Alumni Updates

Two chemistry graduates

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Alumni Stories

Our graduates have gone on to pursue their passions and build outstanding careers in their chosen fields. To learn more about our graduates, visit our Alumni Careers page, or check out our Alumni Notes.

Ashley McNeill, MLIS, PhD

Dr. Ashley S. McNeill worked with Prof. David A. Dixon during her PhD studies (and during a previous REU) at the University of Alabama in the field of computational chemistry. While at UA, Ashley worked on a wide variety of electronic structure projects, including work with the Cassady group on modeling the amino acid and small peptide species produced in their mass spectrometry experiments in support of the goals of the Human Proteome Project.

Other notable projects during Ashley’s time at UA include anionic DNA base pair interactions between adenine and thymine, isotope fractionation factors for 13C vs12C between alanine and pyruvate anions during the enzyme-catalyzed process performed by alanine transaminase in the human liver, oxygen exchange in thin films of water on a mineral surface, and the study of aqueous CO2, with a view to its dimerization to form value-added products such as the oxalate dianion. While at UA, Ashley also participated in the GAANN program (Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need, funded by the US Department of Education), which helped prepare her for her career in chemical education.

After graduating in 2020, Ashley began her career as Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Springfield College in Springfield, MA. She currently teaches chemistry and acts as Director of Pre-Medical and Pre-Health Professions Advising.

Michael Curry, PhD

Michael Curry

Dr. Michael Curry earned his PhD from The University of Alabama in 2004. He worked with Prof. Shane Street to study the physical, mechanical, and tribological properties of dendrimer-metal nanocomposites. Dr. Curry is currently an Associate Professor of Chemistry and Adjunct Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Tuskegee University. Dr. Curry’s research focuses on the extraction and modification of sustainable plant-based materials (e.g., nanocellulose) and their application to the production of green nanocomposites and biomaterials that can be used in common items such as computers and automotive parts, as well as in the biomedical industry.

Michael is the President, Founder, and CEO of a startup company, Eco-Friendly Plastic Materials, LLC. This is a research and development company with the mission of providing cost-effective, environmentally friendly products for industry.

Dr. Curry’s research contributions were recently recognized with the 2021 HBCU Pioneer Award from the National Organization of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCCChE). The HBCU Pioneer Award recognizes an individual who has spent a significant portion of their professional career at or in support of Historically Black College and Universities (HBCU) and contributed to the advancement of science via broadening participation amongst under-represented groups in STEM.

Franchessa Sayler, PhD

Franchessa Sayler

As a graduate student, an industrial chemist asked Franchessa to look at some palladium of carbon catalyst, which he described as the “best of a bad bunch,” because, under reaction conditions, it lasted only 6 weeks of the 1 year necessary for an industrial catalyst. After examining the catalyst, Franchessa commented, “This is junk. We can do better on a bad day.” She then went on to found ThruPore Technologies with her graduate advisor Martin Bakker. Bakker was able to secure $50k in funding from the National Science Foundation for a team from ThruPore to participate in NSF’s I-Corps program to evaluate the market for their catalysts.

After graduating in 2012, Franchessa was the principal investigator on a Phase 1 Small Business Innovation Research grant of $150k followed by a Phase 2 grant of $750k to scale up production of the catalyst. In January of 2018, ThruPore carried out a venture capital financing round of $540k to build their customer base and develop a continuous process to make their catalyst. Franchessa is ThruPore’s CEO and leads a team of 3 other employees based in Tuscaloosa and Delaware.

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