Carnegie Mellon University
May 08, 2020

Chemistry Senior Alexis Hoane Receives Judith A. Resnik Award

By Emily Payne

Jocelyn Duffy
  • Associate Dean for Communications, MCS

Alexis Hoane is the recipient of the 2020 Judith A. Resnik Award, an award named after the Challenger astronaut and CMU alumna. The award recognizes an exceptional, senior woman graduating with an undergraduate technical course of study who will be pursuing graduate or professional training in a technical field.

Hoane is graduating with a bachelor’s and master’s in chemistry and a minor in statistics. She earned both degrees in four years as part of the Department of Chemistry's combined B.S.-M.S. program, an intensive, research-focused degree that requires students to take undergraduate- and graduate-level courses in chemistry and write and defend a master’s-level thesis.

“Alexis has an amazing work ethic and is probably more ambitious in her educational goals than any student I have worked with as an advisor and/or instructor in my 36 years on the faculty,” Karen Stump, director of undergraduate studies and laboratories for the Department of Chemistry, said.

Hoane is passionate about environmental chemistry. As a first-year student, she participated in Carnegie Mellon’s Summer Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship program in the lab of Terry Collins, the Teresa Heinz Professor of Green Chemistry.  

The Collins lab focuses on reducing micropollutants in water supplies through catalytic degradation by tetra-amido macrocyclic ligand (TAML) catalysts. Hoane began in the Collins lab testing the catalytic performance of different TAMLs. Later she collected a series of kinetic measurements to investigate the role of resting catalysts in substrate interactions and their impact on overall TAML effectiveness. 

In her junior year, Hoane was awarded an International Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship from CMU’s Undergraduate Research Office, and she continued her work on TAMLs with Collins’ collaborator James Wright at the University of Auckland in New Zealand.

Her work has resulted in co-authorship on two soon-to-be published manuscripts and on a published paper in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Hoane has also applied her research prowess to entrepreneurial pursuits. In her first year, she joined the Aquaponics Project, a group of eight students from CMU and the University of Pittsburgh who worked to refine a sustainable system that can grow both fish and plants in one device. Hoane developed the anaerobic digester, which allows the system to handle waste, converting it to fertilizer for the plants, and generates methane so the device can power itself. The project won $35,000 from Ford in a national competition during her sophomore year and continues to make sustainable food and agriculture systems more accessible as the nonprofit Ecotone Renewables.

“CMU has given me a breadth of opportunities to gain experience around developing technologies that can contribute to global sustainability,” said Hoane.

She also credits her experience at CMU with giving her the skills to identify and address future challenges.

After graduation, Hoane will pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Illinois. She will be studying next-generation batteries, aiming to develop ones that are more efficient and made from less hazardous and more earth abundant materials.

“I decided to focus my future research on energy storage because I see it as one of the major bottlenecks with current renewable energy technology."