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Melissa Deri Melissa Deri has been an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Lehman College since August 2017 as well as a faculty member of the CUNY Graduate Center’s PhD Program in Chemistry. Prof. Deri is also an alumna of the very same graduate program, having earned her PhD through the CUNY Graduate Center and Hunter College in 2015. Her research focuses on the intersection of radiochemistry and biomedical science, specifically in molecular imaging and radiotherapy with a special interest in chelator development for non-traditional radiometals.

Prof. Deri attended New York University, earning a BA in Chemistry and an MS in Bio-Organic Chemistry. During her undergraduate studies, she participated in the Department of Energy’s Nuclear and Radiochemistry Summer School program at Brookhaven National Laboratory which introduced her to the idea of nuclear medicine and inspired her career path. At the CUNY Graduate Center she became one of the first NSF-IGERT Fellows in the “Returning the Radio to Chemistry” program, joining the labs of Dr. Lynn Francesconi at Hunter College and Dr. Jason Lewis at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Her doctoral research focused on the development of a novel bifunctional chelator, p-SCN-Bn-HOPO, for Zr4+ with improved stability for 89Zr-based immunoPET imaging agents that dramatically reduced off-target bone uptake in mice.

Additionally, Prof. Deri is dedicated to education and science communication, particularly to underserved communities. Throughout her time in graduate school and as a postdoc, she volunteered with the New York Academy of Sciences to help spread enthusiasm for science to New York City middle and high school students as well as globally through virtual mentoring. She was also instrumental in organizing and leading science outreach activities through Hunter College to spread awareness and excitement to local high school students about applications of radioactivity with Nuclear Science Days. This passion for and excellence in teaching led to a non-traditional postdoctoral position focusing on chemical education, rather than laboratory science, at Lehman College.

Prof. Deri’s research interests span these two topics of radiochemistry and chemical education. The principal mission of the Deri Lab is the integration and application of radiochemistry towards tangible benefits to society. This goal is largely focused on the application of radioactive isotopes for diagnostics and therapy within the field of nuclear medicine. The development of such radiopharmaceuticals involves interdisciplinary projects connecting biochemistry, organic, inorganic, and radiochemistry to the biomedical sciences. Current research projects include separations development for isotope production, radiometal chelation and stability studies, and bifunctional chelator development focused largely around medically relevant isotopes of scandium. Furthermore, Prof. Deri studies the efficacy of innovative teaching methods including flipped classroom methodology and has developed an online general chemistry course for non-science majors. Prof. Deri has received funding from both the Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health for her research and offers opportunities for both graduate and undergraduate students to get involved. She aims to spread awareness of the beneficial applications of radioactivity and to make radiochemistry more accessible to a broader audience.