A commitment to excellence:

The Team adheres to four simple rules. Through daily practice of these rules and a commitment to the scientific process, the team will be greater than the sum of its parts.

  • Get better everyday

  • Work smarter

  • Be safe

  • Have fun


Aaron Teator

Aaron Teator.jpg

Aaron was born and raised in the major metropolis of Schenectady, NY, located somewhere between Manhattan and Buffalo.  Venturing westward, he received a B.S. degree in chemistry in 2012 from the University of Nevada, Reno where he completed research on the controlled synthesis of 2D polymers in the laboratory of Prof. Benjamin T. King. The smell of BBQ and warm weather lured Aaron to the University of Texas at Austin where he received a Ph.D. in 2016 under the mentorship of Prof. Christopher Bielawski. His graduate studies focused on the design and synthesis of photochromic N-heterocyclic carbenes and unlocking new, externally switchable chemical reactivity. Trading brisket for pork shoulder, Aaron recently joined the Leibfarth group at UNC and is excited to begin exploring new polymerization methods to enable access to functional materials.

Graduate Students:

Sally Lewis

Sally LEWIS was born and raised in Falls Church, VA, right in the heart of northern Virginia traffic. Despite her love of sitting still in traffic jams, she moved to the less populated town of Blacksburg, VA, for undergraduate studies at Virginia Tech where she did research in polymer chemistry in the group of Professor John Matson. After four years enjoying the empty mountain roads, the three bars on main street, and the questionable locals in the ‘burg, Sally graduated with a double major in Chemistry and Nanoscience and headed to UNC Chapel Hill to get her Ph.D. in Chemistry. Sally is currently studying fluorinated polymer synthesis (in the lab) and how to keep house plants alive (at home). She is doing well in one of those two things…

Reach Sally at elsally [at] live.unc.edu

Raised among flocks of sheep in the back country of New Zealand, Marcus was instilled with a love for the natural environment at a very early age.  However, due to his deeply ingrained rebellious subconscious, or perhaps laziness, Marcus has been observed occasionally throwing plastic bottles in the trash and improperly disposing of used batteries.  Those who knew Marcus circa 2014 knew of the guilt and demons he struggled with.  Not until working under the tutelage of Dr. Stephen Miller at University of Florida did Marcus realize his environmental sins could be absolved through a whole-hearted and feverish pursuit of green polymer chemistry.  After graduating from UF (2016)  with a B.S in chemistry and a minor in sustainability studies, Marcus moved to UNC where he currently works on using/developing continuous flow chemistry in the hope that others, like himself, may be more efficient and effective in pursuing green polymer research, which will one day lead us all to environmental salvation.

Reach Marcus at marcusr [at] live.unc.edu

Travis Varner.jpg

Finding few reasons to leave his beautiful hometown, Travis Varner attended the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina. Although he spent his fair share of time on the beach (and in the bars), Travis managed to graduate with a B.S. in Biochemistry in 2016. Following a short hiatus as a rap artist (with hits like “Rotorap” and “Dry Ice Ice Baby”), Travis decided that the life of fame and money was not for him—so, he went to graduate school. He was delighted to join the Leibfarth group at UNC, where his research focuses on polymerization catalysis. When not working in lab, Travis enjoys cooking, memes, being outside, and grappling with deep ethical dilemmas.

Reach Travis at tpvarner [at] live.unc.edu

Jill Williamson

Jill hails from the quiet town of Ruckersville, Virginia, nestled in the countryside of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Since she prefers the beach to the mountains, Jill wanted to go eastward for her college education and attended The College of William & Mary. While there, she dabbled in soccer, chemistry, and parties. Upon obtaining her B.S. in Chemistry in 2016, Jill followed her Carolina-blue heart to Chapel Hill, NC. During the entire pursuit of her Ph.D., it is likely that Jill will continue to claim she is an organic chemist despite making REALLY big molecules that most people call polymers.

Reach Jill at jillwill [at] live.unc.edu

Robert Johnson

Ron Johjnson.jpg

Reach at rrjohn2 [at] live.unc.edu

Undergraduate Students:

Cullen Davidson


Cullen hails from the small town of Havelock, NC and is a third year undergraduate at UNC double majoring in polymer chemistry and political science. His interest in polymer chemistry led him to join the Leibfarth group, where he is currently trying to develop new types of polymer architectures using ATRP and continuous flow chemistry. When he’s not under the (fume) hood or between the pages of a book, Cullen can be found cheering on the Carolina Hurricanes.

Brad Davis

Brad Davis.jpg

Bradley Davis was raised in the small town of Reidsville, North Carolina where he graduated high school at Rockingham County High School.  In his youthful years, he loved playing sports and participating in Boy Scouts.  He is now a senior undergraduate student majoring in polymer chemistry and joined the Leibfarth group in 2017.  Brad is currently working on metal free catalysis for the fluorination of commodity polymers.  He hopes to get his PhD in chemical engineering and continue to work with polymers and materials.  In his free time, he enjoys cheering on the Philadelphia Eagles, working on cars, leading the Tar Heel Rifle and Pistol Club, and being active in church.

Shefali Gandai


Shefali was born and raised in Raleigh, NC and now attends UNC as a sophomore undergraduate chemistry major. Her interest in flow chemistry and sustainability drew her to join the Leibfarth Group in the spring of 2018. When she isn't conducting experiments in lab, Shefali enjoys experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen and cheering on the Tar Heels! 

Brittany Smith

Brittany is a third year undergraduate at UNC studying chemistry. She conducted research with Professor Frank Gupton at Virginia Commonwealth University during the summer of 2016 and enjoyed her work in flow chemistry so much that she decided to join another Frank at UNC in the fall. Brittany is currently working on the synthesis of novel fluorinated polyethers.

Bradley Wilhelmy

Bradley was raised in Raleigh, NC and now attends college just down the road at UNC. A biochemistry major interested in working with flow chemistry, he joined the Leibfarth group in the spring of 2017. Bradley is currently working on the fluorination of polymers using flow chemistry. When not working in the lab or in class, he enjoys playing on the club lacrosse team and supporting Carolina athletics—GO HEELS!


Roscoe is Frank's long-time companion and provides overall group support. Roscoe also does many calculations while in Frank's office. Although Roscoe has yet to share his arduous work with the group, he is convinced it will be of the highest impact. Roscoe loves when everyone comes over to his house so he can convince people to provide him with both affection and snacks!

Wednesday is Marcus’s sweet and sassy pet bunny.  She loves snuggling and strawberries.  However, she is best known for her really big brain.  She offers the group her bountiful knowledge of carrots and leafy greens. Wednesday would love to collaborate with Roscoe but he is intimidated by her intellectual prowess and he might mistake her for a snack!

Broseidon is a fish and the prized companion of Travis. His hobbies include snacking and swimming up to the glass to provide a friendly fin-wave to any passerby. Although his owner tries to provide a wide variety of music for his enjoyment, Broseidon is picky and prefers only to listen to his favorite band, Phish.