2023 – 2025 Trainee Cohort

William Dodd – wbdodd@udel.edu

UD Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Will is from Seneca, SC. He completed his undergraduate degree at Clemson University in May of 2023. At Clemson he worked first with Dr. Marc Birtwistle, where his main project was developing a simulation method for tracking genetic interactions in a cell using combinations of fluorescent proteins. He also worked with Dr. Scott Husson on creating membranes for uranium dioxide measurement in water. These different experiences showed Will that he much preferred computational to experimental work. Will is currently advised by Dr. Arthi Jayaraman. His work will be on modeling and theoretical calculations around polymer-grafted nanoparticles (PGPs) for additive manufacturing applications. He will use a combination of molecular dynamics simulations and Polymer Reference Interaction Site Model (PRISM) theory. Will hopes the NRT program will help him better understand how to present his computational work in ways more beneficial and approachable for experimentalists. Will plans also to take extensive advantage of teaching and outreach opportunities provided by the NRT program as he hopes to enter academia at the conclusion of his PhD. In his free time, Will loves to read, play video games, and serve his local church.

Nina Fratto – nefratto@udel.edu

UD Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Nina is from Pittsburgh, PA, and earned her B.S.E. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh in 2023. During her time at Pitt, she worked under Professor Tagbo Niepa developing a functional microbial nanoculture system to assess growth dynamics of pathogenic bacteria. Currently, Nina is pursuing a PhD in the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering department and working under Professors Bayles and Epps to develop a recyclable lignin-based polymer for use in extrusion-based additive manufacturing. Nina is motivated by her desire to manufacture plastics with circular life spans and is excited to get involved in the NRT MIDAS program to further her professional development and collaborate with like-minded researchers. In her free time, she enjoys going for walks, playing volleyball, and playing the piano.

Anna Freund – acfreund@udel.edu

UD Materials Science & Engineering

Anna is from Portland, ME and received her B.A. in Chemistry at Smith College. She went on to complete an M.S. in Chemistry at the University of Washington, Seattle. Currently, she is a Ph.D. student in Material Science and Engineering in the Davis group. Her research topic is investigating stress induced failure in polymer reinforced composites by using interfacial mechanophores as in situ sensors. In the NRT program, Anna is excited to learn modeling and simulation to accurately map stress fields at the interface of the polymer matrix and the inorganic reinforcements. Outside of research, she enjoys cooking, crocheting, hiking, and skiing.

Siyuan Liu – yuann@udel.edu

UD Materials Science & Engineering

Siyuan is from Hunan, China. She earned her MS in Materials Science and Engineering from Monash University and Central South University, followed by a MRes in Chemical and Biological Engineering at Monash University. Her journey in research began in Assoc. Prof Jess Frith’s lab during undergraduate studies, exploring the regulation of stem cell fate with mechanical memory. In her research master’s studies, Siyuan joined Prof Wenlong Cheng’s lab, focusing on the fabrication of soft and flexible biosensors. This involved integrating metal nanowires with elastomers and hydrogels, including the design of thermoresponsive conductive hydrogels and a stretchable electrochemical sensor supporting direct cell growth and real-time monitoring of extracellular reactive oxygen species levels. At UD, She joined the Korley research group, directing her research towards designing bio-inspired multilayer actuators. Her interest in the NRT program stems is driven by a desire to develop high-performance actuators. The multidisciplinary traineeship will assist in actuator design by establishing a bridge between the swelling/mechanical properties in polymers and their microstructure. Beyond the lab, she finds solace in the pages of Existentialist philosophy and novels. She enjoys camping, cooking, and sharing her space with all things fuzzy and four-legged.

Kyle O’Donnell – kpod@udel.edu

UD Computer & Information Science

Kyle is from Bear, Delaware, and completed his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Delaware in 2020.  During his undergrad, Kyle focused on controls and embedded systems, and through this gained an appreciation for data science and machine learning.  After graduation, Kyle took a position as a federal contractor for the Chemical Biological Center in Edgewood Maryland, using machine learning techniques to improve chemical detection capabilities.  This research experience helped him decide to pursue a Ph.D. in Computer Science at the University of Delaware.  He is performing research in applied machine learning for computer vision under Dr. Chandra Kambhamettu at the VIMS Lab.  Kyle joined the NRT program to gain experience working in an interdisciplinary setting that joins data science and chemistry.  He believes that this program will help him develop new skills and improve his understanding of these topics.  In his free time, Kyle enjoys cooking, reading, playing Dungeons and Dragons, and hiking.

Afnan Pathan – pathan@udel.edu

UD Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Afnan is from Mumbai, India. And completed his bachelor’s (honors) degree in chemical engineering with minors in electrical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad (IIT-H). Throughout his undergraduate studies, he gained research experience while working on diverse research projects and internships. He worked with Dr. Saptarshi at (IIT-H) to study the interactions and dynamics of polyelectrolyte and polyampholyte complexes with Hofmeister series salts. Additionally, he honed his computational skills under the guidance of Dr. Albert Liu (Umich), focusing on the in-silico chemotaxis of colloidal nano-robots. At UD, he is a Ph.D. student in the department of chemical and biomolecular engineering and is advised by Dr. Norman Wagner. His current research focuses on unraveling the structure-function relationship of Lipid nanoparticle (LNP) formulations for various gene therapy applications, utilizing a blend of experimental and computational tools. The NRT program will help him integrate modeling, simulation, and data science tools to guide the experimental techniques and expedite the rational design of novel, improved LNPs. Apart from academics, Afnan has a keen interest in entrepreneurship and enjoys staying updated with cutting-edge technologies and business trends, and dedicates time to physical fitness through workouts.

Nilesh Patil – nileshrp@udel.edu

UD Materials Science & Engineering

Nilesh is from Mumbai, India, and is currently a graduate student in Material Science and Engineering. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Polymer Engineering and Technology from the Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai. During his master’s, he worked with Prof. S. T. Mhaske on the development of a temperature sensor using shape memory polymers. He developed thermo-responsive shape memory polymer composites by reinforcing imine-modified coir fiber.  At UD, Nilesh joined the lab of Dr. Laure Kayser and is now working on a degradable block copolymer for templating porous organic mixed ionic-electronic conductors. In the NRT program, he is eager to learn and implement molecular modeling and machine learning in his research project. Outside of work, Nilesh enjoys travelling, reading fiction, and watching movies. 

Leonardo Pierre – lpierre23@students.desu.edu

DSU Physics, Engineering, Mathematics & Computer Science

Leo is originally from New York and obtained his bachelor’s in physics and astronomy from Stony Brook University. He is a first year PhD student in the Optics program at Delaware State University. He currently works in Dr. Qi Lu’s lab applying machine learning techniques to analyze hyperspectral images of vesicles. He already engages in cross disciplinary research, and he hopes the NRT program will help give him more knowledge and experience in the realm of data science as well as connect him to other researchers. In his free time, he enjoys going to the public library.

Matthew Pitell – mpitell@udel.edu

UD Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Matthew (Matt) grew up in a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania called Wexford. He began his engineering career in 2018 at Case Western Reserve University where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering with a minor in polymer science. Throughout his undergraduate career, Matt participated in undergraduate research and multiple co-ops with LyondellBasell working as a research and development and process engineer. His undergraduate research was advised by Dr. Christopher Wirth, where Matt studied the stabilization of carbon black slurry flow battery suspensions through the use of surfactants. This research created a passion for colloidal science, which drove Matt to pursue his PhD. At UD, Matt joined Dr. Eric Furst’s research group studying the nanomechanics of colloidal structures using optical trapping. Outside of work, Matt enjoys acrobatics, rock climbing, weight lifting, and horror movies.

Tamem Salah – tsalah@udel.edu

UD Materials Science & Engineering

Tamem is a graduate student in the department of Materials Science and Engineering at UDel, he obtained his B.Sc. degree in Physics and M.Sc. in Materials Science and Engineering, both from UAEU. The mechanical characteristics of shape memory polymers were the main focus of his research expertise. Following his appointment to the Schiller Research Group, he developed a greater interest in modeling of simulation of ternary fluid mixtures with applications to emulsion templating of microstructured materials. Tamem thinks that the NRT program will provide him with the perfect opportunity to advance his career and gain exposure to industries where his research skills will be most employed/developed.