Phoebe Zito

Assistant Professor


Phoebe is a first generation college graduate from Largo, Florida. After receiving her B.S. in Chemistry from the University of South Florida, she worked in industry for four years as an Associate Chemist for a pharmaceutical production company. She relocated to New Orleans and went on to complete her Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry at the University of New Orleans (UNO) under Matthew A. Tarr. After earning her doctorate degree, Phoebe worked as a Visiting Professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio in the Chemistry department. She served two years as a Postdoctoral Research Assistant under Christopher Hendrickson in the Ion Cyclotron Resonance Program at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory.  In the end, Phoebe could no longer resist being away from New Orleans and ended up back at UNO in August 2017 working as a Research Faculty in the Department of Chemistry. Phoebe started as an Assistant Professor at the University of New Orleans Department of Chemistry in August 2019.

Deja Hebert

Graduate Student, Ph.D.

Deja Hebert enjoying life in New Orleans

Deja is a chemist currently working on her PhD in analytical chemistry. She graduated from Louisiana State University in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry where she did research for one year in surface science, specifically studying the characterization of gold nanoparticles encapsulated with porphyrins. Deja was born in North Carolina but eventually moved to Louisiana where she was raised to enjoy and love the Cajun culture. In August 2019 she entered the PhD program at the University of New Orleans where she joined the Zito lab.  Here, she began enchaining her analytical capabilities by being a member of the Chemical Analysis and Mass Spectrometry (CAMS) facility.  Deja assists scientists and junior faculty throughout Southeast Louisiana by building methods and running environmental samples using CAMS advanced analytical instrumentation.  Her first project is to quantify persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in fish tissue samples. She is utilizing gas chromatography with electron capture detection to develop a method to separate, detect and quantify them in complex mixtures. Along with research, Deja also enjoys teaching and building relationships with undergraduates to spread her passion for Chemistry.

Yuri Kurerov

Graduate Student, Ph.D.

Yuri in the field collecting water samples from the Mississippi River.

Yuri is originally from St. Petersburg, Russia where he went completed nursing school at the Pavlov First State Medical University of St. Petersburg in 2015. That same year, he was accepted to into the biology program at Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina. Yuri relocated to the United States to get his second undergraduate degree in biology with a chemistry minor. During his education at Gardner-Webb, he found his passion while working with analytical instrumentation. This passion led him to pursue a PhD in analytical chemistry. In May 2019, Yuri started in the doctorate program as a member of Dr. Zito’s research group in the Department of Chemistry at the University of New Orleans. Currently, he is working with external users and developing methods to quantify persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in environmental matrices.

Yanila Salas Ortiz

Graduate Student, Ph.D.

Yanila presenting her work as an undergraduate student at the UNO Chemistry poster competition. She won second place overall in her division.

Originally from Puerto Rico, Yanila is studying chemistry at the University of New Orleans (UNO). She joined the Zito group in Spring 2020 as an undergraduate researcher and worked on targeted analyses of persistent organic pollutants in fish tissue. She will continue her career path in the Zito lab starting this fall as a PhD student. Yanila’s love for science for started when she was a young girl. Her uncle would include her in chemistry experiments in his backyard, which fueled her curiosity about the world. She came to UNO as an exchange student, where she found great research opportunities, and ultimately decided to transfer her credits to stay in Louisiana. She has experience with materials chemistry and is now interested in learning techniques and instruments related to analytical chemistry. When Yanila is not in the lab or studying for classes, she loves to spend time outdoors and eating the delicious New Orleans cuisine.

Raufat (Ralph) Nassar

Undergraduate Student, Tolmas Scholar

Ralph gathering sample location coordinates on a research expedition at the Mississippi River bank.

Raufat was born in Syracuse, New York and moved to New Orleans in the early 2000’s. He first took an interest in chemistry by watching a documentary on how elements were discovered in high school. As he enrolled at The University of New Orleans in 2017, he kept switching majors until he took a chemistry class that set a spark in him to learn more. By the end of 2017, his major changed to Chemistry. Raufat joined Dr. Zito’s and Dr. Podgorski’s group in the summer of 2020 and is continuing his research till Spring of 2021 as a senior. Even though his path is still undecided, his future goal is to return back to either pursue in a Ph.D in Chemistry or an M.D.

Past Students


Megan Keen, Tolmas Schola

Indhira Orellana

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