2018 Padwa Lecture: Dr. Guangbin Dong

On Wednesday, September 19th, Dr. Guangbin Dong joined us from the University of Chicago for the 2018 Padwa Lecture. This lecture, “Site-Selective C—C and C—H Functionalization of Ketones”, was made possible by the generous support from Emeritus Professor Al Padwa. The lecture highlighted important discoveries in the field of C—C and C—H Functionalization, including a regioselective ketone α-alkylation reaction using simple olefins and an approach for catalytic C-C bond activation of cyclopentanones and some cyclohexanones.

This lecture was hosted by Dr. Simon Blakey and the Center for Selective C—H Functionalization.

CCHF and Fusion Science Theater Communicating Science Workshop

At the end of April, the CCHF hosted a Communicating Science Workshop given by playwright, chemist, and educator Holly Walter Kerby. During the workshop, Kerby provided training in the tools and concepts behind story-telling to an audience of enthusiastic students and faculty members. As Founder and Executive Director of Fusion Science Theater (FST), Kerby uses her own scientific story-telling in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) outreach. The idea behind FST is to engage children in learning science by capitalizing on the techniques of theater. Through entertaining and educational demonstrations, FST promotes curiosity in the next generation of scientists.

In the first of two workshops, Kerby’s workshop taught the techniques of FST to graduate students and postdocs with a focus on the techniques of story-telling from scientific question to conclusion. Attendees were encouraged to use their research as a “plot” to develop their own stories. Participants used small graphic visual aids to help move the story along. Kerby helped Emory scientists to see how the ability to design and deliver a story is unquestionably valuable in the scientific community. From giving a presentation at a conference to participating in outreach events, scientists are required to engage and inform a wide audience. Story-telling has been proven to be a more impactful way of sharing information, making it particularly useful in the scientific arena.

In her second workshop, Kerby helped attendees capitalize on their storytelling skills to develop demonstrations to be used at future outreach events. Students put together presentations covering topics from catalysis to C-H functionalization, primarily targeted towards young audiences. The presentations were also designed to encourage audience participation using a show of hands or a vote. Kerby explained that engaging the audience in this way peaks their enthusiasm for the material and provides meaningful feedback regarding the effectiveness of the presentation.  The afternoon was spent developing ideas, building props, and rehearsing.

When the second day of the workshop rolled around, presenters were prepared to show off their demonstrations in front of an audience. The room was filled with guests—including chemistry faculty and staff— who served as the audience for the demos and then provided valuable feedback on how to further refine them for future use. Keep an eye out for some of the unique demonstrations at next year’s Atlanta Science Festival!

Thank you to the CCHF and Holly Walker Kerby for fantastic workshop!

Interested in participating in more CCHF events? Click here!

Interested in learning more about FST? Click here!

Atlanta Science Festival: Beatrice the Biologist and Science Communication

The Atlanta Science Festival brings STEM out of the lab and into the Atlanta community with two weeks of events culminating in the “Exploration Expo” regularly attended by over 18,000 people. ASF was founded in 2014 by a group of Emory staff and faculty, including former chemistry (now ASF!) staff Meisa Salaita and Sarah Peterson and chemistry faculty member David Lynn. Chemistry has sponsored at least one festival event every year. This blog series covers just some of chemistry’s involvement in the 2018 festival.

Beatrice the Biologist (a.k.a Katie McKissick) discusses a comic concept with postdoc Claire Jarvis (Wuest Group).

As part of the festivities, the Department of Chemistry at Emory welcomed Katie McKissick to learn about her career as author and illustrator of Beatrice the Biologist. Katie’s visit was initiated by chemistry graduate student Anthony Sementilli (Lynn Group) as an outgrowth of the Emory “Chemmy” seminars that seek to bring speakers to campus with student hosts. Anthony felt that Katie’s work would interest other students looking towards a career in outreach or seeking to share their day-to-day work via a social media presence. Anthony received support for Katie’s visit from Emory’s Hightower Fund, AWIS, the ILA, and Biology as well as the Atlanta Science Festival. “Anthony was able to help cover his costs through multiple funding sources, but more importantly, he was successful in engaging a wide community with what Katie has to teach,” says chemistry outreach coordinator Kira Walsh, who provided administrative support for the visit. “It was great to see students from across Emory benefiting from Katie’s perspective. And the Atlanta community also got into the act with the standing room only comics workshop at historic Manuel’s tavern.”

Before Beatrice the Biologist, Katie was a high school biology teacher. During her time as an educator, she found that she was incredibly passionate about the way in which the information was taught. Specifically, she appreciated the process of lesson planning and preparing scientific information in a format that would be more approachable and interesting to her students. “I enjoyed thinking about how people learned more than I liked actually teaching” says Katie. This prompted her to start her blog, Beatrice the Biologist.

As Beatrice the Biologist grew in popularity, Katie was recruited to blog for Scientific American, worked in the Communications Office for the School of Engineering at USC, and later for NASA’s jet-propulsion laboratory where she wrote about space for children and adult audiences. Katie now writes for the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and produces her own podcast called “Science Brunch”, co-hosted by Mae Prynce.

During her visit to Emory, Katie gave students the chance to get to know the face behind Beatrice the Biologist. She taught multiple workshops about how to draw science cartoons and how to use blogs to build an online presence. She also gave a career seminar about pursuing scientific outreach. Katie’s love of teaching was apparent in her approach—she gave students a list of action items that she found to be the most valuable during her journey into scientific communication and encouraged them to think in depth about possible audiences, content strategy, platforms, and branding. In the comics workshop, students generated a draft comic on the spot!

“My audience,” says Katie, “are people like my former students who think they don’t like science only to discover that they actually do.” She reaches this audience using short, digestible content in the form of fun comics that focus on commonly misunderstood concepts. She explains that her comics can capture the attention of people who either already know the information and, therefore, appreciate the humor or people who don’t already know the information and can then learn something new.

Of course, effective science communication depends on more than just the quality of the content. Katie also provided the audience at her blogging workshop with insight into how to grow a brand and develop a far-reaching online presence. “We live in an amazing time when people are actually so accessible,” says Katie, emphasizing the importance of social media for disseminating information.  She even provided attendees with advice on how to “navigate rough waters” when it comes to social media faux pas. “You never want to assume people have context,” says Katie, “Especially if you are trying to make jokes!” Katie helped students to define their approach by encouraging them to complete a mission statement that could guide the curation of their online presence.

Katie’s visit to Emory gave students and faculty the unique chance to get to know the person behind Beatrice the Biologist and to learn all the best tips and tricks of science communication. She showed us how passion and creativity evolved “nerdy” science comics into a dynamic and entertaining platform for “cultivating curiosity and appreciation for science and nature one giggle at a time.”

To check out more from Beatrice the Biologist, click [here].

CCHF Symposium: Chemistry in the Pharmaceutical Industry

On Wednesday, January 10th, the Center for Selective C-H Functionalization (CCHF) hosted ‘Chemistry in the Pharmaceutical Industry’, a symposium organized to celebrate chemistry in the pharmaceutical sciences. The event featured speakers across academia and industry to provide a comprehensive view of some recent advances in the pharmaceutical field.

Speakers included:

James Mousseau of Pfizer Inc.

“Leveraging Industrial/Academic Collaborations to Increase Access of New 3-Dimensional Architectures”


Kaid Harper of AbbVie Inc.

“Scaling Photoredox Catalysis in Flow”


Duncan Shaw of Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research

“Designing PDGFR inhibitors for duration of action after inhaled delivery”


Jaume Balsells-padros of Merck & Co., Inc.

“Radical Conjugate addition of alkyl bromides to α,β-unsaturated amides and esters via photoredox catalysis”


Scott Miller of Yale University

“Catalytic Site- and Enantioselective Electrophillic Aromatic Substitutions”


The lectures were followed by a poster session during which new advances in the field were presented and discussed.

Chemistry Kicks Off Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiative with STRIDE Seminar

Ted Bergin

On Wednesday, September 27th, the Emory University Department of Chemistry was pleased to welcome Dr. Edwin (Ted) Bergin, Professor and Chair of Astronomy at the University of Michigan, to speak about “Strategies and Tactics Developed at the University of Michigan to Enhance Diversity and Excellence in the Hiring Process.”

Dr. Bergin has spent three years as a member of the University of Michigan’s STRIDE (Strategies and Tactics for Recruiting to Improve Diversity and Excellence) committee. STRIDE formed over a decade ago to provide information and advice for identifying, recruiting, retaining, and promoting diverse, well-qualified candidates for faculty positions at the University of Michigan. Since then, the committee has delivered more than 150 workshops to faculty recruitment committees at other Universities across the country.

“The committee has the mission to try to increase both diversity and excellence throughout the University, and the main vehicle is through the hiring process,” Dr. Bergin said. “Having a more diverse faculty can lead to more thoughtful and deliberative discussions. So, diversity and excellence go hand-in-hand.” During the STRIDE workshop seminar, Dr. Bergin provided attendees with insights into how hidden biases influence our perceptions and strategies to circumvent these biases. He outlined the “Top Ten Best Practices”, a comprehensive list of steps to take during the hiring process to recruit for diversity and excellence.

Emory as an institution strives to cultivate an inclusive and diverse community with a respectful intellectual stage for sharing ideas and innovation. Based on the Emory University 2016-2017 Academic Profile, minorities comprise 32 percent of the student body, 28 percent of faculty and 49 percent of staff, women comprise 58 percent of the student body, 42 percent of faculty and 62 percent of staff, and 17 percent of the student body is international.

Earlier this year, The Emory Department of Chemistry formed a task force, led by Dr. James Kindt, to address issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. One of its members, Dr. Susanna Widicus Weaver, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, invited Dr. Bergin for this seminar after learning that he was instrumental in achieving gender balance at an astrochemistry conference they both attended.  “Our Emory Chemistry task force took a look at the goals of the STRIDE group and decided that Professor Bergin would be a fantastic speaker to bring in to kick off our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiative,” Dr. Widicus Weaver said. “Increasing diversity in our community means that we introduce new ideas, new ways of thought, and new perspectives. Diversity, equity, and inclusion makes us stronger as a Department and enriches our community.”

Moving forward, the Department of Chemistry Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion task force plan to have more events like this one to provide training and strategies to better address the possible bias-based obstacles to achieving a diverse and inclusive community. By raising awareness and starting conversations centered around these concepts, The Emory Department of Chemistry can take pride in not only seeking diversity, but truly taking the steps to achieve it.


Tomas Hudlicky to Give Organic Reactions Lecture

Tomas Hudlicky
Tomas Hudlicky

Professor Tomas Hudlicky from the Department of Chemistry at Brock University in Canada will be presenting the very first Organic Reactions lecture at Emory on March 13, 2017. Dr. Hudlicky’s research is widely recognized throughout the organic community and he has made numerous contributions to the discipline of chemistry. Tomas’s research program concentrates on the chemoenzymatic synthesis of medicinally important targets and on the development of impactful synthetic methodology and natural product synthesis. 

Organic Reactions is a comprehensive reference work that contains authoritative, critical reviews of many important synthetic reactions. The aim of Organic Reactions since its initial publication in 1942 has been to assist organic chemists in the design of new experiments by providing “critical discussions of the more important synthetic reactions.”

In keeping with Organic Reactions mission to advance research and education in organic chemistry, this organization supports a number of different activities including graduate symposia, visiting professorships and the Roger Adams Award from the ACS. Organic Reactions is sponsor a Lectureship at Emory University in 2017 in recognition of Professor Al Padwa. Dr. Padwa is currently on the OR Board of Editors and generously contributes his time and effort to the Organic Reactions enterprise.  

Dr. Hudlicky’s seminar,”Chemoenzymatic total synthesis of natural products: Recent progress in approaches to morphine and other complex targets,” will take place in Atwood Hall 360 at 2:00pm on Monday, March 13th. Dr. Padwa will present the Organic Reactions Endowed Lectureship Award to Dr. Hudlicky at the seminar.


Chemistry Graduate Students Welcome Carl Lineberger for the First Chemmy Seminar

W. Carl Lineberger

On Wednesday, February 8th, the graduate students of the Department of Chemistry will welcome W. Carl Lineberger, E. U. Condon Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at the University of Colorado, Boulder, for the first-ever Chemmy Award Seminar. Dr. Lineberger is a recent winner of the NAS Award in the Chemical Sciences, a member of the National Science Board and the National Research Council Laboratory Assessments Board as well as a fellow of JILA and a member of the editorial board of Chemical Physics Letters. His Wednesday seminar is entitled “Once Upon Anion: A Tale of Photodetachment.”

The “Chemmys” are a seminar program developed and hosted by graduate students in the department. The aim of the seminars is to allow students to recognize scientists who they feel are doing the most exciting work in the field from year to year. In addition, the Chemmys give students an opportunity for professional development, interacting with top scientists from outside Emory to develop a visit schedule and discuss current research.

In its inaugural year, chemistry graduate students will welcome four Chemmy speakers. In addition to Dr. Lineberger, they are Daniel Nocera (Harvard), Ruben Abagyan (UCSD), and Alex Dunn (Stanford). The recipients were chosen through a nomination and voting progress open to all graduate students.

Asked why made time for the Chemmy visit, Dr. Lineberger said: “The answer is a simple truth which is likely shared by 95% (or more) of your seminar visitors. You have to look very hard to find a faculty member who does not respond favorably to flattery, and there is nothing more flattering than having a collection of students contact you asking you to speak! Now you know that you are speaking to an audience that really matters, and they invited you. This is simply too appealing an invitation to be able to decline, unless finding a suitable date is impossible!”

When he isn’t adventuring as the first-ever Chemmy Awardee, Dr. Lineberger sometimes spends time at the South Pole! He is pictured here with France Cordova, then an NSB Colleague and now the Director of the NSF.

Amanda Dermer (Heaven Group) spearheaded the development of the Chemmy program. “The goal of the Chemmys is to encourage more students to participate and have a say in deciding on some of the seminar speakers who speak to the chemistry department,” she says. “I am very appreciative of the department’s support in the new student-hosted speaker program!” Anthony Sementilli (Lynn Group) the current Outreach Coordinator for the Pi Alpha Chemical Society was also key in bringing the new seminars from idea to reality.

Continuing the theme of student involvement, Mallory Theis (Heaven Group), the current president of PACS, designed the glass Chemmy Award that will be presented to Chemmy speakers. “We expect it to become a coveted item in the field of chemistry!” says Outreach and Seminar Coordinator Kira Walsh.

As part of catering to student interests, Dr. Lineberger will focus a portion of his seminar on explaining the fundamentals of his research program in a graduate-level overview. In addition, he looks forward to meeting with students to talk research. “I feel that I am coming to Emory to see students, much more than faculty,” says Dr. Lineberger. “While I have many friends on the faculty, I would be extremely pleased and flattered to spend the time at Emory meeting with students individually or in larger groups and speaking about anything from science, to science policy, or to choosing a career.

Dr. Lineberger’s seminar will take place at 2:00pm in Atwood 360 and will be followed by a reception.

Photo Gallery: Emerson Symposium Brings Arieh Warshel to Emory

The 2016 Emerson Center Lectureship Award Symposium was held in Harland Cinema on September 23rd, 2016. Professor Arieh Warshel of the University of Southern California, the 2013 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, was the Emerson award winner and keynote speaker. His talk was titled “How to Model the Action of Complex Biological Systems on a Molecular Level.” The symposium also featured talks by David Lynn, Brian Dyer, and R. Prabhakar (University of Miami). The symposium was hosted by Jamal Musaev and the Emerson Center for Scientific Computation. Financial support for the symposium came from the Emory’s Hightower fund, the Department of Chemistry, and Microway Technologies.

2016 Emerson Center Award Symposium to Feature Arieh Warshel


The Emerson Center’s 2016 Award Symposium will take place on Friday, September 23rd in Harland Cinema in the Dobbs University Center (DUC). The keynote speaker will be Arieh Warshel, the 2013 Nobel Prize Winner in Chemistry. Other speakers include David Lynn and Brian Dyer from Emory and Professor Rajeev Prabhakar from the University of Miami. The symposium is co-sponsored by the Emerson Center for Scientific Computing, Microway, and Emory’s Hightower Fund.

Students–graduate and undergraduate–are invited to submit posters for the poster session taking place from 11-12:30. Two “Best Poster” awards will be conferred at the end of the session.

The symposium is free, but registration is required. Please register at http://www.emerson.emory.edu/conferences/form/register.html.

Full Symposium Flyer


Dennis Liotta Speaks at TedX Place Des Nations

Dennis Liotta gives Tedx talk
Screenshot of Dennis Liotta giving Ted talk from YouTube

Dennis Liotta was the first speaker at the TEDx Place Des Nations event on February 11th. He discussed innovative partnerships such as Emory’s Drivedesigned to “bridge the gap from scientific discovery to helping patients.” The talk entitled “A Drug Discover’s Approach to Neglected Diseases” was streamed live and is now available in its entirety on YouTube.

[Full Talk]