REU & RET & Summer Research Members



Summer 2023
Summer 2022
yunivamendozaYuniva Mendoza

Yuniva Mendoza is a rising senior at Meredith College and North Carolina State University, double majoring in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. She is working with Abby Harders in Dr. Shiflett’s lab on exploring the use of polymeric membranes for the separation of hydrofluorocarbon refrigerant mixtures for the 2022 Porous Materials REU. She hopes to learn many new research skills and continue to use them in the future. Yuniva is thinking about going to graduate school after completing her undergraduate degree. In her free time, she enjoys photography, going to Marvel movie premiers, and going out to try new boba tea places.

Summer 2021
Picture1Abdul Butt

Abdul is a rising junior majoring in chemical engineering at the University of Maryland: College Park. During the Summer of 2021, Abdul is working under Dr. Scurto on the Supported Ionic Liquid Phase project with the mentorship of Karim Al-Barghouti . Abdul is excited to grow as a student and researcher during his time in undergrad. He is a volunteer for the Food Recovery Network and is a part of the chapter of AICHE at UMD.

Julia_171 2Julia vallier

Julia Vallier is a rising sophomore at Georgia Tech, majoring in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering with a concentration in biotechnology. She is researching with Abby Harders in Dr. Shiflett’s lab for the 2021 Porous Materials REU. She will focus on measuring the effectiveness of various polymer membranes at separating the components of refrigerant R-410A and investigating the separation abilities of mixed matrix membranes combining these polymers with ionic liquids. She hopes to continue her study of Chemical Engineering in graduate school, with a potential focus in the field of protein engineering. Outside of research, Julia enjoys drawing, dancing, and hiking.

Summer 2019
Abby Harders

Abby Harders was a participant of the 2019 IDEA Incubator Program. Abby was a senior at Bethel College, double majoring in Chemistry and Mathematical Sciences. In Dr. Shiflett’s lab, she explored the use of ionic liquids to separate the refrigerant R-410a into the component with the lower global warming potential. She looks forward to growing as a researcher and aspires to continue working with Dr. Shiflett in graduate school. In her free time, Abby enjoys riding her horses, gardening, graphic design, drawing, and spending time with her dogs.

sierra Staatz

Sierra was an undergraduate at Kansas State University entering her sophomore year. She participated in Dr. Shiflett’s and Dr. Allgeier’s lab through the REU program. Her research focused on characterizing zeolites for gas separation while also comparing their characteristics with various ion exchanges. Sierra is Vice President of K-State’s Engineers Without Borders and Executive Officer of Engineering Student Council. She also enjoys participating in Kansas State’s Book Network and going on adventurous walks.

Karim Al-Barghouti

Karim was a senior in chemical engineering at the University of South Florida. He participated in a summer research program at KU where he worked on a research project under Professor Aaron Scurto’s mentorship. The project’s title is ”Fluid and Heat Transport of Novel Sustainable Refrigeration Systems”.  Karim enjoys playing and watching sports, specifically basketball. At USF, he has worked on research projects involving fluid transport and biofuels. Karim aims to pursue a graduate degree in chemical engineering after completing his bachelor’s degree.

Visiting Students

Summer 2019
Riley Unekis

Riley Unekis is going into her junior year at Lawrence high school. She wants to become an engineer but is unsure what field. She is hoping to take away valuable information that she could use in the future. During the summer of 2019, she is working with Dr. Shiflett’s lab with a research team that is trying to filter out PFOA and PFOS from drinking water and how to test for it. Riley’s hobbies include soccer, FIRST robotics on team 5119, doing graphic design work for her school newspaper, and playing video games on her PC.

Summer 2018
Evan XieEvan Xie

Evan is a high school senior in Libertyville, IL.  He became interested in chemistry during his junior year when taking an AP chemistry course and loved the class and said he found chemistry to be fascinating and practical at the same time. In summer 2018, he worked mainly in Dr. Shiflett’s lab with an undergraduate research team who helped mentor him in lab safety and basic experimental methodology and protocol. He helped improve reproducibility and reliability of lab results. In his free time, Evan enjoys playing euphonium and League of Legends.


Summer 2022
shariwilsonShari Wilson

Shari earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Northwest Missouri State University in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation in 1996.  After graduation she worked for five years as a wildlife research assistant.  She traveled around the United States working on numerous research projects monitoring bird populations.  Upon returning to the Midwest, she discovered her passion for education and pursued her teaching certification in secondary education from Avila University.  While teaching Biology and Horticulture at Olathe East High School she pursued a Master of Science degree in School Counseling.  After teaching for six years, she left Olathe East and worked as a high school counselor at Shawnee Heights High School and Lawrence High School.  During that time, she missed the science classroom and found her way back to science education.  She left school counseling and is currently in her seventh year as a science teacher at Shawnee Heights High School where she teaches Biology, Zoology, and Natural Resource Management.   Shari is excited about participating in the RET program this summer as her favorite thing about being a science teacher is watching young minds in action as they use scientific inquiry to make new discoveries about the world in which they live.  Shari will be working with Lauren Johnston on using microalgae to extract PFAS from water.  She is looking forward to taking her RET experiences back to her classroom.

laurenjohnstonLauren Johnston

Lauren is a member of this year’s RET program. Lauren graduated from Washburn University in the fall of 2020 with her Bachelor of Science in Biology with an emphasis in Secondary Education. In spring 2021, she began teaching biology and integrated science A at Shawnee Heights High School. During her time at Shawnee Heights, Lauren has also been the assistant cross country and track coach. She will be working with Sharon Wilson on extracting PFAS from water using microalgae. Through this program, Lauren hopes to gain first-hand experience in current research that she can then use to inspire her students to explore the amazing possibilities available in science and engineering.

michaelscottMIchael Scott

Michael is an undergraduate at KU pursuing a mechanical engineering degree and a certification in secondary education for physics. He is part of the IDEA-BioE Research Experience for Teachers program. Michael is working with Dr. Mark Shiflett and CJ Ponge researching PFAS adsorption using zeolites. Michael plans to teach his future students about the PFAS problem as he begins teaching this coming fall.

Summer 2021

Denise_RETDenise Heavner

Denise Heavner is part of the Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) program.  She earned her Bachelor of Science from Emporia State University.  This will be her tenth year at Topeka High School and her 27th year teaching overall.  Denise is working with Dr. Ana Morais and Dr. Shiflett on Project Shell, with the focus of using waste products from the pistachio and almond industry into feed for livestock or other renewable processes.

Kat_RETKatherine wolf

Katherine Wolf is part of the Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) program. Katherine is a KU graduate who earned a B.S. in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology paired with the UKanTeach program. She is working to relate the work and impact of mixed membrane matrix gas separation for refrigerants into her 8th-grade science class at Southwest Middle School.

Summer 2019

Andrew Taylor

Andrew Taylor is a freshman biology teacher in the Engineering Academy at Olathe Northwest High School. Additionally, Andrew coaches FIRST Robotics Team 1710. Andrew completed his undergraduate education at the University of Kansas. At KU, Andrew enrolled in the UKanTeach program, which enabled him to pursue a degree in his chosen scientific field while also earning a teaching certificate upon graduation. Andrew took advantage of this opportunity, and graduated in 2011 from the University of Kansas with a Bachelors of Science in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Additionally, Andrew earned distinction at KU as a Noyce Scholar, and earned a Mark of Excellence on his teaching and learning Praxis exam. Andrew spent the first five years of his career teaching general biology at Seaman High School in Topeka, KS. While there, Andrew coached tennis and swimming, earning recognition as the 2015 Centennial League girls tennis Coach of the Year. Andrew is currently serving as the vice president of the Kansas Association of Biology Teachers. Andrew has joined the Shiflett lab as part of the NSF funded Research Experience for Teachers program. In the lab, Andrew is working on removing PFAS from drinking water using various substances, such as zeolites.

Candice Van Allen

Candice Van Allen completed undergraduate courses at Solano Community College and the University California, Davis and graduated from the University of California, San Francisco with a Doctor of Pharmacy in 2000. Upon graduation, she resumed her career in the United States Air Force, completed a pharmacy practice residency in 2004 and retired in 2014. In 2017, she moved to Kansas and enrolled in the Transition to Teaching program at Fort Hays State University and is concurrently working towards her Masters of Science in Education. She is a science teacher in Weskan, Kansas where she teaches Biology, Physical Science, Chemistry, Anatomy and Physiology, Earth Science, Environmental Science, Science Projects and Life Science in grades 6-12. As a participant in the Research Experience for Teachers program, she looks forward to working with Dr Shiflett’s team learning about the removal of perfluoroalkyl substances from drinking water. Her goal is to translate this research into interesting and meaningful lessons for the classroom that will inspire students to enter the intriguing fields of science and engineering.

Summer 2017

bio pic
Patrick Cannon

Patrick Cannon graduated from Johnson & Wales in Providence, Rhode Island in 2013 with a B.A. in Culinary Arts and Food Service Management. Previously, he worked for Hyatt Hotels in both San Antonio and Denver as a Sous Chef. Patrick joined the Teach for America Corps in 2016 and has been placed in Oklahoma City working at Oklahoma Centennial Mid-High School where he teaches 7th and 8th Grade Science, Anatomy, and Mathematics. Patrick has joined the Shiflett Lab through the CEBC’s Research Experience for Teacher program. Patrick’s main areas of interest are zeolites and their potential uses as well as how the methodology of research in the Shiflett Lab can be translated into lesson for the 7th-12th Grade Science classroom.

shellyShelly Robinson

Shelly is a participant in the Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) program whose goal is to expose and engage high school science teachers to the exciting research being done at the University of Kansas and take this back to their classroom. Shelly earned her BS in Biology from Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas and a masters in Curriculum and Instruction from Saint Mary University in Leavenworth, Kansas. Shelly has 28 years of experience in the field of education with 25 of that in her current position with Santa Fe Trail High school where she teaches Biology, Earth & and Space Science and Energy Science. In her first year in the RET program Shelly worked under Dr. Susan Williams and researched the runoff potential of Hydroxyapatite which is a byproduct of the algal hydrothermal liquefaction process used to produce renewable biodiesel. As a second year RET participant Shelly is excited to work with Dr. Shiflett’s staff and to learn how sulfite and iron absorption can be implemented in her high school classroom.