SAS Atomic Section Student Award

In 2019, the Society for Applied Spectroscopy (SAS) and the SAS Atomic Technical Section introduced the SAS Atomic Spectroscopy Student Award. This award is given to students (undergraduate or graduate) who have excelled in the area of Atomic Spectroscopy.

Students that apply for the award either need to be an SAS member or they can register at the time of submission. Student memberships can be completed online ( or by phone (+1-301-694-8122).

2020 Award winners are featured in the On-Demand session ATOM-OD5.

2021 Recipients

Kevin Finch

Kevin Finch is a current 4th year Ph.D. candidate at Texas Tech University (TTU) studying under the guidance of Prof. Dr. Gerardo Gamez. Prior to attending graduate school, he earned a dual major B.Sc. degree at Western New Mexico University in Silver City, NM, USA where he graduated cum laude with honors in Chemistry and Applied Mathematics. During this time, he performed proteomic research on tarantula hawk-wasp venom using novel mass spectrometry techniques with Prof. Dr. Shawn White and collaborated with Prof. Dr. Jennifer Brodbelt who has a research group based at The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin). His current research involves laser scattering and optical emission spectroscopy diagnostics to elucidate the fundamental parameters of various chemical analysis plasmas (e.g. glow discharge, dielectric barrier discharge, etc.) under several common operating conditions. One of the achievements he is most proud of is the design, construction, and characterization of a novel transmission-type triple grating spectrograph to allow for the improved diagnostics of low-density plasmas, as are commonly used for chemical analysis. His research has resulted in 6 peer-reviewed publications (2 first-author and 4 co-author) along with a pair of 2nd-place poster awards (one in the atomic spectroscopy poster section at SciX in 2019 and the other in the analytical chemistry poster division at TTU in 2020). He was also recently recognized by being the 2021 recipient of the Edward Steers Bursary Award by the Association of British Spectroscopists, which provides travel funding to attend a recognized scientific meeting or visit a place of learning internationally. In addition, he has received the Ming Sun Family Graduate Research Scholarship, the Ginny Shen Lin Endowed Scholarship, and an Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award for General Chemistry, all given by the TTU Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in 2020. Furthermore, his dedication to scientific advancement was highlighted in 2019 by being the recipient of the Love of Learning Award, given by the honor society Phi Kappa Phi. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking, backpacking, fishing, hunting, and exploring nature’s beauty that is all around us.

Sabrina Funke

Sabrina Funke is a current third year Ph.D. candidate in Analytical Chemistry in the research group of Prof. Dr. Uwe Karst at the University of Münster, where she also earned her B.Sc. degree in 2016 and her M.Sc. degree in 2018. During her master studies, Sabrina carried out a five months research internship at the University of Technology in Sydney under the guidance of Prof. Philip Doble. Her research was directed towards sensitivity improvements in immunohistochemistry-assisted applications of laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS). In her current work, Sabrina focuses on the development and application of molecular and elemental imaging techniques. Using LA-ICP-MS, she specifically targets the investigation of gadolinium retention within healthy organisms caused by gadolinium-based MRI contrast agents. The challenging aspects of this work are the balance between spatial resolution and detection sensitivity and the performance of accurate quantification, considering extremely wide dynamic ranges in imaging techniques. To address these challenges, Sabrina’s work concentrates on the hyphenation of high-resolution laser ablation with high-sensitivity mass spectrometry and approaches different ways of data processing to improve accuracy in quantitative analysis.

Sarah Meyer

Sarah Meyer is a third year PhD student at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Australia. Under the supervision of Distinguished Professor Philip Doble, she is investigating the underlying chemical principles of radioresistance in cancer cells using immuno-mass spectrometry and elemental bio imaging. Sarah completed both her bachelor’s (2016) and master’s degree (2018) in Chemistry at the University of Münster, Germany in the group of Professor Uwe Karst. In 2017, Sarah was a visiting researcher at UTS where she conducted fundamental research on the effect of sensitivity when downscaling liquid chromatography column dimensions for inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) detection. In 2019 she commenced her PhD studies at UTS and joined the “Atomic Medicine Initiative” founded by Distinguished Professor Philip Doble. Sarah is devoted to developing novel and improved methods to understand the relationship between manganese and radioresistance in cancer cells and uses antibody-nanoparticle conjugates to identify and map manganese transporters in the tumor microenvironment. Her work on providing optimized methods for the characterization of upconversion nanoparticles by single-particle (SP) ICP-MS was awarded the “paper of the month” by the Faculty of Science at UTS.

Stefan Wagner

Stefan Wagner is currently a research associate with the Chair of General and Analytical Chemistry at the Montanuniversität Leoben, Austria, while concomitantly finalizing his Ph.D. studies in Analytical Chemistry under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Thomas Prohaska at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna (BOKU), Austria. Prior to his graduate studies, Stefan received a B.Sc. (2014) and M.Sc. (2017) degree in Environmental Sciences from BOKU, both passed with distinction. During his Ph.D. studies, he has specialized in method development and validation of diffusive gradients in thin films (DGT), a gel-based passive sampling technique, in combination with laser ablation- and multi collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry, as well as planar fluorescent sensors, so-called planar optodes. The combined techniques are employed for the targeted analysis of elements and isotope ratios in bioavailable fractions of nutrients and contaminants in soil, along with chemical imaging of solutes in multidisciplinary applications ranging from terrestrial biogeochemistry to materials science and biomedical research. The analytical innovativeness of his work has been recognized with two best student talk awards at the 2018 ICP-User Meeting in Berlin, Germany, and the 2019 ASAC Forum in Linz, Austria, as well as one best poster award at the 2019 European Winter Conference on Plasma Spectrochemistry in Pau, France. In 2020, Stefan was further invited to give a talk at the TrisKem International User meeting to provide his expert knowledge on the DGT technique. In the future, he plans to pursue his scientific career and therefore aims at applying for an international postdoc grant upon successful completion of his Ph.D. studies in 2021.

2020 recipients

Asaf Harel

Asaf Harel is a third-year chemistry student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. During his year and a half working in the Jacob Shelley group at RPI, he has done extensive research, with a focus on the Solution-Cathode Glow Discharge ionization source for mass spectrometry. Outside of RPI, he spent two months last summer working as an analytical development intern for Celgene (now Bristol-Meyers Squibb). There, he did work on a project to help optimize over 30 different HPLC and UPLC instruments by measuring and accounting for their dwell volumes. In the future, he looks to continue his work in the group and expand his knowledge through a variety of new and exciting chemistry opportunities.

Anika Retzmann

Anika Retzmann is currently a postdoctoral associate with the Chair of General and Analytical Chemistry at the Montanuniversität Leoben, Austria. Prior to her graduate studies, she earned a M.Ed. teaching degree for secondary schools in Chemistry and Geography at University Hamburg, Germany. During her Ph.D. studies under the supervision of Thomas Prohaska, Anika was a visiting scientist at the Helmholtz Centre for Materials and Coastal Research Geesthacht, Germany in 2016 and the University of Calgary, Canada in 2019. In summer 2020, she received her Ph.D. in analytical chemistry at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna (BOKU), Austria. Anika has specialized in method development for elemental and isotopic analyses of biomaterials and biotissues applying (laser ablation) (multiple collector) inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry, double spike multi collector thermal ionization mass spectrometry and chemical imaging techniques to address research questions related to archaeometry and biomedicine.

Marcel Macke

Marcel Macke is a current first year Ph.D. candidate in Analytical Chemistry and works under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Uwe Karst at the University of Münster, Germany. Marcel earned a B.Sc. (2017) and M.Sc. (2019) degree at the same place and for his successful B.Sc. studies, the Analytical Chemistry Division of the German Chemical Society honored him with a graduation award. In 2018, Marcel was a guest researcher at the University of Oviedo, Spain, where he joined the group of Prof. Maria Montes-Bayón. Based on triple-quadrupole inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-TQ-MS) techniques, he conducted research on the detection and characterization of biogenic selenium nanoparticles. After his return to Germany, Marcel became a member of Prof. Karst’s group where he currently works on the speciation analysis of metal compounds in environmental and medical samples. A challenging aspect of this work are the often low analyte concentrations and/or high sample matrix amounts. To overcome these challenges, Marcel’s research especially focusses on the development and application of highly sensitive and selective hyphenated techniques such as liquid chromatography in combination with ICP-TQ-MS.

Kelsey L. Williams

Kelsey is a western New York native, and first generation college attendee, who began her career in chemistry at the State University of New York (UB) in the Department of Chemistry. During her undergraduate career she performed research in the Department of Geology Hydrogeochemistry Laboratory under the guidance of Professor Richelle Allen-King. After receiving her B.S. in chemistry in 2014, she began her graduate career at Kent State University under the guidance of Professor Jacob Shelley. Her graduate research involved the development and characterization of ambient ionization sources for mass spectrometry. During this time, she also worked with Dr. Andrew Schwartz on the use of the solution-cathode glow discharge as an atomic, molecular, and biomolecular ambient ionization source for mass spectrometry, which lead to her first two publications and a patent application. Upon Professor Shelley’s departure from Kent State University, she returned to UB to continue her progress toward a PhD in analytical chemistry in the research group of Professor Steven Ray. During her time in Professor Ray’s laboratory, she has worked toward development of a matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization zoom-time-of-flight/distance-of-flight mass spectrometer and the use of a digital micromirror array as a temporal gating and spatial filtering device for both laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy and laser ablation molecular isotopic spectrometry. Her research on these projects has resulted in recognition including an SAS Poster Session Award for Outstanding Spectroscopic Research by a Student Member awarded at SciX 2018 and the John Danku Memorial Outstanding Presentation Award, given at the 2020 Winter Conference on Plasma Spectrochemistry. In addition to achievements in research, in 2018 Kelsey received the Matter-Tyler Excellence in Teaching Award, given by the UB Department of Chemistry.

Past recipients

2019 Moises Guerrero Esperanza and Kevin Finch 

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