Finding the Right Formula for Love

Hallie Pennington and Collin Vincent fell in love while on their Ph.D. journeys at UMD’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

Hallie Pennington and Collin Vincent posing with Testudo on the field of SECU Stadium
Testudo (left) posed with Collin Vincent (middle) and Hallie Pennington (right) on the field of SECU Stadium after the couple's engagement. Image courtesy of Collin Vincent.

Hallie Pennington and Collin Vincent, Ph.D. students in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Maryland, first met in March 2019 at Visit Maryland Day, an event for admitted students hosted by the department. Vincent was waiting for his room at the Holiday Inn on Baltimore Avenue to be ready while Pennington was checking in.

Selfie of Hallie Pennington and Collin Vincent
Hallie Pennington (left) and Collin Vincent (right) took a selfie together when they reunited at an August 2021 Maryland Football game. Image courtesy of Collin Vincent.

While Pennington’s first impression of Vincent at the Holiday Inn may not have been the strongest (she actually thought he was “loud and annoying”), they spent more time together during the graduate student visit and followed one another on social media. While Pennington started her Ph.D. in biochemistry at UMD, Vincent began his Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Oregon.

Then, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Vincent decided to transfer to UMD to be closer to home. He and Pennington reconnected in August 2021 at a Maryland football game against West Virginia University—which the Terps won, as Pennington and Vincent fondly remembered. Since then, they attended every home football game (and some away games, too). This past season, Vincent proposed to Pennington on the field of SECU Stadium.

“Needless to say, UMD football is a very big component of our relationship,” Pennington said, “so it was very fitting that Collin proposed at a game in front of Testudo.”

When she is not attending football games with Vincent, Pennington works in Assistant Professor Jinwoo Lee’s lab applying biophysical techniques to study the Lassa virus, an emerging virus with pandemic potential. Like COVID-19, there is an increasing likelihood that Lassa virus could make a zoonotic jump from certain animals to humans. 

Hallie Pennington standing in front of research poster at conference
Hallie Pennington presented her research at the 2023 Annual Biophysical Annual Meeting.

Vincent’s Ph.D. research is in supramolecular chemistry in Professor Lyle Isaacs’ lab, where he studies cucurbiturils—pumpkin-shaped molecules that are hollow and can therefore encapsulate smaller molecules like drugs, micro-pollutants, dyes, etc. Potential applications of his research include drug delivery and sequestration, water filtration and chemical test development.

For both Pennington and Vincent, having a partner who is also in graduate school—and studying a similar subject—makes them feel seen and understood.

“Knowing what it's like being a Ph.D. student helps us to understand the late nights and early mornings that happen often in each other's lives,” Vincent said. “It's also nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of, even if we don't fully understand the complexities of what the other is doing. We are also able to go to the gym with each other, carpool and keep each other company when one of us has to go into lab for a late-night experiment.”

About the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences

The College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland educates more than 8,000 future scientific leaders in its undergraduate and graduate programs each year. The college's 10 departments and six interdisciplinary research centers foster scientific discovery with annual sponsored research funding exceeding $250 million.