ACS Students Interpret the U.N. Climate Talks

ACS facilitates students attending the United Nations climate talks called the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). There 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 11th year that ACS has assisted this program. The students' work is supervised by Professors Gregory Foy and Keith Peterman, both chemistry faculty members at York College of Pennsylvania (YCP), in York, Pennsylvania.

2021 U.N. Climate Conference in Glasgow

Ten students will attend and blog their observations about the United Nations climate talks which will be held from October 31- November 12, 2021 in Glasgow.

Student Bios

Kowan O'Keefe

Kowan O’Keefe, born and raised in Kamloops, British Columbia, is a Trudeau Scholar and third-year PhD student at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy. O’Keefe studies climate change policy with a focus on Canada’s goal of achieving a net-zero GHG emissions economy by 2050. O’Keefe attended Minot State University on a golf scholarship and was a two-time NCAA Division II Academic All-American and a finalist for the NCAA Division II Male Scholar Athlete of the Year Award. He became the first in this family to graduate from university, earning a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and mathematics. He then earned a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Toronto. O’Keefe twice attended the United Nations Climate Change Conference representing the American Chemical Society and has written three chapters for a series of collaborative books on climate change literacy and education. In addition to his doctoral studies, O’Keefe is a member of an interdisciplinary team at the University of Maryland’s Center for Global Sustainability that focuses on climate change and energy policy projects.

Rose Albert

Rose Albert is a senior in the Science and Technology Honors Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham pursuing a BS in Chemistry and an MPH in Environmental Health Sciences. Rose unifies her multi-disciplinary research experiences in bacteriophage genomics, cell biology and microscopy, and air quality modeling with a passion for science as a tool for social justice. She aspires to provide scientific and technical support to communities burdened with environmental injustices. Rose advocates for healthy air and environmental justice in Birmingham, AL through her community science and health policy work with the nonprofit GASP. As president of Green Initiative, UAB's undergraduate sustainability organization, Rose leads campus initiatives on topics such as eco-anxiety, science policy, fast fashion, waste management, place-based environmentalism, and youth activism. Rose has been recognized as a Goldwater and Udall Scholar for her research and environmental advocacy.

Amar Bhardwaj

Amar Bhardwaj is a current Marshall Scholar focused on policy and economic analysis as well as technology development within renewable energy and hard-to-abate sectors. He has worked as a researcher at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy and an Energy Industry Analyst at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), where he helped inform policymaking on the energy transition. Previously, Amar was a lead researcher in Columbia University’s Solar Fuels Engineering Lab, the Editor in Chief of Consilience: The Journal of Sustainable Development, and an expert reviewer for the IPCC’s 6th Assessment Report. Amar has authored numerous publications in energy policy and technology and has presented his work globally, including at the United Nations. He holds a B.S. in chemical engineering, summa cum laude, from Columbia University, an M.Sc. in Energy, Society, and Sustainability from the University of Edinburgh, and will shortly begin a Ph.D. in chemical engineering at Stanford University as an NSF Graduate Research Fellow. In this free time, Amar enjoys Latin dance, drone photography, and all forms of outdoor adventure.

Claire Dopp

Claire Dopp is a third-year undergraduate student at the University of Kansas pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with a minor in Environmental Studies. She is a Beckman Scholar at KU, supported by the Arnold & Mabel Beckman Foundation, and is mentored by Prof. James Blakemore. Claire’s research focuses on the synthesis and characterization of heterobimetallic, macrocyclic vanadium complexes, with an eye on controlling the redox chemistry of the oxo cation vanadyl. Claire is inspired by such work, as it could contribute to improved sustainability of nuclear energy, a low-carbon power source. Outside of the lab, she serves as the coordinator for the campus Kansas Union Gallery, and loves baking and exploring the outdoors. Following graduation, Claire aspires to attend graduate school to earn a PhD in Chemistry.

Justin Harrington

Justin Harrington is a fourth-year at the University of Virginia (UVA) in Charlottesville, VA majoring in Chemical Engineering. He spent the previous summer as an undergraduate researcher studying therapeutic peptide-polymer conjugates, with a focus on applications for ALS. Prior to that he spent two summers working for the Department of State and USAID at the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan. Upon graduating, he plans to pursue a doctoral degree in Chemical Engineering. In his free time Justin attends the Historical Simulation Society, UVA’s board game club, and is the Secretary for UVA’s student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

Celina Harris

Celina Harris is a 5th year Ph.D. candidate at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities pursuing her degree in Chemistry. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Gettysburg College in 2017. Her current research focuses on understanding the evolving reactivity of iron oxide materials in the presence of nitroaromatic compounds on sand in continuous flow settings. On campus, Celina serves as the president of the Women in Science and Engineering, Chemistry Chapter and co-president of the Joint Safety Team. She is also involved with the Community of Chemistry Graduate Students – a student group focused on fostering a supportive environment where mental health is prioritized during graduate studies. She has volunteered with the outreach group Chemists in the Library run by the MN chapter of ACS since 2017. Outside of science, Celina enjoys reading, baking, and board games. 

Luke Jaskowski

Luke Jaskowski is a senior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with a minor in Chinese. He is actively involved as President of the Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society and Secretary of the environmental activism organization Green Initiative at UAB. As an undergraduate researcher in the lab of Dr. Suzanne E. Lapi, he is using fluorine-18, a radioactive isotope of fluorine, to radiolabel environmental contaminants known as PFAS to observe their movement through water filtration systems. He hopes to pursue a career as an organic chemist in the production of novel pharmaceuticals or greener materials to reduce the impact of climate change. Outside of academics, Luke enjoys cooking, hiking, and observing local art.

Gabrielle Risica

Gabrielle Risica is a fifth year doctoral student and PhD candidate in the Department of Chemistry at Texas A&M University. Her research focuses on the effect of different molecular architectures on the performance of lanthanide-based single-molecule magnets, for qubit, data storage or energy generation applications. Gabrielle is heavily involved in the TAMU community, volunteering as an event coordinator at the Texas State Science Olympiad and organizing various hands-on activities through the Chemistry Open House. On campus, she has served on executive boards for several student organizations, including the Graduate Student Association of Chemistry, Phi Lambda Upsilon Chemistry Honorary Society, and Women in Science and Engineering. In her (limited) free time, Gabrielle enjoys reading all genres, doing yoga, writing for her blog, playing various table-top games, and spending time with her puppy. Gabrielle hopes to pursue a career in science policy and communications, and is especially interested in connecting her doctoral research to global progress in the fight against climate change.

Tiffany Sill

Tiffany Sill is a second-year graduate student pursuing an interdisciplinary PhD in inorganic chemistry and materials science and engineering at Texas A&M University in Professor Sarbajit Banerjee’s materials chemistry research group.  She graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from California State University San Bernardino.  During her undergraduate career, she created and implemented a STEM program which brought science into an afterschool program for underprivileged children in the heart of San Bernardino.  She also participates in the American Chemical Society National Chemistry Week events.  Her dissertation research focuses on utilizing machine learning and automated synthesis to design nanocomposite coatings for a variety of energy relevant technologies.  She is a 2020 Aviles and Johnson Fellow and a 2021 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow.  In her free time, Tiffany loves to spend time outdoors with her husband, three children, and two dogs.

Spencer Smith

Spencer Smith is a senior at York College of Pennsylvania pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering with a minor in Environmental Sustainability. In his future as an engineer, he hopes to positively impact the fight for global sustainability. His studies of sustainability have taken him around the world from Costa Rica to now Glasgow, Scotland. On campus, Spencer has served as Vice President and Sustainability Chair on Student Senate, Treasurer and Vice President of YCP’s ASCE Student Chapter, Treasurer of the NASA Student Launch team, President of the Student Alumni Council, a Student Ambassador, an Eisenhart Community Service Scholar, Sunrise Campus Corps Student Leader, a Varsity Swimmer, an EVOLVE campaign cabinet member, and a President’s Task Force for Sustainability Leader. In his sparse free time, Spencer enjoys 3D printing and gaming with friends. He believes in the mantra “Sustainability is Universal”.