John Wiley Jones Outstanding Students in Science

Each year, one student from each of the five academic units of the College of Science is chosen for the John Wiley Jones Outstanding Students in Science based on their academic achievements, citizenship, and contributions to the quality of campus life.

Congratulations to our 2021 scholars!

headshot of Adam GiammareseAdam Giammarese is an honors student from Port Jefferson, New York who is working towards a BS in Applied Mathematics and a BS in Mechanical Engineering (with an aerospace concentration), as well as an MS in Applied and Computational Mathematics.

After entering RIT as a Mechanical Engineering major, Adam's passion for mathematics was ignited in his second year and he declared a second major in Applied Mathematics. In Fall 2018, Adam completed a co-op at Collins Aerospace in Danbury, CT in which he worked with manufacturing electronics for satellites. In June 2019, he started working for another Collins Aerospace location in Rockford, IL as a systems engineering intern developing optimal simulations for three-phase commercial aircraft generators in MATLAB/Simulink. There Adam used his mathematics experience to drastically reduce simulation time while also boosting the fidelity of the simulations.

Adam started research within the School of Mathematical Sciences (SMS) starting in Spring 2019 with Dr. Tony Harkin, Dr. Nate Barlow, and Dr. Steve Weinstein on analytical solutions of a model of the nonlinear dynamics of collapsing bubbles within a fluid. This research paper is currently under peer review for publication. In Summer 2020, Adam participated in the NSF-funded Graph Theory and Dynamical Systems REU led by Dr. Darren Narayan in which, under the supervision of Dr. Nishant Malik, he used climate networks to quantify the effects of perturbations in the Amazon on the sensitivity of the global climate. For this project, Adam won the Environmental Sciences and Sustainability category of the RIT Graduate Education Showcase, and also presented his work at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in January 2021.

Outside of classwork and research, Adam has shown a great interest in giving back to the College of Science community. He acted as a student panelists on a variety of student outreach programs. These programs include COS Tiger Talks, which seeks to aid COS freshman in their transition from high school studies to life at RIT during COVID-19, as well as numerous open houses for COS and SMS.

Adam will be continuing his studies at RIT as a Mathematical Modeling Ph.D. student starting in Fall 2021.

headshot of Jonathan ChuJonathan Chu is a fourth-year biotechnology and molecular bioscience student from Fresh Meadows, New York with minors in chemistry and psychology. During his time at RIT, he has demonstrated academic success and a strong work ethic, all while balancing a variety of extracurricular activities.

For the last three years, Jonathan’s naturally inquisitive nature and desire to learn drove him to participate in undergraduate research under the supervision of Dr. André Hudson in the Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences, where he worked to isolate and identify novel antibiotics produced from bacteria. He has also worked on research collaborations that involve plastic degradation by bacteria and the construction of a microfluidic device for particle extraction. Being involved in scientific discovery has informed Jonathan’s career path, leading him to aspire for medical and graduate studies in the future.

Outside of research, Jonathan is a Teaching Assistant for Organic Chemistry I and II, as well as a tutor for the Higher Education Opportunity Program for first-generation and minority college students. Jonathan has also served on the Isaac L. Jordan Faculty Pluralism and Student Scholarship Selection Committee as the student representative. Finally, he spends much of his free time volunteering with various organizations such as; the Rochester General Hospital and Foodlink.

headshot of Lily GaffneyLily Gaffney is a third-year student who is completing her BS in imaging science and an immersion in biology.

Lily began research right away as a participant in the Freshman Imaging Project in 2018 in the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science. This project developed a multi-view imaging system to image, and then build accurate 3D models of insects for use in the Rochester Museum and Science Center. Last spring, just pre-COVID, Lily approached the Center leadership about re-starting work for this project. One of our faculty members, Dr. Tony Vodacek, had maintained the relationship with RMSC and she was going to work with him during the summer to re-build the imaging system and add new functionality to it. Unfortunately, due to COVID, her summer research plans were put on hold. However, we are confident that as soon as possible her budding research career will quickly be restarted.

Lily’s academic performance has been excellent. She has been named to the Dean’s List every semester since starting at RIT in 2018. In addition to her coursework, she also is a key student contributor to the Center. She works in our stock room, interacting with both undergraduate and graduate students. Additionally, she is on the Executive Board of the Imaging Science Club, serving as the Treasurer. In this role, she fulfills a leadership position in the primary student-run club in the Center.

Outside the Center, she is also the Vice-President of Caring Hearts for RIT Cats, a student club dedicated to caring for the feral cat population at RIT. She is also affiliated with the Hawk’s Nest Greenhouse & Stables in Bath, Maine, the RIT Outdoors Club, and the RIT GLBTQIA Alliance.

The Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science is proud to name Lily as a 2021 John Wiley Jones Outstanding Student in Science, and we look forward to seeing what comes next!

headshot of Lucas BerensLucas Berens is a fourth-year Physics student from Calabasas, California who is completing his BS in Physics with a minor in Mathematics.

Lucas has spent the past five semesters working with Dr. George Thurston on multiple fronts in the School of Physics and Astronomy. His projects include estimating Van der Waals forces between human eye proteins with the use of UV absorbance spectroscopy; investigating UV absorbance and available vacuum UV absorbance data of many amino acids; and modeling absorption of proteins in terms of their constituent amino acids.

For his Capstone project, Lucas is investigating single-proton final states arising from neutral-current interactions in the MINERvA neutrino detector at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. Working with Dr. Aaron McGowan, Lucas is developing a Gaudi algorithm to sift through the more common charged-current interactions that produce a muon or electron, in search of the less common neutral-current interactions.

As a Learning Assistant in Sophomore Seminar, Lucas offered a series of mock oral exams to prepare his students for their final exams. Lucas is the current President of the Society of Physics Students and, along with the members of the SPS Eboard, has restructured the organization's activities to better serve the School of Physics and Astronomy students during the pandemic.

This fall, Lucas will merge his experience in biophysics and particle physics by pursuing a Ph.D. in Medical Physics at the University of Chicago.

headshot of Nana AikinsNana Aikins is a fourth-year Biochemistry major, minoring in psychology. Originally from Ghana, Nana immigrated to the United States in 2016 and currently calls Austell Georgia home. The School of Chemistry and Materials Science (SCMS) is delighted to name Nana as our 2021 John Wiley Jones Outstanding Student in Science.

Nana has been doing research with Dr. Suzanne O’Handley since Fall 2018 on a number of projects that all center on characterizing various Nudix Hydrolases from human pathogens (M. tuberculosis and M. leprae) as potential novel antibiotic targets. He has presented this research at the RIT undergraduate research symposium, the Rochester Academy of Sciences meeting, the local American Chemical Society student symposium, and he is currently scheduled to present his work at the virtual national meeting of the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the end of April 2021. He was awarded a BACC SURF, ASBMB Research Grant, LSAMP Research Grant, and Pasto Research Fellowship to carry out this research. In addition, Nana has done a semester of research each with Dr. Michael Gleghorn on the VapC protein from M. tuberculosis and Dr. Mikini Beck on using influenza models to predict other disease outbreaks.

Additionally, Nana is the recipient of a Founder Scholarship, Fred Emerson Scholarship, and Nathaniel Rochester Scholarship. He has been inducted into the ASBMB National Honors Society ΧΩΛ, is a McNair/LSAMP Scholar, SCMS Research Scholar, and RIT Outstanding Scholar.

Nana has also given back to his community in a number of ways. He has been a TA or LA for Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry Lab, and Biochemistry I. He is the scholarship chairman and an Eboard member of Phi Delta Theta, an Eboard member of the RIT ASBMB student chapter, and a member of the Organization for African Students. Nana has volunteered in a number of capacities including in the ER at Rochester General, the Rochester Museum and Science Center, Imagine RIT, Rochester Special Olympics, and has been a Terra Science Fair Judge.

Upon graduation, Nana plans on a career in medicine as a doctor. Currently, his interests are in cardiology or oncology.

2020 Award Recipients

headshot of Greg Nero

The Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science is happy to honor Greg Nero, a fourth-year imaging science student from Aliquippa, PA, as our 2020 John Wiley Jones Outstanding Student Scholar.

Greg has maintained an exceptionally high grade point average throughout his time in the rigorous and challenging imaging science curriculum. This combined with his fierce work ethic and positive demeanor led him to be selected as an Optical Engineer Intern at Ball Aerospace in the summer of 2019. Greg also attended the Optics and Photonics Winter School Workshop at the James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences at the University of Arizona in January 2020.

Greg has exemplified greatness across many disciplines. In addition to excelling academically, Greg is the president of Imaging Science Club, organizer of the first Imaging Science Hackathon in January 2020, and never hesitates to volunteer for recruitment events and RIT activities. He motivates peers to get involved and consistently pushes the boundaries beyond adequate into exceptional. Along with being highly reliable, he is described by imaging science leadership as being “a kind-hearted soul and all-around nice person.” Greg has been accepted into the highly competitive Ph.D. program at the University of Arizona.

headshot of Grace Fiacco

Grace Fiacco is a fourth year Physics student from Lewiston, New York who is completing her BS in physics with minors in astronomy and mathematics and an immersion in ASL and deaf cultural studies.

Grace has spent the past two years working with Professor Joshua Faber and his team at the Center for Computational Relativity and Gravitation to study binary neutron star systems; work which became her Physics Capstone project. Her studies include the generation of initial data for binaries in quasi- equilibrium. She and the team are using the results to create a large, publicly accessible data library that will be available to researchers around the world. More recent projects involve using dynamical studies on supercomputers to study the gravitational wave signatures and mass ejecta properties created by merging neutron star binaries.

She has presented her work at a number of scientific meetings, including the 2019 Einstein Toolkit Workshop held at RIT for 100 visiting scientists, as well as the 29th annual Midwest Relativity Meeting hosted by Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, MI. Her previous work with Professor Jeyhan Kartaltepe on trends in galaxy morphology at high redshift, supported by a College of Science Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, was presented at the 2018 RIT Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Outside of her work as a TA for the School of Physics and Astronomy, Grace is an active member in several performing arts groups on campus. She served as director and a stage manager for the RIT Players throughout her first three years, and is currently the President of the RIT Game Symphony Orchestra, a new student-run video game symphonic orchestra on campus. She has been involved since its founding three years ago, as both a musician and a member of the administrative team. Alongside clubs, Grace has also played cello for both the RIT Philharmonic Orchestra and the Brighton Symphony Orchestra.

Grace plans to continue her studies as a Ph.D. student in astrophysics, hopefully on the way to a career involving research in gravitational physics and possibly a professor in academia.

headshot of Emily MahoneyEmily exemplifies the model student in Science at RIT and displays a tremendous amount of energy in academics, research, and student leadership activities. She has impressed us with her academic brilliance and her research prowess. The School of Chemistry and Materials Science is excited to name her a 2020 John Wiley Jones Outstanding Student Scholar.

Hailing from Cazenovia, New York, Emily was well prepared for college. Emily rapidly earned entry to the RIT honors program in her first year, an Emmerson Fellowship for research in her second year, and entry into University of Oxford in her third year. Stemming from her research, an elusive dye was synthesized, followed by a targeted imaging agent which was sent to Roswell Park Cancer Institute for testing in cancer models. This remarkable achievement was followed by collaborating with two other students to produce a publication on a series of new near infrared dyes in the Journal of Photoacoustic and Photobiological Chemistry.

On top of her accomplishments in academics and research, Emily’s days are filled with organizing and leading activities in the College of Science Student Advisory Board and she is an active member of the College of Science Student Government.

Emily is well rounded with many other interests. She is a talented singer, and she performs with a delightful, up-beat a cappella group on campus. She is an avid downhill skier and leader in the RIT ski team and she has enjoyed travels to as many as 20 different countries. It is mind-boggling that she is able to maintain a near-perfect grade point average while being involved with so many activities.

Emily has as a bright future in store. She will be known for her energy, dedication, cleverness, cheerfulness, and her leadership.

headshot of Quinn KoltQuinn is a third year double major in applied mathematics and computer science. Throughout their time at RIT, Quinn has been exploring and excelling in the world of mathematics.

Quinn’s primary research is with Dr. Akhtar Khan in Applied Inverse Problems, in particular Uncertainty Quantification. They spent the summer working with Dr. Khan on methods in Stochastic Partial Differential Equations, which they presented at the Undergraduate Research Symposium at RIT. Additionally, they have recently co-authored a professional paper with Dr. James Marengo that will soon be submitted for publication.

Dr. Marengo spoke of having Quinn in three different courses of which Quinn consistently advanced to the top of the class. Dr. Marengo commented, “Quinn has a very deep and abiding creativity and determination to solve hard problems in mathematics that transcends the sophistication and interest level of the vast majority of our students. Quinn has the initiative to learn very deep parts of the subject on their own and has managed to do this very successfully.”

Outside of the classroom, Quinn has participated in extremely challenging extracurricular mathematics competitions and has performed very well on them. Even though they are only a third year student, Quinn has taken a heavy load of the most advanced courses and excelled in all of them. Quinn’s excellent scholarship was recently affirmed when they were named a recipient of this year’s prestigious RIT Outstanding Undergraduate Scholarship award.

In addition to research, this is Quinn’s second year as a leader of Tangent, RIT’s transgender and nonbinary support group. Quinn has worked on several events for Transgender Day of Remembrance and Transgender Day of Visibility. Quinn is also a tutor for the Higher Education Opportunity Program, which devotes itself to ensuring the success of disadvantaged students that would otherwise be excluded from RIT.

headshot of KayLee SteinerKayLee Steiner is a fourth-year biotechnology and molecular bioscience student. Kaylee describes her start at RIT as a slow build up, but she soon discovered that she wasn’t just another face in the crowd. Her professors, her participation in clubs, and her work have all given support and growth. KayLee feels that she is thriving and actively building up our shared community. She working in the laboratory of Dr. André Hudson and is a student mentor, helping a high school student from the Rochester Academy Charter School with a semester-long project. KayLee has also helped fellow students as a Teaching Assistant for Organic Chemistry, Tissue Culture, and Microbiology.

Joining the NCAA Varsity Women’s Crew team has taught Kaylee to organize her time, start early on assignments, and be more reliable for those who need her help. She volunteers at Learn to Row camps, the Champion Academy in Rochester, and for the Special Olympics.

She became a COS Student Ambassador and participates in student panels for open houses and is a member of the Biotech Club and RIT Philharmonic Orchestra. She interned at the Moffitt Cancer Center researching prostate cancer, and plans to obtain a Ph.D. in Pharmacology or Microbiology.

About John Wiley Jones

headshot of John Wiley JonesJohn Wiley Jones had a passion for science education and was a generous contributor to academic excellence at RIT. In 1974, Jones Chemicals established the John Wiley Jones Distinguished Lectureship in Science to contribute to the education programs of RIT’s College of Science. Jones intended to bring eminent scientists to the RIT campus with the expectation of a formal lecture presentation open to the public. The company also created an endowment to support science education at RIT, the first grant of its kind in the university's history.

A portion of this endowment was used to establish the John Wiley Jones Award for Outstanding Students in Science as a tangible expression of Mr. Jones’s wish to help and encourage young people to prepare themselves for careers in scientific fields. He believed that protecting the environment and making the world safer and more fruitful for all people posed a significant challenge for future scientists. In their selection of the John Wiley Jones Outstanding Students in Science, the five academic units of the College of Science must consider the student’s academic achievements, citizenship, and contributions to the quality of campus life.