Community Profiles

Meet Tawny Fajardo, Online Biochemistry Student, #RNtoMD

Going back to school requires an incredible shift in mindset.

It requires a passion and desire to alter the way you live your life and start again.

As a peri-operative registered nurse, I work with surgeons and anesthesiologists every day. I observe the doctor to patient interactions, and am always amazed by the knowledge the skillset used to repair anatomy in the operating room. Inspired by my own career and realizing that surgery is something I want to do in the future, I decided that I had to go to school again.

Outside of work, I am a pageant competitor, CPR instructor, and WNBF athlete. When it came to school, one of my priorities was to maintain my identity as a registered nurse while going to school. Having patient interaction and using the science-based skills I’ve learned as an undergraduate was something I didn’t want to drop completely. Discovering an online program to complete my post-baccalaureate degree made it possible for me as a registered nurse to create a pathway to perhaps become a surgeon one day.

Having been in this program for almost one year, I have noticed an incredible amount of balance in my life. I feel fulfilled as both an RN and successful pre-medical student. In addition, I am able to see my family more regularly and I was able to keep all of my hobbies that make me happiest!

What is so special about my education is that I am challenged with self-discipline every day. The intensity and time commitment mirrors the experience I had when I started my post-baccalaureate journey on-campus. The online format here at ASU maintains the difficulty and rigor I expect as someone preparing for medical school.

To the full-time professional looking to pursue another degree online: we now have a pathway that truly fits with our needs. Anything that had stopped us from advancing our own career or pursuing another are no longer obstacles. ASU is making history, allowing education to be dynamic and innovative. I am excited to be graduating with a class full of professionals who have and will continue to make an impact in this world.


Ryan Muller

Meet Ryan Muller, SMS Alum and Molecular and Cell Biology Grad Student

Ryan Muller graduated from ASU with a Bachelor of Science degree in medicinal biochemistry with a focus on molecular biosciences and biotechnology in 2015. Ryan is currently a third-year graduate student in University of California-Berkeley's molecular and cell biology program. Ryan is broadly interested in RNA biology and specifically studies mRNA translation regulation and ribosome quality control. He uses a combination of classic biochemistry and computational methods in his research.

Of his experience at SMS and how that led him to further his academic career, Ryan says, "I chose to pursue a PhD as part of a larger goal toward professorship because I am interested in understanding how the world works on a deeper level. My career trajectory gives me the freedom to answer interesting questions, to use cutting-edge techniques, and to interact and discuss ideas with fellow scientists. ASU was quite supportive of my interests in science and research. I took the opportunity to explore classes outside of my comfort zone and engage in research early in my undergraduate career. With an early start in research and a wealth of support from faculty and peers alike, I was able to build a strong foundation that set me up to excel in academic research."

Lyndsay Hess Aspires to Help Others by Studying the Human Body

Lyndsay Hess graduated from Arizona State University with degrees in biochemistry and psychology in 2015. Hess has a long-standing interest in studying the human body and plans to become a physician. As a student, she participated in undergraduate research, assisted in an anatomy and physiology lab and tutored other students in chemistry. Since graduating, Hess has worked as an inorganic chemist, ocular recovery technician and a medical scribe. She is currently in the process of moving to Tucson, where she will be attending medical school at the University of Arizona. Hess also has an infant daughter and is getting married at the end of March 2018.

Lyndsay decided to become a physician because, "I was very motivated in high school to pursue medicine because I believed doing so would allow me to directly help the most people. After speaking about different paths available to me with ASU professors, I decided to explore the PhD route and joined three different research labs. I also began assisting in an anatomy and physiology lab, where I enjoyed taking on a leadership role and teaching students about the cadaver. While I was enthusiastic about research and teaching, I was more in love with the human body and the myriad things that can go wrong. I started an internship at Banner UMC Phoenix, as well as a position as a medical scribe. It was through these experiences that I decided I would be happiest becoming a physician."

Lyndsay Hess

Havell Markus

Havell Markus Looks Toward the Future of Medicine with Computational Biology

Havell Markus received his Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry and mathematics from Arizona State University in 2016. As a highly accomplished student of ASU’s Barrett, the The Honors College, Markus received the School of Molecular Sciences Dean’s Medal in fall 2016. While attending ASU, Markus also conducted extensive research as a Helios Scholar in the Center for Noninvasive Diagnostics at the Translational Genomics Research Center and multiple labs at ASU. His research and thesis work were presented in four conferences and resulted in a first author publication in the Journal of Young Investigators. Not only that, Markus was involved in several service programs at ASU, including the STEM in the Middle program, ASU’s Math Tutoring Center and the Chicanos Por La Causa program.

Havell tells us, "I am currently attending University of Cambridge for a master’s degree in computational biology. I want to pursue a future as a physician scientist, and I envision genomics to be a greater part of medicine in the future, as we are beginning to uncover the genetic links to many diseases. As a physician, I want to be able not only to carry out my own research but also to understand the mathematical and statistical framework that goes into the analysis of complex data."

Meet Kaitlyn Mandigo, SMS Alum and Chemistry Teacher

Kaitlyn Mandigo graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor's degree in chemistry in 2016. While at ASU, Kaitlyn won the Distinguished Teaching Assistant Award in spring 2016. She has two amazing boys, and is an active Cub Scout and choir mom. Since graduating from ASU, Kaitlyn has been teaching sixth- and seventh-grade chemistry at BASIS Scottsdale.

Kaitlyn says, "I really enjoy teaching. The specific topic of chemistry is brand new to the kids I teach, and I love seeing their faces light up with knowledge about the world they live in. When you understand why things happen in the world, it's easier to figure out a better way to do something, and my students really like the idea of being able to change and improve things in their world."

"Being a TA was really instrumental to my life at ASU. Working with the professors and seeing a little bit of how teaching is done behind the scenes made my transition to teaching much easier. My college life was a little different from that of most of my classmates, in that I was a single mom of two. My college experience was all about working hard and finishing my coursework, and some of my professors were so amazing in helping me reach that goal. I will forever be grateful for the support and advice I received at ASU."

Kaitlyn Mandigo

Iolanda Klein and C. Austen Angell

Meet Iolanda Klein, SMS PhD Graduate and R&D Engineer at Intel

A graduate of ASU’s School of Molecular Sciences, Iolanda Klein received her PhD in Physical Chemistry in 2016. While here, she worked with Professor C. Austen Angell on synthesis and characterization of solid state electrolytes for application in fuel cells and lithium batteries and other projects. Iolanda currently works for Intel as a Research and Development Engineer for the Materials Technology Development team.

As to how she decided on her career path, Iolanda tells us, "I decided early on in my Ph.D. that I would like to pursue the corporate route. I started my time at Intel in Failure Analysis, which required a very broad range of chemistry knowledge and tool usage; recently, I moved to R&D Engineering for the Materials Technology Development team, where I am currently working on new thermal interface materials." Her advice for current grad students is two-fold: "First, don't give up, even when the times seem most dire. Getting a Ph.D. is very difficult and challenging, and at times it might seem like your colleagues are having an easier time than you, but don't be fooled: everyone is going through the same challenging path. Second, try to expose yourself to a varying array of science, tools, professors, students, and resources while you are at school. Learn new techniques, talk to your peers – you never know when that knowledge will come handy, like it does to me all the time in industry! And finally, go Devils!"

Meet Brandon Nabozny, SMS Alum, Forensic Scientist, and ASU Faculty Member

Say hello to Brandon Nabozny, who received his B.S. in Biochemistry in 2006 and his M.A. in Criminal Justice in 2010, both from ASU. Brandon is an SMS graduate who worked with our own professor Ian Gould and is now a Supervising Forensic Scientist with the Arizona Department of Public Safety Crime Lab as well as Adjunct Faculty in ASU’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, where he teaches Intro to Criminal Investigations (CRJ 210).

Brandon has been working in forensic science for 11 years and currently supervises the Forensic Field Services Unit, which manages all the functions of the crime lab that work outside the lab. After two years teaching a forensics course at Estrella Mountain Community College, Brandon now teaches an Intro to Criminal Investigations course at ASU.

When asked about his time as a student here, Brandon reflected on his memories of going to the LRC and talking chemistry with his peers, as well as sitting in Professor Gould’s office working through reactions during many an office hour. Brandon credits his biochemistry degree as being particularly useful especially at the beginning of his career, saying, “I was a full-blown chemist using GCMS and LCMS every day. I often had to interpret those results and present them in court – without my background in chemistry it would be hard for me to interpret or understand toxicology or pharmacology and be able to talk about that to a jury.”

Brandon’s advice for current students who may be thinking of going into this field is, “Don’t be afraid to start at the very bottom and be humble at first...If you work hard, you’ll end up where you want to end up!”

Brandon Nabozny

Chenxiang Lin

Meet Chenxiang Lin, SMS Alum and Yale University Assistant Professor

Chenxiang Lin is an SMS Ph.D. graduate who worked with Professor Hao Yan and is now Assistant Professor of Cell Biology at Yale University.

Chenxiang came to SMS to pursue a Ph.D. in Chemistry in 2005, after graduating from Peking University. At ASU, Chenxiang joined Hao Yan’s lab, where he tackled many challenging projects related to nanotechnology. Hao said, “The reason why Chenxiang is one of the most productive students (he has more than 10 first author papers published) in my group is that he always thinks about control experiments carefully before doing them…I am very proud of him.”

After completing his Ph.D., Chenxiang said, “My graduate studies in the School of Molecular Sciences and The Biodesign Institute at ASU allowed me to mature as a scientist and have prepared me well for my future career.”

Meet Megan Murphy, One of Our New Students!

Megan Murphy is an incoming freshman who will study Biochemistry at SMS. She loves to travel, has visited 13 different countries, and has an open-minded and appreciative view of the world around her. In fact, traveling is what brought her to ASU: “While traveling to Italy, I met a group of people from California… most of them were attending Arizona State University in the fall. Now, 3 years later, I am so proud to call myself a Sun Devil.”

This summer, Megan participated in our Early Start Program, a two-week immersive experience that she calls “an amazing way to meet your professors, faculty, and friends. The mentors and faculty have been such an amazing help with preparing me for what is to come over my next four years at ASU.”

Megan Murphy

Chris Gisriel

Meet Chris Gisriel, one of our current Ph.D. students, a U.S. military veteran, and recipient of a 2017 CLAS Graduate Excellence Award!

Chris studies how photosynthesis has evolved since oxygen first entered Earth's atmosphere.

"After a deployment in Afghanistan with the US military, I discovered my interest in biology and chemistry during a couple of semesters at community college, which led me to begin studying biochemistry at ASU. As an undergraduate, I was able to perform research in Professor Kevin Redding's lab. During my first visit, I remember being impressed by the fact that they froze microorganisms in liquid nitrogen for storage.

My work with Professor Redding and other members of his lab, as well as my experiences taking classes such as Biophysical Chemistry with Professor James Allen, greatly enhanced my undergraduate experience at the School of Molecular Sciences. After finishing my undergraduate degree, I decided to continue my education at ASU. I am now a fourth-year student in the Biochemistry Ph.D. program and hope to graduate this fall. I have had many positive experiences with the SMS faculty and often feel as though I stand on the shoulders of giants."

Video Profiles

Hallie Sussmann, B.S.

Hallie is a Fall 2015 Dean's Medalist. She worked in Professor Neal Woodbury’s laboratory at the Biodesign Institute on projects involving photosynthetic reaction centers as part of her honors thesis. She is expected to be a co-author on at least one of the papers that result from the research. 

Sahba Zaare, B.S. Biochemistry

Sahba Zaare was a Dean's Award Medalist in 2016 and graduated with his B.S. in Biochemistry in Spring 2017. As an undergraduate, he conducted research at the Center for Bioenergy and Photosynthesis. Having witnessed his mother's personal struggle with cancer, Sahba eventually wants to become a physician and cancer researcher. 

Guadalupe Batista, B.S. Medicinal Chemistry

Meet Guadalupe Batista, a Medicinal Chemistry major in the School of Molecular Sciences! He is our 2017 Wayne W. Luchsinger Scholar. Guadalupe aspires to become a pediatrician and wants to use his skills to volunteer abroad with programs like Doctors without Borders. The support of the Wayne W. Luchsinger Scholar will allow Guadalupe to continue his schooling without breaks due to financial need. We are proud to have such an ambitious, hard-working, first-generation college student with us at SMS.