U.S. Chemistry Students Interpret the U.N. Climate Talks

ACS sponsors students to attend and blog their observations about the United Nations climate talks called the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). They interview scientists, policymakers, and national leaders and discuss how the known science of climate change may be incorporated into international policy.

This is the seventh year that ACS has sponsored students. Their work is supervised by Professors Gregory Foy and Keith Peterman, both chemistry faculty members at York College of Pennsylvania (YCP), York, Penn.

2016 Conference in Marrakech, Morocco

Eight students will attend and blog their observations about the United Nations climate talks to be held in Marrakech, Morocco from November 7-18, 2016.

Student Bios

Alice Henderson

Alice Henderson graduated from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington in May 2016 with degrees in chemistry and French, and a minor in environmental studies. While completing her undergraduate studies she was able to study French and Caribbean culture for a month in Martinique as well as spending a semester in Namibia.  While in Namibia (southern Africa), she took courses in local history, philosophy, drug development and physical chemistry in addition to working as a research assistant performing natural compound extractions from medicinal plant material.  Alice also spent a summer at her own university engaged in synthetic organic chemistry with donor-acceptor cyclopropanes.  Since returning home to Olympia, Washington, Alice has begun exploring graduate program options in chemistry, environmental science, and toxicology.  She has been passionate about environmental justice since high school and is particularly interested in the ways in which science is communicated to the public.  Through activities as an ACS representative, Alice is eager to engage her home communities in the process of international climate policy development, eat delicious Moroccan food, and maybe even speak some French along the way.  In her spare time she enjoys running, biking, naps, reading, and musical theater.

Narayan Kovil

Narayan Kovil is a junior at New York University studying Environmental Studies with a minor in Chemistry.  His research focus is on how urban air pollution affects local transmission of biological vectors and parasites. Currently he is working on a research proposal that observes the potency of certain plants to remove toxins from the air in urban environments.  Additionally, he is making a photo-journal that provides a visual of the many benefits of parks in NYC.  He is president of the Oxfam Organization on campus, which focuses on the advocacy of major environmental issues and humanitarian efforts.   In his spare time, Narayan enjoys running, photography, and solving puzzles.

Hannah Melton

Hannah Melton is a senior at Johns Hopkins University pursuing a degree in Global Environmental Change & Sustainability with a Natural Science focus.  Her dream is to be the next Bill Nye—she wants to get people excited about new research and science through multimedia.  This summer, she is working in Chicago at a branding and digital firm that works to brand towns and businesses that support healthy, sustainable communities.  At Hopkins, she serves as a backpacking instructor and a caving instructor in two outdoors groups.  Hannah is a member of the Mental Notes (a comedy cappella group), and works an on-campus job.  She is also a Global Ambassador for IFSA-Butler.  Last year, she spent 6 months abroad, studying and traveling in Australia for a semester and backpacking in New Zealand afterward.  She loves hiking, cycling, reading, and travel.

Kowan O’Keefe

Kowan O’Keefe is a Canadian citizen from Creston, British Columbia. He previously served as an ACS student delegate at the 2014 COP20 in Lima, Peru, and this time around he will serve as the student mentor for this year’s student delegates at COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco.  Kowan is particularly interested in how climate change will affect geopolitical situations in different parts of the world, especially in the Arctic region.  In 2015, he graduated from Minot State University in North Dakota with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in chemistry and math. He was heavily involved in undergraduate research at Minot State, and in 2014 was chosen to present his organic chemistry research to members of Congress in Washington, DC.  At Minot State, Kowan played on the golf team where he was a two-time NCAA Division II Academic All-American, a conference champion, and a finalist for the NCAA Division II Male Scholar Athlete of the Year Award.  Currently, Kowan is finishing his Master of Science in organic chemistry at the University of Toronto, after which he plans to go to law school to study environmental law.  In his spare time, he enjoys golfing, reading, and traveling.

Maddie Smith

Maddie Smith is a senior at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA, majoring in chemistry and minoring in environmental studies and Hispanic studies. She has spent two summers doing undergraduate research on the potential for the reaction of carbon dioxide with donor-acceptor cyclopropanes, and is also a chemistry department teaching assistant.  While at PLU she has spent time in Ecuador and Peru studying environmental literature, and a semester in Oaxaca, Mexico focused on social justice in contemporary Mexico. These experiences helped grow Maddie’s passion for environmental and social justice for people and the earth. She is interested in the ways that science and scientists can aid environmental justice causes and promote them to the larger community.  In her free time, Maddie runs Cross Country and Track and Field at PLU and explores the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

Mira Sobhy

Mira Sobhy is a junior at The Johns Hopkins University majoring in Earth and Planetary Sciences and she is also on the pre-med track.  She was born and raised in New York, but lived a few years in Egypt growing up.  At Hopkins she is currently involved in two labs; a Clinical Cardiology lab and a Biophysical chemistry laboratory.  Both labs involve working with humans, one being particularly first hand encounters.  Mira initially became interested in climate change and the subject surrounding it during her high school AP environmental science class. Through this amazing class and different opportunities, she was able to do an internship with NASA which helped build an even stronger foundation in environmental science.  During her time at NASA, she worked on a project regarding improving radiation shielding methods due to recent changes in incoming radiation changes.  She anticipates developing strong connections at COP22 in Morocco since she will not face a language barrier typical for those traveling in the Middle East.

Paige Uehling

Paige Uehling is a first-year Master of Environmental Management candidate concentrating in Global Environmental Change at Duke University.  She graduated from Bucknell University in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology.  Prior to attending Duke, Paige was a Research Technician in the Eider Laboratory of the Alaska SeaLife Center. She is passionate about environmental science and social justice.  In particular, she is interested in how individuals’ beliefs and values influence environmental perceptions.  She hopes to understand how these connections can strengthen stewardship of the environment for both personal and global change.  In her free time, Paige enjoys running, hiking, and traveling.

Taylor Yurasits

Taylor Yurasits hails from Lehighton, Pennsylvania.  She is a junior at York College of Pennsylvania, studying Forensic Chemistry and minoring in Criminal Justice.  On graduating, she plans to pursue a Master’s Degree in Forensic Chemistry with a primary concentration in serology and blood stain pattern analysis.  Her interest in climate change mainly focuses on impacts in different geographic regions and cultures as well as how it affects the human body.  She seeks to learn how different regions strive to mitigate the impacts of climate change.  In her spare time, she enjoys kayaking, hiking, and spending time with family and friends.