PLA group


half the group, above the bay
at the lab… and above the bay
at the beach with the JArnold groupFort Bragg camping

Postdoctoral Researchers
Dr. Amy Price PhD
Amy graduated from the University of Edinburgh, UK, with a Masters of Chemistry (MChem
in 2014, which was followed by a Ph.D. in 2018 carried out in the group of Dr. Michael Cowley in the
area of low-valent main group chemistry. Amy is currently a post-doctoral researcher in Prof. Polly
Arnold’s group, and is working on new f-block coordination chemistry for applications in rare earth
separations and quantum information storage (QIS). Outside of the lab Amy enjoys hiking and climbing.
Dr. Rachel Meyer PhD
Rachel graduated from Hood College in 2015 with a B.A. in Chemistry. In 2021, she received her Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Rochester under the supervision of Prof. Ellen Matson. Her graduate research focused on the incorporation of secondary metals into polyoxovanadate-alkoxides. She spent a year of her graduate studies at Los Alamos National Laboratory under the advisement of Dr. Stosh Kozimor through the DOE Office of Science Graduate Research Program. Rachel joined Prof. Polly Arnold’s group in June 2021 and is currently studying actinyl reduction and metalation with applications in quantum information storage. Outside of lab, Rachel enjoys hiking, baking, and solving jigsaw puzzles.
Dr. Anthony Wong PhD
Anthony received his B.Sc. in chemistry from UCSB in 2016. He loved the beach so much that he decided to spend another five years there for his Ph.D. under Dr. Gabriel Ménard. He is currently a post-doctoral researcher in the Polly Arnold group, studying f-block metal-metal bonding and its influence on reactivity. Outside of the lab, he enjoys hiking, tennis, nature, food, anime, and everything chemistry, especially cheesy chemistry jokes.

Mikaela Pyrch PhD

Mikaela completed her bachelor and master’s degree at The George Washington University. After her time on the east coast, she moved to The University of Iowa where she received her PhD working with Dr. Tori Forbes studying the structural characteristics and vibrational properties of the uranyl and neptunyl cation. Now on the west coast, Mikaela is a current postdoc in the Polly Arnold group, where she is continuing to study the f-block for applications in quantum information storage. Outside of lab Mikaela enjoys swimming, water polo, cooking, and spending time with her dog and cat.

Graduate Students

Amy Kynman
Originally from Sheffield, UK, Amy graduated from the University of Warwick in 2019 with an ERC-funded MSci in Chemistry which she completed in the lab of Adrian Chaplin, studying oxidative addition reactions of rhodium-CNC pincer complexes. In Spring 2020 she began her graduate studies at Berkeley, focusing on the C-X bond activation reactions of photoactive cerium complexes, and the synthesis of lanthanide organometallics for photocatalysis and quantum information storage. Outside of lab she enjoys wandering around bookstores, pickling anything possible, and providing the group with an unlimited supply of baked goods.
Ryte Rutkauskaite
Ryte was born in Lithuania, and ventured to the University of Edinburgh for her Masters degree in Chemistry with Industrial Experience, graduating in 2018. During this time, she worked at Solvay in Stamford, Connecticut, and began a research project within the PLA Group studying uranyl photochemistry, which she is continuing for her graduate studies here at Berkeley. In her free time she enjoys hiking and climbing, as well as spending too much money in Sephora and being a connoisseur of both olives and sparkling water.
Nick Katzer
Originally from Santa Barbara, Nick received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from UC San Diego in June 2020. At UCSD he developed surface-initiated polymerization techniques to improve performance of lithium metal batteries under the guidance of Prof. Ping Liu. After moving to Berkeley to complete his tour of the California coast, he joined the PLA Group in fall 2021 and is currently studying the synthesis of organometallics of the transuranic elements, as well as actinyl oxo-functionalization. Outside of the lab Nick can usually be found at the crag or out backpacking. He also “enjoys” running and trying out unusual stouts and sours.
Gretchen Brown
Originally from New Jersey, Gretchen received her undergraduate degree in chemistry and women and gender studies from Boston College in May of 2021. As an undergraduate, she studied iron-catalyzed N-carboxyanhydride polymerization with Prof. Jeffery Byers. She currently works on C-H/C-element activation with cerium complexes. Outside of the lab, she enjoys reading, baking, and trying new arts and crafts.
David Fiszbein
David was born in New Mexico before moving to Ithaca, New York to be cold and study chemistry at Cornell. After enough cold weather, he moved out west to continue doing chemistry somewhere he could see the sun. He now investigates actinyl-ligand multiple bonding and covalency in f-block tris(pyrazolyl)borate complexes. During his non-billable hours, he enjoys rock-climbing and boba.
Matt Hernandez
Matt hails from Ft. Lauderdale, FL and received his BS in Chemistry and MS in Civil & Environmental Engineering from Stanford University in 2018. After school, he worked on synthesizing polyamine curing agents for chemically recyclable polymers at a materials science startup. He spent the next few years working for an East Bay biotech company synthesizing bio-inspired epoxy resin monomers. Matt joined Polly’s group in Fall 2021 and is investigating the catalytic activity of bimetallic group IV and f-block complexes in dinitrogen reduction reactions. Outside the lab, Matt enjoys surfing at Ocean Beach, skiing in the Sierra, and mountain biking all around the Bay Area.
Gabe Herrera
Gabe was born in southern Mexico but grew up in Houston. He received his BA from New York University in 2021 where he studied Chemistry and Bioethics. Gabe is currently working under the mentorships of Prof. Polly Arnold and Prof. John Hartwig, studying oxo-group chemistry of actinyl compounds for catalytic C-H/C-element bond activation and artificial metalloenzymes. In his free time, Gabe enjoys hanging out with his pugs. 
Michael Trinh
Michael grew up in San Jose, just an hour away from Berkeley. To make an informed decision on which part of California is best, he decided to transfer to UC Irvine from Mission College. After receiving his Bachelor’s Degree in 2021 and having decided on the better half of California, he pursued his Ph.D. at UC Berkeley. He is working on the synthesis of f-block bimetallic complexes that allow for the catalytic conversions of small molecules, and exploring their use as electrocatalysts. Outside of the lab, he can be found paddling out in the Berkeley Marina, eating an outrageous amount of fruit, or lifting.

Jaden Lara
Jaden grew up in San Diego county and received a BS in Chemistry from UCSD in 2022. There, he worked with tin-capped tri-nuclear nickel clusters for applications in electrochemical CO2 reduction. He is currently studying catalytic dinitrogen reduction with bimetallic f-block complexes. Outside of chemistry, Jaden enjoys trying new foods, lifting weights, playing video games, and occasionally backpacking or hiking.

Undergraduate Researchers

Yanlin Liu:
Yanlin was born in Shanghai, China. He is an undergraduate from class of 2023, majoring in Chemical Biology. He joined PLA Group during his sophomore year because he thought working with uranium is super cool. He is now working on synthesizing new ligands for uranyl complexes and using the uranyl complexes to do photocatalysis to activate C-H bonds. During the leisure time, Yanlin loves to play the classical guitar, watch animations, and play board games with friends. He recently set up a saltwater aquarium in his room.

Nicole Yacoub:
Nicole is from upstate NY, and her research has been on organically synthesizing a catechol-amide ligand and testing its adherence/complexation to europium and cerium. In her free time, Nicole enjoys shopping, trying new restaurants, and watching cartoons.
Georgia Ofiaeli
Georgia is originally from Nigeria but was born in Hong Kong, has lived in Abu Dhabi but currently lives in Suffolk, UK. She is a visiting chemistry student from Brasenose College, Oxford, where she is in her final year of MChem degree. At Polly’s lab, she is completing her Part II research project in the selective carbon – chlorine bond functionalization by photoactive cerium complexes. Outside of the lab, she enjoys playing basketball, netball, as well as singing and music in general.  
Rupal Nimaiyar

Rupal grew up in Sunnyvale, which is in the South Bay and about an hour from Berkeley. She is an undergraduate majoring in Chemistry in the class of 2026. In the lab, she is going to be working on synthesizing new pentalene-based ligands for f-block organometallics. In her free time, she enjoys playing tennis, calligraphy, trying out new Berkeley restaurants, and playing pop songs on the piano.


PLA: Recent CV. Polly is the Director of the Chemical Sciences Division at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a faculty professor in the Chemistry department at University of California, Berkeley. She obtained her degrees from Oxford and Sussex in the UK, and was a Fulbright postdoctoral fellow at MIT before returning to the UK to a lectureship in 1999. Her academic career in the UK comprised a lectureship, then readership at the University of Nottingham, then a professorship at the University of Edinburgh where she held the Crum Brown Chair of chemistry before moving to California in 2019.

She made the film ‘A Chemical Imbalance’, a call to action for simple changes to achieve equality of opportunity in science, and was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s birthday honors list in 2018 for her contributions to chemistry and women in STEM; A Chemical Imbalance. Recent media work: BBC’s Infinite Monkey Cage; BBC’s Brainwaves.

Group Wiki (password protected) – here –