Art of combining two passions leads School of Molecular Sciences senior back to Arizona


Zoe Liberman-Martin

School of Molecular Sciences and Barrett, The Honors College senior Zoe Liberman-Martin.

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Editor's note: This profile is part of a series of profiles showcasing students in the School of Molecular Sciences.

When School of Molecular Sciences senior Zoe Liberman-Martin graduated from Arcadia High School in 2011, she planned to become a professional musician. She moved to Los Angeles where she earned an Associate of Arts degree in music. But something was missing — she became a certified EMT and realized she longed to be in a scientific, academic environment.

Within a year of this realization, Liberman-Martin moved back to Arizona and applied to community college, with a goal of transferring to Arizona State University after two years. Although she didn’t always plan to pursue a career in chemistry, she knows now more than ever that it is what she wants to do. Liberman-Martin credits her life experiences for making her a more focused student.

“I truly value my education and feel privileged to be able to study chemistry at such a wonderful, research-focused university,” Liberman-Martin said. “I don’t regret my musical academic pursuits because I know my passion for art allows me to think creatively, which is such a beneficial strength within the scientific discipline.”

After graduation in May, Liberman-Martin will be applying for opportunities in the material manufacturing industry, but she isn’t ruling out a return to academia.

Liberman-Martin answered some questions about her time at ASU and her future plans.

Question: What was your experience like as a transfer student and a student in the School of Molecular Sciences and Barrett, The Honors College?

Answer: Transferring from Scottsdale Community College to ASU was definitely an adjustment, but it was not a stressful one. The first thing I noticed was a drastic change in class size. Fortunately, my ASU professors still emphasized a desire to have the open communication and connection with students that I had experienced at community college. I’m particularly thankful for all of the professors with whom I have conducted my upper division honors contracts. Each of these professors took time out of his/her teaching and research schedule to help me gain knowledge on a topic beyond the scope of the typical course. I am sure I will always look back positively on the engaging and unique honors assignments that I have completed through my studies at Barrett, The Honors College.

Q: What was your undergraduate research in and what opportunities did you have?

A: My undergraduate research has utilized computational tools to study solid-state chemical systems. My research focuses on analyzing and comparing the structure and stability of theoretical alloys modeled with diamond cubic structured allotropes α-Ge and α-Sn as well as alloys formed with Ge and the tetragonal structured β-Sn. Additionally, my research has concentrated on examining the energetic and organizational dependence of the alloys on respective germanium and tin percent compositions. I feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to be introduced to computational chemistry and to have the opportunity to conduct research in the field as an undergraduate! My thesis director, Dr. Andrew Chizmeshya, has been a very involved research adviser, and I thank him tremendously for his expert guidance and continual encouragement. Students should be aware that there are many opportunities at ASU in computational chemistry if they are not passionate about performing laboratory work. This is unusual at the undergraduate level.

Q: What stands out in your experience at ASU?

A: The one consistent aspect of my college experience that most sticks out to me is the amount of support I received from my professors. This is the type of academic environment that I value the most and why I will always cherish my time attending school here. There have been multiple times when I doubted my intellectual abilities and questioned whether I would succeed in this field. If it weren’t for my professors’ steadfast certainty in my knowledge and abilities, I might have wavered from my path. I definitely know I wouldn’t have spent my 2018 summer as an undergraduate research fellow at the Center for Computational Quantum Chemistry at the University of Georgia without the confidence boost and encouragement that I received from them. With support from my SMSSchool of Molecular Sciences professors, I have truly gained a more positive view of my intellectual self.

Q: What are your future academic and career plans?

A: After I graduate in May with a major in chemistry and a minor in mathematics, I plan to pursue a job in the material manufacturing industry. Through learning about solid-state systems within my major course work, in inorganic class as well as in my thesis research, I have developed a strong interest in materials chemistry. I hope to work in a company where I can continue learning, gain industry experience and contribute to sustainable innovations. I’m very much looking forward to getting work experience and beginning to find my place in industry. Although I can absolutely see myself pursuing further education later in my life, right now I feel ready for a little break from school. 

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