Category: Liu, Pinghua
We were pleased to announce the Department of Chemistry student award winners for the 2017-2018 academic year at the Orientation BBQ. For those who may have missed it, here are the award winners.
Sugata Ray Memorial Award for International Students: Nathchar Naowarojna (Liu Lab)
This award was established by the Ray family in memory of their son, Sugata Ray, a former graduate student in the Chemistry Department, to recognize an international Ph.D. candidate each year who excels in his or her graduate studies. Research, academic performance, teaching, and service contributions to the Department are all considered in selection of the awardee.
Professor Liu writes, “Can has demonstrated her potential to thrive in the academic environment and greatly contribute to the field of natural product biosynthesis and enzymology. Her skills and knowledge in research, and dedication to mentorship make her an exceptionally qualified nominee.” She has authored or contributed to an impressive number of publications, and demonstrates an extraordinary commitment to undergraduate mentoring through her teaching assignments and undergraduate research supervising.
Lichtin Award for Research: David Stelter (Keyes)
This award was established in honor of Norman Lichtin, a distinguished research scientist and former Chair of the Chemistry Department. The award recognizes students that are distinguished by their exceptional contributions to chemical research in their doctoral studies.
Professor Keyes writes, “David is a wonderful student, one of my best ever. Despite having to teach almost full time he has achieved significant research results, and never lost his enthusiasm, while also being a joy to have as a TF.” David is first author on two papers, contributed to two more, and has a large body of results to write up and exciting work in progress.
Feldman Award: Lindsey Walker (Elliott Lab)
The Feldman Fund was established by the Feldman family to memorialize Julius Feldman, who served for many years as Associate Chairman of the Chemistry Department and who took a special interest in the welfare of graduate students. The Feldman Award recognizes outstanding accomplishments in research, teaching or service.
Lindsey is a fifth year student in the Elliott Lab who has not only made significant and impressive research contributions but is a great communicator of science, and stands out as an excellent leader.
Professor Elliott writes, “Lindsey is a sharp, devoted, creative and highly driven student, who is well on her way to being a successful scientific leader. She is a talented researcher who is motivated by a concern for the environment, and a desire to use electrochemistry as a functional tool to improve society. She is a wonderful student, and I am very lucky to have her in my lab.”
Departmental Award for Outstanding Graduate Student Research: Lauren Viarengo (Whitty Lab)
Professor Whitty writes, “Lauren has a strong intellect and is exceptionally diligent and conscientious in everything she does. Lauren is also highly sought after as a Teaching Fellow, being very conscientious and having excellent interpersonal and communication skills. But what really sets her apart is her fearlessness in taking on new research challenges, and her exceptional drive. I believe she serves as an example of everything we look for in our very best graduate students, and is an ideal candidate for a graduate student award to recognize her extraordinary capabilities and efforts.”
Congratulations to all of our award winners!
The Burroughs Wellcome Fund (BWF) uses Collaborative Research Travel Grants to facilitate biomedical research among laboratories in the US and abroad. This February, two Chemistry groups received these competitive awards.
One of the grants will support Professor Pinghua Liu and his graduate student, Jinzhao Shen, to go to Beijing to work in the laboratory of Professor Xiaoping Chen of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. They will collaborate with Professor Chen’s group to develop new anti-microbial drugs, focusing initially on new anti-malaria drugs for multi-drug resistant strains. Specifically, they will build marine natural product libraries and screen them for anti-malaria activities.
The second grant will support graduate student, Daniel Saltzberg, in the Allen Group. Mr. Saltzberg will work with Dr. Hiro Tsuruta’s group at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource to probe the specific interactions governing ligand binding in a large superfamily of metabolic enzymes. These studies will provide insight into the evolution of functional diversity in this superfamily.
NIH funds Pinghua Liu and his group to perform mechanistic studies of enzymes in isoprenoid biosynthesis
The goal of this award ($1.9 million over 5 years – 2010-2015) is to characterize the mechanism of a key enzyme in the deoyxylulose biosynthetic pathway as well as identify its key partner proteins. This pathway, identified only in bacteria and plants, produces the required compounds for isoprenoid synthesis. The results of this work could eventually lead to new broad-spectrum antibiotics or toward more efficient bioengineering based isoprenoid production. The work has developed an enzyme preparation that is many times more active than those previously reported, providing a crucial piece to illuminating enzymes. These isoprenoid biosynthetic studies will guide the development of mechanism- based inhibitors of the DXP pathway enzymes, which can be used as broad-spectrum antibiotics. The public health benefit will result from the development of effective new treatments for drug-resistant strains of pathogens (e.g., tuberculosis), currently of increasing concern worldwide.
Feng (Seymour) Wang has received his CAREER award for his work on “Molecular Dynamics Study of Growth and Dissolution Dynamics of Stable and Meta-Stable Methane Hydrates.” The goal of his research is to gain an atomistic scale understanding of the growth and dissolution processes of methane hydrate, which is an important but little understood part of the global carbon cycle. Methane clathrate has considerable potential as an alternative energy source. At the same time, its stability poses major environmental implications since methane is a greenhouse gas. In providing a fundamental understanding of the formation and dissolution dynamics of methane clathrate, Prof. Wang’s work will shed light on both of aspects of these hydrates.
Prof. Wang’s educational plan aims at using computational chemistry tools to help undergraduate students understand concepts and trends in organic chemistry. Working in collaboration with Prof. John Snyder, Prof. Wang is creating semi-automated tutorials that students can use to set up simple electronic structure calculations. The objective is to demonstrate to undergraduates the practical uses of current computational techniques in different areas of chemistry.
Pinghua Liu has received his CAREER Award for his proposal “Mechanistic Studies of Phosphonates: Biosynthesis and Biodegradation.” The phosphate ion combines with various atoms and molecules within living organisms to form many different compounds essential to life. In this work Prof. Liu will investigate two issues at the forefront of bioscience: 1) determination of the mechanisms of the biosyntheses of natural phosphonates and the role of the metallo-cofactors in catalysis; and 2) indentification of enzymes that can degrade natural or synthetic phosphonates. This work has the promise of increasing our understanding of the biosyntheses of phosphonates and lead to insights about their role in Nature.
The educational component of his award will address significant issues in the training of the next generation of bioscientists such as their need for a global view of the technical challenges faced by society and society’s need for scientists with an interdisciplinary background who can address the challenges faced in the 21st century.
It is with great pleasure that the Department of Chemistry welcomes two new members to its faculty, Professor Pinghua Liu in biochemistry and Professor Feng Wang in theoretical and computational chemistry.
Professor Liu received his Ph.D. in 2001 from the University of Minnesota. Most recently, he was a postdoctoral associate in the laboratory of Professor JoAnne Stubbe at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His laboratory is interested in mechanistic studies of metallo-protein catalyzed processes (with emphasis on radical involving reactions) and their roles in signal transductions. His initial projects are directed at studying proteins involved in isoprenoid biosynthesis and chromatin structural modulations.
Professor Wang received his Ph.D. in 2003 from the University of Pittsburgh after which he became a postdoctoral associate in the laboratory of Professor Gregory Voth at the University of Utah. His group is interested in multi-scale Monte Carlo or molecular dynamics study of large systems at finite temperature using high accuracy force fields. He is also interested in systematic development of such force fields using a revised version of the force-matching procedure. Problems of particular interest include ligand docking, mechanical properties of metal alloys and properties of methane clathrates at different temperature and pressure.