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 completed her Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry at the University of New Orleans (UNO) under Matthew A. Tarr. After earning her doctorate, Phoebe worked as a Visiting Professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio in the Chemistry department under Dr. Heather Shipley. 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 at Florida State University.  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

Ph.D. Candadite

Deja Hebert, 2022
Photo credit: D.H.

Deja is a graduate student working on her Ph.D. in analytical chemistry at the University of New Orleans. She graduated from Louisiana State University in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. As an undergraduate, she spent a 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 Ph.D. program at the University of New Orleans, where she joined the Zito lab.  She began enhancing her analytical capabilities by collaborating with colleagues in 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.

Elizabeth Whisenhant

Graduate Student, M.S.

Elizabeth Whisenhant, 2022
Photo Credit: E.W.

Elizabeth is originally from Fairbanks, Alaska, where she spent most of her life skiing, hiking, canoeing, and biking in the backcountry of Alaska. She received her B.S. in Chemistry at the University of Alaska Anchorage, where she started chemistry research examining the photochemistry of crude oils and fuels in Arctic seawater and freshwater systems. From this research, she was introduced to the mentoring of Dr. Phoebe Zito at the University of New Orleans in a project that involved using fluorescence spectroscopy to analyze oil photoproducts. She recently graduated with her Master’s in analytical chemistry at the University of New Orleans in Fall 2022. Elizabeth returned to Alaska to help further education and research in her home state.  

Yanila Salas Ortiz

Ph.D. Candidate

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 as a Ph.D. student for the next few years. Yanila’s love for science 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. Yanila has experience conducting research in foreign countries and is an expert in instrumental troubleshooting. When Yanila is not in the lab or studying for classes, she loves to spend time outdoors and eat delicious New Orleans cuisine.

Talon Washington

Undergraduate Student, McNair and Tolmas Scholar

Talon Washington, 2021

Talon was born and raised in New Orleans. She always loved science and became 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 science and all the questions it can answer. In addition to answering some questions, she still loves how it can sometimes raise more questions than answers. She hopes to attend a PhD/MD program to become a physician and still conduct research.  Her ultimate goal is to become a pathologist but she knows the best way to practice medicine is through research to better help patients.

Past Students


Undergraduate: Megan Keen (Tolmas Scholar), Ralph Nassar (Tolmas Scholar), Indhira Orellana

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