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Chemistry Graduate Student Chaired Seminar at GRC

Deborah PenchoffDeborah Penchoff, a recent graduate of the chemistry Ph. D. program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, chaired the 2014 Gordon Research Seminar (GRS) on computational chemistry held at Mount Snow Resort in West Dover, Vermont, on July 19th and 20th, 2014.

Penchoff was selected during the 2012 Gordon Research Conference (GRC) to chair the inaugural GRS in her field. She worked with the GRC Chair and GRS co-chair to determine a theme for the conference, created a program, and eventually exceeded the funding target for the meeting.

“Being Chair of the Gordon Research Seminar on Computational Chemistry was an invaluable experience.” Penchoff said. “It allowed me to work closely with experts in the field, and to interact with scientists working at the frontier of the computational chemistry field. Organizing this conference gave me the opportunity to increase my knowledge in the many areas that computational chemistry currently encompasses, from development, to applications in materials, energy, and biological systems, amongst others, and furthermore provide a forum for others to network and learn.”

The Gordon Conferences have been recognized as the world’s premier scientific conferences, where leading investigators from around the globe discuss their latest work and future challenges.* The Gordon Research Seminars are a series of highly successful and unique meetings that enable young researchers to share in the Gordon Research Conferences experience.*

Penchoff grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina. After working for several years at IBM as a financial analyst, Penchoff joined UT chemistry department in 2008 pursuing a Ph.D. degree in physical chemistry, and graduated in 2013 with a minor in computational sciences. The research focus of her dissertation was “computational studies for optimization and design of separation agents for separation of lanthanides and actinides.” The body of research that Penchoff accomplished during her studies at UTK has lead to over a dozen presentations at ACS conferences, and Gordon Conferences, amongst others.

While a student at UTK, Penchoff received an Outstanding Teaching Award from the Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society for her work as a teaching assistant in physical chemistry, and a teaching award from the department of chemistry for her work as a teaching assistant in general chemistry.

Penchoff considered this organizing experience, especially the mentoring session, as much rewarding to herself as to the other participants. “I enjoyed designing a conference program customized to early career computational chemists.” Penchoff said. “At this early stage in our careers in which we are focused on a specific area, I consider expanding our knowledge and being exposed to other areas in the field to be of particular importance. In addition, I paid particular attention to selecting experts in computational chemistry to participate in a career panel whom would represent industry, academia, and national laboratories. The Q&A session during the mentoring session of the conference was exceptional, in particular due to the career advice we received from the panelists. It was very gratifying to observe the high level of engagement and interest between the early career attendees and the senior panelists.

*Quoted from GRC website.