Graduate student Bryan Matsuura has been awarded the 2012-2013 Vertex Scholar Award. Bryan is a fourth year graduate student with Professor Corey Stephenson. The award recognizes Bryan’s scientific creativity (he is working on the controlled oxidative dimerization of resveratrol using photoredox catalysis), productivity (two publications, with a third in preparation), and laboratory leadership. Bryan is the third Vertex Scholar in the Department of Chemistry.
The award is made possible by Vertex Pharmaceuticals, a biotechnology company based on Cambridge, MA, that has provided this generous graduate fellowship in organic chemistry since 2010. The program is part of Vertex’s aim to promote cooperation between industry and academia, providing Scholars with access to mentoring by Vertex 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.
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.
As theoretical chemists John Straub and his Research Group apply mathematical statements of basic physical laws to accurately simulate known phenomena, and then from this basis, make predictions about the unknown. The intellectual challenge they face is first choosing the appropriate mathematical description of a problem that embodies its basic physics, and then coming up with an elegant way to implement it in a calculation that will illuminate the phenomenon.
In June, 2011, the group was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to determine the “Algorithms for the simulation of strong phase changes in complex molecular systems” (CH-1114676, $600K over 3 years). This continuing award from the Chemical Theory, Models and Computational Methods program in the NSF Chemistry division is to develop algorithms for the simulation of molecular systems undergoing strong phase transitions, including the characterization of metastable and unstable states.
The group has developed generalized simulated tempering and replica exchange algorithms which exhibit superior scaling and sampling efficiency for a series of benchmark systems. In this work, they are extending and generalizing these algorithms to simulate a variety of outstanding problems, including vapor-liquid phase change in simple fluids, freezing of nano-confined water, and the aggregation and assembly of peptides into functional channels. Phase changes, such as the melting of ice or evaporation of water, are ubiquitous in nature but are very difficult to simulate on a computer. This research enables scientists and engineers to model nature more realistically.
John Straub is also involved in science outreach activities in collaboration with the Pinhead Institute, a non-profit group devoted to K-12 science education and outreach to the economically and ethnically diverse population of Southwestern Colorado. This grant from the National Science Foundation will help support Pinhead’s Scholars in the Schools program, that bring scientists to the region for middle and high school visits, and the Pinhead Internship Program, through which talented students from the region are supported in carrying out summer research in laboratories across the US, including Boston University.
Joe Tucker, a fourth-year graduate student in the Stephenson Group, has received the 2011-2012 ACS Division of Organic Chemistry Graduate Fellowship sponsored by Amgen. His work in the Stephenson lab has focused on Photoredox Catalysis.
During his first three years at Boston University, Joe has earned co-authorship on six papers. In doing so, he has uncovered many potential areas for further development of Photoredox Catalysis and the remainder his thesis research and will focus his efforts in expanding the role of Photoredox Catalysis in the realm of organic chemistry.
Joe received his BS in Chemistry from William and Mary in 2008. Since coming to BU, he has been awarded a Dean’s Fellowship (2009), Feldman Award (2009), an Honorable Mention in the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (2010), and the inaugural Vertex Scholar Award for 2010-2011.