Boston Universities Chemistry and Physics Departments welcome one of our newest faculty members, Professor Masha Kamenetska!
We are happy to welcome Dr. Kamenetska as our newest Assistant Professor who will hold academic appointments in the Boston University Departments of Chemistry and Physics. Her hire resulted from faculty search associated with the Materials Science & Engineering (MSE) Program for a CAS junior faculty member. Masha’s experimental interests focus on single molecule measurements and biophysics and she will develop instrumentation that combines novel multiple optical trapping techniques with optical measurements to study the molecular level details of important biological structure function relationships.
Her academic training in Physics and her molecular level focused research make her an ideal candidate for our interdisciplinary MSE faculty position with joint (50:50) appointments in Chemistry and Physics. Dr. Kamenetska graduated with a B.S. in Physics from MIT and received her Ph.D. with distinction in Applied Physics in 2012 from Columbia University. There she carried out single molecule level conductance and nano manipulation measurements to learn about metal-molecule junctions, which are essential for developing molecular level electronics. While a Postdoctoral Associate at Yale University, Masha built a novel optical tweezer for mechanical force and optical measurements of biological systems. Dr. Kamenetska was awarded the Robert Simon Memorial Prize for best Ph.D. in the Department of Applied Physics, Columbia University in 2012 and was a recipient of an NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship in Biology.
Dr. Kamenetska’s research interests lie in creating tools to probe physical phenomena at the single molecule level, which is an urgent need across multiple disciplines. In particular, she wants to make headway in tackling human diseases such as cancer because we need to understand how the conformation of individual DNA-protein complexes affects access to genes by transcription machinery. Similarly, she’ll focus on advance energy conversion devices and further miniaturize electronics that are needed to understand how the structure of the molecule-metal junction affects electron transport across the interface. Her goal is to further our understanding of structure and function of chromatin—DNA condensed by proteins, and of metal-molecule devices by developing novel, label-free, multi-probe, single molecule techniques.
Masha is our first joint junior hire, which highlights BU’s strong commitment to interdisciplinary research and training. Please join us in welcoming Dr. Kamenetska to BU’s Chemistry and Physics Departments starting on July 1st!
Professor Deborah Perlstein is engaging local female rising seniors in STEM Research through the GROW Program.
University’s Learning Resource Network (LERNet) in collaboration with Prof. Deborah Perlstein in the Department of Chemistry at BU. Based on their interests, GROW participants will be matched with a lab and a graduate student or postdoc research mentor in the department of chemistry, biology, biomedical engineering or mechanical engineering. They will be assigned an independent project aligned with each laboratory’s focus and expertise. Through their internships, participants will be able to experience what it is like to be part of a team actively engaged in cutting edge research. The program curriculum also provides participants with mentoring on the college admissions process and an awareness of career opportunities in STEM fields.
The overall goal of GROW is to stimulate interest in STEM from groups typically underrepresented in the workforce. Since women make up just 29% of the science and engineering workforce, we have chosen to limit enrollment in GROW to high school girls. GROW will draw students from public school in Boston, Cambridge, and surrounding areas. By participating in an authentic research experience, participants develop more accurate perceptions of who scientists are and what they do. Through their close collaboration with their research mentors, participants are also provided with access to role models who can nurture their interests in science and engineering and increase their confidence in their ability to succeed in STEM-related careers.
Professor Ksenia Bravaya Awarded $405,000 3 Year NSF-CTMC Grant to study Metastable Electronic States
Ksenia Bravaya, who has been an Assistant Professor of Computational Quantum Chemistry here at BU since August 2013, was recently awarded a 3-year $405,000 grant from the National Science Foundation‘s Chemical Theory, Models and Computational Methods (CTMC) division to pursue her research into Metastable Electronic States.
Specifically, electron-molecule interactions often lead to complex chemistry initiated by electron capture into a temporary state that has enough energy to eject an electron, yet, lives long enough to trigger a chemical reaction. The lifetime of a metastable state, therefore, sets the timescale for the chemical conversion. Metastable electronic states are key intermediates in radiation damage of biomolecules and electron-attachment-induced chemistry in general; they are also routinely formed in highly energetic environments, e.g. plasmas. This research program will develop new models enabling quantitative predictions of the energies and lifetimes of metastable electronic states. The computational studies are aimed at advancing the understanding of the role of metastable states in radiation damage of biological systems, in photovoltaics, and catalysis.
For more information on what Professor Bravaya and her Research Group are up to click here.
Congratulations to Professor Bravaya!
|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.
On Friday, May 5th, 2017 the work of 11 students was spotlighted in this year’s Undergraduate Research Symposium (URS). The outstanding quality of the projects presented underscored the importance of the hands-on, challenging research that is the hallmark of BU’s Chemistry major. The even was organized by the Undergraduate Programs Committee, Professor John Snyder and coordinated by our Undergraduate Coordinator, Lauren Jett.
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 BBQ for the students, their faculty advisers, graduate mentors, and their guests. To view URS photos, please click here.
Held every three years since 1972, the ACTC is widely attended by chemists from both the United States and abroad. The meeting grew from the biennial Gordon Research Conference on Theoretical Chemistry, held from 1962-1970. Sharon Hammes-Schiffer, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is the Chair of ACTC 2017. David Coker, Boston University, is the Deputy Chair and Local Organizer, and Todd Martinez, Stanford University, is the Vice Chair.
The lectures will be held at the Boston University Law School Auditorium, lunches will be at the George Sherman Union Back Court, and poster sessions will be held at Metcalf Hall in the George Sherman Union. For breakfasts and dinners, attendees will have many options of nearby restaurants. A boat trip and banquet will be held on Wednesday.
For more information and registration details click here.
The Department of Chemistry and Chemical Instrumentation Center (CIC) was recently awarded a National Institute of Health Shared Instrumentation Grant (NIH SIG) led by Dr. Norman Lee, Director of CIC, to acquire a MicroScale Thermophoresis (MST) instrument. This instrument will enable investigators in Chemistry, Biology, Biochemistry and others to advance their research in life processes and allow their investigations to move into new areas that would enrich student and postdoctoral training. The instrument’s capabilities will also enhance active research projects involving protein-protein and protein-ligand interactions as well as protein conformation changes. The new MST instrument will enhance our biophysical capability at BU to meet the current and evolving research needs of the faculty and students.
Congratulations and a special thank you to Dr. Lee and all faculty who participated on the Departmental grant for their efforts on getting this new MicroScale Thermophoresis instrument!
New approaches to undergraduate lab classes
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.
Dr. Sean Elliott Receives 4 Year National Institute of Health Grant to study “Structure, Function and Diversity in the Bacterial Cytochrome c Peroxidase Family”
The new grant will enable studies in the Elliott Group to dissect the way in which nature has made use of a common motif of bioinorganic chemistry, the iron-bearing structure known as a c-type heme, and to utilize it for diverse chemistry. While Elliott has a long-running interest in heme and redox chemistry, here the group studies the titular ‘bacterial cytochrome c peroxidase’ (or, bCCP) family of enzymes. While prototypical bCCPs are found in gram negative microorganisms where they detoxify endogenous or exogenous hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), the Elliott group has realized that there exist in microbes novel bCCPs which engage in unknown chemistry. In the work sponsored by the NIH, the Elliott group will use a combination of biochemistry, electrochemistry, spectroscopy and structural biology to elucidate the bCCPs found in under appreciated microbes, and attempt to rationalize why the enzymes work as they do.
The work to be supported is a team effort where the enzymes discovered and produced in the Elliott Group will be examined here at BU, but also in collaboration with structural biologists at MIT and spectroscopists at Carnegie Mellon and the University of Michigan.
As bCCPs are enzymes on the front-line of the native defenses of NIH Select List pathogens including Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Burkholderia complex species, Vibrio cholerae, Campylobacter jejuni, and Yersinia pestis, these studies will provide fundamental insight into the long-term development of new antimicrobial compounds that will target the novel features of bCCP structure.”
Dr. Elliott, who is also a two time recipient of the Scialog® Award Research Corporation (2010-2011), and received the 2007 Gitner Award for Distinguished Teaching in 2007 and an NSF CAREER Award in 2005 (among other honors), works with the Elliott Research Group to investigate the interplay between biological systems and redox-active species (e.g., metal ions, organic radicals, disulfide bonds, reactive oxygen species). Their emphasis is on the kinetic and thermodynamic basis for catalytic redox chemistry, as well as the molecular basis of how nature tune redox cofactors do the hard work of Life.