Current McMahon Research Group Members 

From left to right: Samuel Wood, Houston Smith, Madison Fellows, Prof. Claude Woods, Maria Zdanovskaia, Dr. Brian Esselman, Vanessa Orr, Prof. Bob McMahon, Matisha Dorman, Sam Kougias, Phoenix Higgins, and Andrew Owen.  (Laura Sowin not pictured.)

 

 


Photo Album | Collaborators | Former Group Members

 

Robert J. McMahon
Robert J. McMahon

Robert J. McMahon was born in Mendota, Illinois in 1958. He received a B.S. degree in Chemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1980. He performed undergraduate research with Professor Stanley G. Smith into the mechanism and stereoselectivity of lithium aluminum hydride reduction of ketones. McMahon received a Ph.D. degree in Organic Chemistry from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1985, working with Professor Orville L. Chapman on the mechanisms of carbene rearrangements. From 1985-1988, McMahon investigated excited-state electron transfer as a postdoctoral research associate with Professor Mark S. Wrighton at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. McMahon accepted a position on the faculty in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1988 and was promoted to full professor in 1997. He was named an Associate Editor of the Journal of Organic Chemistry in 2000 and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2003.

Contact Information
Robert J. McMahon
Department of Chemistry, Room 6209A
University of Wisconsin-Madison
1101 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53706

Email: mcmahon@chem.wisc.edu
Phone: (608) 262-0660

Curriculum Vitae for Robert J. McMahon
Brief biography for Robert J. McMahon

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Vanessa L. Orr (6th year)

 

Vanessa received a B.S. in Chemistry and a minor in Mathematics from California Lutheran University in 2014.  While there she worked on the optimization of direct arylation, a type of palladium-catalyzed cross coupling, under the advisement of Dr. John F. Tannaci.  Since joining the McMahon group, she has been working in the rotational spectroscopy sub-group.  When not working on chemistry, Vanessa enjoys singing and/or listening to music, and traveling.
 

Contact Information
Vanessa Orr
Department of Chemistry, Room 6207
University of Wisconsin-Madison
1101 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53706

Email: vorr@chem.wisc.edu
Phone: (608) 262-0599

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Sam Kougias (6th year)

 

Sam received a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh in 2014. While at UW Oshkosh, Sam worked under Dr. Kevin Crawford on a project involving HPLC method development for the separation of carotenoid pigments extracted from cell stains native to the Fox River. Additionaly, Sam worked under Dr. William F. Wacholtz to synthesize symmetrical bridging thiolate ligands used in closed-shell luminescent zinc (II) dimers. Since joining the McMahon group in 2016, Sam has worked on the synthesis and characterization of astrochemically relevant nitriles that are structural isomers of pyridine. Chemistry aside, Sam enjoys woodworking, fishing, camping, and committing antics.

Contact Information
Sam Kougias
Department of Chemistry, Room 6207
University of Wisconsin-Madison
1101 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53706

Email: kougias@wisc.edu
Phone: (608) 262-0599

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Andrew Owen (5th year)

 

Andrew received a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of North Dakota in 2015. During his time there, he worked under Dr. Irina Smoliakova on an organic synthesis project related to renewable fuels as part of an REU program. After that, he worked under Dr. Jerome Delhommelle on a project to characterize hydrogen sulfide phase properties using molecular dynamics simulations. Finally, he worked under Dr. Mark Hofmann to carry out structure determinations of various antimony oxides using ab initio calculations. Currently in the McMahon group, he is using ab initio calculations to evaluate a reaction pathway for the formation of fullerenes. Andrew spends a lot of his free time reading books, playing board games with his girlfriend, and trying to find the missing puzzle pieces that her cat stole.
 

Contact Information
Andew Owen
Department of Chemistry, Room 6207
University of Wisconsin-Madison
1101 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53706

Email: aowen4@wisc.edu
Phone: (608) 262-0599

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Matisha Dorman (4th year)

Matisha received a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of West Florida in 2016. During her undergraduate career, she worked in Dr. Karen Molek's research lab. There, she studied the chemical kinetics of asphaltene adsorption onto nanoparticles using a home build MALDI mass spectrometer. She spent the summer of 2015 in Madison with the McMahon group and came back for graduate school to call the group home. Currently, she is working to optimize and prepare the group's rotational spectrometer for ion spectroscopy work which will pave the way for more projects in the future. When not enjoying the sciences, Matisha spends time with her husband and two dogs, exploring Madison and keeping them out of trouble. 

Contact Information
Matisha Dorman
Department of Chemistry, Room 6207
University of Wisconsin-Madison
1101 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53706

Email: dorman3@wisc.edu
Phone: (608) 262-0599

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Sam Wood (3rd year)

Samuel Wood received his B.S. from Iowa State University in 2016. While at ISU, Sam studied self-assembling organic radicals under the advisement of professor Arthur H. Winter. Since joining the group, Sam’s research has focused on heavy atom tunneling and synthesis of astrochemically relevant compounds. Outside of the lab, Sam enjoys yoga, camping, and cooking. For a list of Sam’s publications see his Orcid ID https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8204-2770.

Contact Information
Sam Wood
Department of Chemistry, Room 6207
University of Wisconsin-Madison
1101 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53706

Email: sawood5@wisc.edu
Phone: (608) 262-0599

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Madison Fellows (3rd Year)

Madison received a B.A. in Chemistry and Spanish from Grinnell College in 2017. During her undergraduate career, she interned at the CRF at Sandia National Laboratory, where she studied radical reaction pathways, in addition to NREL, where she investigated the effect of biofuel pyrolysis on catalysts. At Grinnell, she studied aerosol formation and catalyst chemistry with Herbierto Hernandez. Since joining the McMahon group, Madison has been studying astrochemically relevant compounds through computation and rotational spectroscopy. Outside of chemistry, Madison enjoys doing yoga, cooking, and watching cute animal videos.

Contact Information
Madison Fellows
Department of Chemistry, Room 6212
University of Wisconsin-Madison
1101 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53706

Phone: (608) 262-0599

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Houston Smith (2nd Year)

Houston received a B.S. in Chemistry from Emory University in 2018. During his time there, he worked with Dr. Widicus Weaver to experimentally create and study interstellar ice analogues. Since joining the McMahon group, he has been working in the rotational spectroscopy sub-group.  More specifically, Houston is working to obtain and analyze the mm/sub-mm wave spectrum of methacrylonitrile. When not doing research, Houston enjoys playing video games, spending time with family, and traveling.

Contact Information
Houston Smith
Department of Chemistry, Room 6212
University of Wisconsin-Madison
1101 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53706

Phone: (608) 262-0599

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Maria Zdanovskaia (4th Year)

 

Maria Zdanovskaia received a B.S. in Psychology and Certificate in Mathematics from UW – Madison, but decided to pursue organic chemistry in her further education. She has been working on analyzing the rotational spectra of 1H- and 2H-1,2,3,-triazoles to determine a highly precise structure of each of the tautomers, as well the rotational spectra of benzonitrile and several other compounds of astrochemical interest.  Maria is also engaged in developing materials for chemical education using computational molecular modeling, including a website generated for organic laboratories at collaborating community colleges that is free for use by all interested individuals.  When not doing chemistry, Maria enjoys dancing, jigsaw puzzles, various crafts, writing Excel macros, and instigating innocent mischief.
 

Contact Information
Maria Zdanovskaia
Department of Chemistry, Room 6212
University of Wisconsin-Madison
1101 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53706

Phone: (608) 262-0599

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