Current REFS

Meet our current ChemREFS team! If you would like to schedule a confidential meeting for any reason, feel free to email one of us individually or the whole group at The FacultyREFS listed at the bottom of the page are here to help in this same capacity, so don’t hesitate to email one of them if you believe their perspective will be most helpful to you. Otherwise, we look forward to seeing all of you around the department and at ChemREFS-run events! 


Audrey Norris (
Schlau-Cohen Group | 5th year | Physical

Audrey was born in the US, but lived in Switzerland for 8 years. After completing her Masters in Chemistry at ETH Zurich, she decided to come back to the States for her graduate degree. Audrey spends her time in lab researching single molecules involved in light harvesting, but outside of that she tries to fill up my days with baking, running, or other fun outdoor activities.

Yasmeen S. AlFaraj (
Johnson Group | 5th year | Organic

Yasmeen was born and raised in Saudi Arabia, and moved to the Bay to complete her undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley. She is now a PhD candidate in the Johnson group. In her spare time she enjoys consuming Funfetti batter (sometimes cake), water-activities (kayaking+diving, not yet sailing), and acting as her cat Namla (Arabic for ant)'s full-time photographer.

Janet Peet (
Nolan Group | 5th year | Biological

Janet was born in Singapore and raised in London, UK. She did her undergraduate studies at Imperial College London. When she isn’t growing and studying gut bacteria, she enjoys long walks and hikes, all you can eat sushi and watching international soccer tournaments.

Andrei Iliescu (
Dincă Group | 4th year | Inorganic

Andrei is originally from Bucharest, Romania but, in a somewhat misguided attempt to avoid the freezing cold winters and hot, humid summers he has decided to move to the Boston area more than half a decade ago, for undergrad. He enjoys exploring the city and its surroundings on his runs, bike rides, and hikes. In his free time, he is likely experimenting with different pickling techniques or playing RPGs with friends.

Greg Schuette (
Zhang Group | 4th year | Theoretical

Greg grew up near Chicago before moving to California to complete his undergraduate work at UCLA. Despite his love of LA’s weather, Greg moved to Boston to study chromatin with the Zhang group. In his spare time, he enjoys woodworking and exploring Boston.

Paul Cesana (
Schlau-Cohen Group | 5th year | Physical

Paul is from the small state of Rhode Island and obtained his undergraduate degree at the University of Rhode Island. After venturing quite far for grad school (an entire hour drive), he studies the photophysical properties of photocatalysts, including the development of biohybrid photocatalysts. In his spare time, Paul can be found cooking, watching movies, and generally lazing about.

Maddie Hoffmann (
Schlau-Cohen Group | 5th year | Physical

Maddie grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota and then moved to the east coast for undergrad at Yale. She's now a graduate student in the Schlau-Cohen lab, where she spends her days shooting lasers at plants. When not in the MIT basement, she enjoys being outside with friends, hiking, and exploring Boston.

Kunal Lodaya (
Surendranath Group | 4th year | Inorganic

Kunal grew up in Chapel Hill, NC, and completed his undergrad right near home at the University of North Carolina. He currently works in the Surendranath Group researching electrochemical conversation of nitrogen oxides. Outside of the lab, he enjoys rock climbing, video games, and playing D&D with his friends, while also raising two beautiful cats.

Leticía Costa (
Johnson Group | 5th year | Organic

Letícia grew up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She moved to Middletown, CT to pursue her studies at Wesleyan University. When she is not designing degradable polymers, Letícia enjoys traveling, eating ice cream, watching tv series, playing The Sims, and spending time with her friends.

Alexa Alexiu  (
Van Voorhis Group | 2nd year | Theoretical

Alexa grew up in Romania, before moving to the UK for her undergraduate degree in (the other) Cambridge. She is a grad student in the Van Voorhis group, where she works on developing computational methods to study interesting materials for quantum dots and solar cells. When she’s not coding at her desk, Alexa likes going on photo walks, reading, and making hyper-specific Spotify playlists.

Sunhee Bae  (
Kiessling Group | 4th year | Biological

Sunhee was born in Seoul, South Korea and spent her pre-college years moving to a new city every 3 years on average. She completed her undergraduate degree in Seoul National University and moved to Boston to study bacterial glycans in the Kiessling Group and break her personal record for the longest time lived in one city. Sunhee spends her spare time hiking and climbing, and convincing her friends to buy a bike.

Maya Chattoraj  (
Tisdale Group | 2nd year | Physical

Maya grew up in the Chicago area and completed her undergraduate degree at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is a graduate student in the Tisdale Lab (in the chemical engineering department) where she uses ultrafast spectroscopy to study interfacial charge transfer. Outside of the lab, Maya spends her time being a gym bro, meal prepping, and reading.

Vennela Mannava  (
Surendranath Group | 3rd year | Inorganic

Vennela grew up in MA and completed her undergrad at the University of Chicago. Missing the slightly warmer northeastern winters, she moved back to MA for grad school, joining the Surendranath Group to study the electrochemistry of adsorbed molecules. In her spare time, she enjoys doing jigsaw puzzles and exploring Boston.

Kaelyn McFarlane-Connelly  (
Bawendi Group | 2nd year | Physical

Kaelyn grew up in the California Bay Area but moved to complete her undergraduate degree in snowy upstate New York at the University of Rochester. She is now a second year in the Bawendi Lab where she makes tiny cubes and then shoots lasers at them. Outside of research, she enjoys climbing, trying new recipes, and playing DND!

Omar Salinas  (
Peng Group | 2nd year | Biological

Omar grew up in Chicago, IL, and completed his undergrad at the University of Chicago. When he is not making and studying upconverting nanoparticles, Omar enjoys dancing (hip-hop and a little contemporary), cooking/baking, trying new foods, exploring the East Coast, and adding more hats to his collection!

Alice Su  (
Dincă Group | 3rd year | Inorganic

Alice grew up and completed her undergrad in Munich, Germany. When she is not making materials in lab, you can likely find her strolling around some body of water, pitching a tent and enjoying the sunshine. At home she likes to make art for her apartment or her friends.

David Ullery  (
Freedman Group | 3rd year | Inorganic

David grew up in Cincinnati and stayed in Ohio to obtain his undergraduate degree from Ohio State University. He now studies molecular qubits in the Freedman group and is working to synthesize new chromium compounds of all colors in the rainbow (currently has OGBIV) . Outside of the lab he enjoys going to the gym, playing Zelda, and camping.

Marissa Villarde  (
Gilliard Group | 2nd year | Inorganic

Marissa was born and raised in Texas, where she earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2022. After moving across the country, she now enjoys the scenic views of the greater Boston area and getting around via the [nearly] reliable public transportation. You can find her in the Gilliard Lab working on boron-doped polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons while listening to her favorite podcasts.


Matthew Shoulders ( )
Professor of Chemistry

Matt earned his B.S. in chemistry at Virginia Tech in 2004 and his Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2009. After postdoctoral research at Scripps Research Institute, he began his independent career as a faculty member in the MIT Department of Chemistry in 2012. His lab studies the molecular mechanisms of protein folding in cells and uses evolution as a tool to understand proteostasis and develop new biotechnologies. Matt was a founding member of the MIT Chemistry Department's Quality of Life Committee, and he has chaired QoL since 2019. In 2018, Matt's contributions to mentorship were recognized by MIT's student-nominated Committed to Caring Award for outstanding graduate student mentorship. In 2022, he received the MacVicar Faculty Fellowship for exemplary and sustained contributions to undergraduate teaching and education at MIT. Matt has been a FacultyREF since 2021.

Timothy Swager ( )
John D. MacArthur Professor of Chemistry

Tim is a native of Montana. He received a BS from Montana State University in 1983 and a Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology in 1988. After a postdoctoral appointment at MIT, he joined University of Pennsylvania 1990-1996 and returned to MIT in 1996 as a Professor of Chemistry and served as the Head of Chemistry from 2005-2010. His research interests are in design, synthesis, and study of organic-based electronic, sensory, energy storage, membranes, liquid crystals, and colloids.