Group Members & News


Spring 2024

Ah beans! It's almost been two years since I updated the webpage.

There have been several comings, goings, and celebrations in the group, to say the least!

First, we welcome Dr. Dominique Wappett who begins her postdoc with the DeYonker group in April 2024. Domi earned her PhD in Lars Goerigk's group at the University of Melbourne and did outstanding work on QM-cluster model calibration. 

Haritha Sasi is a first-year graduate student in the group. Haritha got her BS and MS degrees at IISER Tirupati and has been doing fantastic work on both the astrochemistry and biochemistry fronts. 

Dr. Taylor Santaloci spent 2023 as a postdoc in the group and did wonderful work exploring F-SAPT, snake venom metalloproteinase mechanisms, and he implemented a driver for the RINRUS software, which has been a huge quality of life improvement. We wish him the best in his new role as Chemical Safety Manager for the Louisiana State University Department of Chemistry. Also notable is that Taylor was the first PhD student of good friend and long-time collaborator Prof. Ryan Fortenberry at Ole Miss!

In late 2023, we welcomed Prof. Jose Fernando Ruggiero Bachega from Federal University of Health Sciences of Porto Alegre (UFCSPA) in Brazil, as the first visiting professor to do a sabbatical with the DeYonker group. Dr. Bachega immediately formed strong friendships with everyone in the group and we started several promising collaborations. However, an unexpected injury brought Bachega's sabbatical visit to an early end at the beginning of the Spring semester. "It could be worse!" 

Former Research Scientist Dr. Qianyi Cheng was re-hired as a tenure-track faculty member at the University of Memphis Department of Chemistry. Prof. Cheng started her independent research career in August 2023. 

Justin Miller and Chris Barksdale have finished their BS degree and moved onto new and wonderful things. Before graduation, Chris Barksdale won a 2023 American Chemical Society Undergraduate Award in Physical Chemistry. 

Undergrad researcher Zaid Hadidi has won several awards during his time in the group: a travel award to attend the Biochemistry Boot Camp, held at Mississippi State University in Summer 2023 and a first place award, Physical and Applied Sciences category, for his oral presentation given at the 2023 University of Memphis Works in Progress Symposium!

Last but by no means least, Dr. Atsu Agbaglo becomes the second PhD awarded in the DeYonker group. Congratulations Atsu!!!

group with Bachega and KarlNov 2023 Taylor and Justin leaving

Domi and AtsuACS with Angela and Christine

Summer 2022

The group got to attend some more great conferences: Dr. DeYonker presented a poster at the 2022 Metallocofactors Gordon Research Conference in Newport, RI. Dr. DeYonker and Dr. Cheng attended WATOC 2020 in Vancouver, BC, Canada, and Dr. Cheng attended the Computational Chemistry Gordon Research Conference in Castelldefels, Spain! 

After five years of development, the Residue Interaction Network ResidUe Selector software toolkit is finally publicly released! Give it a try and build some QM-cluster enzyme models!

We had Paige Bowling, a 4th year graduate student from John Herbert's group at The Ohio State University, spend a week in the lab. Paige learned how to use RINRUS and taught the group some new fragmentation modeling skills. We also fed her a lot of BBQ. 

While Dr. Cheng and Dr. DeYonker were attending conferences and vacationing, TJ and Atsu helped to train and manage five undergraduates! Atsu's first first-author publication is available at Journal of Phyiscal Chemistry A, and we are all very proud of his work. 

The group is looking for new graduate students and we are hiring up to THREE postdocs between now and January 2023. It's an exciting time to be in the University of Memphis Department of Chemistry!

Justin Miller is the second undergraduate researcher in the DeYonker group to be awarded a prestigious departmental award, winning the William H Zuber Scholarship from the Department of Chemistry! Congrats Justin!


Winter/Spring 2022

Dr. DeYonker has joined the Twitter-sphere! Check here to learn about the highs and lows of being a PI, recent success from the DeYonker lab, and ramblings about weird music. 

Two new publications so far this year! Dr. DeYonker and Dr. Fioroni published an excited new cluster model study on astrochemical HCN polymerization at MNRAS. Dr. Cheng and Dr. DeYonker published a QM-cluster model study on Glycoside Hydrolase as part of an "Editor's Showcase" special issue of Frontiers in Chemistry.

Atsu has submitted his first first-author publication, contributing to a Journal of Physical Chemistry A special issue on 10 years of astrochemistry @ ACS! Reviews were positive and we should be hearing back about the resubmission soon. Congratulations, Atsu!

We said goodbye to Dr. Reza Hemmati, who moved to Atlanta to be with his family and pursue a second postdoctoral appointment. Reza contributed to two excellent manuscripts that should be published later this year.

Sarah Pak did a wonderful job finishing her comphrensive exams and Second Year Conference. She earns the first MS degree supervised by our friend Dr. Nascimento! 

The group attended several outstanding virtual and in-person conferences, signifying a relative return to "normal". Dr. DeYonker and Dr. Cheng gave multiple invited virtual talks at the 2021 Pacifichem meeting. Dr. DeYonker presented a poster at the 2022 Biophysical Society meeting. Dr. DeYonker and Dr. Cheng presented at the Spring 2022 ACS meeting. The entire group attended the 50th SETCA meeting held at Georgia Tech in May 2022 and we had a fantastic time!

Fall 2021

Still in the throes of the pandemic, but the DeYonker group had a productive and exciting semester.  We said goodbye to Thomas Summers, who is now a postdoc at University of Nevada-Reno with Prof. David Cantu


Dr. DeYonker has been appointed Councilor for the Memphis Local Section of the American Chemical Society. This is a three-year term that began in Spring 2021. 

We have a few new undergraduates in the group! We welcome Taylor Christian, Khloe Scott, and Kaustubh Koya.

The most exciting thing in Fall 2021 was that we were able to attend a conference in person and safely! We had a great time at SERMACS 2021 in Birmingham, AL. TJ, Atsu, and Sarah got to present their first conference posters.

Atsu TJ Sarah

Dr. DeYonker organized a symposium entitled "Ground truth: bridging knowledge gaps between computational and experimental enzymology", with some fantastic junior biochemists from the region. We had an amazing dinner afterwards at Blueprint on 3rd! From left to right: Dr. Qianyi Cheng (Memphis), Prof. Denise Okafor (Penn State), Prof. Patrick Frantom (Alabama), Prof. DeYonker, Prof. Justin Miller (Middle Tennessee State), Valerie Welborn (Virginia Tech), Prof. Samer Gozen (Georgia State), and Senal Delwakkada Liyanage (Mississippi State). 

biol sermacs

Summer 2021

The DeYonker group had a wonderful summer doing productive research. We even got to have a few parties to celebrate Thomas Summers' PhD graduation and three MS degrees awarded in the group (Agbaglo, Dahlberg, Frost).

Dr. DeYonker has been awarded tenure and promotion to Associate Professor, effective September 1, 2021. That's a platinum achievement! 

We will soon welcome Dr. Reza Hemmati as the first postdoc in the group. Reza comes from Auburn University, where he got his PhD from our old friend Konrad Patkowski. Welcome to Memphis, Reza! Reza will be funded by our DOE Basic Energy Sciences SBIR Phase I award, in partnership with Q-Chem, Inc. 

We also welcome our new colleague in theoretical chemistry, Professor Daniel Nascimento, who joined the Department of Chemistry in January 2021. He's been here awhile, but there have not been a lot of photo opportunities lately!

DeYonker group

Spring 2021

The DeYonker group is making progress and working hard in the time of COVID-19. We welcome motivated undergraduates at UM who are interested in doing research, and students from other universities who are looking at UM for graduate school! 

Dr. DeYonker was one of thirteen early career scientists selected for the 2020-2021 Scialog conference, cosponsored by the Research Corporation for Scientific Advancement and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, titled Scialog: Chemical Machinery of the Cell. Dr. DeYonker looks forward to meeting with the other awardees in person at the end of 2021.

With collaborator and long-time friend, Prof. Ryan Fortenberry @ Ole Miss, Dr. DeYonker published a review in the high-impact journal Accounts of Chemical Research, titled "Rovibrational Quantum Chemical Treatment of Inorganic and Organometallic Astrochemicals"

First-year graduate student Sarah Pak has joined the DeYonker group part-time until Dr. Nascimento gets settled in the Department of Chemistry. Hooray! 

Summer 2020

Well, umm... it's been an interesting year since the last update!

In August 2019, Dr. DeYonker received two major awards: 1) The University of Memphis Research Foundation Ventures Professorship, created to support research and sponsored programs activities and 2) The University of Memphis Michael K. Harless Faculty Excellence Award, given to an outstanding junior faculty member!

Makenzie Griffing moved to the Baker-Parrill group and we wish her the best! Tejaskumar Suhagia joined the group in September 2019 and has been doing a wonderful job.

Connor Frost was a recipient of a UM Carnegie R1 Graduate Fellowship, and has already been a co-author on a manuscript with Dr. Brewster, currently under review at Dalton Transactions

Dr. DeYonker paid a visit at the end of summer 2019 to the Chemical Engineering group at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, CO. Thomas Summers and Dr. Cheng visited the NIH NHLBI Laboratory of Computational Biology in early 2020.

Dr. DeYonker's 75th peer-reviewed publication went to press in May 2020: "CO2 Capture by 2‐(Methylamino)pyridine Ligated Aluminum Alkyl Complexes" in the European Journal of Inorganic Chemistry!

Dr. Cheng and Dr. DeYonker's publication "Acylation and Deacylation Mechanism and Kinetics of Penicillin G Reaction with Streptomyces R61 DD-peptidase" was selected to be a featured cover article in the Journal of Computational Chemistry!

JCC cover

Summer 2019

Dr. DeYonker's NSF CAREER proposal entitled "The Three R's: A Model-Building Toolkit for Rational, Reproducible, and Rigorous Computational Enzymology" has been funded by the Infrastructure Innovation for Biological Research program! This is a 5-year $742,000 research grant, and will keep the quickly expanding group very busy!

Rising second-year graduate student Joseph Burns and rising junior undergraduate student Maura Washington have both been awarded a NASA TN Space Grant Fellowship for Summer 2019! 

The DeYonker group will have FOUR new graduate students starting in the summer. We are excited to have Atsu Agbaglo (from Georgia Southern University), Makenzie Griffing (from Mississippi College), Davis Dahlberg (from University of Dubuque), and Connor Frost (from Rhodes College) joining the team.

Rising junior undergraduate Manuel Palma has been awarded the J. C. Williams Memorial Scholarship! This departmental award was established in 1997 in honor of a distinguished analytical chemistry professor to foster interest in chemistry as an academic major and assist students in the completion of the Bachelor's degree in preparation for going on to graduate studies in chemistry.

Fall 2018/Spring 2019

Dr. DeYonker, Qianyi, and Thomas just went to the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Orlando, FL! The lab gave four well-received lectures on computational biochemistry and astrochemistry. We didn't take any pictures though :(

Dr. DeYonker has published a new astrochemistry paper on PAPH reactions in Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics with long-time collaborator Dr. Marco Fioroni and undergraduate Robert Savage!

Joseph Burns has joined the group as a first-year graduate student. He is focusing on astrochemistry research and making short work of his first project. 

3rd year graduate student Thomas Summers has been awarded a prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Congrats Thomas! This is on the heels of his first major publication, which was selected as a featured cover article in Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry!


Hannah Lozano is the first graduate of the DeYonker laboratory! Congrats Hannah! She obtained her MS in May 2018 and is now working as a Quality Control expert at Vi-Jon Laboratories in the Nashville area. 

Summer 2018

Research Scientist

Dr. Qianyi Cheng (PhD University of Georgia 2011)

Graduate students

Roger Letterman (anticipated PhD 2017)

Katherine Charbonnet (anticipated PhD 2021)

Thomas Summers (anticipated PhD 2021)

Undergraduate researchers

Manuel Palma (anticipated BSc 2021)

Hrishikesh Tupkar (anticipated BS Chemical Engineering, U. Alabama - Tuscaloosa 2021)

Graduates from the DeYonker group

Hannah Lozano (MS Chemistry, May 2018)

Chloe Baker (BSc Chemistry, Memphis, 2018)

Tyree Morris (BSc Chemistry, Memphis, 2018)

 May 2018 commencement

 Hannah Lozano received her Masters Degree in May 2018. The first advanced degree in the DeYonker lab!

Las Delicias

May 2018, celebrating the end of the school year! L to R: Patti DeYonker, NJD, Hannah Lozano, Qianyi Cheng, Thomas Summers, and Kate Charbonnet

Fall 2016

Summer 2016 group lunch, L to R: Hrishikesh Tupkar (Houston High School), Prof. Henry Kurtz, Hannah Lozano, Chloe Baker, Kate Charbonnet, Patti DeYonker, Prof. Nate DeYonker, Thomas Summers