Two graduate students in the Department of Chemistry at Texas A&M University recently received Distinguished Graduate Student Awards for their exemplary efforts in doctoral research.

Jinhee Park and Sandani Samarajeewa each earned awards in the Excellence in Research-Doctoral category as two of the 15 outstanding graduate students across the university who were honored in an April 30 ceremony at the Clayton W. Williams Jr. Alumni Center sponsored by The Association of Former Students and the Texas A&M Office of Graduate Studies.

Each year up to 15 recipients are recognized by the university in one of three categories: Excellence in Research-Doctoral, Excellence in Research-Master's, and Excellence in Teaching. Students are nominated by their faculty advisors or their departments, and officials say that to be nominated is truly an honor and an accomplishment in itself due to the strenuous eligibility requirements. The award recipients are chosen by a panel of reviewers that includes faculty and administrators.

Park currently is pursuing her doctorate in chemistry under the mentorship of Texas A&M chemist Dr. Hongcai "Joe" Zhou, who describes her as the most creative student he has worked with in his entire career. Park began her research independently in optically switchable metal-organic polyhedral (MOPs), metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) and porous polymer networks for carbon capture and drug delivery. She has published five papers in high-impact journals, including four as first author and one as second author. Park's research focuses on rational design and synthesis of porous metal-organic materials and their associated clean energy-related applications. Zhou says she has shown unprecedented originality in her research, earning the prestigious 2013 American Chemical Society Young Investigator Award, one of only eight nationally. Another professor classifies Park as "not only a brilliant researcher but also a talented teacher representing the best of the graduate program at Texas A&M."

Samarajeewa completed her doctorate last December as a member of Texas A&M chemist Dr. Karen Wooley's research group. Originally from Sri Lanka, she received her bachelor's degree from Texas A&M in 2008 and her master's degree from Washington University in Saint Louis in 2009. She currently is an R&D process engineer at Intel Corporation in Hillsboro, Oregon, where her research is focused on the development of enzyme-responsive degradable nanoparticles for gene imaging and regulation in lung injury as well as applications in chemotherapy. Samarajeewa has published nine peer-reviewed publications, including three as first author, and has presented her research at more than 15 conferences, including international, national and invited research seminars. She is the recipient of the 2012 Richard W. Schmude Graduate Scholarship in Chemistry at Texas A&M University. Samarajeewa's research recently was highlighted in a spotlight article on the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute-Program of Excellence in Nanotechnology Spring Newsletter. A professor said of her, "There is no question that Sandani is an extremely gifted individual that is on the threshold of a great scientific career."

To learn more about the Distinguished Graduate Student Awards and related programs and events to celebrate graduate student accomplishment at Texas A&M, visit http://ogs.tamu.edu/.


Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or shutchins@science.tamu.edu

Hutchins Shana

  • Jinhee Park

  • Sandani Samarajeewa

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