The Junior Faculty Fellows program of Boston University’s Rafik B. Hariri Institute for Computing and Computational Science & Engineering was established in 2011 both to recognize outstanding junior faculty at Boston University working in diverse areas of the computational sciences, as well as to provide focal points for supporting broader collaborative research in these areas at BU and beyond. Junior Fellows are selected by the Hariri Institute Executive Steering Committee based on nominations received each spring, and are appointed for a two-year term. Each Fellow will give a Hariri Institute Distinguished Lecture.
Chemistry’s Professor Ksenia Bravaya was named one of the four faculty selected as a Fellow for the 2014-2016 term. Professor Bravaya joined the Department of Chemistry in 2013. Her research focuses on state-of-the-art applications and fundamental studies of the microscopic processes at the heart of bio-imaging of cellular processes and excited state reactions, as well as on the development of new quantum chemical computational methodology aimed at addressing unsolved critical challenges in the simulation of a wide variety of excited electronic state processes in complex systems.
Professor Lawrence Ziegler, Chemistry Department Chair, describes her as “a Theoretical and Computational Chemist of national standing and a rising star in the international community,” adding that “given her strong upward trajectory in highest quality research productivity and her pivotal role in developing University Research initiatives in computational materials science, it is no surprise that she has received this honor to be a Hariri Junior Faculty Fellow. She will be an excellent ambassador for Computational Science.“
Dr. Scott Schaus (Associate Professor, Chemistry and School of Medicine pharmacology) and Dr. Lauren Brown (Research Professor) were named among the first eight winners of the GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Discovery Fast Track Challenge program. GSK’s competition aims to translate academic starting points for new potential medicines. The initial contest attracted 142 entries across 17 therapeutic areas from 70 institutions.
Schaus and Brown, and their collaborators, James McKerrow (University of California, San Francisco) and Jair Lage de Siqueira-Neto (Center for Discovery and Innovation in Parasitic Diseases), have developed a process that GSK believes might yield better drugs against leishmaniasis, a sand fly–borne illness afflicting 12 million people worldwide, with 2 million new cases reported each year. Seventy-five percent of those afflicted have disfiguring skin lesions that scar for life, requiring painful, burning injections or IV infusions to cure. In the remaining cases, the disease affects internal organs (liver, spleen, and bone marrow) and is lethal if untreated. Existing drug treatments, in addition to being painful, are either expensive or potentially toxic, requiring a doctor’s monitoring during use.
The team identified compounds, developed at BU’s Center for Molecular Discovery, that are effective against 2 of the 15 species of the leishmania parasite and may be be available for clinical trials within 5 years.
For the BU Today article, “BU Researchers Work against Deadly, Disfiguring Disease: Pharmaceutical giant GSK chooses team in its new competition” (Rich Barlow, 11/07/2013), click here.
Fourth-year graduate student Thomas Sisto in Prof. Ramesh Jasti’s group has been awarded the 2013-2014 AstraZeneca Fellowship in Organic Chemistry. The award is in recognition of his scientific creativity and productivity.
Tom joined the Jasti research group as a Dean’s Fellow in the Summer of 2010. Since then he has published four papers (three as a first author). Currently Tom’s research aim is to synthesize a carbon nanotube by organic synthesis. Achieving this goal will be an enormous accomplishment for organic chemistry, as well as for materials science. At the same time, he has developed a collaborative project with Prof. Colin Nuckolls‘ group at Columbia University to use cycloparaphenylenes as “seeds” to “grow” uniform carbon nanotubes by traditional chemical deposition methods. The types of nanotubes that would be produced in this proces
s would be of the armchair variety, which has 1000-fold conductivity relative to copper and would be a major achievement. AstraZeneca is a global innovation-driven biopharmaceutical company specializing in the discovery, development, manufacturing, and marketing of prescription medicines healthcare.
The National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates Program supports active research participation by undergraduate students in any of the areas of research funded by the National Science Foundation. For the second time, BU Chemistry has received one of these coveted site awards. Focused on the theme “Fundamental Research in Chemistry Addressing Problems in Biology,” the 3-year program (2012-2015) is led by Professors John Snyder (Principal Investigator) and Linda Doerrer (Co-PI).
The Northeastern Section of the American Chemical Society (NESACS) established the James Flack Norris and Theodore William Richards Undergraduate Summer Fellowships to honor the memories of Professors Norris and Richards by promoting research interactions between undergraduate students and faculty.
This year’s NESACS summer research fellowship was awarded to Morris Cohen (BU Chemistry, Class of 2013), who joined the research group of Dr. Binyomin Abrams in the fall of 2011. Under the mentorship of Dr. Abrams and former PFF Dr. Adam Moser, Morris has been working on the development of an all-atom computational model for the meta-phenylene ethynylene class of foldamers – oligomers that fold into helical structures in solution using non-covalent interactions. Morris has been utilizing several software packages for this work, including Gaussian, CHARMM, and NAMD, on computational resources located at BU as well as the RANGER supercomputer at the University of Texas, Austin.
The Porco Research Group has received a 4-year, $1.2 million award from the National Institutes of Health for their proposal, Chemical Synthesis of Bioactive Flavonoid and Xanthone-Derived Natural Products.
Undertaken in conjunction with biological collaborators, including Professor Tom Gilmore (BU Biology) and Dr. John Beutler of the National Cancer Institute’s Center for Cancer Research, the goal of the research is to develop new chemical methodologies to enable the synthesis of bioactive flavonoid and xanthone-derived natural products that could lead to biologically active antitumor and anti-infective agents. Specifically, such agents will be useful as novel pharmacological therapies and as cytotoxic agents against both human cancers and malaria.
Their aims include total syntheses of anticancer agents such as the kuwanons and related prenylflavonoid Diels-Alder natural products as well as the bioactive tetrahydroxanthones blennolides A and B.
The award enables an exciting new research direction for Professor Porco and his collaborators involving the use of nanoparticles in organic reactions, asymmetric catalysis, and novel cycloaddition strategies.
Awardees are loosely defined as promising young Professors at or near the beginning of their career. Each year a number of Professors are chosen to receive free print and electronic subscriptions of all three journals as a gesture of encouragement.
Details about Professor Jasti’s research is available at the Jasti Research Group’s website.
Professor Mark Grinstaff is a recipient of one of the first Boston University MSE Innovation Grants for his research proposal Real-time control of drug release from superhydrophobic biomaterials using clinical ultrasound.
These awards from Boston University’s College of Engineering, Division of Materials Science & Engineering aim to encourage innovation and risk taking.
Disulfide bonds play critical catalytic, structural and signaling roles throughout nature. However, little is known about what governs their reactivity at the molecular level. To gain insights into disulfide bonds, the National Science Foundation, has funded Professor Sean Elliott and his Research Group to use direct electrochemistry to characterize the influence of protein sequence and structure on the redox properties and reactivity of the thioredoxin superfamily.
The 4-year award, which is valued at nearly $700K will provide a new detailed understanding of how thioredoxins are used in Nature to maintain redox homeostasis. The broader impacts of this work will touch deeply on the interface of chemistry and biology. Whether in plant biochemistry, bioenergy sciences or microbial physiology – thioredoxins will provide insights on how disulfide bonds are used to achieve chemical change in life.
Illuminating this process in a fundamental way will translate into new appreciation of fundamental biology. At the same time, the research will advance the training of at all levels (undergraduates, graduate students, post-doctoral faculty fellows) to think quantitatively and chemically in the field of redox biochemistry.
The recipient of this year’s Vertex Scholar Award is Tian Qin, a third year student in the Professor John Porco’s Research Group. His selection was based on his development of an extremely elegant and enabling synthetic methodology towards a very difficult series of natural product targets with anticancer and cytotoxic activity. This work was recently published as a Communication in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. His contributions to student mentoring are also recognized by his selection for this award award. Tian came to BU in 2008 from the Graduate University of the Chinese Academy of Science, where he majored in organic materials in chemistry.
The 2011 award is made possible by Vertex Pharmaceuticals who have provided this generous graduate fellowship in organic chemistry for an exceptional 2nd, 3rd or 4th year graduate student in our Ph.D. program. The BU-Vertex Educational Partnership Program, established in 2010, offers scholarships funded by Vertex Pharmaceuticals, a biotechnology company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US.
Each award funds a student’s stipend, fees, and research supplies for one year. The Vertex program is an important unencumbered gift to BU Chemistry. As part of its aim to promote cooperation between industry and academia, Vertex provides the Scholars with access to mentoring from their scientists. Vertex, with a market capitalization of more than $7.2 billion, is committed to the discovery and development of breakthrough small-molecule drugs for serious diseases.