Carnegie Mellon University
August 30, 2023

Chemistry Ph.D. Students Host ACS Symposium

By Kirsten Heuring

Jocelyn Duffy
  • Associate Dean for Communications, MCS
  • 412-268-9982

Carnegie Mellon University doctoral student Savannah Talledo directed plays at Wofford College where she studied theater and chemistry as an undergraduate. In August, Talledo took on a new form of direction  producing a symposium at the American Chemical Society (ACS) Fall 2023 Meeting.

"With theater, you direct plays, and the symposium was kind of like that," said Talledo, a member of the Bernhard group in the Department of Chemistry. "It was challenging but exciting to be in charge of something like this and have this responsibility. It was a great leadership experience."

Talledo spearheaded the graduate student committee that organized Catalyzing Collaboration: Bridging the Gap between Machine Learning, Computational Modeling and Experimental Chemistry for Catalyst Design. The committee's goal was to create a daylong event that brought together chemists who share the goal of studying transition metal catalysis. They said they hoped their symposium would encourage attendees to collaborate more across universities and disciplines and to consider new research tools.

"We're all doing catalysis, and we want to bridge the gap between machine learning, computational modeling and experimental chemistry," Talledo said.

Talledo first heard about the opportunity during her first year of her Ph.D. program. ACS has a Graduate Student Symposium Planning Committee (GSSPC) create a daylong symposium as part of its annual fall conference. Talledo saw it as an excellent chance to learn what goes into creating a symposium. She brought together Ph.D. students from multiple labs to write a proposal in spring 2022 including Xiaolei Hu, a member of the Matyjaszewski group, and Jess Vinskus, a member of the Noonan group. After their proposal was accepted, they got to work.

The students suggested potential speakers and oversaw the whole symposium. So the team could ensure speakers and students could attend, Hu advertised and fundraised for the symposium.

"Starting from proposing the symposium to organizing the whole day's schedule for the conference was a totally new experience with me," Hu said. "I worked with an amazing team, and I learned a lot from the whole experience."

Vinskus sent letters to sponsors, managed their symposium Instagram account and created graphics and a banner.

"We put in all this work, we did all this research and we planned everything. Watching it all come together, watching the speakers give their talks, it was so rewarding," Vinskus said.

Daniel Moyano
Daniel F. Moyano, digital science and technology team leader at PPG, presents a talk entitled "From Data to Formulation: Harnessing the Power of Machine Learning to Accelerate Chemical Research and Development" as part of the symposium. Photo courtesy of Ankita Puri.

On the day of the talk, there was a series of eight researchers from around the United States, including Malika Jeffries-El, associate dean of the graduate school of arts and sciences at Boston University and a former postdoctoral researcher at Carnegie Mellon. Jeffries-El presented a talk entitled Design and Synthesis of Organic Electronic Materials.

"She was a researcher who I was interested in and that I brought to the table," Vinskus said. "She was a really great speaker. I found the synthetic chemistry she was working on really interesting because it's similar to what she did on conjugated polymers in her postdoc at CMU."

Another speaker was David Cabanero, a Ph.D. student in chemistry at Columbia University working with Tomislav Rovis. When Rovis was unable to come to the conference, Cabanero stepped in, giving a talk entitled Collaboration in Academia  New Tools for Catalysis.

"He did an excellent job presenting the research he and his group did," Hu said. "His presentation was relevant to my research topic as well, and I learned a lot from it."

Along with organizing the symposium, many of the students involved in the committee, including Talledo and Vinskus, presented at the ACS Fall Meeting. Talledo gave a poster presentation, and Vinskus gave a twenty minute talk.

"I gave a talk on my sulfur compounds, which are called sulfoxoniums and sulfoximines," Vinskus said. "I'm working on functionalizing them onto polymers and monomers. I think the talk went really well, and I had some good questions on my work."

After the ACS Fall Meeting concluded, Talledo said that she was proud of what the committee achieved, and she was thankful for the team she worked with.

"The process was fun, and we had a great team," Talledo said. "I'm glad I had that experience."

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