Graduate Student Panel

“What’s Graduate School Really Like in STEM fields?”

Hear from a diverse group of graduate students and recent graduate about their experiences during graduate school. The panelists come from different research institutions and disciplines and can be your resource for better navigating graduate school successfully. Questions are welcome to help facilitate the discussion.

Erika Varner is a 5th year graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh under the advising of Dr. Adrian Michael. Erika graduated with a B.S. degree in chemistry from California University of Pennsylvania in 2012. Her graduate work focuses on chemical measurements in the rat brain utilizing both carbon fiber microelectrodes and microdialysis. While at the University of Pittsburgh she has coauthored 5 papers and presented her research at both PITTCON and Monitoring Molecules in Neuroscience. She also received a Safford graduate student teaching award, and two fellowships, one of which was a 3-year National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Fellowship Program (GRFP) Fellowship. In her free time she enjoys running, playing sports, reading, and spending time with family and friends

Kedar Perkins received a B.S. degree in Chemistry with a minor in Economics from the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). At UMBC he was a part of the Meyerhoff Scholars Program which aims to prepare underrepresented minorities to pursue doctoral degrees in STEM fields. As an undergraduate student he participated in summer research programs at Carnegie Mellon University, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and Georgia Institute of Technology. Now a PhD student at Carnegie Mellon University, his research focuses on utilizing polymer grafting strategies to augment lignin’s native interfacial capabilities for emulsion, dispersant, and agriculture applications.

Victoria Henry is a recent Ph.D. graduate in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering.  She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from the University of the Virgin Islands, and went on to pursue her Master’s and Ph.D. at the University of Iowa.  Prior to joining the University of Iowa, she completed internships at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Hovensa Oil Refinery.

Her Ph.D. thesis focused on green chemistry applications in the removal of an environmental pollutant from water-rich systems using microbial biofilms.  She developed protocols for identifying molecular distribution within complex microbial systems, extracted microbial products for downstream processing, and designed biofilm conducive bioreactors.

Victoria brings over seven years of experience with aseptic techniques, good laboratory practice, and experience working collaboratively with a diverse group of people.  She is currently employed as a Team Lead at Zoetis animal biopharmaceutics where she supervises 37 technicians in the production of over 48 antigens globally and domestically.  There she conducts process deviation investigations, bioprocess improvement research, batch record documentation, and quality assurance reports.

Born in the city of black and gold, Khiry Patterson earned his undergraduate degree in chemistry from Duquesne University located in Uptown Pittsburgh, Pa. Upon encouragement from his family, he continued his education at Duquesne where he is currently a 4th year Ph.D. student under the advising of Dr. Michael van Stipdonk – placing him on track to become the first in his family to earn beyond a bachelor’s degree. At present Khiry’s research focus is improving gas-phase de novo peptide sequencing methods for more reliable peptide/protein identification using tandem mass spectrometry. So far his research has been published in 2 journals, the International Journal of Mass Spectrometry and Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry, as well as presented at the American Society for Mass Spectrometry’s annual conference.