|On May 2 BU Nanotechnology Innovation Center (BUnano) held its inaugural symposium “Nanotechnology for Imaging”. The symposium focused on The “Nanotechnology For Imaging” symposium will be focused on highlighting accomplishments of BUnano faculty and students, and featured keynote presentation by 2014 Nobel Prize winner for Chemistry, Professor Stefan Hell.
BUnano Center Director Prof. Mark Grinstaff welcomed the audience in the packed Metcalf Trustee Ballroom. and presented BUnano’s mission to promote a vibrant and dynamic community for nano-related disciplines at BU. What distinguishes BUnano from other nano centers in the Boston area is its connection to the Boston Medical Center and the BUSM. BUnano offers pilot grants to foster and support collaborative research of BU faculty across campuses in their pursuit of finding nano solutions to real life problems in technology and medicine.
The morning session featured a lineup of talks by BUnano faculty. Dr. Luca Dal Negro opened the scientific portion of the symposium with his talk on “Materials and Fields @ the Nanoscale: Optical Engineering of Resonant Nanostructures,” followed by Dr. Allison Dennis’s talk “Cadmium-free Quantum Dots for Imaging in the Visible and Near Infrared” and the joint presentation by Drs. Joyce Wong and Victoria Herrera entitled “Janus Nanoparticles for Cancer Theranostics.” Dr. Luca Dal Negro is an Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, and Physics at BU. He introduced his group’s research related to the development of novel plasmonic materials and nanostructures for spectroscopy. Dr. Allison Dennis, Biomedical Engineering Assistant Professor, discussed how her group uses cadmium-free Quantum Dot chemistries for applications in fluorescent biosensing and improved biomedical imaging. Dr. Joyce Wang, a Professor in Biomedical Engineering and Professor of Medicine Dr. Victoria Herrera discussed their interdisciplinary collaboration on developing theranostic Janus USPION for enhanced MRI imaging and targeted nucleic acid therapy to treat non-druggable cases, especially in pancreatic cancer.
After lunch break, Dr. Selim Unlu, a BUnano affiliated faculty and professor of Electrical Engineering introduced the keynote speaker of the symposium, Prof. Stefan Hell. He is the current Director at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Germany. In 2014 Prof Hell was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his pioneering work in the field of ultra high resolution fluorescence microscopy. Stefan Hell succeeded in radically overcoming the resolution limit of conventional optical microscopes – a breakthrough that has enabled new ground‐breaking discoveries in biological and medical research.
Prof. Hell’s exciting talk on flurorescence nanoscopy featured his recent research on how to neutralize diffraction in order to achieve imaging of cells and tissues at the nanoscale. For close to an hour, Prof Hell held the audience’s attention captive, transforming them to the realm of STED microscopy infecting them with the possibility of capturing images of the nanoworld.
Twenty students and postdoctoral fellows were selected to present their posters at the symposium. Ms Qianyun Zhang, a student in Dr. Bjoern Rheinhard’s Lab, received $500 for her poster “Illuminating EGFR clustering and its Effects on Signal.”
The symposium concluded with BUnano’s version of the popular show Shark Tank, “Terrier Tank.” The competition was moderated by Dr. Ahmad Khalil, Biomedical Engineering Assistant Professor at BU. Five finalists presented their innovative translational research idea to a panel of judges. The panel included BUnano Entrepreneur-in-Residence Dr. Jill Becker (CEO and Founder of 02139 Inc), Dr. David Coleman, Chair of the Department of Medicine at BUSM, Peter Marton of BU’s Questrom School of Business and Buzz Lab, Jess McLear of Launchpad Venture Group, and Dr. Terry Russell, Managing Director of Interface Ventures. It was truly exciting to see undergraduate students, graduate students and postdoctoral associates striving to take a nascent idea and translate into a marketable product which would provide tangible benefit to our society.
After careful consideration, the judges awarded the $10,000 prize to CatchAu – an environmentally conscious wastewater treatment idea by a team of graduate students, Mingfu Chen, Uros Kuzmanovic, and Nicolas Shu.
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.
Professor Linda Doerrer and fourth year graduate student, Steven Hannigan, were chosen as recipients of a Boston University Ignition Award. This program provides funds to validate early-stage research projects with clear commercial potential.
The Doerrer group has determined that a fully fluorinated copper(II) compound can electrocatalytically reduce nitrate in water. Such a technology would be extremely relevant to today’s market for water treatment systems because it addresses an increasingly significant environmental problem. Nitrate is a common component in all man-made fertilizers and is, therefore, increasingly found in all salt- and fresh-water bodies. The nitrate is a fertilizing food source for microorganisms whose excessive growths are called harmful algal blooms (HABs), which can lead to aqueous “dead zones” in rivers, seas, and lakes that can be seen from satellites.
The Ignition Award Program was launched in 2007 by the Boston University Office of Technology Development. Since then, it has issued 46 awards, 10 of which have been given to Chemistry faculty to advance their innovative ideas.
2015 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) award recipient, George Pantelopulos, has joined Chemistry to do his proposed graduate research in theoretical chemistry with Prof. John Straub and his group. George aims to model the kinetics of phase transitions in a system of components (lipids and cholesterol) commonly found in eukaryotic cell membranes using the Generalized ReplicaExchange Method (gREM) developed by the Straub group and constructing a Markov State Model (MSM) of a mixed bilayer. George believes that his study will yield a statistically detailed model of the thermodynamics and kinetics of mixed bilayer phases, something which has been sought for years via experimental techniques and previously out-of-reach for standard simulation methods.
George is no stranger to BU Chemistry. In 2013 he was one of the 10 students selected for Chemistry’s NSF site Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. At the time, he was at the Community College of Philadelphia. During his summer REU program here, he helped to synthesize nanohoops of high electron density, which were hypothesized to serve as high performance coatings for solar cells. In Fall 2013 he transferred to Temple University (Philadelphia, PA), where he did research with Prof. Vincent Voelz on simulation studies of the p53-MDM2 complex. MDM2 is an ubiquitin ligase protein which downregulates the tumor suppressor protein p53. As such, inhibition of the p53-MDM2 complex is a major goal in targeted cancer therapy research.
In addition to chemistry, George’s interests are broad and varied. He has a strong commitment to community service and have volunteered with such organizations as TeenSHARP, a weekend educational program for minority students in Philadelphia and Camden schools, where he was a science instructor and Habitat for Humanity.
A publication from the research group of Professor Adrian Whitty has been selected by the Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC) as “Paper of the Week.” This distinction is conferred upon JBC papers that the Associate Editors and Editorial Board Members consider to represent the “top 2% of JBC papers in overall importance.” The paper, “Quantitative Analysis of Receptor Tyrosine Kinase-Effector Coupling at Functionally Relevant Stimulus Levels,” provides a rare, quantitative view of how activation of a growth factor receptor is linked to signaling and function. The work is significant because it sheds new light on some of the factors that determine what concentration of growth factor is required to achieve a functional response, and how this functional sensitivity relates to the dose-response behavior observed for receptor activation and for intracellular signaling events. The paper also shows that experiments done using high ligand concentrations can obscure quantitative features of receptor signaling. The journal will publish a profile of the paper’s first author, 5th year graduate student Simin Li (pictured). Other Whitty group investigators who contributed to the work include Dr. Devayani Bhave and Dr. Thomas Riera (former Postdoctoral Fellows), Jennifer Chow and Mariya Atanasova (graduate students), Simone Rauch (undergraduate student), and Dr. Richard Cate (Visiting Scientist).
Mr. Chao Qi is the recipient of the 2015 Vertex Scholar Award. He is a 4th year graduate student in the group of Prof. John A. Porco. Chao was selected based on his demonstrated excellence in organic chemistry. He has developed extremely elegant and enabling synthetic methodology towards two different natural products, making reactions work, and building complex natural product architectures. Highly productive, he has two major publications, with a third manuscript nearing completion. In addition, Chao plays a leadership role in the Porco laboratory and is currently mentoring an undergraduate researcher.
The 2015 award is made possible by Vertex Pharmaceuticals which has 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.
Ariel Hyre, a first-year graduate student in Professor Linda Doerrer‘s laboratory, has received a 2014 NSF Graduate Research Program Fellowship on her initial attempt. NSF stated that she was awarded the 3-year fellowship based on her “outstanding abilities and accomplishments, as well as [her] potential to contribute to strengthening the vitality of the US science and engineering enterprise.” Ariel, who came to BU after receiving her BS from Brandeis University in 2013 (Cum Laude, High Honors in Chemistry), is deeply committed to materials research that will contribute to environmentally sustainable energy.
As an undergraduate, Ariel explored many aspects of chemistry, working in three different laboratories at Brandeis to learn organometallic techniques and instrumentation (with Professor Christine Thomas); engineering-based materials research (with Professor Seth Fraden); and oscillatory chemical reactions (with Professor Irving Epstein). Coming to BU, she decided to join the Doerrer Group and work on a project that focuses on synthesizing one-dimensional, heterobimetallic nanowires supported and bridged by carboxylate ligands. The infinite chains found in the crystals of these complexes will be tested for electronic conductivity to understand the fundamental design principles needed to produce highly efficient nanoscale wires for electronic devices. Other research directions within the Doerrer lab include C-H and O-H bond oxidation and facile synthesis of zero-valent iron nanoparticles.
Ariel, who minored in political science as an undergraduate, is also committed to scientific outreach, believing that a vibrant scientific community is vital to the health and development of society, at the both local and national levels. She and Professor Doerrer have exciting plans to develop a bilingual English/Spanish outreach program for the elementary school students. Their aim is to engage students from one of the most underrepresented groups in the sciences in the excitement of chemistry.
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.