Recent News

Steve Acquah, associate research professor of chemistry; the Digital Media Lab coordinator; and 2009 Lindau Meetings alumni; will be part of a team of Lindau alumni, young scientists and young economists participating in the first Sciathon hosted by the Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureates Meetings.

The Sciathon will follow the idea of a hackathon over 48 hours beginning 11 a.m. EST on Friday, June 19. During the event, the participants will work on interdisciplinary projects based on the three main topics, including The Lindau Guidelines 2020 (which responds to the current emergence of distrust of significant parts of the public in science in many parts of the world); climate change; and capitalism after corona. Forty-eight groups with ten members per group will work on specific projects.

Acquah will be working on a project idea by Nicholas Clifton, a Research Fellow at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom, to develop an online tool that will allow scientists to work together to communicate reliable sources of scientific information to the public. The project will include the development of a Google Chrome Extension that provides verified scientists the ability to score sources of scientific information.

Acquah said, “Being involved with the Lindau Nobel Laureates Sciathon and Online Science Days is a great opportunity to connect and work with scientists and economists from around the world to address some of the unique challenges we find today.”

The department hosted a virtual Undergraduate Awards Ceremony on May 7th via Zoom.

Students and their families were joined by faculty, staff, donors, and Dean Serio. While the applause and experience were virtual, the appreciation and gratitude towards our students and donors is sincere.

We are so proud of our students for their amazing ability to excel under circumstances!

Alzheimer’s disease has been intensely studied for decades, too much is still not known about molecular processes in the brain that cause it. Chemistry Professor Jianhan Chen says new insights from analytic theory and molecular simulation techniques offer a better understanding of amyloid fibril growth and brain pathology.

As senior author Chen notes, the “amyloid hypothesis” was promising – amyloid protein fibrils are a central feature in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. “But the process is really difficult to study,” he says. Chen and first author Zhiguang Jia, a research scientist in Chen’s computational biophysics lab, explored how building-block peptides form fibrils. “We are really proud of this work because, to the best of our knowledge, for the first time we have described the comprehensive process of how fibril growth can happen. We illustrate that the effects of disease-causing mutations often arise from the cumulative effects of many small perturbations. A comprehensive description is absolutely critical to generate reliable and testable hypothesis,” he adds. Details of their multi-scale approach with many atomistic simulations are in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Sankaran "Thai" Thayumanavan, Jeanne Hardy and Trisha L. Andrew received a one-year RAPID grant from the National Science Foundation, to investigate whether they can develop a simple, color-changing test swab for COVID-19 in the next year that would alert users if their body carries a viral product left after infection. RAPID supports proposals “having a severe urgency with regard to availability of, or access to data, facilities or specialized equipment, including quick-response research on natural or anthropogenic disasters and similar unanticipated events.”

The three researchers bring complementary expertise to the team, and are seeking “a cheap test that will tell if you should get checked by medical professionals because you are probably infected,” said Thayumanavan. Andrew adds, “Like a pregnancy test, but for viral infection.”

They stress that this is a research effort. “We are being very careful to point out that we are working on a general solution for detecting viral infections, which can be easily customized to specific viruses and then rapidly mobilized in times of dire need,” says Hardy. Andrew adds, “We are building up the basic science and chemistry needed for anyone to rapidly mass-produce tests that can be used at home. This concept certainly applies to the current COVID-19 pandemic but can also be relevant to future outbreaks.”

Upcoming Events

Kingshuk Dutta
Dissertation Defense
Thursday, July 9, 2020

"Engineering Stimuli-Responsive Polymeric Nanoassemblies: Rational Design for Intracellular Delivery of Biologics"

10:00 am
Research Adviser:
S. Thayumanavan
Mahdieh Yazdani
Dissertation Defense
Tuesday, August 25, 2020

"Understanding the gating of big potassium channels using atomistic simulations"

10:00 am
Zoom: TBA
Research Adviser:
Jianhan Chen