David C. Podgorski

Assistant Professor


David is originally from Virginia Beach, Virginia. After receiving his B.S. in Chemistry from Gardner-Webb University, he completed his Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry at Florida State University (FSU) under William T. Cooper. David worked as a Postdoctoral Research Assistant under Alan G. Marshall in the Ion Cyclotron Resonance Program at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory followed by several years as Research Faculty with a joint appointment with the FSU Department of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. David started as an Assitant Professor at the University of New Orleans Department of Chemistry in 2017.

C. Nacaya Brown

Graduate Student, Ph.D. (Co-Advised by Dr. Matthew A. Tarr)


Nacaya Brown was born in New Orleans and raised in the bay area. She completed her undergraduate degree in chemistry at Xavier University of Louisiana in 2006 and gained industry experience at Folgers, Albermarle, and Eurofins Analytical in Petaluma, CA. In Fall 2016, Nacaya returned to the south to be closer to her son and to advance her academic career.  She enrolled in the M.S. program in chemistry at the University of New Orleans where she enjoyed the breeze from the lake, caramel macchiatos, mentorship, and cool science.  With the encouragement of family, faculty, and peers, she applied for entrance into the Ph.D. program.  Following her acceptance in the Spring of 2017, her research focused on drug synthesis and discovery for Glioblastoma treatment.  However, in the Spring of 2018, her research focus shifted from medicinal chemistry to analytical chemistry.

Nacaya is currently a graduate research assistant and conducts analytical research in Tarr and Podgorski laboratories.  Nacaya’s research highlights the impact of sunlight on crude oil emulsification capacity such that factors that control the emulsification of Deepwater Horizon oil are elucidated.  Her findings indicate that the formation of emulsions from oil impact the fate of oil spilled in aquatic environments.  Nacaya hopes that her research will attract opportunities for international travel, skill enrichment, and leadership.

Rana Ghannam

Graduate Student, Ph.D.

Rana Ghannam

Rana was born in Connecticut, but she is originally from Palestine. In 2004, her family decided to move to Amman, Jordan where she spent eight years learning Arabic until she moved back to the United States in 2012. She received her B.S. in Chemistry from the University of New Orleans in May 2019. Rana is currently doing her Ph.D. in Environmental Analytical Chemistry at the University of New Orleans.

Rana’s research in Dr. Podgorski’s lab utilizes laboratory experiments to investigate the fundamental biodegradation pathways of petroleum-derived dissolved organic matter (DOMHC) as a function of chemistry. She uses analytical techniques such as excitation-emission matrix spectroscopy (EEMs) and ultrahigh-resolution mass spectrometry (UHR-MS) to characterize DOMHC, and thus providing knowledge of fundamental relationships between chemical composition and reactivity that can be applied to questions related to the biogeochemical cycling of organic carbon.

Katherine E. Humpal

Graduate Student, Ph.D., Arctic Domain Awarness Centers (ADAC) Fellow

Katherine headshot

Katherine was born and raised on a small farm outside of Protivin, Iowa. She spent 8 years in Air Force Security Forces prior to getting her bachelor’s degree in chemistry with a minor in biology from the University of New Orleans. Currently, Katherine is doing her Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry with emphasis on environmental chemistry.

Katherine’s research involves the study of the persistence, fate, and effects of hydrocarbon oxidation products (HOPs) that are mobilized in groundwater sources by biogeochemical processes with a primary focus on photooxidation degradation. She has collaborated with individuals from various universities, industries, and government agencies.

Maxwell Harsha

Graduate Student, Ph.D.

Maxwell is originally from Northwest Indiana. After receiving his B.S. in Biochemistry from Loyola University Chicago, he worked in industry at an analytical food testing company. Maxwell gained research experience in the area of synthetic organic chemistry while he was an undergraduate. After he gained some industrial analytical chemistry skills, he aspired to continue his education through a graduate program in chemistry. Maxwell came to the University of New Orleans in August 2020 to start his graduate education. He is currently working towards his Ph.D. in Environmental Analytical Chemistry. Maxwell is interested in understanding the complex relationships of the environment through the lens of analytical chemistry.  

Kristin Stewart

Undergraduate Student,

Kristin hails from Baton Rouge, LA. She is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in chemistry with a concentration in forensics at the University of New Orleans. Kristin gained research experience in analytical chemistry as an undergraduate. She plans on to continue research for her career aspirations or hopes to work for the Louisiana State Police Crime Lab.

Talon Washington

Undergraduate Student, McNair Scholar


Talon was born and raised in New Orleans. She always had a love for science and become interested after watching the Discovery Health Channel on Cable. She currently attends the University of New Orleans and majors in Biology. Talon has conducted previous research at Tulane Environmental Science and Public Health and at Ochsner’s Translational Cancer Research lab. At Tulane, she researched how polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) caused oxidative stress on liver cells. At Ochsner’s lab, she analyzed how T-cells play a role in obesity-linked lupus. She loves research and all the questions it can answer. In addition to answering some questions, she still loves how it can raise more questions than answers sometimes. She hopes to attend a Ph.D./M.D. program to become a physician and still conduct research.  Her ultimate goal is to become a pathologist but knows the best way to practice medicine is through research to better help patients.

Mai B.

High School Student


Mai is a tenth-grade student at Isidore Newman School. After high school, she plans to earn a degree that combines her love of science, the environment, and engineering. Her “Sediment Slurry” machine science project for improving the Louisiana wetlands placed first at both the regional (GNOSEF) and state (LSEF) level while in middle school. She participated in the 2019 Advanced Materials Research Institute (AMRI) research experiences for high school students program at the University of New Orleans which heightened her passion for research.

She is a native New Orleanian who loves her city, the rich culture and history, the food, and all it has to offer. She is a talented artist who enjoys poetry, reading, singing, and listening to all types of music. In ninth grade, she won the Krewe of Muses cup design contest.

Alumni (Current Information)

Jonathan Long, M.Sc. Morris Bonton III, M.S. (Eurofins Central Analytical Laboratory)Jacey Culliford, UndergraduateRana Ghannam, Undergraduate Tolmas Scholar (Ph.D. Program, UNO)Katherine Humpal, Undergraduate Tolmas Scholar (Ph.D. Program, UNO)Matthew Shields, Undergraduate Tolmas Scholar (M.D. Program, LSU Health)Terrell Shields, Undergraduate Tolmas Scholar (Eurofins Central Analytical Laboratory)Minh-Ahn Tran, Undergraduate (U.S. Department of Agriculture)

Visiting International Scientists

Solène Gervais, École nationale supérieure d’ingénieurs de Caen & Centre de Recherche (National Graduate School of Engineering & Research Center)Lise Chapolon, Instituts universitaires de technologie – Université de Lyon1 (University Institutes of Technology – University of Lyon 1)