Rebecca Pontius is originally from the Maryland area, but comes to the NSF REU program in UMBC from Clemson University (Go Tigers!!!) where she is a rising senior who is pursuing a Chemistry B.S. major and Spanish minor. At Clemson, she has been a member of Dr. Modi Wetzler’s organic and organometallic laboratory since sophomore year. She has done work on multifunctional triazacyclononane and other macrocycles, peptoids, and peptides. She also spent two summers at NASA Goddard in Greenbelt, MD working in the Thermal Coatings Laboratory. During the summer of 2014, she developed a procedure to use oxygen plasma exposure as a surface preparation technique for silica-based coatings to improve adhesion. During the summer of 2015, she worked on developing the “holy grail” of thermal coatings– a white and electrically conductive coating. This summer, Rebecca is working in Prof. Rosenzweig’s laboratory on the development of nanoscale Fluorescence Energy Transfer (FRET) luminescence probes for intracellular analysis of phosphatases. The nanoscale FRET probes are composed of luminescent indium phosphide quantum dots. These nanomaterials are introduced as non-toxic alternative to commonly used cadmium containing quantum dots. The project is a part of a larger effort by the NSF Center of Sustainable Nanotechnology (CSN) to develop next generation highly functional nanomaterials that minimally impact biological and environmental systems.
In her free time Rebecca loves to play soccer, run long distance, hike, snowboard, wakeboard, kayak, tube, be outside in general, read long books, cook, and volunteer for her school’s chapter of I Am That Girl– a community service organization that specializes in empowering women and girls. After becoming a supplemental instructor this past year, Rebecca realized how much she loves to teach. In the coming years, she plans to pursue a path that will enable her to become a faculty in a research university. She is currently looking at potential graduate schools to obtain a PhD degree in chemistry.