Dr. Joel Bowman Takes Sabbatical in Germany with Alexander von Humboldt Research Award

Dr. Joel Bowman, Professor of Theoretical Chemistry here at Emory University, is no stranger to the international scientific arena. While he is a fellow of the American Physical Society and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, his academic success spans far beyond our national borders. Dr. Bowman also serves as a member of the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Sciences and, most recently, received the international Alexander von Humboldt Research Award in recognition of his lifetime achievements and potential future discoveries. This award, given by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany, seeks to foster international scientific collaborations by inviting award recipients to carry out research projects alongside their German colleagues.

This Spring, Dr. Bowman used his award to work at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in collaboration with professor Alec Wodtke of the University of Goettingen. Before arriving in Goettingen, Dr. Bowman also took the opportunity to travel to Cambridge University where he caught up with colleagues and further strengthened his international collaborations. His research interests involve theoretical and computational techniques to explore chemical reactions and molecular vibrational dynamics. Specifically, Dr. Bowman is interested in understanding the intricacies of the hydrated proton, a seemingly simple player in acid/base chemistry whose true nature is still widely misunderstood.

During his travels, he visited several labs in Germany that share this interest, working on chemical reaction dynamics. In addition, while there was certainly plenty to learn during his trip, Dr. Bowman didn’t miss the opportunity to teach as well. He helped to organize a workshop titled “Developing High-Dimensional Potential Energy Surfaces- From the Gas Phase to Materials”. The workshop was centered around machine learning, a topic which has recently gained attention across several scientific disciplines. By using computer simulations to understand complex mechanisms and quantitatively make predictions, machine learning provides scientists with a powerful tool for addressing otherwise inaccessible inquiries.

The far-reaching scope of machine learning mirrors the breadth of Dr. Bowman’s travels and collaborations. Although he has returned from his sabbatical, Dr. Bowman already plans to revisit Germany in the near future. He says that Germany has “tremendous scientific energy” and is excited to continue collaborating with colleagues across the globe. Of course, during his travels, he will continue to take advantage of the high density of science in Europe. With planes, trains, (and bikes!), he can reach out to colleagues across the entire continent in a very unique and powerful way.

Finally, Dr. Bowman wants to encourage other scientists to reach out for collaborations across the world. He emphasized the value of international collaborations, noting how they can completely transform ideas and enhance the quality of science. “If machine learning is able to take lots of data across boundaries,” says Dr. Bowman, “well then so is science.”

Congratulations to the 2019 NSF GRFP Awardees and Honorable Mentions!

Congratulations to the 2019 NSF GRFP Awardees and Honorable Mentions!

The Department of Chemistry is so proud of its NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Awardees for 2019! The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program provides recognition and support for outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported STEM disciplines. The GRFP selects recipients with great promise to achieve high levels of success in their future academic and professional endeavors.

2019 NSF GRFP Awardees:

Anna Kaplan

Anna earned her Bachelor’s degree from Bowdoin college before coming to Emory University in 2018. During her undergraduate studies, she participated in The Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program for two different projects. She has since joined the Wuest Lab, where she works on organic synthesis of natural products and analogs thereof to discover new narrow-spectrum antibiotics. She is also involved in various outreach events with PACS and The Association for Women in Science  (AWIS), including the Atlanta Science Festival and the Emory Summer Science Academy.

 

Savannah Post

Savannah joined the Wuest lab in 2018 after earning her undergraduate degree from Berry College. While at Berry, she worked on methods for stereoselective synthesis and the synthesis of Lumacaftor analogues for the treatment of cystic fibrosis. Now, Savannah works on the total synthesis of an antibacterial natural product. Savannah is also actively involved with The Association for Women in Science (AWIS), currently serving as their Treasurer.

 

Daniel Salgueiro

Daniel, who graduated from Emory University in 2018, now attends graduate school at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He works in the lab of Dr. Dan Weix, where he uses Cross-Electrophile Coupling (XEC) to form sp3-sp3-sp2 C-C bonds. His NSF proposal was on the use of cooperative diaryl ketone/palladium catalysis to use allylic C-H bonds as pronucleophiles for traditional cross-coupling, based on the research he worked on in Blakey Lab during his time at Emory.

 

Ingrid Wilt

Ingrid is a member of the Wuest lab, currently working on total synthesis of a natural product with anti-fungal activity. Before joining the Wuest lab in 2018, Ingrid attended Colorado College where she conducted research under the guidance of Dr. Habiba Vaghoo. In addition to her research, Ingrid serves as the co-speaker chair for The Association for Women in Science (AWIS).

 

2019 NSF GRFP Honorable Mentions:

Rachel Bender

After graduating from Capital University with a B.A. in chemistry and biochemistry and minors in math and biology, Rachel came to Emory University where she is co-advised by Dr. Jen Heemstra and Dr. Khalid Salaita. Her project involves characterizing the biophysical properties of peptide nucleic acids with a goal of developing them into a tool for analyzing cell mechanics. In addition to her research, Rachel volunteers with Science for Georgia and the Atlanta Science Festival and serves as STEM Activity Leader with the Discovery Program Inc. Rachel has also been the recipient of an Emory Graduate Diversity Fellowship.

Aaron Bosse

Aaron joined the Davies Lab in 2017 after earning his bachelor’s degree from College of the Holy Cross. In the Davies Lab, he works on total synthesis of paracyclophane natural products, method development of new diazo precursors for C-H functionalization, and exotic C-H functionalization substrates useful to pharma. He actively works with the CCHF, having helped run their booth at the Atlanta Science Festival for the past two years. Aaron was named the ACS Division of Organic Chemistry Most Outstanding Senior Undergraduate at Holy Cross and he was the recipient of the Quayle New Student Award here at Emory.

Ana Cheng

Ana came to Emory University from New College of Florida. She joined the Wuest lab in January 2018, where she currently works on synthetic retinoids with anti-MRSA activity. In addition to her interests in total synthesis and medicinal chemistry, Ana is a member of The Association for Women in Science (AWIS) Ana is actively involved with Atlanta Roller Derby as both a skater and board member.

Maddie Dekarske

Maddie earned her Bachelor’s degree from Agnes Scott College before coming to Emory, where she now works in the Wuest Lab. She has two projects in the lab: making analogs of nTZDpa, which kills growing and persisitent S. aureus, and investigating the mechanism of action of honokiol derivatives, which kill S. mutans. Maddie has also received a Goldwater Honorable Mention in 2016 and another NSF GRFP Honorable Mention in 2017, she has been inducted into Omicron Delta Kappa and Mortar Board, and she has been recognized in Who’s Who Among Students at American Universities and Colleges.

Department of Cat-Mistry

An adoptable cat at Java Cat Cafe as photographed by Dr. Fred Strobel.

Sadly, the Department of Chemistry isn’t really becoming the Department of Cat-Mistry. Alongside research and teaching excellence, our scientists have a sense of humor. While we aren’t ready to turn our back on the real science of chemistry, we do deeply appreciate the cats (and their people) who helped us kick off April with a smile.

The Department of Cat-Mistry remains available at this link if you’re not ready to let the dream die!

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Graduate Student Spotlight: Shannon Rivera

Sitting in her 6th grade science classroom, as a gallon of milk sat outside warming under the hot Georgia sun, Shannon learned two things. First, she learned about the effects of high temperatures on the properties and states of liquids. And second, she learned that she really, really loved chemistry. She recalls how the hands-on teaching style in her middle school science classroom sparked her enthusiasm for the subject, an enthusiasm which only grew stronger through high school, where she had the chance to serve as a chemistry teacher’s assistant.

Through these experiences, Shannon gained an understanding of how chemistry can shape the world. “Instead of being a giant jumbled puzzle, you could actually figure out the small pieces, start putting it together, and start getting a better picture of what’s really going on,” says Shannon. “Chemistry was definitely challenging, but I loved how these small little pieces would come together and things would click.”

Motivated by her passion for chemistry and encouragement from her teachers, Shannon went on to earn her BS in chemistry from the University of Georgia, where she performed undergraduate research under the guidance of Dr. Ron Orlando. In Dr. Orlando’s lab, Shannon worked on creating a database of N-glycans for different species and designing a method for quantifying different IgG products. During this time, Shannon also had the opportunity to participate in Virginia Commonwealth University’s Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates where she spent 10 weeks in the lab of Dr. Julio Alvarez studying the use of glutathione as a source of green energy for new batteries.

In the fall of 2014, Shannon began her graduate studies in chemistry here at Emory. She joined the Weinert group, studying how the globin-coupled sensor protein family senses oxygen and transmits the binding signal into downstream events. “I work primarily with proteins from infectious bacteria. The idea behind my research is that if we can understand this one part of this very dangerous bug, then maybe we can create a new treatment method,” says Shannon. “I love working with the proteins I do because they are all heme proteins, so they are all red!”

Since joining the lab, Shannon has contributed to five publications, one as the primary author and two as co-first author. Her most recent publication is a book chapter in Advances in Microbial Physiology currently in press. “Shannon’s talent for research science, combined with her incredible drive, make it a true pleasure to work with her,” says Dr. Weinert. “Shannon’s fearlessness when it comes to trying new techniques has yielded results that have opened new insights into sensor globins and changed the way we think about how organisms sense and respond to oxygen.”

In addition to her scientific achievements, Shannon has also received several honors and awards during her time at Emory. She was awarded the Emory Graduate Diversity Fellowship for demonstrating outstanding academic achievement, the Outstanding Analytical Teacher’s Assistant Award for being the highest rated teacher’s assistant of the year, and the Carl Storm Underrepresented Minority Fellowship to attend the Gordon Research Conference.

Shannon is a member of the Pi Alpha Chemical Society (PACS), chemistry’s graduate student social and service organization. With PACS, she has had the chance to participate in outreach events and develop valuable relationships with her peers and coworkers. In addition, Shannon serves as communications chair and member of the Association for Women in Science at Emory (AWIS). With AWIS, she has participated in science demonstrations for young students at local schools and helped run a booth at the Atlanta Science Festival celebrating famous women scientists. Shannon is also on the board for the Chemistry Graduate School Prep Club, an organization designed to help prepare chemistry undergraduates from underrepresented backgrounds for future graduate studies. The prep club works primarily with students at institutions that aren’t currently associated with graduate programs to advise them on furthering their education by providing resources on research opportunities, applications, interviews, preparing for the GRE, and more.

After graduation, Shannon plans to go into industry research, where she is looking forward to leading her own projects.

Dr. Widicus Weaver: Outer Space and Outreach

Scientific outreach events give us the opportunity to disseminate our ideas, share our scientific discoveries, present collaboration opportunities, or even inspire the next generation of scientists. On Wednesday, November 8th, Dr. Widicus Weaver shared her passion for astrochemistry, biology, and space with a room full of enthusiastic second graders at Westchester Elementary School. She discussed topics ranging from star formation to molecules in space, drawing from her research on pre-biotic astrochemistry. The children even had the chance to look through hand-held spectroscopes!

Outreach events like this one allow scientists the unique chance to bring awareness to the scientific endeavors taking place here at Emory and provides those in the community the chance to learn a new topic from a true expert. The children who attended Dr. Widicus Weaver’s seminar got an exclusive look into the amazing science happening far beyond our planet.  Some photos from the event are shown below.

Applying to Graduate School 101: How is applying to graduate school different from applying to undergrad?

A bird's eye view of the Science Commons in Atwood Chemistry Center.
A bird’s eye view of the Science Commons in Atwood Chemistry Center.

This Fall, we are publishing a special series of blog posts about applying to graduate school–at Emory and in general. Our goal is to demystify the application process and help applicants feel confident as they seek a home for their graduate studies. This post by our admissions team addresses the differences between applying to college versus graduate school.

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Applying at the graduate school level can be confusing for applicants because of some key differences between graduate and undergraduate programs. Specifically, most undergraduate programs have a central admissions process that selects students for admission into the school. The admissions committee might consider the student’s preparation for a specific major, but students are admitted into the college and then choose a course of study for themselves. For our undergraduates, we trust the Emory College admissions team to bring in great students–but it’s the student’s who decide to come through the Department of Chemistry’s doors.

For graduate schools, the application system is still often shared at the school level. However, the specific application you see is more than likely tailored to the individual program to which you are applying and the majority of the review process is also likely to be handled directly by that program. At Emory, you apply to the chemistry graduate program using CollegeNET, the Laney Graduate School’s online application system. Laney immediately forwards those applications to chemistry—there is no additional screening at the school level. Department of Chemistry faculty, led by a graduate committee, then conduct a whole file review of each application.

Some specifics in our application:

What does this mean for you?

Most of your questions about applying will be answered by the program directly rather than a central admissions office. For our chemistry program at Emory, your most direct line to admissions officers is to email gradchem [at] emory [dot] edu. That mailbox is shared by all key admissions administrators and we can respond quickly to your questions from a central location, conferring with multiple people, if needed. There is also a lot of good information on our website, including frequently asked questions. If you make a mistake on your application or need to make a change, gradchem [at] emory [dot] edu is also the right contact.

It still makes sense to become familiar with graduate school that houses the program to which you are applying. Emory’s Laney Graduate School website describes many school-level policies and programs in which the Department of Chemistry participates. Prospective students might be particularly interested in the Professional Development Support (PDS) program that offers students up to $7,500 over the course of their graduate career for conferences, research travel, and training outside Emory. The IMSD program in which chemistry participates is also administered at the school level.

Another major difference is a more personal one—college students can get a lot out of the experience even if they have no idea what they want to do. Graduate school is suited to students who feel ready to devote themselves to intensive study in a discipline. You can’t apply to the chemistry graduate program at Emory and then decide to complete a degree in physics or biology (although you can apply to up to two Emory programs with one application). Graduate school requires students to be committed to a particular course of study. There are opportunities to customize, but also an expectation that students will specialize. That doesn’t mean we won’t help you or that you won’t get to explore–it does mean that graduate school in general, and our program in particular, is probably not right for you if it’s just the “next step”.

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Ready to apply? Visit chemistry.emory.edu/apply. Applications are due by December 1st, 2018 for entry in Fall 2019.

Want to learn more about chemistry @ Emory? Fill out an inquiry form and join our mailing list!

 

Congratulations, Dr. Rolando Rengifo!

RoRolando Rengifo successfully defended his dissertation, “From Amyloid to Copper Arrays: The design of a functional Metalloamyloid Nanostructure (MAN),” on July 6th, 2017. His committee was chaired by David Lynn with Khalid Salaita and Vincent Conticello as additional members. 

In addition to his accomplishments in the lab, Rolando was a dedicated student leader during his time at Emory. He served as President of Pi Alpha Chemical Society immediately followed  by a term as President of the Graduate Student Council. During his time as a fraternity house director, he was named Fraternity House Director of the Year. Rolando has also been recognized for his leadership with the Student Impact Award and the Laney Development Council Leadership Award. He is a member of the Omicron Delta Kappa national leadership honor society.

Next up, Rolando plans to attend law school at the Notre Dame School of Law on his path towards a future career as a patent attorney.

Congratulations, Rolando!

Seminar Schedule for Spring 2017

Outside the Atwood Hall seminar room. Photo by Josh Meister.
Outside the Atwood Hall seminar room. Photo by Josh Meister.

The Department of Chemistry at Emory University frequently welcomes researchers from around the world to share their science with our community. Our Spring 2017 schedule includes a special Johnston Seminar with Frank Neese (Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversionas well as a Hightower-sponsored visit by Robert J. McMahon (University of Wisconsin, Madison) who will serve as the keynote speaker for our annual undergraduate poster session and awards ceremony in April. Additionally, our graduate students will host a special seminar with Carl Lineberger (University of Colorado, Boulder), the first-ever recipient of their “Chemmy Award” for excellence in chemistry.

The most up-to-date seminar schedule is always available on our department calendar on the front page of chemistry.emory.edu. Additionally, seminars are included on the printed calendars posted weekly around the department.

Seminars are open to all members of the Emory community. All seminars take place in Atwood Hall 360, the Department of Chemistry seminar room. Monday seminars take place at 4 p.m. and Wednesday seminars take place at 2 p.m. Occasionally, special seminars may take place at other days/times/locations. These changes will always be announced in advance on our department calendars.

Wednesday, February 1st
Christopher Uyeda, Purdue University

Monday, February 6th
Sean Garrett-Roe, University of Pittsburgh

Wednesday, February 8th
Carl Lineberger, University of Colorado, Boulder

Monday, February 13
David Flannigan, University of Minnesota

Wednesday, February 15th
Laszlo Kurti, Rice University

Monday, February 20th
Gordana Dukovic, University of Colorado, Boulder

Monday, February 27th
Joel Collier, Duke University

Wednesday, March 1st
Valentine Ananikov, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow

Monday, March 20th
Amit Reddi, Georgia Institute of Technology

Wednesday, March 22nd
Alex Radosevich, Pennsylvania State University

Monday, March 27th
Anatoly Frenkel, Brookhaven National Lab

Wednesday, March 29th
Noah Burns, Stanford University

Monday, April 10th
Johnston Lecture with Frank Neese, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion

April 17-21st, 2017
Undergraduate Research Week with Robert J. McMahon, University of Wisconsin

Monday, April 24th
Joshua Pierce, North Carolina State University

Tuesday, April 25th (2pm, Atwood 360)
Klaus Pörschke, Max Planck Institute for Coal Research

Wednesday, April 26th
Anne J. McNeil, University of Michigan