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Meet this week's pheatured scientist

Phuture Dr. Stephanie Castillo

Stephanie is in her third year of research in the Graduate Program in Chemistry at Vanderbilt University.

She is researching how the makeup of metal complexes affect how well they work in manufacturing processes of biodegradable plastics.

In Dr. Hanusa's organometallic lab, Stephanie is using mechanical chemistry (also known as mechanochem) as an alternative pathway for making various metal complexes that are used for the production of the plastics. Mechanochem uses mechanical forces to promote reactions between chemicals. Along with Dr. Hanusa and her colleagues, she is interested in implementing mechanochem as it would help lower environmental waste as harsh solvents are not used in the making of the metal complexes.

Before getting involved in mechanochem, Stephanie received training in nanoscience where she gained skills in synthesizing nanomaterials (such as quantum dots, which was featured in Phuture Doctors episode 001), and the techniques required to identify and characterize nanomaterial. Stephanie has earned her Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degree in Chemistry from the University of Central Florida and Vanderbilt University, respectively. 

Originally from Venezuela, Stephanie is the first in her family to go to college in the U.S. and will soon be the first to earn a Doctorate of degree Philosophy in Chemistry.

As an underrepresented minority in the chemistry field, Stephanie uses her diverse background to advocate for STEM education and representation through her teaching and science communication outreach projects supported by Vanderbilt. When she is not researching or creating new content for Phuture Doctors, Stephanie spends her time watching movies with her two cats, rock climbing, and going to hip-hop and rock concerts.

Stephanie's goals for when she graduates is to continue her advocacy efforts in STEM education and representation and build professional development courses in research universities that lack diversity amongst graduate students and faculty.