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USM Alumna, Graduate Student Accepted into American Chemistry Society Program

Fri, 04/17/2020 - 09:17am | By: David Tisdale

Dr. Cassandra ReeseA University of Southern Mississippi (USM) alumna - along with a current graduate student in its School of Polymer Science and Engineering - are just two of 30 individuals accepted into the prestigious and competitive Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) Future Leaders Program. The CAS is a division of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

Dr. Cassandra Reese, who earned her Ph.D. from the USM School of Polymer Science and Engineering in 2019 and Joshua Tropp, who is set to earn his Ph.D. in May 2020 from the school, are among the early-career scientists who will benefit from the program’s leadership training as well as a trip to the ACS National Meeting and Exposition. This year's participants were selected among hundreds of applicants, representing 18 countries and a wide array of scientific disciplines.

Dr. Derek Patton, interim director of the School of Polymer Science and Engineering, described Reese and Tropp as two of the school’s “shining stars” and model servant-leaders whose leadership talents he’s witnessed, noting Reese’s service as president of USM’s Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) organization, and Tropp as president of the USM Graduate Student Senate.

“The fact that a USM polymer science and engineering graduate and a current doctoral candidate in the school were both selected for the same cohort of the CAS Future Leaders program is not only a testament to their individual strengths, but also a reflection of the time and attention our faculty give to the development of students’ professional and leadership skills,” Dr. Patton said. “Cassandra and Joshua will join an elite group of early scientists where USM will be well-represented.”

Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, CAS is composed of a team of scientists who identify, aggregate, and organize all publicly disclosed chemistry information, creating the world's most valuable collection of content that is vital to innovation worldwide. Scientific researchers, patent professionals and business leaders around the world rely on a suite of research solutions from CAS to enable discovery and fuel innovation.

A native of San Diego, Dr. Reese is currently a postdoctoral research associate in the Engineered Materials Group at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where her research focuses on 3D printing to design hierarchical, porous, multifunctional materials. She sees her selection for the program as a “once in a lifetime opportunity to engage in network opportunities with young professionals and renowned leaders from all over the world, and learn versatile tools to become an impactful leader in science.”

“Since graduate school, I have constantly pushed myself to achieve goals to further my leadership skills, and this is another great opportunity to help achieve those goals,” she said.

At USM, Reese also served as president of the ACS Polymer Chemistry (POLY) and Polymeric Materials Science and Engineering (PMSE) Student Chapter. Among her other honors and recognition include the Younger Chemist Committee (YCC) of the American Chemical Society Leadership Development Award; the National Science Foundational Graduate Research Fellowship (NSF-GRFP); the National Science Foundation National Research Traineeship (NRT); and the 2018 Australia–Americas Ph.D. Research Internship Program at a government lab, CSIRO, in Australia.

Dr. Reese says she plans to pursue a career in academia after completing her postdoctoral work, and “serve as a mentor to younger scientists, especially those in underrepresented groups, to help empower and encourage students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields.”

“Both of my research advisors from my undergraduate and graduate universities, Peter Iovine and Derek Patton, have been amazing mentors and helped me achieve goals I never thought were attainable,” she said.

Joshua TroppTropp, who hails from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, says he’s “unbelievably honored to earn this distinction” of being included in the CAS 2020 class, with students from some of the top schools in the U.S. and world for the sciences that include Stanford University, the University of California at Berkeley, Princeton University and Harvard University, among others. “To be selected in the company of other exceptional students, and identified to have the potential for scientific leadership, is empowering.

Tropp dissertation work revolves around developing portable environmental monitoring technologies for the trace detection of pollutants in seawater. He designed, organized, and led several different efforts that were part of a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded initiative, “Emergent Polymer Sensing Technologies for Gulf Coast Water Quality Monitoring."

“In collaboration with universities across the region, we developed sensors for common aquatic contaminants that enter our ecosystems through agricultural runoff, the burning of fossil fuels, and other common pollution sources,” Tropp said. Outside of his thesis work, Tropp was also involved in the synthesis and characterization of polymers with unique magnetic, electronic, and adhesive behaviors.

An inductee in the USM Graduate School of Fame Class of 2020, Tropp was the 3-Minute Thesis Grand Champion in 2019; and served on the screening committee for the selection of the dean of the USM College of Arts and Sciences (2018), while also serving as Graduate Student Senate President during the same year.

Tropp was recently hired by his thesis advisor at USM, Dr. Jason D. Azoulay, as a postdoctoral research associate for chemical sensing research until the end of the year. He is currently applying for other postdoctoral research positions and other related opportunities, with the ultimate goal of entering academe as a research professor.

“After spending the last few years having the privilege to explore my academic interests and mentor young scientists, I cannot imagine doing anything else,” Tropp said.

For information about the USM School of Polymer Science and Engineering, visit