Academic Background and Interests

Olivia M. Chesniak, PhD is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Searle Center for Advancing Learning and Teaching at Northwestern University where she works on the Postdoc Academy project. Dr. Chesniak earned a BS in Chemistry from Lewis University and a PhD in Chemistry from Michigan State University with a focus on biocompatible nanomaterial synthesis.

Olivia decided to become an educator as an undergraduate student after recognizing the discrepancy between learning objectives and assessments. Using evidence-based instructional methods, Olivia has aimed to resolve this discrepancy for her students throughout her time as a graduate teaching assistant. The broader inequities persistent within higher education captured her interest, leading her to pursue a career focused on improving professional and career development of early career scholars and professionals.

She is dedicated to supporting peer-led communities, with particular interest in cultivating professional identity and community-driven culture change. She hopes to inspire other trainees to embrace their agency and see themselves as more than “just” graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. Dr. Chesniak has brought her passion for community building to Northwestern University, where she directs communication efforts for the Northwestern University Postdoc Association.

Artistic Endeavors 

Olivia’s love of sending cards as a way of connecting with people transformed during graduate school. After attending the dissertation defense of a friend, Olivia scribbled together a drawing and made it into a card for them. As more friends defended their dissertations, more cards were made, each one unique and full of appreciation and admiration for the people who have the dedication it takes to complete a graduate degree. 

Sharing these designs with the world through Olivia at Home began in 2016. Positively Reframed Co., a collaboration with a friend and creative partner, opened in 2018 and shines a light on mental health and wellness. 


A headshot of Olivia M. Chesniak, a fair-skinned white woman with light brown hair, sitting in her home office.

Olivia M. Chesniak, PhD | Postdoctoral Fellow

Postdoc Academy | Northwestern University