Our Alumni

Melissa Singer Pressman

Melissa Singer Pressman

Ph.D. (Aldstadt)
Melissa Singer Pressman has been appointed the Director of Academic Research for the Department of Surgery at Maricopa Integrated Health Systems (MIHS). Located in Arizona, Maricopa Medical Center is a premier training center for the nation's physicians. This position is quite a bit different from her work as a PhD student, which is so often the case when one leaves college.

Dr. Pressman completed her PhD under Joe Aldstadt. While working with Dr. Aldstadt, she researched and designed a remote in situ monitoring instrument for hexavalent chromium that was based upon continuous flow analysis within a forged microconduit. She also established a novel method for determination of environmental levels of hexavalent chromium by sequential injection spectrophotometry using a polypropylene membrane-based dialyzer.

"Starting off in environmental chemistry, and ending up as Director of Academic Research for the Department of Surgery at Maricopa Integrated Health Systems may not seem a natural progression. However, the independent scientific research foundation I developed with Dr. Aldstadt at UWM helped me progress into this career. It is not always the topic of your dissertation that establishes your career path, but the skills you learned during your education. I am a good example of that," said Pressman.

Pressman's new position is intellectually challenging, which is what she enjoys the most. Some of the main responsibilities are in designing, overseeing, and participating in the development of scientific research. In addition to this, she analyzes, evaluates, and prepares clinical and academic research data for IRB (Institutional Review Board) submissions, publications, and presentations and review protocols, presentations, and publications for statistical validity. The Center currently has over 60 ongoing independent research projects; the vast majority of which are IRB-approved studies.

In addition to those responsibilities, she is also responsible for teaching their surgical residents the research component of their curriculum and writing grants to support their research interests. She also serves on the hospital-wide Institutional Review Board.

In between UWM and this new position, Pressman worked at GTI diagnostics, a biotechnology company that develops, manufactures and markets medical diagnostic assays for the transplantation (HLA), blood bank, and coagulation laboratories. Said Pressman, "The work at GTI Diagnostics was not directly related to my dissertation research, but did peripherally relate. The focus of dissertation research is scientific knowledge and independent thinking. This carries through to all lines of scientific research. In addition, Dr. Aldstadt focused a lot of attention and detail to statistical analysis and experimental design. Excelling in these two areas has helped forward my career."

Kayunta Johnson-Winters

Kayunta Johnson-Winters

Ph.D. 2006 (Moran)
Dr. Kayunta Johnson-Winters has obtained the prestigious Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award, a three year grant that is awarded to a select few postdocs nationwide.

Dr. Johnson-Winters has been working as a postdoc at the University of Arizona under the supervision of Prof. John H. Enemark. The work she has received this funding for is the study of Sulfite Oxidase from mouse (Mus musculus) amongst other forms (human, plant and bacteria). The enzyme works in thecatabolism of sulfur containing amino acids. When there is a defect in the pathway it causes a rare, but fatal disease known as Sulfite Oxidase Deficiency. She uses kinetics and spectroscopic techniques to probe at the function and reaction mechanism of the enzyme.

Here at UWM, Kayunta was a graduate student in the laboratory of Professor Moran from 2000-2006. During this time she was instrumental in establishing a project on 4-hydroxyphenylpyruvate dioxygenase (HPPD). HPPD is an iron dependent enzyme that is ubiquitous in aerobic metabolism, where it serves to catalyze the second step of tyrosine catabolism. This enzyme had gained significant research attention due to the importance of its inhibition to both agriculture and to medicine. Inhibition of HPPD in the plant kills the organism, while inhibition in man alleviates the symptoms of three inborn tyrosine catabolism defects, one of which is otherwise lethal. Kuyunta's thesis work examined the first structures of inhibitor complexes of the enzyme and allowed deduction of some of the key aspects of the mechanism. All of Kayunta's thesis work was published in top ranked journals in the biochemistry field.

Sara Krull

Ph.D. 2002 (Petering)
Dr. Krull was hired as a Lecturer in the Chemistry Dept. of UW-Washington County.

Leanne Zhu

M.S. 2002 (Petering)
Dr. Le Zhu was hired as an Assistant Professor at UW-Green Bay to help start a new undergraduate and masters program in food science and nutrition.

Chunrong Ma

Chunrong Ma

Ph.D. 2000 (Cook)

Chunrong Ma, an alumnus of the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, was recently awarded the Pfizer La Jolla Green Chemistry Award. Ma entered the graduate program in 1994, earning a PhD in the summer of 2000, under the supervision of James M. Cook. This portion of the following article was published in The Groton / New London Edition of PGRD's Online Newspaper on January 7, 2008.
By Dani Powell

After learning that two kilograms of a backup candidate for type 2 diabetes were needed to support regulatory toxicology studies and Phase I clinical trials, Chunrong Ma and his colleagues saw the opportunity to practice green chemistry.

One area they focused on involved a technique used to purify chemical compounds called column chromatography. This is an energy intensive process that is typically performed multiple times during synthesis, and requires a large amount of solvent.

"La Jolla developed an enabling (scalable) synthesis of the compound in order to meet the API requirement," said Ma. "The process employed alternate techniques such as crystallization, salt formation and chemical resolution, and successfully eliminated multiple column chromatographic purifications in the original discovery synthesis."

"When you are doing chemical synthesis and creating molecules, you have to go through a lot of operations," said Jessica Mann, La Jolla's Green Chemistry Team Leader. "Anytime you can reduce the number of operations that you have to follow, like Ma succeeded in doing, that type of a change saves you time and waste."

Additionally, Ma's team was also instrumental in developing a procedure to recycle and reuse an expensive resolving agent, R-(+)-chlocyphos, which was implemented in Ann Arbor's kilo lab. When all was tolled, this change enabled the team to reuse 6.67 kg of the agent, thereby minimizing waste and saving the organization approximately $40,000.

"I am delighted that I was able to implement some of the green chemistry principles in our efforts," said Ma. "I would like to thank the members of La Jolla's Research API group, all of whom had a part in the results, and my colleagues in Ann Arbor's kilo lab, who were willing to adopt the recycling procedure for the resolving agent in the tight-scheduled scale-up campaign."

Dan Killelea

Dan Killelea

B.S. 2000
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee alumnus Dan Killelea, class of 2000, received his Ph.D. in Chemistry from the Tufts University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in May 2007.

Killelea's dissertation title was "Bond-Selective Control of a Gas-Surface Reaction" and his research focused on, in his words, "the vibrational dynamics of methane dissociation on a nickel surface. Vibrational energy increases the probability of breaking one [of] the bonds in the incident methane molecule. I determined that vibrational energy will remain localized in initially prepared states throughout the reaction by using a laser to excite the C-H stretch in CHD3. I then determined whether a C-D or C-H bond was broken when the CHD3 molecules dissociated on the surface. I was able to demonstrate that molecules with C-H stretch excitation react exclusively though C-H cleavage, showing that the energy remains localized in the C-H oscillator. The impact of this work is that it shows that it is possible to use laser light to control the outcome of a chemical reaction, under conditions where it was thought likely that energy would be randomized, making this bond-selective chemistry impossible."

Nick Raffaele

B.S. 1997
Nick Raffaele is now working for Metabasis Therapeutics Inc. as a Research Associate III in Medicinal Chemistry.

Zhiwu Zhu

Ph.D. 1995 (Petering)
Dr. Zhiwu Zhu has been named distinguished professor of biochemistry at Zhengzhou University,China.

Kevin Condroski

B.S. 1987
Kevin Condroski went on to receive a Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology. He is currently a Senior Research Investigator for Array BioPharma, Inc.

Rommy Masrour

B.S. 1987
Rommy Masrour received a Masters in Education from UIC in 2006 and is currently a TAT for Chicago Public Schools.

Keith F. Dahnke

B.S. 1969
Mr. Dahnke went on to receive a Ph.D. in Chemistry from Purdue University. He retired from Conoco Phillips on Jan. 31, 2007 After 31 years.

William Guthright

B.S. 1964
Dr. Guthright has been appointed Director, Environmental and Industrial Sciences Division at RTI international.

Richard W. Roberts

UWM 1939-1941
Mr. Roberts attended UWM from 1939-1941 when it was then known as the Milwaukee State Teacher College. Read this interesting letter he sent us: PDF (560kb).