.

What advice would you give to incoming freshmen?

The advice I would give to incoming freshman is to not worry themselves too much during their first year. They should take advantage of all the different resources available to them at the school and take part in anything that might interest them and make friends. It is definitely possible to have fun and do well in your classes as well.

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Vincent-Pistritto

Vincent Pistritto

Expected Graduation: '18

2nd Major: Music

Hometown: Woodbury, CT

Awards/Scholarships: Presidential Scholarship,
Dr. Victor Rizza Memorial Scholarship, &
Great Lakes National Scholarship

Clubs/Activities: Honors Initiative for Prospective Students (student coordinator),
Symphonic Band, &
Running Club

Why did you choose to major in Chemistry?

I chose to major in chemistry due to my love of reactions. From the time I first was exposed to the periodic table I thought it was fascinating how the subatomic composition of elements dictates the way in which reactions occur. The wide array in which chemicals interact never ceases to amaze me. Future research into new and exciting chemical transformations is something I would like to pursue as a career.

Why did you choose UConn?

The strong research base that UConn offers is ultimately what brought me to the university. As a chemistry major, I wanted to go somewhere where research is a central focus. UConn gives me the best opportunity to explore research as an undergraduate, something that will prepare me for my future career.

What are your plans after graduation?

Upon graduating from UConn, I plan on attending graduate school and earning a Ph.D. in chemistry. From there, I would like to find a job with the research and development team of major company.

What research are you currently conducting?

During my time in the Leadbeater laboratory, my research has focused on increasing the reaction profile of the oxoammonium salt 4-acetamido-2,2,6,6-tetramethylpiperidine-1-oxoammonium tetrafluoroborate. This salt is an environmentally friendly oxidant as it is recyclable and metal-free. In particular, I have concentrated on the oxidative cleavage of silyl ethers, which will be submitted for publication soon. This success has made me more eager to pursue more reactions to see how else the oxoammonium salt can be used.

What has been your most influential UConn experience?

The most influential experience for me has definitely been involvement in research. I joined the Leadbeater Laboratory in the spring of my freshman year and it was the best decision I could have made. My experiences thus far have been fulfilling and have reaffirmed my desire to pursue research as a career. Additionally, my presence in the laboratory allowed me to partake in a 10-week fellowship this past summer. During this time, I was able to further develop and refine my laboratory techniques.

What is your favorite place on campus?

Horsebarn Hill is without a doubt my favorite place on campus. The scenery is always beautiful, especially during autumn. The view from Horsebarn Hill simply never gets old, and it is a great place to go stargazing. The hill also serves as a great workout too when I’m trying to get into peak running condition!

What advice would you give to incoming freshmen?

The biggest piece of advice I have would be to get involved and pursue your passions. There are so many different clubs and organizations on campus that not finding one for you is nearly impossible. Through these clubs you can find and explore your passions which will lead to a much more fulfilling experience. Don’t get me wrong, schoolwork is important, but I would argue that extra-curricular activities are just as important.

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Gabriella-Reggiano

Gabriella Reggiano

Expected Graduation: '17

Minor: Computer Science

Hometown: Trumbull, CT

Awards/Scholarships: CT Governor's Scholarship

Clubs/Activities: Intramural Soccer,
Women in Science (mentor),
Alzheimer's Association,
Revolution against Rape, &
Chemistry Club

Why did you choose to major in Chemistry?

I love understanding how the world works and that's what chemistry is at its core.

What has been your favorite class at UConn so far?

My favorite class at UConn so far was Gender and Sexuality in Everyday Life, an entry-level women's studies class. It really opened my mind to how our society distributes power and the class has influenced and changed a lot of my beliefs.

What are your plans after graduation?

Right now, I am looking to go to graduate school and from there work in industry.

How has your research experience impacted you?

I am currently working in Dr. Zhao's research lab, and she and my mentor, Dr. Shutang, have been really great at exposing me to research at a pace that isn't overwhelming and that really allows me to grow as a chemist. The research I've done for her has allowed me to apply for opportunities that wouldn't have been available to me otherwise.

Please describe your internship experience and how this influenced your studies.

This past summer, I worked at Sun Products Corporation, the detergent company in charge of the all brand. I was given an important project working on the analysis of foot odor that will be continued even though I've left. I'm more confident in my own abilities now, and I also have a much better understanding of industry and what's expected of you as a scientist.

What has been your best UConn experience so far?

My best experience so far has been my first internship the summer of my freshman year. I worked in Dr. Zhao's lab doing research for Dr. Shutang. The internship exposed me to what it's like to work on a research project without any other distractions and gave me valuable experience that I used to obtain my internship with Sun Products.

What advice would you give to incoming freshmen?

As a freshman, you need to go looking for opportunities. You can't sit back and expect a lab position to fall into your lab. If you put yourself out there, you'll gain invaluable experience.

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Taryn Wisniewski

Taryn Wisniewski

Expected Graduation: '19

2nd Major: Education (Sciences)

Hometown: Oxford, CT

Awards/Scholarships: Hach Chemistry Teacher Scholarship,
Dr. Victor Rizza Memorial Scholarship, &
Presidential Scholarship

Clubs/Activities: Honors Council,
Honors Initiative for Prospective Students (HIPS),
Husky Ambassador Program,
Peer Allies Through Honors (PATH) Mentor,
UNIV Facilitator, &
Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society

Why did you choose to major in Chemistry?

I chose chemistry because my high school chemistry teacher, Mrs. Blozzon, helped me discover my passion for science and inspired me to really appreciate how vital chemistry can be. Chemistry is so ingrained in all other aspects of science because it is the basis for how and why substances act the way they do, and I find it interesting that this can be applied in so many ways throughout life.

Why did you choose UConn?

I chose UConn because it has amazing programs for what I want to do, an incredible School of Education and world-renowned chemistry professors, and because the campus has always felt both invigorating and inviting. UConn has so many different opportunities to offer, and from the moment I came here, it felt like home.

What has been your favorite class at UConn so far?

My favorite class so far was actually my one-credit freshman seminar about photography. It was nice to take a break from all my math and science courses—though interesting, they can be pretty difficult and heavy—and focus on something artistic for two hours a week. It was really fun.

What are your plans after graduation?

I’m applying into the NEAG School of Education here at UConn, and if I succeed in that, I’ll stay here for a year of grad school in order to meet the proper chemistry and education requirements to become a high school chemistry teacher. I’ve always dreamed of being a teacher, so I’m hoping I can get into it quickly after graduating.

What is your favorite memory of UConn?

My favorite memory at UConn so far is probably the first basketball game I went to at Gampel. I was never a big fan of college basketball before coming here, but when I went to my first game, it was hard not to get swept up in the excitement of it all. Basketball season is when our campus really comes alive, and at games you feel so connected to your fellow students…I love it.

What is your favorite place on campus?

Currently my favorite place on campus is the Beanery. It’s is a lovely spot to grab a caffeine boost for coffee addicts like me while chatting with a friend or doing some work. It’s one of those places that always has a happy, comfortable vibe, whether it’s pouring rain or sunny outside.

What advice would you give to incoming freshmen?

The biggest thing I would tell a freshmen is to not worry too much. Sometimes it can be hard not to get consumed by the work and the stress, but it’s so important to remember to relax and have fun, too. I believe you should try your best in every class you take, but you’ll be so much happier if you also make some time for yourself and not just your books. Go to a sports game, read something for fun, get dinner with your friends: just don’t drive yourself insane from being locked in the library all the time.

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