On Friday, May 4th, 2018 the work of 22 students was spotlighted in this year’s Undergraduate Research Symposium (URS). The high-caliber projects presented underscored the importance of the hands-on, challenging research that is the hallmark of Boston University’s Chemistry major. The even was organized by the Undergraduate Programs Committee, Professor John Snyder and coordinated by our Undergraduate Program Coordinator, Julia Jesielowski.
URS was first instituted in 1987 by then Director of Undergraduate Studies, and now Emeritus, Prof. Mort Hoffman, and has been a much anticipated, spring’s-end annual event ever since. The Symposium is modeled along the lines of talks at an American Chemical Society (ACS) meeting: 12 minutes of presentation followed by 3 minutes of questions and discussion. Capping the day was the announcement of the Departmental Awards, followed by a celebratory pizza party for the students, their faculty advisers, graduate mentors, and their guests.
Professor Bjoern Reinhard awarded an NSF-CHE 3 Year grant to Study Plasmon Coupling Correlation Spectroscopy
Prof. Reinhard was recently awarded a 3 Year renewal of her National Science Foundation Division of Chemistry (NSF-CHE) Grant titled: Plasmon Coupling Correlation Spectroscopy. This will help Prof. Reinhard and his research group investigate the unique optical properties and strong field localization properties of plasmonic nanoparticles as they are important components of many chemical sensing technologies and Efield enhanced spectroscopies. The research will advance the field of chemical imaging and sensing by introducing the concept of correlation spectroscopy to localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) spectroscopy. The ambitious research plan will utilize distance-dependent near-field coupling between plasmonic nanoparticles that cause spectral fluctuations in the far-field to monitor interparticle separations at signal intensities that are manifold higher than that of conventional dyes. Importantly, due to their superb photophysical stability plasmonic nanoparticles overcome existing limitations of fluorescence based correlation approaches in terms of maximum observation time and will facilitate a continuous signal correlation over a much longer time than is currently possible with fluorescence based approaches entirely without blinking. The research funded by this grant is transformative as it will facilitate the application of optical signal correlation techniques to systems that have, so far, not been accessible with conventional fluorescence-based correlation methods.
Besides the scientific impact, the research project has a series of educational and outreach components as well as detailed plans to encourage the participation of underrepresented groups in science and engineering. The grant will allow for the development of new course work and training opportunities for students from the high-school to graduate school level. Furthermore, Dr. Reinhard will organize annual workshops for students from inner city high schools, which typically have high representations from groups underrepresented in science and engineering. His main goal is to enthuse these students about the research of the proposal and to attract them to a career in STEM fields. The course material developed during the lifetime of the project will be disseminated via the PI’s homepage to further enhance the broader impact of this proposal.
Prof. Doerrer was recently awarded a 3 Year renewal of her National Science Foundation Division of Chemistry (NSF-CHE) Grant titled: Oxidation Catalysis with 3d Complexes Bearing Fluorinated Alkoxide Ligands. This will help Prof. Doerrer and her research group continue their investigation into oxidation catalysis. The project will focus on developing more effective and sustainable catalytic reactions for chemical synthesis, which is critical for the 21st century. Oxidation of C-H bonds remains a central component of chemical transformations with many remaining challenges. This work builds on her recent success with Cu/O2 chemistry that has demonstrated the effectiveness of fluorinated alkoxide ligands to make highly reactive species for oxidizing C-H bonds. Recently her group has demonstrated catalysis with two different systems, and one reaction that differentiates the two systems. Understanding this difference, extending this success to other earth-abundant metals and potentially to water as a reaction medium are the targets of this award. Proven synthetic and characterization methods will be used, augmented by new ideas and some recent discoveries that hint at new and improved conditions for these needed chemical reactions.
Stephanie Beach, of the Doerrer Group, recently won a prestigious Chateaubriand Fellowship! The Chateaubriand Fellowship is a grant offered by the Embassy of France in the United States. It supports outstanding Ph.D. students from American universities who wish to conduct research in France for a period ranging from 4 to 9 months. Chateaubriand fellows are selected through a merit-based competition, through a collaborative process involving expert evaluators in both countries.
The program is divided into two subprograms: Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) which supports those who seek to study Humanities and Social Sciences. Stephanie was awarded the Chateaubriand Fellowship in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics & Biology-Health (STEM), which is for doctoral students who aim to initiate or reinforce collaborations, partnerships or joint projects between French and American research teams. This fellowship is offered by the Office for Science & Technology (OST) of the Embassy of France in partnership with American universities and French research organizations such as Inserm and Inria. It is a partner of the National Science Foundation’s GROW program.
Stephanie is currently working at the Centre de Recherche Paul Pascal, a CNRS lab, in Bordeaux, France from February through May of 2018 to partner with the group of Prof. Rodolphe Clérac. She is developing new variations of the Doerrer group thiocarboxylate lantern complexes for development as single molecule magnets.
We are happy to announce that Associate Professor Linda Doerrer was recently awarded a $110,000, grant titled “Lanthanide-Based Polymerization Catalysts with Water Resistant Ligands” from The American Chemical Society. The funding, which will last for 2 Years, will help Professor Doerrer explore a family of O-donor ligands, both aryloxide and alkoxide, that are heavily fluorinated in order to further the development of more water-tolerant catalysts, which would be a boon to many industrial polymerization reactions.
Congratulations to Dr. Doerrer for this exciting Award!
Melissa Marquez, a second-year graduate student in Professor Deborah Perlstein’s group, has recently received a 2017 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. She earned a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry with a minor in mathematics from Mount Saint Mary’s University and as an undergraduate conducted research in Dr. Eric Stemp’s lab focusing on DNA-protein cross-linking resulting from oxidative damage to DNA. She was introduced to Boston by participating in Tufts University’s NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program in the summer of 2013 and worked in Dr. Mitch McVey’s lab where she focused on determining the lethality stages in Drosophila melanogaster Werner Syndrome exonuclease mutants. Along with chemistry, Melissa enjoys serving others in their journey toward their science aspirations. She is currently a fellow for the BU NSF GK-12 Global Change Initiative (GLACIER) program where she works at Pierce School in Brookline with a 6th grade science teacher, an officer for BU Women in Chemistry, and a co-leader of the BU Graduate Women in Science and Engineering (GWSE) Girls with Goggles club, an outreach program that provides weekly hands-on activities for middle school girls.
Through the support of the NSF, Melissa aims to obtain a greater understanding of how iron cofactors are biosynthesized through the cytosolic iron sulfur cluster assembly (CIA) pathway. This system is responsible for iron sulfur (FeS) cluster biogenesis for proteins found outside of the mitochondria in eukaryotic organisms. Essential processes such as DNA replication and repair, transcription, and translation, are all dependent on at least one FeS cluster containing enzyme. A key question is: how are these DNA metabolizing enzymes, also termed targets, recognized by the CIA pathway? Melissa plans to discern the mechanism of CIA target recognition by investigating Cia2, a vital component of the CIA targeting complex known for executing target identification in the last step of the system. Not only is cluster targeting poorly understood for the CIA pathway, but it is not known how any cluster biogenesis pathway identifies its targets. By examining how targets are recognized, this work can provide a model for how target recognition is executed for other cluster biogenesis systems. Melissa is primarily interested in pursuing a career in which she can simultaneously work on innovative experimentations closely related to therapeutic development and reigniting students’ appreciation for deeper learning and, ultimately, love for science.
Please join us in congratulating Professor Xi Ling who has just been selected to receive a University Provost’s Career Development Professorship. This award is given to a a junior faculty member who shows exceptional promise, and is particularly focussed on advancing the participation and success of women in the area of Life Sciences. This is a three-year award with funding to support research and scholarly expenses.
Congratulations to Professor Ling on the great start to her independent research career!
Professor Whitty was awarded a 4 Year grant by the National Institute of Health (NIH) to further his studies of NF-kB Modulators. The title of the Research Project is: Structure and Mechanism of NF-kB Essential Modulator (NEMO).
This funding will allow Professor Whitty and his Co-PIs Professors Karen Allen of Chemistry and Thomas Gilmore of Biology to advance our understanding of the signaling scaffold protein NF-κB essential modulator (NEMO), a component of the inhibitor of κB kinase (IKK) complex, which is a key regulatory node for NF-κB signaling. In addition to NEMO playing a role in the chronic hyperactivity of NF-κB in human diseases, mutations in NEMO are found in several human immunodeficiency diseases. The long-term goals of the project are to understand how scaffolding proteins such as NEMO use conformational change to regulate the functional interactions between the signaling proteins that are bound to them, to elucidate the structural basis for disease-causing mutations in key regions of NEMO, and to identify new target sites for small molecule drugs that modulate NEMO activity.
Congratulations to Professors Whitty, Allen and Gilmore and their research team!
Congratulations to Professor David Coker for receiving a National Science Foundation Grant (NSF) totally $435,000. This project will fund Dr. Coker and his team’s research into two areas. The first project will focus on extending, first principles, excited state quantum chemical methods and conformational sampling techniques to compute the distributions of parameters in models of the biological light harvesting systems that have received much attention in recent ultrafast nonlinear spectroscopy studies. Such models are usually employed to interpret the results of these averaged experiments. These best-fit, average models have many parameters that can be difficult to estimate and they are not generally unique, often leading to ambiguous interpretation. The theoretical methods being developed by the Coker group, however, enable detailed analysis of fluctuations underlying the average and the sampling of an ensemble of unique models that include, for example, highly performing structural outliers whose characteristics will give important understanding for optimal design, rather than mean behavior. In the second project, dissipative quantum dynamical methods are employed to compute spectroscopic properties and study relaxation processes including energy transport and charge separation using the ensembles of computed models. Preliminary work on these projects was featured in a recent publication in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
Dr. Coker is a Professor of Theoretical and Physical Chemistry and is the Director for BU’s Center for Computational Science (BU CCS). The Coker Group focus their research the development of new theoretical and computational methods to explore how electronic and vibrational excitation of reactant molecules in different environments can influence the outcome of chemical reactions of these molecules. Because electronic and vibrational relaxation of excited reactants is fundamentally quantum mechanical in nature, the methods they use must accurately describe the transfer of energy between the classical environment and the quantal reactive system.
 “First-Principles Models for Biological Light-Harvesting: Phycobiliprotein Complexes from Cryptophyte Algae”, M.K. Lee, K. Bravaya, and D.F. Coker, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2017, 139 (23), pp 7803–7814
We are happy to welcome a new colleague to our ranks in Professor Chen Yang. Professor Yang will be moving from the Purdue University Chemistry Department where she also has a joint appointment in Physics. Her work focuses on the development of new nanomaterials with chemically controllable functionality exploiting low dimensionality as well as structural and compositional complexity.
Chen received her PhD in Chemistry from Harvard University working in the laboratory of Professor Charles Lieber before starting her first academic appointment at Purdue in 2007. She will have a 50:50 joint appointment at BU with the Department of Chemistry and Electrical & Computer Engineering Department. She will also be a member of the Materials Science & Engineering Divisioin.
Professor Yang’s materials centered research has applications in plasmonic optical devices, solar energy utilization, nanomedicine and biological imaging, and nanoelectronics. She has won a Seeds of Success Award from Purdue University (awarded to faculty raising over 1 million dollars) and a Career Award (2009-2014) from the National Science Foundation. Her prior work has been supported by grants from NSF, DARPA, ARO and the Keck Foundation.
Please join us in welcoming Dr. Yang to BU’s Chemistry and Electrical & Chemical Engineering Departments starting on July 1st!