Campus & Community

Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department Celebrates Student Achievements and the Stewards Who Make Them Possible

The December event highlighted exemplary contributions made both inside and outside the classroom

The Stevens Institute of Technology Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology gathered together on Thursday, December 15, 2022, to honor not only high student achievements but also the stewards who make such achievements possible.

Held in the Gateway Academic Center, the second annual departmental holiday dinner and awards ceremony was emceed by Department Chair Woo Lee, with awards presented by Associate Chair for Graduate Studies Kenny Wong and Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies Patricia Anne Muisener. Schaefer School of Engineering and Science Dean Jean Zu closed the evening’s event.

Themed "Celebrating the Stewardship for Student Success," the event highlighted the accomplishments of four outstanding students, as well as Birendra “Ben” Pramanik M.S. ’73 Ph.D. ’77 and Lance Bruck, major contributors to graduate-level and undergraduate research and education respectively.

Student achievement awards

Tonja Pavlovic Ph.D. ’22Awardee Tonja Pavlovic Ph.D. ’22Two chemistry Ph.D. candidates were awarded the 2022/2023 Ajay Kumar and Margaret Logan Bose Memorial Scholarship Award: Jia-Min Chu Ph.D. ’23 for research on molecular mechanisms of metal-mediated biological nitroxyl and nitric oxide reactions (advisor: Yong Zhang) and Shuang Chen M.S. ’17 Ph.D. ’23 for research on nano-formulations for controlled drug delivery and activity (advisor: Junfeng (James) Liang).

Named for former George Meade Bond Professor and Department Chair Ajay Bose and his wife, the scholarship was established by honoree Pramanik to support graduate-level research education.

Master’s student Va’Shayna Williams ’22 M.S. ’23 was awarded the 2021/2022 Senior Research Project First Place Award for outstanding undergraduate research performance, including best poster and presentation for her project “Extracellular Matrix Elasticity in Ovarian Cancer” (advisor: Marcin Iwanicki) presented at the Innovation Expo Chemical and Chemical Biology Research Day in April 2022. Enrolled in the accelerated master’s program for bioengineering, Williams completed her Bachelor of Science in chemical biology in Spring 2022. 

Finally, the department’s inaugural Person of the Year for 2022 was awarded to chemical biology Ph.D. candidate Tonja Pavlovic Ph.D. ’22 (advisor: Marcin Iwanicki) for her dedication, self-motivation and significant impact on student success and training in teaching and research laboratory settings.

A teaching assistant for a number of department courses, Pavlovic was honored for improving and enhancing access to department facilities and resources, including making significant improvements to the chemical biology lab, volunteering as caretaker of the department’s confocal microscope and implementing a resource ordering and inventory tracking system that has since been adopted across the department. Pavlovic also developed and executed a five-week CRISPR-Cas yeast genome editing lab module for the BIO 684 Molecular Biology Laboratory Techniques course, an undertaking of two years. 

Stewardship for Doctoral Student Scholarship Honoree Birendra “Ben” Pramanik

Birendra “Ben” Pramanik M.S. ’73 Ph.D. ’77Honoree Birendra “Ben” Pramanik M.S. ’73 Ph.D. ’77Honoree Pramanik established the Ajay Kumar and Margaret Logan Bose Memorial Scholarship Award in 2015 to support graduate-level research and to honor his colleague and mentor, who served on the Stevens faculty from 1959 to 2007. (Bose himself was honored with an award presented to his family at the inaugural awards dinner in 2021.)

Having escaped the civil war in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan), Pramanik enrolled as a graduate student at Stevens under Bose’s mentorship. The two forged a deep personal and professional relationship, collaborating on 14 papers together between 1970 and 1977.

“Because of that strong faculty-student relationship,” said Wong, “Ben became a respected research leader and executive in the pharmaceutical industry.”

Pramanik retired as a senior fellow from Merck, having supervised nearly 30 research labs. He led the development of such medications as Keytruda and Interferon for cancer treatment and popular allergy drug Claritin, and wrote or co-wrote 165 research articles. 

A long-time supporter of the chemistry and chemical biology department, Pramanik recently doubled funding for the Bose award, enabling the department to support even more student research each year. Since its establishment, the Bose award has supported 10 Ph.D. and Master’s students in total. The inaugural recipient of the scholarship, Rahul Khade, is now a lecturer in chemistry at Stevens. 

“Ben's passion for student success honors his former mentor’s legacy and is an example of stewardship worthy to be recognized and remembered,” said Wong. “His investment in supporting the chemists and chemical biologists of the future elevates the student's graduate experience and inspires them both to achieve career success and to ultimately give back. This caring and giving attitude exemplified by Ben serves as an inspiration for our current and future faculty to be emulated.” 

Stewardship for Undergraduate Clinical Experience Honoree Lance Bruck 

Lance Bruck with students at CCB awards 2022Honoree Lance Bruck with students, including awardee Va’Shayna Williams ’22 M.S. ’23 (far right)Residency Program Director and Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health at Jersey City Medical Center Lance Bruck was honored for his contributions to undergraduate clinical experience and student excellence.

Also a clinical professor at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Bruck has worked in academic medicine for 27 years.

Bruck is a charter member of the Chemistry and Chemical Biology External Advisory Board, contributing to Stevens’ pre-health program and establishing and developing the JCMC summer clinical internship for undergraduates with Lee and Muisener. The internship program offers students the opportunity to participate in a month-long hospital rotation, gaining insight into the clinical, research and operational activities of the hospital while acquiring hands-on experience as part of the clinical team.

Launched with two students in 2021, the program will increase to nine students total in Summer 2023.

“Dr. Bruck has created a program that allows our students to experience firsthand what life as a medical student would entail. He has welcomed our students into his department wholeheartedly, allowing them to benefit from a clinical experience they would not otherwise have,” said Muisener. 

Inspired by Bruck’s participation in the department’s Diverse Career Pathways seminar in October, he and the department have also launched a program for undergraduate students to shadow Bruck in his clinic every Wednesday during the academic year.

“Dr. Bruck is a steward of student success worth honoring based on his dedication and commitment to establishing meaningful clinical experiences for our Stevens students,” Muisener said.

Reflecting on the event, Wong concluded, “The diverse individuals we honored have applied their unique stewardship in support of student success. As a result they have enriched Stevens’ Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology community.”

Learn more about academic programs and research in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology: