The Department of Chemistry is pleased to announce that graduating chemistry major and Teas Scholar Ryan Lai has been selected as the 2023 departmental commencement marshal.
Student marshals play an integral role in commencement ceremonies; they represent their college or department and lead their fellow graduates in the procession to enter the commencement hall. The title of student marshal is one of the highest honors an undergraduate student can earn at Penn State. Lai was selected for this important role in recognition of his exemplary academic record and his contributions to the chemistry community at Penn State.
Lai is currently a member in the lab of Jonathan Kuo, assistant professor of chemistry, where his research has focused on creating organic methodology for carbon-nitrogen bonds. His project demonstrates that installing a Bronsted basic auxiliary enables the synthesis of aza-quaternary centers. As president of the Nittany Chemical Society (NCS) for the past two years, he has led efforts for fundraising and planning trips to national American Chemical Society (ACS) meetings. He has also been a member of the departmental Climate and Diversity Committee and a Learning Assistant for multiple chemistry courses. In addition to his considerable involvement in the undergraduate program, Lai has served as a research ambassador and received the ACS student Leadership Award in 2022.
Head of the Department of Chemistry Philip Bevilacqua notes, “I am very pleased to see Ryan named Chemistry Department Marshal. He has made tremendous contributions in research, academics, and outreach, and is an outstanding choice!"
“It is very gratifying and humbling to be chosen as the student marshal and to be recognized for my efforts,” adds Lai. “It is an honor to represent the department at graduation, and I could not be where I am without the help and support of my peers.”
After graduation, Lai plans to attend the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry. After graduate school, he intends to combine his passions for chemistry, healthcare, and leadership in the pharmaceutical industry.
"Ryan has been following up on some unexpected experimental observations we made in 2021,” Kuo says. “He identified the underlying reasons for this outcome through his undergraduate research. With that information, he has been able to extend our initial observation to several additional cases, which take advantage of those same mechanisms. And he did this while juggling so many other responsibilities, like being president of NCS, applying to graduate school, and just being an undergraduate. Working with Ryan has been a true privilege, and I am incredibly proud of what he has accomplished here at Penn State. UCLA Chemistry is going to be extremely lucky to have him.”