Chemistry Alumni Profiles

No two Harvey Mudd College Chemistry majors are exactly alike! Some students are attracted to the field of chemistry because of its central importance in the world around us. Others recognize that a chemistry degree provides access to the frontiers of many modern and emerging fields—materials, biotechnology, nano-technology and pharmaceutical chemistry, to name just a few. Students are challenged by the complexity of molecular structure, the design of synthetic schemes, the quantitative characterization of materials and compounds, or the intricate relationships between theory and experiment. Whether you’re looking for a lifelong career in chemistry or just a broad-based foundation that will afford a myriad of future opportunities, a chemistry degree at Harvey Mudd College may be the answer for you.

With more than 700 chemistry alumni to date, we couldn’t possibly describe all of the directions that our students have taken after graduating from Harvey Mudd. But to give you a sense of the scope of careers possible, the following alumni profiles illustrate the diverse range of paths that our majors have pursued. In addition to traditional areas of chemistry, you’ll find that the Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry at Harvey Mudd College has prepared our graduates for employment and advanced study in such fields as biochemistry, biomedical engineering, business management, chemical engineering, environmental engineering, geochemistry, medicinal chemistry, medicine, microbiology, neurology, patent law, pharmacology, physiology and scientific publishing. The opportunities are endless!

Eric Toberer ’02

Eric earned his Ph.D. at the University of California, Santa Barbara, in materials with Professor Ram Seshadri.  After completing a Beckman Postdoctoral Fellow at California Institute of Technology, with Professors Jeff Snyder and Sossina Haile, Eric Toberer has started as assistant professor of physics at Colorado School of Mines. Eric says this work is at the interface between chemistry, solid state physics and material science and targets new materials for energy applications. Eric and his group develop predictive relationships between the chemical structure of a material and the resulting properties, thereby guiding our search for new energy materials. Further insight into our experimental results is obtained through close collaborations with computational groups.  Our current focus is on electron and phonon transport in thermoelectric materials. Here, we investigate how the electron and phonon band structure and scattering sources control transport. Beyond thermoelectric materials, this fascination with transport in the solid state has application to other energy systems such as fuel cells, photovoltaics and batteries.

Tom Smith ’80

Tom earned his MS in Food Science at UC Davis after graduating from Harvey Mudd College.  Tom reminds us that in addition to getting a degree in Chemistry, more importantly, he learned how to think, analyze, and problem solve at Mudd.

As Vice President for E. & J. Gallo Winery, Tom leads Gallo’s tremendous research commitment, which largely addresses grape growing and winemaking in California, especially in the Central Valley. Over the course of time, research effort has resulted in dramatic improvements in the quality of wine from the Central Valley, through improvements in winegrape varieties and their clonal selections, developing of sustainable and quality-enhancing grape growing practices, developing analytical metrics for assessing the quality of grapes, developing analytical and sensory metrics for determining optimal harvest timing, developing large scale yet value-adding winemaking practices, and driving industry-wide awareness and improvements in bottle closures.

Tom also leads the grape growing and winemaking efforts for Barefoot Cellars, a brand which has grown 1600% since acquired in 2004, into a position where it is now the highest revenue wine brand in the USA. Previously, before E. & J. Gallo Winery, Tom’s Delicato Vineyards Shiraz was awarded “Best Shiraz of California” for three years in a row at the California State Fair.

Rachel Nishimura ’09

Rachel is currently a Chemistry Research Assistant in the Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disease area at Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical R&D LLC. Previous to this position, Rachel was an Associate Chemist at The Gas Company for eight months where she performed chemical analysis and biofuel/biogas experimental development for the Synthetic Natural Gas (SNG) Plant. She also coordinated safety activities as an extension of the Environmental Health and Safety Department. Her interest is to utilize chemistry to solve problems in energy, environmental sustainability, and health.

Tyrel McQueen ’04

Tyrel pursued his Ph.D. at Princeton University with Professor Robert Cava, and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology with Professor Dan Nocera. Tyrel recently joined Johns Hopkins University with a joint appointment in the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Physics and Astronomy. As a materials chemist, The McQueen Laboratory is focused on the discovery of new phenomena through the design and synthesis of new materials. This can best be summarized as “Discovery Driven Research”

Neel Joshi ’01

Neel conducted his graduate research with Professor Matt Francis in Organic Chemistry at UC Berkeley, and a postdoctoral research at Boston University with Professor Mark Grinstaff, synthesizing dendrimeric macromolecules for use as scaffolds in cartilage tissue engineering and developing new contrast agents capable of assessing the health of cartilage tissue using computed tomography (CT).  Neel accepted a position as Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering in the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Neel is also a core faculty member of the new Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.

Alan Baron ’89

Alan, CEO of FocalFive, is a successful entrepreneur having founded startups delivering cutting edge technologies to industrial and biomedical applications via products, licenses, and acquisitions with commercial partners. With 15 years of technology management experience, his commercialization and product development expertise spans computational imaging applications, biomedical / industrial chemical sensors, and aerospace technologies, with 3 issued patents in these fields. He graduated from the University of Washington with a PhD in Analytical Chemistry.

Brian Rohrback ’74

Brian is President of Infometrix, Inc., in Woodinville, Washington, a leading developer of software in the field of chemometrics. His software employs pattern recognition and modeling techniques for the analysis of multivariate data sets in chemistry and biotechnology. Brian came to Harvey Mudd as a graduate of La Serna High School in Whittier, California. He earned a Ph.D. in geochemistry from UCLA in 1979 and an MBA degree in Business Administration from the University of Washington in 1985.

Fred Brander ’73

Founder, owner, and winemaker of the Brander Vineyards and Winery in Los Olivos, California, Fred has earned a reputation for his distinctive wines and aggressive canopy management of his vineyard. Fred’s senior research thesis title at Harvey Mudd revealed his passion for wine, “Volatile Composition of Vitis Vinifera Zinfandel. Neutral Components Extracted from Wine.” A graduate of Laguna Blanca School in Santa Barbara, CA, Fred earned an M.S. degree from U.C. Davis in enology in 1975. His first Sauvignon Blanc harvest in 1977 won Santa Barbara County’s first gold medal at a major wine competition.

Phillip Szuromi ’80

Phil is Supervising Senior Editor of Science magazine, a global weekly publication of the latest research in the scientific community. Phil is responsible for the weekly column This Week in Science. A graduate of East High School in Phoenix, Arizona, Phil earned a Ph.D. in Chemistry at Caltech in 1985.

Ann McDermott ’81

Ann is a Professor of Chemistry at Columbia University in New York, member of the National Academy of Science, and winner of the 1996 American Chemical Society Award for Pure Chemistry. Ann’s research focuses on the use of NMR spectroscopy to study a variety of biological systems, including photosystem reaction centers, peptides and proteins, paramagnetic solids, and drug-binding sites and receptors. Ann was a graduate of John F. Kennedy High School in Wheaton, Maryland, and received her Ph.D. degree in chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley in 1987.

Doug Gilman ’89

Doug is Associate Professor of Chemistry at the Louisiana State University with research interests in the areas of bioanalytical chemistry and environmental chemistry. Professor Gilman is developing new bioanalytical methods featuring the integration of biological molecules with microfluidic-based instruments. Current interest include electrophoretic based enzyme assays to study enzyme inhibition and developing methods for nanoparticle analysis applied to study protein aggregation. After graduating from Harvey Mudd, Doug earned a Ph.D. in chemistry at the Pennsylvania State University in 1994 and was awarded a postdoctoral research position in the Departments of Environmental Toxicology and Entomology at the University of California, Davis. Doug arrived at Harvey Mudd as a graduate of Exeter Union High School in Exeter, California.

Ken Feldman ’78

Ken is a Professor of Chemistry at the Pennsylvania State University. His research interests in the area of organic synthesis focus on two diverse areas: the synthesis of natural product molecules such as the secondary plant metabolites known as ellagitannins and gallotannins and the de novo assembly of organic zeolites with long-range periodic three-dimensional order. Ken arrived at Harvey Mudd as a graduate of Miami Beach Senior High School in Florida and earned his Ph.D. in Chemistry in 1984 from Stanford University.

Benis Babusis ’92

Benis earned his M.D. degree at the University of California – Irvine in 1996. Following an internship at the Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, and a Radiology Resident at the University of Utah Medical Center, he lived in Salt Lake City for several years, and settled in the beautiful Seattle area. In 2003, Ben foundedLightscape Gallery as on online medium to both share and sell his images.   He has been actively displaying his work in numerous venues in the Seattle area.  Several stunning pieces are displayed in the Chemistry Department. Benis is a graduate of Earl Warren High School in Downey, California.

Joseph Pizzorno ’69

Joseph is President and co-founder of Bastyr University in Bellevue, Washington. After earning his doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon, Joseph co-founded this nonprofit university. The institution is recognized internationally as a pioneer in the study of natural healing. In 2001, Pizzorno founded SaluGenecists Inc. to develop innovative, science-based, artificial intelligence-aided advice systems to provide smart, personalized health promotion and integrated care guidance for the public and practitioners.  Joseph is a noted author, editor, and featured speaker on television and radio. He graduated from Don Bosco High School in Rosemead, California.

Kari Birkeland ’91

Kari is a lead environmental artist at 38 Studios. Kari received her Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry from Northwestern University in 1995.  After a time with Dow Chemical Company, Kari  pursued her interest in the arts.  She earned her an art degree from the Art Academy of Los Angeles and Gnomon School of Visual Effects.

Edward Wood ’66

Ed was the founding CEO of COBE BCT, Inc, now Gambro BCT, Inc. Ed is currently the CEO of ArcScan, an emerging device company and is serving on the Board of Directors of four medical device and biotech companies, both public and private. Ed received an M.B.A. degree in Business Administration at the University of Colorado – Boulder. He is a graduate of Columbia High School in Richland, Washington.

Deborah Bebout ’85

As a Professor of Chemistry at the College of William and Mary, Debbie is interested in the spectroscopic and mechanistic characterization of molecules of biological significance. Debbie was a graduate of Capistrano Valley High School in Mission Viejo, California. Prior to her current position, Debbie earned a Ph.D. in chemistry at Cornell University and completed a two-year postdoctoral position at Penn State.

Ronald Zuckermann ’84

Ron is Facility Director, Biological Nanostructures Facility, at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He is an international leader in combinatorial drug discovery, a technique that uses an automated parallel synthesis approach to increase the probability of finding novel compounds of therapeutic value for pharmaceutical applications. Ron graduated from Berkeley High School in Berkeley, California, and returned to his hometown to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley.

Paul Burke ’86

Paul is the Chief Technology Officer, Oligonucleotide Therapeutics Unit, at Pfizer. He received a patent for his invention of a biologically-compatible polymeric matrix for the sustained release of biologically-active erythropoietin, a protein produced by the kidney to stimulate bone marrow to produce red blood cells. Paul was a graduate of Christian High School in El Cajon, California and received his Ph.D. in chemistry from MIT in 1992.

Tas Dienes ’93

Tas is currently the Chief Technology Officer at Smart Action Company and Director of Commercial Operations at Adaptive A.I., Inc.  As graduate student in analytical chemistry at the University of California, Riverside, Tas designed and built instrumentation for time-of-flight mass spectrometry to measure the size and composition of individual aerosol particles in the atmosphere. In 1991, while a student at Harvey Mudd, Tas co-founded I/O Software, a company that provides innovative software for leading-edge technology companies. Tas was Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of I/O Software, which won awards for the release of software using fingerprint verification techniques to secure computers and workstations. Tas graduated from Damien High School in La Verne, California.

Cary Reich ’70

Cary is the Chief Technology Officer for ForSight Labs since 2006. Cary is an inventor on over 25 patents for a variety of inventions in surgical and ophthalmological devices and procedures. Cary earned his Ph.D. in from Stanford in 1976 conducting research in the area of organic chemistry. He was a graduate of Earl Warren High School in Downey, California.