Jennifer Chow, a third-year graduate student in the group of Professor Adrian Whitty, has received an NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA). Jennifer received the award for her initial submission, which is a singular honor given how competitive this award is each year. Jennifer will receive 4 years of support to pursue her project, “Activation and Signaling Mechanism of the RET Tyrosine Kinase Receptor.”
The goal of Jennifer’s project is to develop a system using Forster resonance energy transfer (FRET) to understand the changes that occur upon binding of ligand to growth factor receptors. Aim 1 will develop the FRET constructs, which will be used in Aim 2 to investigate the mechanism of RET (REarranged during Transfection receptor) activation in cell culture. In Aim 3, potential crosstalk between the RET and vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 (VEGFR2) pathways will be investigated. The research will aid in the physical understanding of growth factor (GF) receptor activation and how aberrant GF receptor signaling in cancer might be therapeutically modulated.
Jennifer received her undergraduate degree from San Francisco State University (CA) and worked at an academic lab for three years after graduation. She came to BU in 2011 and joined Prof. Whitty’s research laboratory, which focuses on quantitative approaches to various fields of chemical biology. In addition to her research, Jennifer is currently the president of the Chemistry Department’s student organization, BUYCC.
Matthew Golder is the recipient of the 2013-2014 Vertex Scholar Award. The award is in recognition of his scientific creativity and leadership. Matt is a fourth-year graduate student in the group of Prof. Ramesh Jasti.
Matt has been working for the past 3 years in the development of synthetic procedures to produce cycloparaphenylenes, the simplest sub-segment of a metallic armchair carbon nanotube. His efforts have lead to three publications thus far (most recently a first author paper in Chemical Science) and several presentations at national meetings.
Matt is the fourth Vertex Scholar in the Department. The award is made possible by Vertex Pharmaceuticals, a biotechnology company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Each award funds a student’s stipend, fees, and travel to conferences for one year. 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.
For a second year in a row, Prof. Ramesh Jasti‘s group has hosted students from the Steppingstone Foundation to share with them the excitement of nanoscale research. Steppingstone is a non-profit that develops and implements programs which prepare urban schoolchildren for educational opportunities that lead to college success.
This year the students learned about nanoscale materials and how their unique properties are a function of their size. The day started with fun demonstrations of liquid nitrogen and an “explosive” Pringles can. The students then paired off to perform two separate hands-on laboratory experiments. The first lab illustrated the principle of chemical sensing. Using glow sticks, students analyzed a number of molecules to determine their anti-oxidant properties. Strong anti-oxidants would result in decreased fluorescence that visually detectable. This approach to sensing molecules is of strong interest for detection of environmental pollutants, food safety, product testing, water treatment, explosives detection and numerous other applications.
The second lab was designed to teach the students about the importance of polymers in modern life, particularly as they relate to material applications. The student pairs synthesized their own Nylon strands. To “up the fun factor,” they were challenged to a contest to see who could produce the longest continuous piece. With a prize of candy bars on the line, the students took the challenge seriously.
The day wrapped up with a casual pizza lunch, with the visitors asking lots of questions about not only graduate school, but college life and what being a science major is like. The graduate students had as much fun as the high school visitors, and look forward to the continued partnership of the Steppingstone Foundation and the Jasti Group.
For the second year in a row, Vertex Pharmaceuticals has continued its support of Chemistry’s student organization, Boston University Women in Chemistry (BUWIC). Vertex’s 2013-2014 support will help facilitate professional development opportunities for BUWIC members and advance chemistry education for young women. BUWIC will use the funds to provide 10 conference registration fellowships, pay for seminar expenses associated with outside speakers, and advance chemistry training by bringing three high school students to experience hands-on research in BU Chemistry laboratories.
There were 15 applications from high school students for the summer research opportunity. Of these three were selected:
- Trizzi Lam, a rising high school Senior at the Pioneer Charter School of Science in Everett, MA, is working in Prof. Adrian Whitty’s lab with 2nd-year graduate student, Jennifer Chow, on protein-protein interactions, which are important in understanding signaling pathways and in the discovery of new drug molecules.
- Eden Merdasa, a rising high school Senior at Brighton High School in Brighton, MA, is working alongside first year graduate student Long Nguyen in Prof. Aaron Beeler’s lab. The research in this lab focuses on medicinal chemistry, specifically those areas pertaining to small molecule discovery, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, and cystic fibrosis.
- Kimberly Zaldana, a rising high school Junior, also at the Pioneer Charter School of Science, is working in Prof. Sean Elliott’s lab with 2nd-year graduate student, Bin Li, on researching electron transfer chemistry and the functions of enzymes and proteins.
BUWIC, formed in 2005 by female graduate students in the Department, has provided its members with industry career seminars, educational workshops, networking opportunities, and with speakers from both ‘traditional’ scientific career paths (pharmaceutical industry, academia, national laboratories), as well as ‘non-traditional’ paths (science journalism, patent law, contract research). In 2010, BUWIC initiated outreach activities to local area schools in support of chemistry education through volunteers who teach labs, lead chemistry demonstrations, tutor, and assist teachers.
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.
This May, the BU Department of Chemistry, in collaboration with the student organization, BU Women in Chemistry (BUWIC), hosted 85 students from English High School and Brighton High School (BHS) for our fifth annual Chemistry Day. The successful day was coordinated by third-year graduate student, Kathryn Summo (Schaus Group), the BUWIC Outreach Coordinator, with the assistance of faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates. Photos taken by the participants can be seen on flickr.
The day started with demonstrations of liquid nitrogen, the sublimation of carbon dioxide with pH indicators, and making “Elephant’s Toothpaste,” which according to BHS teacher, Ralph Bledsoe, created “oohs and aahs.” Students then spent time in undergraduate teaching labs performing experiments in the electrochemistry of metals (a variation on a CH 101 undergraduate lab experiment) and identifying antioxidants using glow sticks. Students then toured state-of-the-art Chemistry and Biology research laboratories with graduate student and postdoctoral researchers who described their work and what it was like to work in a research lab. The high school participants learned about about major instrumentation (e.g., NMR spectrometers and GC/MS instruments). They also entered a fruit fly lab with high-magnification microscopes fitted with video feeds and light filtration apparatuses. The day was capped off with a BBQ sponsored by the Department of Chemistry.
BU Chemistry Day is the conclusion of an outreach program coordinated by BUWIC during the spring semester. Throughout the course of the program, eight BU undergraduate students visited AP, honors, and multilingual chemistry classrooms at English High School and Brighton High School every other week to mentor students, assist teachers with instruction, perform demonstrations, and coordinate hands-on experiments.
The 2013 BU Chemistry Day was made possible by the participation of: members of BUWIC (Elizabeth Hirst, Kathryn Summo, Stephanie Maiocco, Jessica Biagi, Gina Kim, and Elizabeth Villar); teaching lab coordinators (Boris Bezverkhny and Alex Golger); graduate student volunteers (Matt Golder, Evan Judd, Tracy Meehan, and Daniele Ramella); and undergraduate “Outreachers” (Kyle Bannon (English), Zach Bogart (English), Audrey Hertenstein (English), Doug Allison, Kyle Kahveci, Ashley Mellen, Elizabeth Moss, Josh Nelson, and James Priestley.
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) has awarded Liz Hirst, a fifth year graduate student in the Jasti Group, with a year-long American Fellowship that will enable her to complete her dissertation research in the next year.
Hirst’s research is highly interdisciplinary, combining chemistry, physics, and materials science. The focus of her work is the synthesis of novel cycloparaphenylenes (CPPs) with nitrogen incorporated into the backbone. CPPs represent the smallest unit cell of a metallic carbon nanotube (CNT). Also termed carbon nanohoops, CPPs consist of all para linked benzene rings. Nitrogen-doped CPP synthesis will enable a fundamental exploration of the structure-property effects of adding nitrogen to carbon networks. This could serve as an empirical model system for understanding the electronic changes in nitrogen-doped graphitic materials. It will also allow for correlation of theoretical predictions to reality. This synthesis will also enable construction of novel carbon-based materials. Specifically, once the target CPPs are synthesized, Liz will explore incorporation of these molecules into 3-d porous carbon-based frameworks. These frameworks may have uses in energy storage and small molecule detection.
In addition to pursuing her research, Liz Hirst works to promote the representation of women in the sciences. She has played a leadership role in the BU Women in Chemistry, currently serving as the organization’s president. A hallmark of her presidency has been outreach to local area high schools and the Girl Scouts to enable students to participate in and experience chemistry research.
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.
BU Chemistry hosted more than 100 students from the Boston Community Leadership Academy (BCLA) and English High School on May 4, 2012 for the fourth annual Chemistry Day. The morning long program began with a demonstration session given by BU Chemistry undergraduates and coordinated by Postdoctoral Faculty Fellow (PFF) Dr. Seann Mulcahy. The demonstration explored pH, having fun with liquid nitrogen, synthesizing nylon, and making “Elephant’s Toothpaste.” After the demonstration, students spent time in our undergraduate teaching labs performing experiments in electrochemistry of metals (a variation on a CH 101 undergraduate lab experiment), electrolysis of salt water, and identifying antioxidants using glow sticks. These experiments were coordinated by PFF Dr. Katie Frato with assistance by BUWIC (Boston University Women in Chemistry) president Sarah Soltau and undergraduates. Students also attended tours of state-of-the-art chemistry research labs, seeing major instrumentation such as NMR spectrometers and GC/MS instruments and testing a glove box. During these tours, graduate student and postdoctoral researchers also described their work and what it was like to work in a research lab. The morning was capped off with a BBQ sponsored by the department. Photos from the event can be seen at the BU Chemistry Flickr site.
BU Chemistry Day is the culmination of a semester long outreach program created by BUWIC and coordinated by Liz Hirst (BUWIC Outreach Coordinator). During the semester, 2-3 BU students visited classrooms at BCLA, English High School, and Brighton High School every other week to mentor students, assist teachers with instruction, perform demonstrations, and coordinate hands-on experiments.
BU Chemistry is grateful to all of those involved, with special thanks to:
Outreach co-directors: Seann Mulcahy and Katie Frato
BUWIC: Sarah Soltau (President) and Liz Hirst (Outreach Coordinator)
Teaching lab coordinator: Boris Bezverkhny
Undergraduate “Outreachers”: Kyle Kahveci, Will Lyon (English High); Shama Patel, Nicole Buechler, Holly Johnson, Pragya Kalla, James Priestley, Christopher Neil, Zach Bogart (BCLA); and Nick Russo, Josh Nelson, Doug Allison (Brighton High)