National Honor Society for Women in Chemistry



Dr. Barbara Finlayson-Pitts received her Honors B.Sc. degree in Chemistry in 1970 from Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario; M.S. (Chemistry) in 1971 from University of California, Riverside and Ph.D. (Chemistry) in 1973 from University of California, Riverside.

She was Professor of Chemistry, California State University, Fullerton in 1981-1994. In 1994, she became Professor of Chemistry at University of California, Irvine. In 2008, she formed and served as the Director of the AirUCI (Atmospheric Integrated Research at University of California, Irvine) Institute, the mission of which is to "address urgent challenges we face in air and water quality, human health, climate change, and green technology through the integration of research, education, and outreach".

Dr. Finlayson-Pitts' research area is in the elucidation at the molecular level of the chemistry and photochemistry of reactions of atmospheric interest, particularly those that form particles or take place on surfaces. Dr. Finlayson-Pitts' groundbreaking research over the last 30 years has established the molecular basis of reactions occurring in the atmosphere, particularly those at environmental interfaces and in airborne particles. Her research involves sophisticated laboratory experimental studies of complex systems under atmospherically relevant conditions, where new insights are supported and atmospheric implications quantified through close collaborations with field measurement scientists, theorists and atmospheric modelers. Her research has revealed exciting new fundamental processes important in the formation of photochemical air pollution. Dr. Finlayson-Pitts has published over 185 refereed research papers, given numerous invited research lectures and education lectures. She is consistently in demand as an invited lecturer, conference presenter and as members of editorial boards, including Science, International Reviews in Physical Chemistry, The Journal of Physical Chemistry, Journal of Environmental Science and Health, International Journal of Chemical Kinetics, Atmospheric Environment, Research on Chemical Intermediates.

In recognition of her research achievements, Dr. Finlayson-Pitts has received numerous prestigious awards and honors, including American Chemical Society Award for Creative Advances in Environmental Science and Technology, 2004. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences in 2006. In the same year, she was named UCI Distinguished Professor. In 2008, she received the Tolman Medal of the Southern California Section of the American Chemical Society. In 2013, she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry. In addition, she is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1993), Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (1994), the American Geophysical Union (2002) and received UCI School of Physical Sciences Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education (1996-1997). From December 2014- December 2015, She co-Chaired the National Academy of Sciences Committee on the Future of Atmospheric Chemistry Research.

Prof. Finlayson-Pitts is perhaps best known to the broader scientific community for coauthoring two editions of the most influential book on atmospheric chemistry. "Chemistry of the Upper and Lower Atmosphere: Theory, Experiments, and Applications" by Finlayson-Pitts and James Pitts Jr., a 969-page magnum opus the most recent edition of which was published in 2000. This book is regarded as one of the most influential compendiums of atmospheric chemistry knowledge. It can be stated without exaggeration that every atmospheric chemist keeps this book close by and refers to it constantly. This book has taught the new generation of scientists and policy makers to appreciate a strong fundamental link between the molecular properties of atmospheric constituents and workings of the Earth atmosphere as a system.

Apart from garnering over $6,000,000 grant for her own research, Dr. Finlayson-Pitts has organized major research initiatives at UCI. She has also directed several major multi-investigator projects, which have brought over $17,000,000 in air pollution research funding to UCI.

In addition to its cutting edge research activities, AirUCI has conducted, under her leadership, significant outreach activities to the community in the form of “Community Day” showcases of the research activities, as well as an annual teacher training program, that consists of a two-week educational experience during which middle and high school teachers gain hands-on education and laboratory training in advanced subjects in atmospheric and environmental chemistry. The teacher program, which has trained 200 high-school and middle-school teachers since 2005, was highlighted as one of the top outreach efforts by 2008 National Academies' Chemical Sciences Roundtable (CSR) workshop "Strengthening High School Chemistry Education through Teacher Outreach Programs".

Prof. Finlayson-Pitts is not only a visionary scientist but also a passionate educator. She invests a lot of her energy on development of new educational material for undergraduate students and makes her work broadly available through a number of publications in educational journals. Prof. Finlayson-Pitts is a great mentor, and a strong proponent of the education and professional preparation of women at all levels. During her career, she has trained 30 graduate students, 38 postdoctoral researchers, and 30 undergraduate students, including more than 40 women. Her former trainees include faculty members, government officials, and a famous astronaut! She serves as the Faculty Advisor to the Iota Sigma Pi Calcium Chapter, and she is very active in this role. She has served on the Board of External Advisors to the Minority Opportunities in Research (MORE) Programs since 2004.

Iota Sigma Pi is happy to recognize Dr. Barbara Finlayson-Pitts’ outstanding research achievements and her exceptional contributions to her profession and to bestow on her this highest honor from the Society.


Dr. Jaqueline L. Kiplinger earned a B.Sc. in chemistry in 1990 from the University of Colorado, and a Ph.D. in organometallic fluorocarbon chemistry in 1996 from the University of Utah. Her thesis work on carbon-fluorine bond activation and functionalization garnered several awards including the Union Carbide Student Innovation Recognition Award (1996), the Iota Sigma Pi Anna Louise Hoffman National Award for Outstanding Achievement in Graduate Research (1996), and the American Chemical Society's Nobel Laureate Signature Award for the best Ph.D. thesis in the U.S. (1998). She spent two years as a Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley with Bob Bergman. She came to Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) as the first Frederick Reines Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellow in 1999, and for her accomplishments, she received the Lab’s inaugural Postdoctoral Distinguished Performance Award in 2001. She joined LANL as a Technical Staff Member in Chemistry Division in July 2002.

Dr. Kiplinger is internationally recognized as a top researcher for organometallic actinide and lanthanide chemistry in the world today. Since joining Los Alamos as a staff scientist in 2002 she has published 74 research papers, and another three high-profile papers submitted. She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Royal Society of Chemistry, and the American Institute of Chemists. In 2015, she was selected as the first woman to receive the F. Albert Cotton Award in Synthetic Inorganic Chemistry, sponsored by the F. Albert Cotton Endowment Fund. Kiplinger was honored for her work in establishing synthetic routes to novel uranium and thorium compounds that have opened up new frontiers in understanding the nature of bonding and reactivity in actinides. She is the first scientist at Los Alamos to have been honored with two national-level American Chemical Society awards, the first being the Nobel Laureate Signature Award for Graduate Education in Chemistry awarded in 1998.

According to her nominator, Dr. David Morris, Division Leader of the Chemistry Division at LANL, Dr. Kiplinger has never been content to devote herself solely to her research endeavors, and this is strongly reflected in her service to the broad scientific community and to ensuring a well-trained future workforce in chemistry. In particular, Dr. Kiplinger has served as an Alternate Councilor for the ACS’s Division of Inorganic Chemistry (2009-2011), on the Editorial Board for the ACS journal Organometallics (2010-2012), and most recently as the Chair-Elect and Chair for the Organometallic Chemistry Subdivision (2013-2015) in the ACS’s Division of Inorganic Chemistry. Dr. Kiplinger’s mentoring efforts have ensured that her people are recognized at the highest possible level. All of her previous postdoctoral associates have been nominated and successfully defended for Laboratory fellowships, and two in particular were successfully defended first as Director’s Fellows and subsequently as Reines Fellows. She was also successful in securing Postdoctoral Publication Prizes and outstanding PhD thesis prizes for her postdoctoral fellows.

Iota Sigma Pi is happy to recognize Dr. Jaqueline Kiplinger’s outstanding research achievements and her contributions to her profession with the Violet Diller Award for Professional Excellence.


Dr. Vy Dong was born in Big Spring, Texas and spent early childhood in west Texas before moving with family to Anaheim, California. She graduated with honors from UC Irvine where she majored in chemistry and completed a thesis project with Larry Overman. After graduation, she joined David MacMillan's group at UC Berkeley, and then moved with his group to Caltech to complete her doctoral studies. Her Ph.D. thesis featured variants of the zwitterionic-Claisen rearrangement and a total synthesis of erythronolide B. As an NIH postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Dong pursued training in organometallic and supramolecular chemistry with Robert Bergman and Kenneth Raymond back at Berkeley. She began her independent academic career at the University of Toronto, where she was promoted with tenure and named the Adrian Brook Professor. After six years in Canada, Dr. Dong returned to the United States to assume a full professorship at her alma mater. Professor Dong's research team focuses on designing methods for preparing heterocycles and macrocycles, with a specific emphasis on strategies that feature tandem catalysis.

In an independent academic career of less than 9 years, Dr. Dong has emerged as a world leader in the invention and development of catalytic reactions for the synthesis of valuable organic molecules. Research in her laboratory has advanced catalytic hydroacylation as a unified approach for transforming C–H bonds into diverse motifs, including lactones, esters, ketones, and amides. The methods Dr. Dong has developed minimize chemical waste, increase synthetic convergence, and reduce the number of synthetic steps needed to prepare structurally intricate (and valuable) carbonyl compounds. One highlight of her research to date is a recent publication in Science reporting a rhodium catalyst that transfers the equivalent of hydrogen and CO between an aldehyde and an under mild conditions and without evolving gases. This is a pioneering report that is certain to usher in dehydroformylation as an important transformation in the chemical synthesis of high-value chemicals. Overall, Dr. Dong's research program aims to achieve more green and versatile strategies for chemical synthesis of heterocycles, polyketides, and other biologically important molecules.

Dr. Dong has authored over 50 publications and has received numerous awards including but not limited to an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship in 2009, and in 2010, an American Chemical Society Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award. This latter recognition is the most prestigious award of the American Chemical Society (ACS) for young organic chemists.

Further indications of the impact of Dong’s research in the area of catalysis are found in the remarkable number of invited lectures (>150) she has presented since beginning her independent academic career. Among these are invited lectures at 9 ACS National Meetings, the biennial ACS Organic Chemistry Symposium, The Welch Foundation Conference, and invited lectures at 7 different Gordon Research Conferences. That her reputation is truly international is apparent from her having presented ~25 invited lectures in China, Japan, UK and Switzerland.

Iota Sigma Pi is happy to recognize Dr. Vy Dong’s research achievements and her contributions to her profession with the 2016 Agnes Fay Morgan Research Award.


Dr. Amy Balija obtained her B.S. in Chemistry from Loyola University in Chicago, IL and Ph.D. in Chemistry from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is presently Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Fordham University, NY. She has been teaching at Fordham University since 2007 and at her present position since 2010. Upon starting at Fordham, Dr. Balija revitalized a dormant course, Chemistry of the Environment, a topical course for non-majors for which she developed a set of meaningful lectures and re-vamped laboratory experiments. She also revitalized the Research and Seminar majors course. The hallmark of Dr. Balija’s teaching contributions is her effort to continuously improve the undergraduate curriculum with the use of technology such as the iPad. She developed a learning module using the iPad to teach infrared spectroscopy.

Dr. Balija has been highly successful in involving undergraduates in research and publishing their work in prestigious journals such as Beilstein Journal of Organic Chemistry and encouraging them to present over 39 contributed presentations at national and local conferences. In 2015, Dr. Balija was awarded the Undergraduate Research Mentor Award at Fordham based on the nominations by her research students. Since the start of her career in Fordham, she has mentored 26 undergraduate research students, and currently has a research group of 6 undergraduates. The students she mentored have been extremely successful, having received NSF Predoctoral Fellowships, Fullbright Scholarships and Claire Booth Luce Scholarships.

Dr. Balija received highly enthusiastic recommendations from the Associate Vice President and Dean of Arts and Sciences Faculty at Fordham University, her Department Chair and past and present students at Fordham. Associate Vice President and Dean, Dr. John Harrington said in his letter of nomination: “During the period that Dr. Balija has been a member of the faculty, Fordham University experienced a rapid growth in enrollment in STEM undergraduate majors, nearly doubling those numbers compared to the entire student body.” Dr. Robert Beer, Chair of the Department of Chemistry commented that he has not seen a more energetic, inspiring and dedicated faculty member such as Dr. Balija in his over twenty years of being a professor at Fordham. Five of her present and former students wrote letters of support. One of them is now a graduate student in Rutgers University while she is working at ExxonMobil She wrote that she would not be where she is today without the guidance of Dr. Balija. Another former student commented on her organic chemistry courses as “unique, thought-provoking and engaging”. A current student remarked that Dr. Balija patiently cultivated her research skills and methods, taught her to think critically, analyze problems and find solutions, giving her imperative knowledge to prepare her for success in any field.

Iota Sigma Pi is happy to recognize Dr. Balija’s teaching achievements with the 2016 Centennial Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.


Juli-Anna is examining new transition metal-based thermoelectric bulk materials for her dissertation. Her work is devoted to the creation of a novel class of thermoelectric materials with enhanced properties, conceived via rational materials design. Thermoelectric materials convert heat into electrical energy and refrigerate via an applied current. Thus, they are promising materials for waste heat recovery as they will diminish our dependence on fossil fuels, and they will decrease the associated risk of a future energy crisis.

Juli-Anna's major professor, Dr. Kirill Kovnir, writes that her research has focused on the development of new green energy sources, new bulk thermoelectric materials based on extended cage frameworks (clathrates). Clathrates present the opportunity to simultaneously tune heat and charge transport, effectively generating promising thermoelectric properties; the chemistry of clathrate materials is complex. What is unique about Juli-Anna's project is that it explores the bounds of new transition metal-pnicogen clathrates (which have not previously been highly studied) where the inclusion of a large number of transition metals in the framework leads to enhanced electrical conductivities, and the trapped guest rattlers maintain the low thermal conductivity, an ideal combination for thermoelectrics. Juli-Anna has become a master in the synthesis of solid materials. As a result of her work, Juli-Anna has published seven papers, five of them as a first author, in such journals like JACS, Chemistry of Materials, Inorganic Chemistry, and Chemistry – A European Journal. Five more papers are currently in preparation with Juli-Anna as first author. She has also received the prestigious ICDD Ludo Frevel Crystallography Fellowship for her achievements in the field of crystallography.

Her nominator, Susan Kauzlarich, writes that Juli-Anna has developed into a role model for graduate researchers, a leader, and an imaginative scientist. She has been involved in leadership positions organizing an all University of California graduate student research conference. She is a quick learner and takes on considerable responsibility including mentoring undergraduates. Her recommendation letters focus not only on academic ability but also on admirable qualities including leadership, scientific imagination, and interest in new discoveries "rather than in secured established research". Such thinking outside of the box is to be commended.


Megan Wancura has embraced a variety of research opportunities in diverse areas and plans on an advanced degree in chemistry. She is an exceptionally driven and dedicated student who is not deterred by failures. Megan has a cheerful attitude, and she is always ready to learn about the next topic or concept. She has a deep grasp of the fundamental principles of organic chemistry and can readily apply them to new challenges. Her command of the material is very impressive as is her ability to help others improve their own learning. Megan has an impressive amount of research experience. First, Megan joined a research project using molecular tools to assess the temporal pattern of ciliate diversity in a pond on campus. Her sophomore year, Megan learned the basics of light and fluorescence microscopy before shifting to a project looking at the unusual genome structure of the ciliate Blepharisma americanum. Last summer, she was awarded a competitive DAAD RISE Scholarship for a 12-week chemistry research internship position in Germany. Megan worked on natural product isolation and structural analysis at the Institute for Plant Biochemistry in Halle. This year, she has started working with synthetic polymer hydrogels towards the goal of implementing biomimetics and topographical features for their eventual use in tissue scaffolding. This is outstanding for a student who has yet to complete her junior year and speaks to Megan's commitment to her development as a research scientist during her time at Smith and beyond. Megan shows a great deal of promise and potential to make contributions to the field of chemistry.


Alexis Clark distinguishes herself academically and professionally in the Chemistry major while having an outstanding performance record as midshipman. She has a perfect GPA and ranks within the top 10% of all midshipmen in her class that includes both academic and military standing. Alexis also earned the ACS Polymer Chemistry Award during her sophomore year for being the “best organic chemistry student” that year. Alexis is obviously a driven person, is willing to take risks, and is not afraid of responsibility. After graduation, Alexis will join the Navy Submarine Community, which is a highly selective service for females. In 2010, the Navy began allowing women officers to train to serve on submarines, and this year Alexis was one of ten females selected from the Naval Academy to join this community. Her combination of technical and leadership skills made her an excellent choice.

Alexis is also highly successful in her independent research project. After learning the basic operation of the capillary electrophoresis instrument, Alexis collected publishable data after only five months of work during which time she can only devote six hours a week to the effort due to her military and athletic responsibilities. She has intensively searched the literature for new findings and has then altered the reported methods to make them better. She presented her findings at Pittcon 2016 in the Analytical Poster Session, as opposed to the less competitive Undergraduate Poster Session, and she is submitting a manuscript to a peer-reviewed journal before graduation.

Alexis has earned one of the highest leadership roles at the U. S. Naval Academy as she is a Company Commander this semester. This means she is in charge of the moral, mental and physical development of over one hundred midshipmen. There are only thirty Company Commanders in the student body and the competition for these spots is intense. Upon graduation, she will attend the Navy's Nuclear Power School and then will serve as one of a very small number of females in Navy's submarine force.


Katie McGeough is scholastically outstanding and dedicated to her research. During her first year at Smith College, Katie shadowed the older students in Dr. Elizabeth Jaimieson's lab to get a sense of what project she wanted to work on. Ultimately, she decided that she would take on one of the more difficult projects, looking at the formation of DNA base lesions in mouse fibroblast cells treated with chromium. Although Katie truly enjoyed biochemistry research, she discovered a passion for organic chemistry. Katie applied for and was accepted into the highly competitive Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) summer program at the University of Connecticut. Her REU advisor, Dr. Mark Peczuh, writes that Katie not only prepared and characterized 8-10 analogs of macrocycles, but also did further analysis on the compounds including correlating the physicochemical properties of macrocycles to their respective biological activities. More importantly, the idea and process she established has transformed how to think about characterizing all new compounds in the Peczuh lab, which is functioning at the level of a successful graduate student. Her current research advisor at Smith College, Dr. Kevin Shea, writes that she is fully engaged with the project literature, she finds and runs all of her own reactions, and she runs and analyzes her own spectra. Katie presented her results at the 2015 National Organic Symposium and obtained summer funding as an ACS DOC SURF award winner. Her level of initiative and independence are simply outstanding. This year she has taken on the role of mentoring a junior chemistry major working on her project, and Katie is thriving as a research mentor. Katie has an amazing combination of experience, humility, determination, maturity, and curiosity.

Iotans can be proud to recognize the accomplishments and aspirations of this truly outstanding young woman.

2016 Iota Sigma Pi Outstanding Young Women in Chemistry Award Winners

The following students from all over the U.S.A. were nominated and awarded the coveted Young Women in Chemistry Award for the school year 2016.

Aslanyan, Angelina Morristown Central School (NY)
Battas, Lauren DeAnza High School (CA)
Buirge, Emily Renae Harry D. Jacobs High School (IL)
Camerlo, Summer Louise Air Academy High School (CO)
Casello, Sanne M. Empire High School (AZ)
Chappell, Laurel Ann Montezuma Cortez High School(CO)
Chen, Emmy Conestoga High School (PA)
Chengrian, Elizabeth Rose Mountain Vista High School (CO)
Christian, Emma L. Life Christian School (OR)
Colliton, Julia William H. Hall High School (CT)
Conner, Erin Ashley Columbine High School (CO)
Curran, Anna W C Mepham High School (NY)
Dickinson, Molly Jane Animas High School (CO)
Durante, Destiny S. S. Seward Institute (NY)
English, Megan Murphy Sacred Heart Academy (MI)
Garvey, Raaha Arlington High School (NY)
Folger, Shaely Mae Platte Canyon High School (CO)
Gibney, Sarah Ann Vineland High School (NJ)
Gonzalez, Cesia Patterson High School (CA)
Hack, Yasmeen Vista Ridge High School (CO)
Hamilton, McKinley St. Mary’s Academy High School (CO)
Harrison, Payton Billings Senior High School (MT)
Hellner, Skylar Soleil Castle View High School (CO)
Jacobsen, Nicole Kay Centaurus High School (CO)
Kohls, Isa Mary Fruita Mounument High School (CO)
Lagunas, Stephanie Hernandez Enterprise High School (CA)
Larkin, Kerry Anna Westborough High School (MA)
Liu, Joanna Niwot High School (CO)
Lynch, Julia Maple Newtown High School (PA)
Madonna, Elise D’Evelyn Jr/Sr High School (CO)
Malbouf, Brianna B. Lowville Academy (NY)
Maloney, Megan Elise Cumberland Regional High School (NJ)
Martindale, Cecilia Cheyenne Mountain High School (CO)
McQuary, Naomi L. Gonzaga Preparatory School (WA)
Miles, Rachel Brunswick High School (OH)
Mosteller, Sage Marie Rock Canyon High School (CO)
Motta, Monica Maria Liberty High School (CA)
Newman, Lexi P. Vanguard College Prep School (TX)
Noakes, Olivia Shawn Thornton High School (CO)
Pearson, Allison Noelle Foothill High School (CA)
Pineda, Alexandra Piner High School (CA)
Prest, Rebecca Jane South Harrison R II High School (MD)
Punn, Isha Staten Island Technical High School (NY)
Righetti-Marweg, Caitlin C. Petaluma High School (CA)
Roosenberg, Josselyn Loudonville Christian High School (NY)
Sagehorn, Mariah Rio Lindo Adventist Academy (CA)
Slack, Sarah Danielle Arapahoe High School (CO)
Spina, Alice Worcester, Central School (NY)
Stafford, Veronica Grosse Point South High School (MI)
Stampfl, Alexandra King’s Ridge Christian School (GA)
Taylor, Mallory Olmstead Falls High School (OH)
Trujillo, Jordan Lee Hoehne High School (CO)
Tututi, Alexia Murillo Castle Park High School (CA)
Umanskiy, Leah Jessica The U. of Chicago Laboratory School (IL)
Vasquez, Ileana Ramona Convent Secondary School (CA)
Velasco, Isabella Our Lady of Lourdes Academy (FL)
Wallace, Mary Margaret Orestimba High School (CA)
Xiong, Ruoqian Amy Princeton International School of Math and Science, (NJ)
Zhao, Anna Foothill High School (CA)

Students were nominated by high school chemistry/science teachers, guidance counselors, or principals. They are all graduating senior young women with a grade point average (GPA) of 3.8/4.0 or higher, with high academic achievement in chemistry. Only one award is given to each school each year. The award includes an official certificate issued by Iota Sigma Pi, and the awardee recognized in the IOTAN.

We are absolutely jubilant with the number of nominees (59) from all over the U.S.
~Reiko Simmons, Coordinator of Initiates & Supplies