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.
The U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Division of Materials Sciences and Engineering is funding the Reinhard Laboratory to develop “New Optoplasmonic Materials for Next Generation Energy Systems” (Award No. DE-SCOO10679). The 3-year project addresses key challenges in energy related systems.
Current photovoltaic materials offer limited conversion rates across the visible range of the electromagnetic spectrum. Optoplasmonic materials with custom tailored optical responses that can localize, enhance, and transfer the incident light with high spatial control could improve the light conversion efficiency across the entire visible range and beyond. In addition, information
processing in optoplasmonic materials offers a completely new approach for addressing interconnect delays in next generation optoelectronic devices.
The specific aims of Prof. Bjoern Reinhard and his group are to develop discrete hybrid optoplasmonic “molecules” for light trapping, guiding, and (de)multiplexing, as well as to design and characterize 2-dimensional optoplasmonic arrays for light trapping and radiative emission engineering.
Prof. Sean Elliott and his group have received a 3-year award from the National Science Foundation for their project entitled “Connections Between Redox Chemistry and Catalysis in Multiheme Peroxidases.” While nature excels at the manipulation of redox co-factors to affect dramatic catalytic transformations, we still do not have a molecular understanding of how multi-electron redox catalysis is achieved. In this work, the Elliott Group will examine a complex redox enzyme, a bacterial cytochrome c peroxidase that contains two c-type heme cofactors that are used to reduce hydrogen peroxide to water. Their aim is to provide molecular details of how a model heme-based active site is controlled by redox reactions, proton transfers, and protein dynamics.
Their findings will be the basis for the development of new analytical (electrochemical) methods at the interface of chemistry and biology and the energy sciences, where critical questions remain about how to generate, manipulate or tune reversible, multi-electron redox reactions.
Prof. Pinghua Liu and his Group pursue highly interdisciplinary research involving organic synthesis, molecular biology, bioinformatics, and enzymology. This combined expertise will be used to conduct their 3-year National Science Foundation Funded project, “Mechanistic Studies of New C-S Bond Formation Chemistries.”
Ergothioneine is a unique thiol-imidazole-containing natural amino acid isolated nearly a century ago. Due to its unusual redox properties, it plays many beneficial roles in human health (e.g., conserving/maintaining antioxidant levels). It can be used as one of the key components in many commercial products, including dietary supplements, personal care products (skin care and cosmetics), and veterinary products. The Liu Group investigations will allow them to fully establish ergothioneine in an in vitro catalytic system and differentiate among several proposed mechanistic models. These studies will guide the future production of ergothioneine using a synthetic biology approach.
In addition to the science, this research program will provide an interdisciplinary environment in which to train undergraduate, graduate, and high school students in how to investigate major problems at the interface of Chemistry and Biology.
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.
The Department of Chemistry is very pleased to announce that Prof. Ksenia Bravaya, a theoretical chemist, has joined our faculty. She comes to Boston University from her postdoctoral position at the University of Southern California (2009-2013), where she did research with Prof. Anna Krylov. Prof. Bravaya received her Ph.D. in Theoretical and Computational Quantum Chemistry from the Lomonosov Moscow State University (2008). She has received the ACS Physical Chemistry Division Postdoctoral Research Award (2011), the Burg Postdoctoral Teaching Award, University of Southern California (2010), and the WISE Merit Award for Excellence in Postdoctoral Research, University of Southern Calfornia (2010).
Prof. Bravaya’s research aims to develop new theoretical methods targeting processes involving multiple electronic states, chemistry of open-shell species in magnetic fields, and metastable systems. She will apply this new computational tool kit, as well as existing state-of-the-art quantum chemistry approaches to the investigation of the mechanism of magnetoreception in avian birds, tuning the optical properties of fluorescent proteins, studying processes involving metastable electronic states, and exploring the electronic structure of new magnetic materials. Her goal is to develop a theoretical chemistry framework for studying complex photoinduced processes and spin effects in biomolecules and novel materials (e.g., molecular electronics / spintronics, magnetophotovoltaics, and biophotonics).
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.
A new study co-authored by John A. Porco, Jr., Professor of Chemistryand Diector of the Center for Chemical Methodology and Library Development at Boston University (CMLD-BU), along with collaborators at the Whitehead Institute has identified rocaglamide A, an inhibitor of translation initiation, as a strong
inhibitor of Heat Shock Factor 1 (HSF1) activation. HSF1 inhibitors have received gained significantattention their potential role in the rapid development of anticancer drugs with completely new modes of action.
The study, published in the journal Science, found that rocaglamide A, a naturally occurring anticancer agent, effectively inhibits HSF1 activation. The article, “Tight Coordination of Protein Translation and HSF1 Activation Supports the Anabolic Malignant State,” S. Santagata et al., Science 341, 1238303 (2013), is available online at http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1238303).
The study is the latest product of a three-year research grant from the National Institutes of Health awarded to Porco and Dr. Luke Whitesell, senior scientist in the laboratory of Prof.
Susan Lindquist at MIT’s Whitehead Institute. This combined biology/chemistry team came together specifically to identify highly potent and selective HSF -1 inhibitor probes with useful activity in vivo.
The College of Arts and Sciences Press Release can be accessed here.
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). While membership is inclusive, the organization focuses on issues of particular relevance to women training for and seeking scientific careers that build on their training in Chemistry. 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.