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Meet Tanei Ricks



Tanei Ricks is a 3rd year PEER Scholar in the Chemistry program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Tanei completed his undergraduate degree in Chemistry from Georgia Regents University and accepted admission into UT because of the competitive funding, high-quality facilities in the Chemistry department, and what he describes as the “gorgeous” city of Knoxville.

Tanei’s research is based in synthetic organic chemistry and generally involves the design and synthesis of molecules that can be implemented for studies or applications pertaining to biological systems. Specifically, Tanei examines traditional synthetic organic chemistry to obtain the target compounds, biochemistry techniques to study protein interactions, and analytical approaches for binding characterization.

Tanei currently pursues research under the advisement of Dr. Michael Best, which Tanei exclaims that he is lucky to be in Dr. Best’s lab. “Dr. Best is really balanced because he puts a lot of faith in me and challenges me, but he also wants me to have a life outside of my work. He’s really taught me that success is driven by you, and if you’re not willing to put the work in, then you can’t have the success.”

PEER has funded Tanei to travel to share his research at different conferences. He explains, “One of the best things about PEER is that I’ve gotten experience traveling to different conferences to present my research and network with others in my field. I’ve gone to Society Advancing Hispanics/Chicanos & Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), Southeastern Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Association (SERMACS) & a few others. Every travel experience PEER has funded me for has been great.”

Tanei has one great passion that he notes will highly influence his future career path: making scientific findings accessible to a lay audience. He notes, “Making scientific knowledge approachable for the regular person can change how they look at everything. Whatever career path I take, I will direct my energy to making that bridge for people.”

Tanei’s story is Progress, Made by PEER.