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In the News
Professor John F. Hartwig, from the University of California, Berkeley, will give his talk titled “Selective, Catalytic Functionaliztion of C-H Bonds with Small and Large Catalysts” for the Marvin D. Rausch Lectureship in Organometallic Chemistry on February 21, 2019 at 11:30 am in 1634 LGRT.
The lecture will present recent directions of research in his group toward discovering selective reactions of C-H bonds catalyzed by both transition metal complexes and artificial metalloenzymes. The design and selection, as well as the intimate mechanism, of catalysts and catalytic reactions for these selective functionalization processes will be presented.
Mingxu You Receives NSF Career Award
Chemistry's Mingxu You Receives NSF Career Award for "A Generalized Quantitative Imaging Approach for Small Molecules using Genetically Engineered RNA Sensors."
Mingxu You's long-term goal is to develop nucleic acid-based next-generation sensor platforms for cell biology studies and disease diagnostics. The overarching goal of his proposal is to engineer an RNA-based general sensing system for the quantitative measurement of metabolites, signaling molecules, and synthetic small molecules in living cells. These RNA-based sensors can be modularly adapted for the measurement of various analytes in individual cells, widely applicable in many clinical, industrial, and ecological settings.
Professor Trisha Andrew, Chemistry, has been selected to present the Kavli Foundation Emerging Leader in Chemistry Lecrure at the ACS Meeting in Orlando this April. The Kavli Foundation Lecture Series, supported by the Kavli Foundation, promotes pioneering discoveries to some of the worlds most pressing challenges.
It is with sadness that we report that Emeritus Professor Louis Carpino passed away on January 4, 2019.
Louis started as a faculty member in our Department in 1954 and, while he had been emeritus for a number of years, he remained active in research up until just last year (64 years in total!). Louis was an amazing organic chemist, who is best known for inventing the widely used t-Boc and F-moc amine protecting groups. These developments revolutionized peptide synthesis, with huge downstream impact across a wide swath of science. He was clearly one of the early leaders in putting UMass on the map.
Gierasch Receives Merrifield Award
Lila Gierasch, Distinguished Professor in Chemistry, and Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, was selected by the American Peptide Society to receive the 2019 Merrifield Award in recognition of her outstanding contributions to peptide science. The award named in honor of R. Bruce Merrifield recognizes the lifetime achievement of a peptide scientist.
Gierasch will be presented with the award at the 26th American Peptide Symposium in Monterey, CA, June 22-27, 2019
Manufacturing electrically heated textiles that are lightweight, flexible, and washable.
Professor of Chemistry Trisha Andrew and Morgan Baima ’18PhD both like to think with a practical eye on scientific problems. The two formed to merge technology and textiles—Soliyarn.
Soliyarn’s first product will be an innovation that’s gotten lots of attention, including from Nike, Under Armour, and U.S. military special operations: electrically heated garments, starting with gloves made from ordinary fabric coated with super-thin conductive polymers via a process developed in Andrew’s UMass lab. The gloves are powered by a tiny battery and are lightweight, flexible, and washable. “It’s a simple and useful application for our new technology,” says Andrew. Andrew and Baima predict that the buyers of their heated gloves and other garments will include motorcyclists, winter athletes, and outdoor workers, and they foresee further mergers of tech and textiles. “You could give me a T-shirt,” Andrew says, “and we could paint an electronically active pattern on it with our coating that could tell you your heart rate, measure your blood sugar, or store a charge.” Or, she says, Soliyarn could make a high-fashion gown that heats up, generates power as its skirt swirls, and stores power, too. One day, you will be able to sew or knit all kinds of electronic devices using coated threads. How about a car seat? Or a baby bottle warmer? A curtain that harvests solar energy?
Nature’s Version of Autocorrect
Sankaran “Thai” Thayumanavan, chemistry, has big plans for the $1.8 million National Science Foundation grant the campus has received to create a multi-university Center for Autonomous Chemistry. He and his colleagues, including fellow chemist Vince Rotello, seek to design artificial self-activating systems that mimic how biological systems respond automatically to subtle changes in their environment. Thayumanavan calls the process “automatic control as nature does it.”
He cites as an example the many components of the immune system that remain quiet and dormant until an irritant or pathogen is detected. “Once that happens,” says Thayumanavan, “it’s activated. It’s automatic, organically driven; that’s what we refer to as autonomous. The response requires no other intervention.” Thayumanavan knows of no current artificial systems with that capability and adds, “It would be really valuable if we could develop something like it. We want to figure out the ways in which nature uses molecular interactions to create autonomous function.”
Autonomous chemistry has a broad range of applications. Thayumanavan says that personalized medicine has a high profile at the moment and that the need for this type of innovation is widely and readily understood.
Hands-on research is a hallmark of undergraduate education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. We honor eight students from across campus with the Rising Researcher Award in recognition of their demonstrated leadership and impact in their chosen field of study. For Commonwealth Honors College student Bianca Edozie ’19, the opportunity to work in Professor Jenny Ross’ lab helped “ignite a passion for research I never knew I had.” A double major in chemistry, and biochemistry and molecular biology, Edozie works on projects that explore various behavioral aspects of microtubules—stiff, structural elements found in animal cells. Microtubules help form the spindle apparatus during cell division and can act as an intra-cellular transport system, among other things.
Her current project centers on creating “tactoids”, biologically relevant microtubule organizations that act as model mitotic spindles in the lab. The model allows Edozie and other researchers to explore the effects of proteins and enzymes on mitotic spindle organization. She recently published a paper with Ross that is now under review at Soft Matter. “Bianca is a brilliant student and one of the hardest working people I have ever met,” says Ross. Ross notes that Edozie represented UMass at a Research Experience for Undergraduates, which took place at Brandeis University. “She took new data, and performed incredibly difficult dynamics experiments that will continue this year as part of her honors thesis. This work will likely result in a second manuscript. I see no end to her possible future leadership in whatever field she continues,” says Ross.
In addition to her myriad technical skills, Edozie says she has learned independence in the lab setting, troubleshooting, and how to be confident. “My project has been more than just the research itself, but more specifically, what the research required me to learn as an aspiring scientist. I’ve acquired a wealth of knowledge, both new and supplemental to my education in the classroom,” says Edozie. She plans to attend graduate school in the fall.
In recognition of his demonstrated leadership, Mark Leon-Duque ’19, chemistry, was honored with the Rising Researcher Award. Leon-Duque transferred to UMass Amherst as a second-year student interested in getting a medical degree. A sophomore seminar class offered at that time introduced Leon-Duque to research projects underway on campus. “I promptly contacted Dr. Mingxu You (chemistry) asking to shadow his lab members and by the spring semester, I was working on a project, handling the experimental portions and some of the analysis,” says Leon-Duque.
In the first two years of his time at the You lab, Leon-Duque worked closely with research fellow Aruni P.K.K. Karunanayake Mudiyanselag. Together they developed a new RNA-based imaging system for detecting small RNA molecules within live cells. “Our efforts and the resulting manuscript was published in The Journal of The American Chemical Society. I tested a few of our designs independently that earned me my name as third co-author on the publication. Currently, I am working independently on expanding this imaging system to apply to other small molecules,” says Leon-Duque.
“Publishing my first paper with Aruni and all the other contributors gave me such an exhilarated rush, a true sense of accomplishment,” says Leon-Duque. “The project also taught me things that are completely out of the scope of the typical chemistry undergrad curriculum. I know that I want to do research, whether it will be in academia or in industry remains to be revealed. Nevertheless, I feel my sense of purpose and I will tread this path will diligence and my best effort,” he notes.
“Mark has demonstrated great potential to be an independent scientist. He can learn new techniques and knowledge very quickly and his results are repeatable and trustable,” says You.
Chemistry's own Vincent Rotello is one of twelve researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who have been recognized for being among the world’s most highly cited researchers in 2018.
The analysis by Philadelphia-based Clarivate Analytics, owner of Web of Science, serves as the basis for regular listings of researchers whose citation records put them in the top one percent by citations for their field and year.
These scientists are judged to be “influential,” and their citation records are seen as “a mark of exceptional impact,” the company says. This year’s list from UMass Amherst includes five more than the seven named in 2017. Placement on the list has been recognized as a significant achievement for those named, Clarivate says.
The twelve recognized for 2018 are astronomers Daniela Calzetti and Mauro Giavalisco; polymer science and engineering professor Thomas P. Russell; microbiologist Derek Lovley, environmental scientist Baoshan Xing of the Stockbridge School, chemist Vincent Rotello and his former graduate student Chaekyu Kim, and food scientists Eric Decker, David Julian McClements, Yeonhwa Park, Hang Xiao and their former graduate student Cheng Qian.
Tenure Track Assistant Professor - Materials Chemistry
The Department of Chemistry at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is embarking on a strategic hiring program enabled by a $102M investment in the new Physical Sciences Building and a $45M investment in the University’s core facilities. We are seeking talented applicants for two tenure-track faculty at the Assistant Professor level to begin September 2019 or thereafter. Under exceptional circumstances, highly qualified candidates at other ranks may receive consideration. We seek applicants who will develop or continue vigorous research programs in the areas of synthetic materials chemistry and/or characterization of materials/interfaces.
Tenure Track Assistant Professor - DNA/RNA Delivery
The Department of Chemistry at the University of Massachusetts and the Center for Bioactive Delivery at the Institute for Applied Life Sciences are embarking on a strategic hiring program enabled by the creation of this Institute. Applications are invited for a full-time, tenure track faculty position in the Chemistry Department at the Assistant Professor level to begin September 2019 or thereafter. We seek applicants who will develop or continue a vigorous research program in the use of or delivery of biomolecules, especially RNA, for the development of therapeutic candidates to treat diseases or disorders. Areas of interest include, but are not limited to, siRNA/miRNA methodologies or delivery technologies, mRNA-based therapies, RNA/protein design, selection or engineering, and novel genome editing technologies.