• Member Bios

    Prof. Jonathan Owen

    2009 -


    Jonathan Owen grew up in Midland, MI experimenting in the garage with the help of his father who was a chemist at the Dow Chemical Company. He studied the synthesis of asymmetric diazaphospholanes with Clark Landis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (BS, 2000). In 2005 he obtained a PhD from Caltech while studying the synthesis and bonding of pyridine-derived N-heterocyclic carbenes and the C–H activation of methane with John Bercaw. Following his PhD, he was a postdoctoral researcher with Professor Paul Alivisatos at UC Berkeley (2005-2009) where he learned about the chemistry and photophysics of colloidal quantum dots. He joined the faculty at Columbia University in 2009 where he is currently Associate Professor of Chemistry. His group studies the coordination chemistry of colloidal semiconductor nanocrystals, as well as the mechanism of nanocrystal nucleation and growth. Jon has received several awards for his work including The 3M Nontenured Faculty Award (2010), The Early Career Award from the Department of Energy (2011), The DuPont Young Faculty Award (2011), the CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation (2012), and the Award in Pure Chemistry from the American Chemical Society (2016).


    UC, Berkeley - Postdoc (Alivisatos)

    CalTech - Ph.D. (Bercaw & Labinger)

    UW, Madison - B.S. (Landis)


    2016 - American Chemical Society Award in Pure Chemistry

    2012 - National Science Foundation, CAREER Award

    2011 - DuPont Young Faculty Award

    2011 - Department of Energy, Early Career Research Award

  • Dr. Abraham Jordan

    Postdoc, 2019 -


    Abe grew up outside of Syracuse, NY in the tiny town of Weedsport. No longer wanting to pick out what clothes to wear, he moved south and attended the Virginia Military Institute. At VMI he studied organic and inorganic liquid crystals with Prof. Daren Timmons while attempting, and mostly failing, to keep the chemistry off his uniform. He also spent one summer back in Central New York running columns in Prof. Daniel Clark’s lab at Syracuse University. After VMI, he moved to Atlanta and started graduate school at Georgia Tech, joining Joseph Sadighi’s lab. After five years of making copper complexes he obtained his Ph.D. and decided to move back to the Empire State and start making nanoparticles.


    Georgia Institute of Technology, Ph.D. (Sadighi) - 2019

    Virginia Military Institute, B.S. (Timmons) - 2014


    2019 - Anita and Gary Schuster Undergraduate Research Mentorship Award

    2014 - Wilbur S. Hinman Jr. Research Award

    2014 - Floyd D. Gottwald, Jr. ‘43 Award in Chemistry

  • Dr. Jim Shanahan

    Postdoc, 2020 -


    Jim grew up outside of Worcester, MA in the town of Boylston and went on to attend the University of Rochester (B.S. 2014). When not hiding from the upstate winters in the university’s underground tunnel system, he could be found in the basement of the chemistry building in the Jones lab. His undergraduate work investigated small molecule reaction kinetics with nickel sulfide complexes. His doctoral thesis, advised by Professor Nathaniel Szymczak at the University of Michigan, focused on ligand design and assessment of unconventional hydrogen bond and Lewis acid interactions to transition metal bound small molecules (N2 and H2). After earning his PhD in 2020, he joined the Owen lab where he will apply his appreciation for ligand design, exchange behavior, and structure/function relationships to nanocrystal synthesis. Outside of the lab, Jim enjoys skiing, pyrography (woodburning), and visiting museums.


    University of Michigan, Ph.D. (Szymczak) - 2020

    University of Rochester, B.S. (Jones) - 2014


    2018 - Margaret & Herman Sokol Graduate Summer Research Fellowship

    2014 - Carl A. Whiteman, Jr. Teaching Award

    2014 - ACS Undergraduate Award in Inorganic Chemistry


  • Dr. Sungho Park

    Postdoc, 2021 -


    Sungho is from Seoul, South Korea. He was first introduced to inorganic chemistry research in the lab of Prof. Liviu Mirica at Washington University, where he synthesized bench-stable Pd(III) complexes. After two years in the Korean military, he decided to come back to the U.S. and join Prof. John Berry's group at University of Wisconsin to study how to control singly occupied molecular orbitals for reactivity. After receiving his PhD, he has joined Prof. Jon Owen's lab at Columbia to investigate electronic structure and reactivity of inorganic materials.


    UW, Madison, Ph.D. (Berry) - 2021

    Washington University, A.B. (Mirica) - 2013


    2019 - SRGC Travel Award

    2018 - Honorable Mention, IPMI

    2013 - Samuel Weissman Award

  • Ellie Bennett

    5th Year PhD, 2016 -


    Ellie was born and raised across the pond in Leicestershire, the self-proclaimed ‘Heart of Rural England’. Moving south she studied Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge. There she spent her time dodging tourists, navigating 800 year old traditions and studying a lot of chemistry. Ellie spent a summer undertaking research TU Wien in Vienna, Austria, and it was here that she decided she wanted to live abroad at some point. She developed a soft spot for batteries during her undergrad whilst working on defaults in layered cathode materials in the lab of Prof. Clare Grey. After graduating, Ellie ruled out moving to London due to not wanting to live in a large city and so logically chose New York instead. Swapping a small island for the even smaller island of Manhattan, she moved to Columbia and joined the Owen Lab and is working on the synthesis of ZnS quantum dots. Outside of lab Ellie enjoys going to live music events, eating ice cream and fighting the patriarchy.


    University of Cambridge, M.Sc. (Grey) - 2016

    University of Cambridge, B.A. - 2016


    2019 - Jack Miller Teaching Award

    2017-18 - Columbia-Upjohn Fellowship

    2013-16 - Churchill College Scholar


  • Brandon McMurtry

    5th Year PhD, 2016 -


    Brandon was born and raised on a small rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean (‘Oahu, Hawai‘i) by a father who studies rocks (geologist) and a mom who rocks. Unwilling to buy a winter coat, Brandon decided to stay home for college and study chemistry at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. At Mānoa, he began researching in the lab of Prof. Ralf Kaiser, studying the reaction dynamics of simple aromatic molecules in interstellar model ice grains. Wishing to actually mix chemicals, he joined the lab of Prof. Matthew Cain with the goal of synthesizing chiral hybrid phosphine-phosphaalkene ligands. Finally ready to leave his little rock, Brandon flew 5,000 miles to New York City only to discover he was now stuck on an even littler rock. At Columbia, Brandon looks forward to studying the synthesis of indium phosphide quantum dots in the Owen lab. When not doing chemistry, Brandon enjoys eating interesting foods, aimlessly wandering around cities, and spending egregious amounts of money seeing Broadway shows.


    University of Hawai'i Manoa, B.S. (Kaiser, Cain) - 2016


    2018 - Jack Miller Teaching Award

    2016 - Honorable Mention, NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

    2016 - Magistad Awardee

    2012 - University of Hawai‘i Regents Scholar

  • Natalie Saenz

    4th Year PhD, 2017 -


    Natalie Saenz grew up outside Miami, FL. She graduated from Princeton in 2015 and did research in Spain as a Fulbright scholar in the field of bioinorganic chemistry where she used ferritin proteins to make magnetic nanoparticles. She escaped the world of biological chemistry to the most inorganic work she could find and now she works with cadmium chalcogenides.


    Universidad de Granada, M.S. - 2017

    Princeton University, A.B. - 2015


    2015 - IIE Fullbright Research Grant

    2015 - Sigma Xi Honor Society

    2014 - Princeton Environmental Institute Grant

    2011 - Ingersoll Rand National Merit Scholarship


  • Bereket Zekarias

    1st Year PhD, 2020 -


    Bereket Zekarias was born and raised in the vibrant city of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She came to the states at the tender age of 16 to attend an international boarding school called United World College in Montezuma, New Mexico. After two years in beautiful Montezuma, she moved to Rhode Island at Brown university and studied biochemistry and molecular biology, At Brown, she studied antibiotic resistance mechanism against signal peptidase inhibitors in Streptomyces coelicolor in professor Jason Sello's lab for close to two years. After graduating in 2015, she missed home so much that she decided to move back and teach for a year. After a fantastic year at home, she moved back to the states to pursue her masters in pharmaceutical sciences at University of Wisconsin-Madison. During her graduate studies, she synthesized analogues that were potent against Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) and worked on an unprecedented rearrangement of chloroquinazolinones to twisted-cyclic guanidines or ring-fused N-acylguanidines. After finishing her masters, she moved back home and worked as a research assistant at Center for Innovative Drug Development and Therapeutic Trials for Africa (CDT-Africa). Finding the prospect of living in New York City irresistible, she moved to Columbia university and joined the Owen lab to study quantum dots' surface coordination chemistry. Bereket enjoys writing short stories, reading and watching movies.


    University of Wisconsin-Madison, M.Sc. - 2018

    Brown University, Sc.B. - 2015


    John & Jane Roudebush Wisconsin Distinguished Graduate Fellowship


    Karen T. Romer Teaching & Research Award


    Armand Hammer United World College Davis Scholar

  • Leslie Castro

    Undergraduate, 2020 -


    Leslie Castro grew up in the neighborhood of Wilmington in Los Angeles. She is now majoring in Chemistry with a concentration in Earth Science at Columbia, loving the school and city, but still a little hesitant about the weather. She has studied the climate variability effects on cereal production in India in Professor Kyle Davis’s lab at the University of Delaware. Currently, she is excited about joining the Owen Lab and studying the surface chemistry of nanocrystals.


    Columbia University, B.S. - expected 2022


    2019 - Dean's List


  • Anna Wolock

    Undergraduate, 2020 -


    Anna grew up outside Kansas City but escaped the quiet of the Midwest to attend college in New York. At Barnard, Anna is majoring in Chemistry with a minor in Science & Public Policy. She was an intern in an organic geochemistry lab at the US Geological Survey where she studied pesticide contamination and exposure in surface water. Now in the Owen Lab, Anna is working with cadmium chalcogenides. When she isn’t studying, Anna enjoys exploring the city, baking, and playing with her dogs.


    Barnard College, B.A. - expected 2022


    2020 - STAR Award

    '18-'20 - Dean's List

  • Alexis Turturici

    Undergraduate, 2021 -


    Alexis grew up in the beaches of North Carolina, in a little seaside town called Southport. In an effort to stay near the water, she moved to an ever so slightly larger city surrounded by water, and decided to attend Columbia University. She is majoring in Chemistry and Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and is excited to see where those passions take her. On the chemistry front, she is most interested in exploring how nanocrystals can be tuned under various conditions, and is currently studying the optimization of thiourea silylation reactions to investigate lead sulfide nanocrystals on early time scales. Beyond the lab, Alexis enjoys spending time exploring the less-traveled parts of the city, reading books of all kinds, and learning Spanish to prepare for future world travels.


    Columbia University, B.A. - expected 2024


    2020 - Guthikonda Family Fellowship

    2020 - NCSSM Excellence in Science

  • Andrew Kelly

    High Schooler, 2021 -


    Andrew grew up in a small town just north of New York City in Westchester County. However, in an attempt to escape the stifling small town atmosphere and to follow his interests in Chemistry, he reached out to join the Owen group. Now, he works in the lab over the summer, working on purifying oleic acid to learn more about laboratory techniques and how actual research is conducted. He is currently very excited to have this opportunity, and is really enjoying broadening his horizons through actual lab work. Outside of the lab, Andrew enjoys baking, singing, and spending time in nature.


    Pelham Memorial High School - expected 2022


    2021 - Gold Medal, Genius Olympiad