Chemistry Graduate Ivan Riveros Awarded Prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

July 2023

Chemistry Graduate Ivan RiverosStellar Department of Chemistry graduate Ivan Riveros completed the Honors in Chemistry Program (HCP) at Florida Atlantic in 2021, and he graduated from FAU’s Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program in Chemistry (PREPChem) in 2022 with great success.

Over the past five years, Riveros has actively participated in a theoretical and computational chemistry laboratory run by Ilyas Yildirim, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Schmidt College of Science Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. His remarkable achievements were recognized by the National Science Foundation (NSF) when he was selected as an NSF Graduate Research Fellow, a highly prestigious grant awarded annually to approximately 2,000 current or prospective STEM Ph.D. or master’s students.

“The NSF recognition represents the work and research I’ve been involved in as a part of the Yildirim lab and the academic challenges I’ve overcome,” said Riveros.

Within the Yildirim RNA Dynamics laboratory, Riveros has made important contributions to different projects involving the investigation of properties in diverse biomolecular systems using theoretical and computational methods. He has already published two articles on small molecules/RNA interaction, as well as stacking properties of RNA dinucleotide monophosphates (DNMP), and he is currently finalizing a third paper.

In the lab, Riveros has been working on developing a method for predicting the three-dimensional structure of RNA from sequence data. Obtaining RNA structure is a notoriously difficult and laborious task, but it is necessary for gaining a deeper understanding of RNA biology and designing RNA-based therapies. His project aims to make structural RNA studies simpler and cheaper.

“Dr. Yildirim has been incredibly supportive,” expressed Riveros. “Theoretical chemistry research is complex and requires interdisciplinary knowledge, making it a daunting field to get into, but Dr. Yildirim is always willing to personally teach his lab members and is fully understanding and supportive of the learning process. He always pushes us to be creative and rigorous with our research to make us better scientists.” Riveros served as a mentor to several students in the lab, including those from high school, undergraduate, and graduate levels. His outstanding academic achievements were acknowledged in 2021 when he was named the ACS Outstanding Chemistry Graduating Senior in the South Florida Section. He was also nominated for the prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship by FAU in 2020.

During his time at Florida Atlantic, Ivan secured various grants, including the FAU Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship in 2019, and a Pilot Grant for Computational Brain Science Research in 2022 from the FAU Stiles-Nicholson Brain Institute. In the Fall of 2023, Riveros will start his Ph.D. work in Chemistry at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

“I plan to continue working in theoretical chemistry and focus on biomolecule structure prediction,” said Riveros. “With better methods of predicting and understanding the structure of RNA, DNA, and protein, we can gain a more comprehensive understanding of how these molecules work within biology, which can enable the design of more therapies and biotechnologies to treat currently untreatable diseases and advance medicine as a whole.”