PME students earn University leadership awards

Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) graduate students Sophia Chao-Wei Huang and Paul Jerger and undergraduate research assistant Mohammed Bashier (Esser-Kahn Lab) have received Student Leadership Recognition and Access Awards from the University of Chicago’s Student Government.

The award recognizes 10 undergraduate and 10 graduate students for volunteering to better student life at the University, particularly those who make an impact while also working part-time.

Sophia Chao-Wei Huang
Sophia Chao-Wei Huang

Huang has helped build community at Pritzker Molecular Engineering by co-organizing a quarterly PME Women's Potluck with Ande Hesser; participating as one of four of the graduate student representatives on the PME Committee on Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion; and serving as the social co-chair on the Dean's Advisory Council with Nicholas Macke and Soren Kyhl.

Huang and Charles Lindberg run the weekly PME Students Seminar Series, which gives students and postdocs the opportunity to preview presentations, improve presentation skills, and elicit feedback from an audience of peers in a low-pressure setting.

“I want to contribute to creating a better environment where people feel comfortable spending five or more years working and living,” said Huang, adding, “but honestly, the tipping factor for committing the time and energy is that I knew I'd have the opportunity to work with and learn from strong and wise people with great hearts who are also dedicated to the same causes.”

Paul Jerger
Paul Jerger

Jerger has been involved with two student organizations, serving as the treasurer of the University of Chicago Science Policy Group (UCSPG) and as a board member of the Catholic Students Association for Graduate & Professional Students (CSA Grad).

For UCSPG, Jerger aids in career development for students looking to pursue science policy and organizes and secures funding for science policy conferences. For CSA Grad, Jerger plans social events and service projects, like trash cleanup in the park or packing Christmas boxes for children.

Jerger added that UCSPG has been busier than usual, having just been awarded a grant by the National Science Policy Network to assist local food pantries in implementing social distancing measures and otherwise responding to the ongoing pandemic.

“Involvement in student organization has always been a natural extension of what I see as my role as a graduate student here in this community,” he said. “None of us is ‘just a grad student,’ since we each have passions, hobbies, and values outside of research. It’s been rewarding for me to find supportive student groups for many of my passions.”