Department News

Faculty New Hire: DR. Miranda Quintana, Assistant Professor Computational Chemistry, Physical Division

Dr. Miranda Quintana received his B.S. degree (Radiochemistry major, summa cum laude) from the Higher Institute of Technologies and Applied Sciences (Havana, Cuba). He earned his Ph.D. (Chemistry) in 2017 from the University of Havana, and conducted research between Cuba (supervised by Prof. Luis Montero, University of Havana) and Canada (supervised by Prof. Paul Ayers, McMaster University). He then went on to McMaster University for a year, before moving to York University (Toronto) for a postdoc in the group of Prof. Rene Fournier, thanks to a York Science Fellowship. Dr. Miranda Quintana’s work is devoted to developing, implementing, and applying new tools to study the electronic structure of atoms and molecules. In particular, he is interested in exploring wave function forms suitable for describing strongly correlated systems. He is also working on new ways to study charge transfer and chemical reactivity using quantum chemistry and statistical mechanics.

Dept. New Hire: Dr. Stefanie Habenicht, Lecturer, Organic Division

“Dr. Habenicht obtained her Dr. rer. nat. (Sc.D.) at the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany, where she developed novel small-molecule fluorophores. As an Adjunct Lecturer here at UF, she discovered that teaching is her passion. She tries to facilitate students? mastery of Organic Chemistry while maintaining a high standard, experimenting with different strategies, tools and classroom props to help students visualize and rationalize difficult concepts.”

Dept. New Hire: Dr. Steven Harris, Lecturer, General Chemistry

Dr. Harris received his bachelor?s degree from Langston University. He then continued to the University of Oklahoma for his master?s and PhD in Biochemistry where he studied tertiary structures of small RNA constructs using nuclear magnetic resonance under the guidance of Dr. Susan Schroeder. Next, he was selected to be in the SPIRE Program which is an NIH funded dual research and teaching postdoctoral program at University of North at Chapel Hill. While performing research to further his knowledge of RNA tertiary structure in Dr. Kevin Weeks? lab, Dr. Harris also received teacher training at North Carolina A&T State University. Dr. Harris spent the last 5 years honing his interactive teaching style at Christopher Newport University and is excited to bring his skills to the University of Florida Chemistry Department.

Carter Boelke Obtains Summer Student Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI) through Department of Energy (DOE)

Congratulations to Carter Boelke from the Wei group for obtaining an undergraduate student internship at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The internship is a part of a competitive program called the Student Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI) program, which aims to help educate undergraduate students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) through a unique research experience. The program takes place over 10 weeks and is designed to help develop skills important for STEM careers. Carter will work with DOE scientists as well as graduate students at Iowa State University to conduct and present research relevant to carbon dioxide utilization. He will investigate how to catalytically convert carbon dioxide into value-added oxygenates using highly-selective catalysts including first-row transition metals. Carter was one of about 800 applicants who were admitted to various laboratories across the country.

50 Years of Departmental Leadership!

The Department recently celebrated the retirement of Prof. Bill Dolbier, who started his independent career at UF in 1966. Pictured here are our former department chairs (left to right): Anna Zerner (widow of Mike Zerner), Dave Richardson, Bill Jones, Bill Dolbier, John Eyler, Lisa McElwee-White, Dan Talham. Together, they represent more than 50 years of departmental leadership. In a rare occurrence, this special occasion brought them all together. The department thanks you for your guidance over the last half century! Click here for full size image.

2018 Keaffaber Scholar Award

Roberto Serrano is the recipient of the 2018 Keaffaber Scholar Award…


Congratulations to Roberto F. Serrano, Jr. who has been named the recipient of the 2018 Keaffaber Scholar Award. The award has been made possible through the generosity of Dr. Jeffrey Keaffaber, a longtime friend and supporter of the Department of Chemistry. Dr. Keaffaber received his Ph.D. from the Department in 1989 (with Prof. William Dolbier, Jr.) and has enjoyed a career in industry, entrepreneurship, consulting, and teaching. Within the Department of Chemistry he has served as a senior lecturer, undergraduate advisor, and pioneer of new teaching initiatives.

The Keaffaber Scholar Award recognizes the overall excellence in research and academic scholarship of one of our senior chemistry majors. To be eligible for the award, the undergraduate must be research active within the Department of Chemistry and committed to pursuing a Ph.D. in chemistry. This year’s recipient, Roberto Serrano, is pursuing a Bachelor’s of Science degree in chemistry. He has been working in the lab of Dr. Alexander Grenning for two years, conducting research in organic chemistry. His research involves the development of the reductive Cope rearrangement. The purpose of his research is to promote unfavorable [3,3] sigmatropic rearrangements for facile access to complex natural product scaffolds. In the spring of 2018, Roberto was selected to the competitive University Scholars Program for his undergraduate research. Roberto plans to pursue a PhD in chemistry with a focus in synthetic organic chemistry. His goal after earning his PhD is to obtain a research position in academia so that he may contribute ideal syntheses of natural products and novel methodologies with translational potential to various industries.

2018 Townes R. Leigh Prize Announced

The Department of Chemistry is pleased to announce the recipients of the annual Townes R. Leigh Prizes for outstanding achievement by first year graduate students. This award recognizes excellence in coursework, teaching, and research. The recipients from the 2017 Ph.D. class are, pictured from left to right, Ethan Fisher, Kenneth Lee, Juan Torres Gonzalez, Timothy Dunn, Shengkang Yin, and Evgeniya Semenova. Congratulations all! University of Florida Department of Chemistry

Yunlu Zhang wins a competitive CLAS Dissertation Fellowship for the Spring

We are pleased to announce that Yunlu Zhang has won a dissertation fellowship in support of her thesis work developing novel methods for the enhancement of light-matter interactions utilizing plasmonic metals that can efficiently absorb and convert sunlight to other useful forms of energy. Zhang, a member of David Wei’s research group, aims to realize better solar energy conversion with inexpensive and abundant materials to deal with societal issues like climate change and nonrenewable energy dependence. Congratulations Yunlu!

UF ACS Student Chapter Receives Outstanding Award

Congratulations to the UF Chemistry Club, formally known as the UF Student Chapter of the American Chemical Society, for being recognized with its second ever Outstanding (“Gold”) Student Chapter Award on the basis of their 2017-2018 activities. The Chapter shares the honor with just 68 others from around the country. The UF Chemistry Club also received its second ever Green Chapter Award! Leadership for the year was offered by the following elected officers: Magan Powell (President), Phoebe Chu (Vice President), Francis Nguyen (Treasurer), Dani Ca?as (Secretary), Maisey Ratcliffe (Historian), Thinh Pham (Technology Director), Lily Cao (Outreach Coordinator), Jade Bowers (Outreach Coordinator), Salina Som (Senior Advisor), Erin Lapasaran (Public Relations Chair), Jeremiah Martinez (Social Chair), Zachary Raad (Outreach Chair), and Matthew Douglas (Outreach Chair). Prof. Ronald Castellano and Prof. Leslie Murray are the Club’s faculty advisors.
The Chemistry Club has as its mission the promotion of awareness and involvement in chemistry and chemistry-related disciplines on campus and around the community. A parallel goal is to assist science-minded undergraduates in their professional endeavors, by providing volunteer, internship, and research opportunities.

Prof. Brent Sumerlin publishes Perspective in Science

Prof. Brent Sumerlin publishes a Perspective in Science that overviews design principles for next-generation self-healing materials

Brent Sumerlin, the George B. Butler Professor of Polymer Chemistry, published a Perspective in Science highlighting recent advances in the area of self-healing polymers. While polymers designed to degrade after their intended use represent a promising, chemistry-driven approach to minimize the impact of persistent, petroleum-derived materials, an alternative strategy for preparing sustainable materials is to design polymers that have even longer life spans and, as a result, need to be replaced less frequently. Polymers that heal themselves after damage, with no external stimulus, are one such approach for extending material lifetime. This Perspective reinforces the importance of contemplating the most fundamental features of macro-molecular structure for “up-cycling” and extending the lifetime of commodity polymers for next-generation self-healing materials.  

For more information, see Science 2018, 362(6411), 150-151. Link: