Chemistry PhD Graduate Wins 2020 Toulouse Dissertation Award | College of Science

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July 23, 2020

Chemistry PhD Graduate Wins 2020 Toulouse Dissertation Award

Dr. Erik Vazquez Montelongo, a recent UNT Chemistry PhD graduate, has been selected to receive a 2020 Toulouse Dissertation Award in the Physical Science field. This annual award recognizes individuals who have completed dissertations that represent outstanding original work and make a significant contribution to a specific discipline. By receiving this distinction, his dissertation is acknowledged as nationally competitive and among the top 10% within the field of Chemistry.

"I am extremely honored, and I really appreciate the recognition of Toulouse Graduate School for my research during my PhD. Studies," said Dr. Vazquez Montelongo. "This scholarship will help me to start my new position as a postdoc in Dr. Jana Shen's research group at the University of Maryland at Baltimore."

Dr. Vazquez Montelongo's research investigates intermolecular interactions that lead to discoveries in chemical reactivity and structure stability. After receiving his BA and Master's in Chemical Engineering at the Autonumous University of Zacatecas and Technological Institute of Celaya, he began his PhD research in the United States in 2015 studying under Dr. Andres Cisneros. He successfully defended his dissertation at the University of North Texas in March of this year.

"I started my PhD studies in the fall of 2015 at Wayne State University in Detroit, where my advisor, Dr. Cisneros, was an Associate Professor," he said. "After I completed my courses at Wayne State in 2016, our research group move to the University of North Texas. I believe that my advisor Prof. Cisneros has been the architect of all my achievements during my PhD studies."

Some of this success could be attributed to the interdisciplinary aspect of research at UNT. Dr. Cisneros' Center for Advanced Scientific Computing & Modeling (CASCaM) often collaborates with other researchers and groups on campus, including Dr. Oliviero Andreussi's lab in the Physics Department and Dr. Hao Yan's lab in Chemistry. The team has also collaborated with research groups in Mexico, France, and across the United States.

"Our meetings are always quite interesting and help us to learn about different research topics and have collaborations between groups," said Dr. Vazquez Montelongo. With a background in chemical engineering, he began his dissertation research with ample experience in design, simulation and optimization of petrochemical processes, but found he had much to learn from working with researchers in different fields.

"Although I had some knowledge with molecular dynamics calculations, I had to learn a lot of stuff related to quantum mechanical and hybrid QM/MM methods. Most of my projects were in collaboration with experimental or other theoretical groups, so I have to learn how to work and how to communicate with research groups with different backgrounds."

The College of Science congratulates Dr. Erik Vazquez Montelongo on his many 2020 achievements, and wishes him the best of luck as he continues his scientific journey.

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