Looking Back on 2018

Happy New Year! As we enter 2019, a new year of innovation and achievement, let’s take some time to appreciate some of the wonderful things that took place in the Department of Chemistry during 2018.

Chemistry Unbound Article Selected as ACS Editors’ Choice

In the Fall of 2017, Emory’s Department of Chemistry overhauled its undergraduate curriculum to introduce a more interdisciplinary approach to teaching chemistry. The new course structure, named Chemistry Unbound, was designed to weave concepts of traditional chemistry disciplines together, giving students a more comprehensive foundation of the field.

This curriculum reform was described in “Chemistry Unbound: Designing a New Four-Year Undergraduate Curriculum”, written with contributions from Tracy L. McGill, Leah C. Williams, Douglas R. Mulford, Simon B. Blakey, Robert J. Harris, James T. Kindt, David G. Lynn, Patricia A. Marsteller, Frank E. McDonald, and Nichole L. Powell. The article, which was recently published in the Journal of Chemical Education, has been selected by the ACS as “Editors’ Choice”. This recognition highlights the value of the publication as a significant contribution to the global scientific community.

We are so proud of the success of Chemistry Unbound! Congratulations who everyone who contributed to such a wonderful accomplishment!

Click [here] to read the article!

Emory University News: Record-Breaking Research Funding

Emory University News recently published an article discussing the value and impact of the record-breaking research funding the University has been awarded this year. In fiscal year 2018, Emory University received $734 million in external research funding, increasing 17% from last year and setting the record for external funding support in the school’s history.

From the article:

 “I commend our faculty and our research leaders for this tremendous accomplishment,” says Jonathan S. Lewin, Emory vice president for health affairs and executive director of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center.“This result reflects a long-term, sustained effort to create meaningful positive impact on health and wellness through our faculty’s groundbreaking discoveries, improving the lives of patients here in Atlanta, across the nation, and around the world.” 

The article also mentioned the $20 million awarded to the Center for Selective C-H Functionalization (CCHF) to fund the next phase of their global effort towards revolutionizing organic synthesis. Huw Davies, director of the CCHF, was quoted:

“Our center is at the forefront of a major shift in the way that we do chemistry. This shift holds great promise for creating new pathways for drug discovery and the production of new materials to benefit everything from agriculture to electronics.”

Click [here] to read the full article!

ChEmory Wins ACS Green Chemistry Student Chapter Award

ChEmory, our undergraduate ACS club, has won a Green Chemistry Student Chapter Award! This award recognizes student chapters that participate in three or more green chemistry outreach or educational activities throughout the year.

Photo from Ashley Diaz, ChEmory President

Firstly, ChEmory hosted a liquid nitrogen ice cream booth at the Student Activities Fair. While teaching visitors about the crystallization process of ice cream and recruiting new members to join the club, they made ice cream in reusable bowls and handed out samples in compostable cups. At the Fernbank Museum, ChEmory took their gastronomy a step further, making edible whiskey droplets. The only waste generated from the making of the whiskey droplets were the droppers themselves, which were disposable and recyclable.

Photo from Ashley Diaz, ChEmory President

At the Atlanta Science Festival, the group made slime from borax and polyvinyl alcohol. Because the slime was made with nontoxic and widely-available reagents, ChEmory members took the opportunity to teach about the concept of biodegradable, low-waste chemistry. Finally, in collaboration with the Artisan guild, club members used biodegradable, all-natural materials to make their own soap. By designing degradable products and utilizing renewable source materials, participants left the event with both a better understanding of green chemistry and a handmade bar of soap to use at home!

Congratulations, ChEmory!!

Interested in learning more? Check out ChEmory on Facebook!

 

Francesco Evangelista Receives Grant for Quantum Information Science Research

The U.S Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced $218M in funding for research in the emerging field of Quantum Information Science.

Francesco Evangelista, recipient of the 2017 Dirac Medal and the 2018 Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, is the lead PI for $3.9M of this funding for his research on “Quantum Chemistry for Quantum Computers.” The award is the first that Emory has received to study quantum computing.

The Quantum Information Science program seeks to lay the foundation for future innovation in the realm of computing and information processing. The awards, made in conjunction with the White House Summit on Advancing American Leadership in Quantum Information Science, are led by scientists at 28 higher learning institutes and 9 DOE national laboratories. Research funded by the awards will span a range of topics from the new generation of quantum computers to using quantum computing for understanding cosmic phenomena.

The abstract for Dr. Evangelista’s “Quantum Chemistry for Quantum Computers” appears below:

“Over the past fifty years, quantum chemistry has had a transformative impact on chemistry and materials science by enabling the computational prediction of properties and reactivity of molecules and materials. Two factors have made this success possible: the development of efficient theories of electronic structure and the steady growth of computing power. Nevertheless, quantum chemistry methods are currently unable to tackle strongly correlated molecules and materials, owing to the exponential complexity of the fundamental physics of these systems. Quantum computers manipulate information using quantum mechanical principles and offer a solution to this problem. With the rapid development of quantum computing hardware and algorithms, there is a realistic expectation that quantum computers will outperform their classical counterparts within the next decade. However, the first generation of quantum computers is unlikely to have a transformative impact on chemistry and materials science unless their power is leveraged by combining them with new algorithms specifically designed to take advantage of quantum hardware. The objective of this research is to create the next generation of quantum chemistry methods for strongly correlated molecules and solids that will run on the first generation of quantum computers. This research will also develop standard benchmarks for testing the accuracy and computing power of new quantum hardware and will validate prototypes of quantum computers in collaborations with industry partners. More generally, this project paves the way to applications of quantum computers to study challenging strongly correlated systems critical to the mission of the DOE such as transition metal catalysts, high-temperature superconductors, and novel materials that are beyond the realm of classical simulation.”

Congratulations, Dr. Evangelista!

Check out the video to learn more about the amazing research happening in the Evangelista lab!

Dennis Liotta Receives Honorary Doctorate from the University of Ottawa

Congratulations to Dr. Dennis Liotta for receiving an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of Ottawa. Honorary doctorate degrees acknowledge the value of the abilities and experiences of the recipient and are awarded for significant contributions made by the recipient to the University of Ottawa, their profession, or society. Upon receiving the honorary degree, Dr. Dennis Liotta delivered a speech to the graduating class of the University.

“We can’t afford to sit and wait for others to change the world — we have to do it ourselves. The good news is that we all have the capacity to make the world a better place. All that is required is that we be proactive and persistent on an issue or cause that we’re passionate about. So, this is my challenge to all of you here today. Examine your own lives, identify a problem compatible with your skills and pursue it. If it’s something you’re passionate about and you’re willing to persevere, I guarantee you that you’ll find a way of doing it well. Remember, however, that this is marathon, not a sprint. So, don’t ever lose sight of your goals and your dreams.”

Click [here] to read the whole speech.

Congratulations, Dr. Liotta!

Huw Davies to Receive the Herbert C. Brown Award for Creative Research in Synthetic Methods

Congratulations to Dr. Huw Davies for being named the recipient of the Herbert C. Brown Award for Creative Research in Synthetic Methods given by the American Chemical Society for 2019. This award recognizes  outstanding and creative research involved in the discovery and development of novel and useful methods for chemical synthesis.

National award winners will be honored at a ceremony in conjunction with the 257th ACS National Meeting on Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019 in Orlando, Florida.

Congratulations, Dr. Davies!

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Jose Soria Named “Emory Williams Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award” Winner

As Senior Lecturer for the Department of Chemistry, Dr. Jose Soria has taught lectures and laboratories ranging from introductory 100-level courses to 400-level advanced courses. His sees the classroom as a space for scientific discussion and the sharing of ideas, an approach which has been well-received by his students and undergraduate TAs. Dr. Soria’s dedication to his student’s and unique teaching style were recently recognized with the Emory Williams Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award. The award is given in recognition of a record of excellence in teaching, contributions to curriculum development in the awardee’s academic discipline, and pedagogical innovation.

As a young child growing up in Mexico, Dr. Soria was curious about science. He recalls playing with fireworks and doing “experiments” with his neighbors during his grade school years before he even knew what chemistry was. In middle school chemistry courses, he was fascinated by the changing structures and properties of compounds. After taking his first laboratory class, he was totally captivated.

Dr. Soria earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in chemistry from Universidad Nactional Atonoma before moving to the United States to pursue is doctorate degree here at Emory University. Following graduation, Dr. Soria opted to apply for his green card, allowing him to stay at Emory to complete a postdoc in the lab of Dr. Dennis Liotta. During this time, he became interested in teaching. He took a part-time position at a local two-year college where he could teach classes in the evenings. His experiences in the classroom lead him to apply for more permanent teaching positions, ultimately landing him back at Emory as a member of chemistry’s lecture-track faculty.

His classroom now is based primarily on free-flowing discussions. “When I go into the classroom, I have a plan of what we are going to discuss, but the way that it is discussed is not planned. It is not rehearsed because each community, each group, is different,” says Dr. Soria. He values creating a space that encourages students to speak up about their ideas, ask their questions, and grow as scientists together. Reflecting on an early experience during his teaching career, Dr. Soria explains that a group of minority students approached him and expressed their appreciation for the way he explained his research. That interaction influenced the way he continues to structures his class, with a focus on making the complex concepts more approachable through discussion and application.

Dr. Soria’s willingness to mentor also resonates with his students. “I think the thing that really stands out to me about Dr. Soria’s teaching style is his dedication to mentoring his students. When I told him I was going to be applying for grad schools, he asked to meet up with me so that we could talk about the process, what I should look for in a school, what questions I should ask, and what kinds of programs would be the best fit for me,” says recent chemistry graduate Daniel Salgueiro (EC’18, Blakey Group). “All in all, Dr. Soria is a very supportive and helpful professor, and I recommend all of his classes to anyone who asks me.”

Dr. Soria’s most recent undergraduate TAs, Eddy Ortega (EC’18, Liebeskind Group) and Nilang Shah (EC’18, Levin Group) also have wonderfully positive things to say about his teaching. “Dr. Soria values the environment of his class, the spirit of discussion, and teamwork,” says Eddy. “He loves pushing students to achieve their full potential and promotes students to give concise and well thought answers,” added Nilang.

Dr. Soria remembers seeing a colleague win the Williams Award twelve years ago and thinking “I want to be like him”. He worked hard to build his credentials since then, developing the courses that are now so greatly appreciated by his students. Support for his ideas from chemistry chairs—five in his career, so far!—and collaboration with other faculty and staff have also contributed to his development. The supportive community has helped Dr. Soria during his ongoing project of building a supportive, and now award-winning, classroom.

 

Jen Heemstra and Bill Wuest Named Scialog Fellows

Bill Wuest. Photo by Jessica Lily Photography for Work+Play.
Jen Heemstra. Photo by Jessica Lily Photography for Work+Play.

Associate Professors Dr. Jen Heemstra and Dr. Bill Wuest have both been named Scialog Fellows for the Chemical Machinery of the Cell. Scialog, supported by the Research Corporation for Scientific Advancement and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation,  aims to advance human knowledge by supporting and empowering early career scientists. Fellows work in community with other scientists in their theme area to learn and discover through the give-and-take of community building among multidisciplinary teams.

The Scialog on the Chemical Machinery of the Cell is based on the conviction that the time is right to bring together chemists and biologists to spark collaborations and develop interdisciplinary

Bill Wuest. Photo by Jessica Lily Photography for Work+Play.
Bill Wuest. Photo by Jessica Lily Photography for Work+Play.

projects that will catapult us to a deeper understanding of chemical machinery and reactions in the intact cell. The group will explore questions such as “How does the cell organize reactions in functionally distinct compartments that are not bound by membranes?” and “What combination of new chemical tools including chemical probes, optical techniques, and quantum methods can bring about molecular resolution of the chemical machinery in intact, living cells?”

Jen and Bill will have the opportunity to engage with other Chemical Machinery of the Cell fellows at the upcoming Scialog conference in Tucson, Arizona.

Congratulations, Jen and Bill!