Teacher-Scholar News

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This summer, we bid farewell to former Teacher-Scholars Kristopher Barr and Daniel Nasrallah, and we welcome our newest Teacher-Scholars Chau Ngo and Rajat Maji.

Our Teacher-Scholar program allows postdoctoral scholars to experience research and teaching at the same time as a way to prepare them for future faculty or research positions.

Dr. Kristopher Barr (2020-23 Willard F. Libby Teacher-Scholar, P. Weiss group) “The Teacher-Scholar program helped me grow as a researcher, educator, and mentor,” Barr said. “Starting in the fall, I will be teaching at California State University, Dominguez Hills where I will focus on building communities of learning and supporting the diverse student body within the institution. I will also be continuing my collaborations with the Institute for Pure & Applied Mathematics (IPAM) and Professor Paul S. Weiss’ group on image analysis and surface chemistry.”

Dr. Daniel Nasrallah

Dr. Daniel Nasrallah (2020-23 Donald J. Cram Teacher-Scholar, Garg group) will be joining the faculty at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia, as an assistant professor.  “At Roanoke College, I plan to use my experience as a researcher and educator to develop a research program that attracts talented and diverse undergraduate students and to inspire students in the classroom through engaging teaching demonstrations,” Nasrallah said. “Together with the research students in my lab, we will design transition metal-free reactions to make C–N, C–B, and C–Si bonds.  These methods will provide inexpensive and environmentally friendly alternatives to transition metal-catalyzed approaches.”

Dr. Chao Ngo

Dr. Chau Ngo (2023-2024 Donald J. Cram Teacher-Scholar, Backus group) joined our Teacher-Scholar Instructional faculty in July 2023. She will be teaching the General and Organic Chemistry Laboratory I & II (CHEM 14BL/ 14CL) in the Winter and Spring quarters (2024). As a teacher, Ngo’s teaching philosophy is to cultivate culturally responsive and evidence-based teaching to develop an inclusive and student-centered learning environment. 

As part of her new position, Ngo also conducts chemical biology research in Professor Keriann Backus’ group. Her research interests in the Backus lab center around the discovery of new small molecules as chemical tools to study ligandable proteomes and the development of mass-spectrometry chemical proteomics platforms to conduct comprehensive screening and robust target identification.

Ngo received her B.S. and M.S. in Chemistry from the University of California, San Diego (2016 & 2018). She then pursued her doctoral study in Chemistry at the University of Southern California (USC) in the laboratory of Professor Chao Zhang. Working in multidisciplinary research at the interface of organic chemistry, medicinal chemistry, and chemical biology, Ngo’s doctoral research mainly focused on the development of potent and selective small-molecule covalent inhibitors against numerous therapeutic proteins for the treatment of human diseases, including COVID-19 and autoimmune diseases. 

Ngo’s excellence in teaching and research during her professional graduate training has been recognized by many awards and fellowships including USC Excellence in Graduate Student Teaching Award in Organic Chemistry (2019), the prestigious USC Burg Teaching Fellowship Award (2022), and the USC Excellence in Graduate Student Research Award (2013). In Fall 2022, Ngo also served as an Assistant Lecturer for the first-semester of Organic Chemistry series at USC. 

Dr. Rajat Maji

Dr. Rajat Maji (2023-2024 Donald J. Cram Teacher-Scholar, Doyle group) joined our Teacher-Scholar Instructional faculty in July 2023. He will be teaching Chemical Dynamics and Reactivity: Introduction to Organic Chemistry (30A), and Organic Reactions and Pharmaceuticals (14D).

As part of his new position, Maji also conducts research in Professor Abigail Doyle’s group as a postdoctoral scholar where he is designing radical polar crossover reactions aided by High Throughput Experimentation and Data Science. To promote synergy between theory and experimentation, Rajat created an online platform: VISTA.

A native of Kolkata, India, Dr. Rajat Maji received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from the University of Calcutta and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur respectively. While at IIT, Maji worked on synthesizing modified carbohydrates, and asymmetric organocatalysis.  He also carried out project research at the National University of Singapore.  Maji received his Ph.D. in 2018 from Texas A&M University, under the supervision of Professor Steven E. Wheeler, where he honed his knowledge of organic structure and reactivity through the lens of state-of-the-art computations. Maji then relocated to Europe and spent three years as a Marie Sklodowska-Curie postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Professor Benjamin List at the Max-Planck-Institut fur Kohlenforschung-Germany, where he worked on asymmetric olefin functionalizations. 

Our current Teacher-Scholars Dr. Huiling Shao (2021-2022 Donald J. Cram Teacher-Scholar, Houk group) and Dr. Mackenzie Anderson (2022-25 Willard F. Libby Teacher-Scholar, Kaner group) will continue to teach undergraduate chemistry and biochemistry courses and conduct research in the 2023-24 academic year.  

About the Boyer/Cram/Libby Teacher-Scholar Program

The Teacher-Scholar positions honor UCLA Chemistry & Biochemistry Department Nobel Laureates Paul D. Boyer, Donald J. Cram, and Willard F. Libby, and recognize their many contributions to the advancement of chemistry and biochemistry. Boyer/Cram/Libby Teacher-Scholars are expected to serve for three years, with the initial appointment for one year, plus the possibility of renewal annually. They are expected to teach three one-quarter undergraduate chemistry or biochemistry courses during a given academic year and conduct postdoctoral research with a sponsoring faculty member in the UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry. 

About our Former Teacher-Scholars

Our Teacher-Scholars represent the finest educators and researchers in their respective fields. Though we are always sad to say goodbye, we are confident they will continue to make significant contributions to the world.

Dr. Agape Awad (2018-2020 Paul D. Boyer Teacher-Scholar, C. Clarke group) is currently an Extended Studies Biochemistry Professor at the University of California, San Diego Extension. 

Dr. Christian Beren (2018-2020 Willard F. Libby Teacher-Scholar, Gelbart/Knobler group) in August 2020, Beren started a position as an assistant teaching professor at the Colorado School of Mines in Chemistry. At Mines, Christian teaches a combination of general chemistry, physical chemistry and biochemistry/biophysics courses. 

Dr. Marlius Castillo (2019-2021 Donald J. Cram Teacher-Scholar, García-Garibay group) is currently an Assistant Professor of Instruction in the Department of Chemistry and Physics at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee. 

Dr. Shuming Chen (2016-2019 Donald J. Cram Teacher-Scholar, Houk group) July 2020, Chen accepted a position as Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Oberlin College in Ohio. 

Dr. Zhao Li (our first 2016-2019 Willard F. Libby Teacher-Scholar, Lin group) is currently a Lead Data Scientist at dave.com.  

Dr. Anish Nag (2019-2021 Paul D. Boyer Teacher-Scholar, Gelbart group) started a new position as Process Development Scientist-Drug Product Technology at Amgen in Thousand Oaks in August 2021. His position is within the pre-pivotal stage manufacturing group and involves process optimization of drug candidates. 

Dr. Sharon Neufeldt (our first 2013-2016 Donald J. Cram Postdoctoral Teacher-Scholar, Houk group) is currently an associate professor of chemistry at Montana State University.  

Dr. Rachel Prado (2017-2019 Donald J. Cram Teacher-Scholar, Bouchard group) In 2019, Prado returned to her home state of Alabama to accept an organic chemistry and biochemistry lecturer position at Auburn University.

Dr. Roshini Ramachandran (2017-2019 Paul D. Boyer Teacher-Scholar, Spokoyny group) is currently the Assistant Director of Curricular Initiatives at the UCLA Center for the Advancement of Teaching. She continues to teach undergraduate courses for the department.

Dr. Jacquelin Kammeyer Woodford (our first 2016-2019 Paul D. Boyer Teacher-Scholar, Maynard group) is a Lecturer in Chemistry at Wellesley College. 

Information above as of August 4, 2023. Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, penny@chem.ucla.edu