In the next four years or more, 12 seniors who worked in the chemistry labs will receive more than $1.2 million in collective graduate fellowships through stipends and tuition remission.

Each of these seniors is receiving full tuition remission (plus graduate stipends) of between $21,000 and $32,000—totaling more than $300,000 for just the first year alone. Some students will complete their graduate work in four years, although many take five to complete a PhD.

The 12 seniors are: Smaranda Craciun, Mary Jane Drake, Kara Finzel, Sally Fisher, Spencer Harris, Shannon Hedrick, Xin Jia, Maria Lindell, John Mancini, Anna Parker, Bernard Wittmaack and Yajing (Angela) Xie.

Smaranda Craciun, chemistry with honors, minor in mathematics
: Dr. C. Wade Downey
Research: I have worked over the past three years in developing a three step one-pot reaction that affords complex carboxylic acid derivatives useful as intermediates for the synthesis of biologically active compounds.
Advisor: Dr. Kelling Donald
Research: During my freshman year, I have examined the structure, bonding and energetics of a new class of bis(phenalenyl) MP2 sandwich complexes of divalent metals. This work has been published and cited by several other researchers.
Awards: Richmond Science Scholar, Phi Beta Kappa, Dave C. Evans award. I have taken numerous advanced chemistry classes at UR (physical organic chemistry and catalysis, medicinal chemistry, organometallics, spectroscopy and instrumentation), which have enhanced my scientific reasoning and provided me with a valuable foundation for the courses I will take during my graduate studies.
Graduate school: Harvard University, Ph. D. in organic chemistry.
Graduate research: I plan to continue developing new reactions and studying their mechanisms by using the tools of physical organic chemistry.

Mary Jane Drake, biochemistry and molecular biology
: Dr. Ellis Bell
Research: Studying protein-protein interactions in malate dehydrogenase, an important enzyme involved in glucose metabolism in almost all organisms. Using atomic force microscopy to see how the natural substrates affects the strength of atomic interactions between protein subunits.
Awards: Phi Beta Kappa, Gamma Sigma Epsilon, BMB Honors Program, A&S Summer Research Fellowship, Best Undergraduate Poster at Annual Symposium of Protein Society, presented at regional and national conferences
Graduate school: University of Pennsylvania
Graduate research: Microbiology and virology. Drake said she studied abroad in South Africa, taking classes in medicinal chemistry while volunteering at TB hospital for children, which really helped her to find her niche and future career path.

Kara Finzel, chemistry with honors, minor in medical humanities
: Dr. John Gupton
Research: My research involves the use of vinylogous iminium salts as starting materials for the synthesis of interesting heterocycles. These nitrogen-containing compounds can be used to synthesize biologically active marine natural products, which have anti-cancer capabilities.
Awards: Richmond Robins Science Scholar (four years), Golden Key Honor Society, Phi Beta Delta International Honor Society, Mortar Board Phi Alpha Chapter, NIH funded research fellowship
Graduate school: University of California-San Diego to pursue a PhD in organic chemistry
Graduate research: Organic synthesis with biologically important applications

Sally Fisher, chemistry
Advisor: Dr. Carol Parish
Research: My research focuses on simulating the structure and folding properties of a class of proteins known as repeat proteins. In particular, I am interested in understanding this dynamic behavior in the binding domain of the kinesin motor protein. Elucidating the structure and folding behavior of kinesin has important implications in diseases such as Alzheimer's and Huntington's.
Awards: Beckman Scholarship, Phi Beta Kappa, Omicron Delta Kappa (Leadership), Class of 1964 Scholarship
Graduate school: Stanford University
Graduate research: In graduate school, I plan to develop algorithms for processing and analyzing molecular dynamics data that will allow for long timescale simulations of large biological systems. I hope to apply this to protein folding problems and interesting large-scale biological phenomena.

Spencer Harris, biology
Advisor: Dr. Jonathan Dattelbaum
Research: We are investigating two questions surrounding pigmented bacteria isolated from Chesapeake Bay sponges.  First, we are trying to isolate and characterize the pigments that the bacteria produce.  Secondly, we are trying to determine the biosynthetic pathway and gene sequences responsible for the production of the pigment in the bacteria.
Awards: HHMI Summer Fellowship, Grainger Summer Fellowship
Graduate school: I have been accepted to the University of Louisville MD/PhD program, though I am waiting to definitively hear from another MD/PhD program at this time.
Graduate research: Though I am not certain which field of research I will end up in, I am interested in cancer biology, cell and molecular biology and microbiology. Within these fields, I am specifically interested research that has clinical implications.

Shannon Hedrick, biochemistry and molecular biology
: Dr. Ellis Bell
Graduate school: Virginia Commonwealth University

Xin Jia, chemistry
Advisor: Dr. John Gupton
Graduate school: Emory University or Georgia Institute of Technology

Maria Lindell, chemistry
Advisor: Dr. Michelle Hamm
Research: In my lab, we study the replication of 8-oxo-2’deoxyguanosine (OdG), a common DNA lesion, by Pol1 from a thermophilic bacteria to understand the mutagenic properties of the lesion. We use nucleotide analogues in replication experiments to measure kinetics of incorporation of dCTP or dATP opposite dG, OdG, and the analogues, and compare these to further understand the specific atomic interactions that allow base pairing of OdG with both dA and dC. I also worked on the organic synthesis of the triphosphates of the analogues used in the lab.
Awards: Boatwright Scholar, Analytical Chemistry Award (2009 and 2010), J. Stanton Pierce Award, ACS Analytical Chemistry Award
Graduate school: UNC-Chapel Hill
Graduate research: Bioanalytical chemistry

John Mancini, chemistry
Advisor: Dr. Carol Parish
Research: I have utilized molecular mechanics and quantum mechanics to study the flexibility and fluorescent behavior of several fluorescent bio-sensors.
Awards: Junior Research Award
Graduate school: Emory University
Graduate research: I plan on studying theoretical chemistry as it pertains to chemical reaction dynamics.

Anna Parker, chemistry
: Dr. Carol Parish
Research: My research has involved the used of quantum chemical methods to gain a detailed understanding of various molecular systems, including damaged DNA nucleotides and thiophene diradicals. Certain types of damaged DNA have been linked to aging and degenerative disease, and thiophene diradicals are important intermediates to a number of reaction pathways.
: Goldwater scholar, Outstanding Junior Chemistry Major, Best Undergraduate Poster at the Sanibel Symposium, Outstanding Sophomore in Chemistry Research, and Stuart Clough Award for Achievement in Organic Chemistry
Graduate school: University of California, Berkeley
Graduate research: Physical chemistry

Bernard Wittmaack, chemistry and physics
Advisor: Dr. Kelling Donald
Research: I am doing research on the nature of chemical bonding through ab initio simulations. Currently, I am finishing up work on modeling halogenation and charge saturation in group 14 halomethane analogues.
Awards: Junior Research Award
Graduate school: University of Virginia PhD program
Graduate research: Materials Science and Engineering with a computational focus

Yajing (Angela) Xie, Biochemistry
Advisor: Dr. Carol Parish
Research: My project involves the computational modeling of novel drug molecules that are designed to combat HIV.  Using supercomputers to perform conformational analysis and molecular simulations, we can gain insights to their molecular interaction with the HIV virus and predict their plausibility and potency as HIV drug candidates.
Awards: Gamma Sigma Epsilon Chemistry Honor Society, Phi Beta Delta International Honor Society, Golden Key International Honor Society, Phi Eta Sigma (freshman honor), Dean’s List, Richmond Science Scholar, Clarence E. Denoon Scholarship Award in the Natural Sciences, Virginia Foundation of Independent Colleges Award, SSUR and HHMI scholar, Arts and Sciences Summer Research Fellow
Graduate school: Columbia University, integrative biomedical science program
Graduate research: I plan of focusing my graduate research on biophysics and biochemistry, areas of research that use principles of chemistry and physics to solve problems relevant to the biological world.