About Us


The GSSPC Background

The Graduate Student Symposium Planning Committee (GSSPC) is a group of graduate students responsible for the tasks associated with the planning of a symposium for an American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting; this includes, but is not limited to, topic selection, fundraising, speaker recruitment and logistical arrangements. The GSSPC is also charged with ensuring the continuation of the GSSPC by recruiting and mentoring a successive group of graduate students.

The GSSPC was created in spring 2005 to formalize an existing group of University of Illinois graduate students planning a symposium for the spring 2006 (231st) ACS National Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. These students were recruited by Dr. Cathy Middlecamp, then Program Chair for the Division of Chemical Education (CHED), in a continuing effort by CHED to involve graduate students in the ACS, in general, and at national meetings, in particular.

Past GSSPC participants can be found here.



Mission Statement

In accordance with the GSSPC Project Charter, GSSPC was created to simultaneously satisfy the needs and desires of the ACS, the ACS sponsoring division or committee, and chemistry graduate students. In general, the objective of each GSSPC is to continue to meet these needs while maintaining the sustainability of the project. Specifically, the objectives are:

  1. To provide a national forum in which graduate students may make their views known.
  2. To provide an outlet in which graduate students can develop their professional network and leadership skills.
  3. Graduate Student Symposium Planning Committee (GSSPC) 4 3. To provide a sustainable source of quality programming for the ACS sponsoring division or committee.
  4. To encourage current and future membership in the ACS by targeting programming to the newest generation of professional chemists.


Committee Biographies

Nicole Bellonzi

Finance Chair


B.S. in Chemistry; University of California, Santa Cruz; 2014

UPenn Advisor: Dr. Joseph Subotnik

Nicole is a second year graduate student in Professor Joseph Subotnik’s research group. Her research focuses on studying methods for modeling nonadiabatic dynamics. As an undergraduate, her work in Professor Yat Li’s research group focused on enhancing hematite nanowire arrays for use as photoanodes for photoelectrochemical water splitting. Her hobbies inculde reading, hiking and exploring Philadelphia.


Bren Cole

Speaker Liaison Chair


B.S. in Chemistry; Albright College; 2014

UPenn Advisor: Dr. Eric Schelter

Bren is a second year graduate student working in Dr. Eric Schelter’s group on the separation of rare earth ions using a chelating ligand framework as a National Science Foundation Fellow. As an undergraduate, Bren worked in Dr. Chris Graves’ group on the development of redox-active aluminum-α-diimine complexes. In his free-time, Bren enjoys reading and sports.


Nadia Krook

Marketing Chair


B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering; Lehigh University; 201

UPenn Advisors: Dr. Russell Composto and Dr. Christopher Murray

Nadia is a second year graduate student in Dr. Russell Composto’s and Dr. Christopher Murray’s lab investigating the self-assembly of anisotropic particles in block copolymers. As an undergraduate she conducted biodegradation studies of porous poly(glycerol sebacate) in Dr. Sabrina Jedlicka’s group (Lehigh) and also worked on the growth of one-dimensional II-VI semiconductor structures in Dr. Ritesh Agarwal’s group (UPenn). In her free-time, Nadia enjoys cooking, skiing, running, and latin dancing.


Stan Najmr

Committee Co-Chair


B.S. in Chemistry; University of Massachusetts, Amherst; 2012

UPenn Advisor: Dr. Christopher Murray

Stan is a third year graduate student in Professor Chris Murray’s group. His research focuses on improving the efficiency of upconverting rare-earth nanophosphors or biological and energy applications. During his undergraduate studies, Stan investigated doping pathways in the synthesis of aqueous core/shell quantum dots. Outside of the lab, Stan enjoys teaching, skiing, and reading.


Michael Nicastri

Logistics Chair


B.A. in Chemistry; The College of the Holy Cross; 2013

UPenn Advisor: Dr. Jeffrey Winkler

Michael is a third year graduate student in the Winkler lab. Currently, he is working on elucidating the mechanism of action of chloroquine derived dimeric autophagy inhibitors in melanoma. Additionally, he is probing the structure activity relationship of these compounds in order to expand the Winkler lab’s library of potent inhibitors. Outside of chemistry, Mike enjoys watching his favorite sports teams: the New York Giants, New York Mets, New York Rangers, and New York Knicks. He also enjoys cooking, video games, and fantasy football.


Benjamin Partridge

Committee Co-Chair


MChem in Chemistry; University of Oxford, UK; 2013

UPenn Advisor: Dr. Virgil Percec

Ben is a third year graduate student in Professor Virgil Percec’s group, currently investigating the influence of molecular chirality on structural order in arrays of helical supramolecular assemblies as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute International Student Research Fellow. During his master’s studies, he researched anion-binding halogen bonding rotaxanes. In his free-time, Ben enjoys cooking, cycling and exploring the 50 states.


Christopher Walters

Fundraising Chair


B.S. in Biochemistry; University of Michigan; 2012

UPenn Advisor: E. James Petersson

Chris is a fourth year student in Professor E. James Petersson’s lab working on the semi-synthesis of thioamide containing proteins. As an undergraduate, he worked in Professor Stephen Ragsdale’s lab studying enzymes associated with the heme degradation pathway.