Levinger Group Members

Nancy E. Levinger – Principal Investigator (CV)

Nancy earned the B.A. degree with double majors in Integrated Science and Physics from Northwestern University.  As an undergraduate, she pursued research in the Van Duyne group at Northwestern and with Branka Ladanyi at Colorado State University. She earned the Ph.D. in Chemical Physics working with W. Carl Lineberger at the University of Colorado, Boulder. From 1990 to 1992 she performed research as a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellowship to work with Paul Barbara at the University of Minnesota.  Nancy began her independent career at Colorado State University in 1992 rising through the ranks to Professor in 2005.  In 2007, Nancy was named University Distinguished Teaching Scholar, one of the two highest honors given by Colorado State University. Nancy is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Chemical Society.

Contact at

Richard Cole (Postdoctoral Associate)

Rich was raised near Huntley, WY and attended the University of Wyoming earning a B.S. degree in Chemistry.  He did undergraduate research with Prof. David Anderson using high resolution FTIR to study photochemistry of molecules isolated in solid para-hydrogen.  Rich received his Ph.D. in Chemistry from Colorado State University where he worked with Nancy Levinger to study solvation dynamics and proton transfer reactions in anionic, cationic, and non-ionic reverse micelles.  Following graduate school, Rich worked with Prof. Ralph Jimenez at the University of Colorado, Boulder and JILA where he studied red fluorescent and heme proteins via two-dimensional Fourier transform electronic spectroscopy (2DFTS).  At CSU, Rich is developing new methodology based on fiber and Kerr gating technology to measure fluorescence lifetimes and continuing transient absorption studies of solvation dynamics and proton transfer reactions in reverse micelles.  When he is not at CSU Rich enjoys spending time with his family of six.

Chris Gale (6th year, PhD Candidate)

Chris was raised in Boise, ID and earned the B.S. degree in Chemistry from Boise State University. He did undergraduate research with Dr. Kevin Ausman using Raman microscopy and simple FT-IR to study the structure of surfactants adhered to single walled carbon nanotubes. Now working with Dr. Levinger, Chris is working to combine X-ray and neutron scattering with molecular dynamics simulation techniques to study solvation structures around solutes in reverse micelles. In an incidental off shoot of the research, he is also studying the shape of reverse micelles to better understand how intermolecular interactions give rise to shape. When not working on research, Chris likes to mess around with amateur chemistry, learn Scottish Gaelic (A bheil Ghàidlig agaibh?), and cook.

Contact at

Heidi Kreckel (5th year, PhD Candidate)

Heidi was raised in Plattsburgh, NY and earned a B.S. degree in Biochemistry and a B.A. degree in Mathematics from SUNY Potsdam.  She did undergraduate research with Dr. Clifford Rossiter synthesizing a fluorescent probe for a reaction-based indicator displacement assay as well as with Dr. Fadi Bou-Abdallah using fluorescence quenching and Isothermal Titration Calorimetry (ITC) techniques to characterize the interactions between NCOA4, iron and ferritin.  At CSU, Heidi is looking at where cryoprotectants go within peppermint shoot tips using coherent Raman microscopy. She is also working with the Wilson group (Electrical Engineering, CSU) to build a coherent Raman microscope right here on CSU’s campus for use in future cryopreservation experiments. Outside of lab, Heidi can be found skiing, hiking or, on a rainy day, quietly completing a puzzle.

Contact at

Yayo Virgen (4th year, PhD Candidate)

Yayo was born in San Antonio, Texas where he remained to earn  a B.S. in chemistry and computing from Trinity University. While studying at Trinity University, Yayo worked as an undergraduate researcher in Dr. Aimin Liu’s research group at UTSA studying small molecule inhibition of heme proteins as potential avenues for cancer therapies. At CSU, Yayo is excited to begin studying water and osmolyte dynamics in reverse micelle systems using laser-based spectroscopy. In his free time, Yayo enjoys hiking around Colorado, spending time in the mountains, and skiing.

Contact at

Kylie Pearce (3rd year, Graduate Student)

Kylie was raised in Whittier, CA and earned a B.S. in Chemistry from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. She performed undergraduate research with Dr. Bohdan Schatschneider using computational methods to study the electronic and physical properties of homo-halogenated benzene crystals. At CSU, Kylie is beginning to study the autofluorescence generated when living plant cells are exposed to cryoprotectant molecules. Outside of lab, she enjoys reading, playing videogames, and cooking.

Contact at

Albert Ochoa Castillo (2nd year, Graduate Student)

Albert is from Arcata, CA and earned a B.A. in Chemistry from California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt. During his time at Cal Poly Humboldt, he did organic and computational chemistry research with Dr. Joshua R. Smith. Albert focused on designing possible organic photovoltaic (OPV) compounds and using computational methods to characterize their electronic properties and assess their estimated efficiency. At CSU, Albert is enthusiastic to be studying the fundamentals of plant cryopreservation and the mobility of cryoprotectants within plant cells. Outside of the lab, Albert enjoys long hikes, road trips, cooking, and reading.

Contact at

Mia Halliday (Undergraduate Researcher)

Mia is a junior from Denver, Colorado who is pursuing her B.S. in chemistry. She is very excited to be studying osmolyte dynamics in reverse micelles. Currently, she is working on characterizing how different sugars interact with water within reverse micelles, using dynamic light scattering and NMR techniques. Outside of school, you can find Mia on a hike, reading a book, or doing a puzzle. 

Summer Members

Levinger Group Alumni

Dr. Fionna Samuels (Graduated 2023)

Fionna was raised in Austin, TX and moved to Colorado in 2008. She earned the B.S. degree in Chemistry from Fort Lewis College where she did undergraduate research with Dr. Kenny Miller synthesizing and characterizing diarylether cyclophanes. Here at CSU, Fionna is studying where cryoprotectant molecules travel and localize in living plant cells using coherent Raman scattering techniques. After she leaves for the day, Fionna enjoys hiking with her dog, reading with her cat, cooking and, more importantly, eating delicious food. She’s recently started a job at C&EN writing about all things physical and analytical chemistry!

Dr. Samantha Miller (Graduated 2022)

Sam was raised in St. Louis, MO and earned the B.S. degree in Chemistry from Lake Forest College. While there, she did undergraduate research using surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy to study dye partitioning in aqueous solutions to improve the conservation and preservation of historical artifacts containing organic dyes. Now at CSU, Sam studies water dynamics in reverse micelles using NMR, EXSY, and other magnetic resonance techniques. When not in lab, Sam enjoys reading books and practicing her already impressive sketching skills. She also enjoys adapting pop music to play on her violin. She graduated with her PhD in 2022!

Recent Group Alumni

Stephanie Soderlund (Undergraduate Researcher)

Stephanie joins the group as a junior transfer student from the University of San Francisco. She will be completing her chemistry degree here at CSU! The research she is excited to do involves exploring how cryoprotectants interact within a cell and looking into the role of antioxidants in cryopreservation. She is currently working on creating a reusable perfusion chamber in order to visualize plant cells and reduce plastic waste generated by non-reusable chambers. In her free time, she likes to run, hike, and explore nature! If the weather is not cooperative, she also likes to stay in and read.

Hamayl Afzal (Undergraduate Researcher)

Hamayl is an undergraduate student at DePauw University majoring in Biochemistry. She is an avid undergraduate researcher and plans on pursuing her Ph.D. right after her undergraduate. Currently, she has been working as a part of our team for the past 10 months. Initially as a remote student working on data analysis and currently she is studying the interactions and behavior of urea in AOT reverse micelles via numerous NMR techniques including COSY and NOESY, UV-visible and fluorescence spectroscopy, and dynamic light scattering. Out of the lab, Hamayl loves to practice martial arts — she has a black belt in karate — as well as go biking.

Inga Kolling (Visiting PhD Candidate)

Inga is a PhD student from Germany, completing her Bachelor’s and Master’s in Biochemistry at Ruhr-University in Bochum. At her home institution, she researches osmolytes and biomolecules at various temperatures and extreme pressure conditions through THz absorption spectroscopy in the Havenith Group. She is a member of the Cluster of Excellence EXC 2033, named RESOLV – Ruhr Explores Solvation. During her internship in the Levinger lab at CSU, she will focus on studying cryoprotectants with different analytical techniques ranging from NMR to Raman microscopy. In her free time, Inga likes to compete in dragonboating and relax in yoga. She loves to play computer games and watch Let’s Play. Together with her boyfriend she likes to travel and explore new food and bring it into her own kitchen.

Ke’Lani Hall (REU Student)

Kate Fieseler (Undergraduate Researcher)

Kate was raised in Fort Collins, CO and is currently working towards getting her B.S. in Chemistry and minor in Music. Her current project in the Levinger group is developing a microfluidic device that will be used to observe the interaction of common cryoprotective solvents with plant cells under a flow system when viewed with coherent anti-stokes Raman scattering microscopy. When not in the lab or practicing her French horn, she can be found training for triathlons, scoping out new coffee shops, or baking delicious pastries.

Gina Carolyn Nay (Undergraduate Researcher)

Gina is a biological sciences major with a concentration in biological sciences here at CSU. Additionally, she is minoring in chemistry and biomedical sciences on the pre-health track. During Gina’s time in the Levinger Lab, she worked on what effects cryoprotectants have on Rice 1953 A1 cells. One of the first steps was learning how to work with plant cells, in order to be using the correct media for cell suspensions and plating cells, in addition to testing viability dies that would work with these cells. In her free time, Gina really likes to read, swim, and hike. She also loves to travel and explore new places.

Cyrus Picou, Jr. (REU Student)

Cyrus is visiting from Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, LA, where he is entering his senior year in their chemistry program. He actively participates in research at his home institution and is the current president of the Nicholls Chemical Sciences Society. While here at CSU, Cyrus is researching cryoprotectants in reverse micelles using DLS and NMR. Out of the lab, he enjoys watching anime, developing his Japanese, and sharing memes with his friends. Cyrus left our group in August 2018 to finish his studies at Nicholls State and plans to pursue the PhD after he graduates. Recently Cyrus joined the 2019 CSU Graduate Chemistry Cohort and will begin his graduate studies here August 2019.

Owen Lockwood (High School Student Researcher)

Owen spent the summer after high school graduation doing research before he went to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as a Freshman in the fall. This summer he has joined the group to research plant cell microscopy and optimize the methods we will use to image individual plant cells in CARs microscopy. Owen delights in reading modern philosophers and discussing their works with his cat after a long run. Owen left our group in August 2018 to start his undergraduate studies at RPI.