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? Clickhere!

Interested in learning more about FST? 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.

Looking Back on 2017

Happy New Year! As we welcome 2018, let’s reflect on some of the great things that happened during 2017.

New Catalyst Developed by CCHF

Side view of the new catalyst. Graphic image by Kuangbiao Liao via escienceommons.

Chemists have developed another catalyst that can selectively activate a carbon-hydrogen bond, part of an ongoing strategy to revolutionize the field of organic synthesis and open up new chemical space.

The journal Nature is publishing the work by chemists at Emory University, following on their development of a similar catalyst last year. Both of the catalysts are able to selectively functionalize the unreactive carbon-hydrogen (C-H) bonds of an alkane without using a directing group, while also maintaining virtually full control of site selectivity and the three-dimensional shape of the molecules produced.

Read the full story by Carol Clark on the Emory esciencecommons blog!

Graduate Student Profile: Jacob Burman

Jacob Burman

For Jacob Burman, choosing Emory for graduate school meant a cross-country move from his West Coast seaside stomping ground. Three years later, travel opportunities with the graduate program have led him even farther afield, from wandering the streets of Osaka to working in an office with a breathtaking view of Lake Geneva, allowing Jacob to couple two of his greatest passions: travel and chemistry.

Before starting graduate school at Emory, Jacob graduated from California Lutheran University with a bachelor’s in chemistry and a minor in mathematics. As an undergraduate, Jacob conducted research in the lab of Dr. Jason Kingsbury, where he worked to optimize a formal carbon-insertion into carbonyl compounds using diazoalkanes. Jacob’s undergraduate experience gave him scientific training and technical skills, but also instilled in him a sense of curiosity and passion. “I always loved the idea of building or shaping the world with chemistry,” says Jacob. “I always knew I wanted to do chemistry, but I didn’t know I wanted to do organic chemistry until I had taken my first class.”

The CCHF map of the global network of research institutes focused on C-H Functionalization.

Jacob is currently in his third year working on his Ph.D. research in the lab of Dr. Simon Blakey. Research in the Blakey Lab focuses on the foundations of chemical reactivity, catalysis, and synthetic strategy, with potential impacts on solar energy conversion, touch-screen display technology, and therapeutics. The group is involved with the Center for Selective C-H Functionalization (CCHF), which just received a five year, $20 million renewal from the National Science Foundation. The CCHF mission is “to leverage the potential of the center to develop technology for selective C–H functionalization that will revolutionize the practice and reshape the teaching of chemical synthesis, empowering end users in the material sciences, fine chemicals development and drug discovery.”

The CCHF actively promotes collaboration, and building relationships with other scientists and the public is central to the Center’s work. “The CCHF has developed strong collaborations with many international researchers and offers an exchange program for our students to study abroad for up to three months,” says Dr. Huw Davies, CCHF Director. “Conducting a meaningful research collaboration in an international setting is a great career development opportunity. The CCHF actively encourages its students to be involved in international exchange programs with our collaborators in Japan, South Korea, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.”

Jacob cites Emory’s involvement with the CCHF as one of the many reasons he chose to come here for graduate school. “Emory just seemed like a really good choice. There were so many opportunities that I could see myself benefitting from while being a student with the CCHF,” says Jacob. These opportunities came early when, as a first-year, Jacob travelled to Japan with the CCHF, visiting partnered organizations for a workshop on inspiring international collaboration. He spent a week engaging with other scientists in his field, learning about their research, and sharing his own. “As a student in the CCHF you are exposed to a wonderful array of different disciplines, and you learn new scientific vocabularies and techniques through this exposure,” adds Dr. Dan Morton, Managing Director of the CCHF.

Jacob enjoyed his time in Japan so much that when a second opportunity to travel abroad presented itself, he jumped on it. At the end of his second year, he spent two months at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Lausanne, Switzerland on the shores of Lake Geneva. During his time abroad, Jacob collaborated with Dr. Nicolai Cramer and his group to engage in asymmetric catalysis for the next step in developing his synthetic method. Shortly upon returning from Switzerland, Jacob authored his first paper entitled, “Regioselective Intermolecular Allylic C-H Amination of Disubstituted Olefins via Rhodium/π-Allyl Intermediates” in Angewandte Chemie. Jacob explains, “More than 60% of pharmaceuticals advertised and out on the market contain a nitrogen as the key component for activity. Any new, interesting, or insightful way to develop amination technology can give more powerful tools for developing pharmaceuticals.”

View of Lausanne, Switzerland from the Cramer Lab at EPFL.

“Jacob worked incredibly hard to develop a new reactivity platform, opening up a new research program in the lab,” says Jacob’s research advisor, Dr. Simon Blakey. “His commitment to the project allowed him to publish the initial communication of this work within 12 months of starting the project, and set the stage for the next phase of the work which was carried out with our collaborators at EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland.”

Now Jacob is focusing on optimizing and building upon the techniques outlined in his publication. Most recently, he travelled for a third time to Charlotte, North Carolina where he presented his research at the Southeastern Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society (SERMACS). In the future, Jacob plans on finding a post-doc position with an ultimate goal of one day becoming a professor at a research institution where he can navigate his own scientific exploration.  “I really like thinking and talking and doing chemistry and I would like to do that for the rest of my life,” he says.


Arial view of EPFL on the coast of Lake Geneva.

CCHF SACNAS and Outreach Events

Along with facilitating conversations about synthetic organic chemistry between professionals across a global platform, the NSF Center for Selective C-H Functionalization (CCHF), based at Emory University’s Department of Chemistry, also strives to increase scientific awareness to broader audience. They explain on their website, “A large part of the Centers mission is to bring C–H Functionalization into the mainstream of organic chemistry and one of the key ways we are seeking to do that is informing future generations of scientists by engaging students from K through 12.” By partnering with various organizations in outreach initiatives, the CCHF can connect with the community and share some of their fascinating scientific happenings.

Recently, some members of the Emory Department of Chemistry travelled to Utah to attend the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) conference. During the event, our representatives, in collaboration with the CCHF, participated in recruiting, dissemination of infomercials, research seminars, and poster judging. Dr. Cora MacBeth gave a presentation in a technical symposium organized by alumni, Omar Villanueva. Emory University even had a booth at the event where Dr. Lloyd Munjanja of the CCHF, Monica Kiewit of the Dyer Group, and Bryant Chica of the Dyer Group could interact with visitors.

During the conference, the Center partnered with the Leonardo Museum of Creativity and Innovation in an outreach event organized through the collaborative effort of the Directors of Education, Outreach, and Diversity from 3 NSF Centers for Chemical Innovation, Dr. Lloyd Munjanja (CCHF), Dr. Danielle Watt (CaSTL), and Christopher Parsons (CCE). CCHF members from the Sigman and Du Bois research labs interacted with over 100 middle school students and their teachers through a series of hands-on chemistry activities and demonstrations. One activity involved the students building molecules from marshmallows and toothpicks!

Some photos from the SACNAS conference and the outreach event at the Leonardo Museum of Creativity and Innovation are shown below.


CCHF Receives $20 Million Renewal from NSF

Center Director Huw Davies (right) in the CCHF lab at Emory.

Emory’s Center for Selective C-H Functionalization has received a five year, $20 million renewal from the National Science Foundation. The CCHF is part of NSF’s Centers for Chemical Innovation (CCI) program that supports research centers focused on major, long-term fundamental chemical research challenges. The CCHF aims to bring about a paradigm shift in the logic of chemical synthesis, one that has the potential to impact the construction of all organic molecules. The Center is headquartered at Emory, but has satellite centers at research universities across the U.S. and internationally including UC Berkeley, Stanford, Princeton, and Georgia Tech, among others. The CCHF also works with industrial collaborators, including Novartis, Merck, and AbbVie.

Center Director Huw Davies says, “We are very excited with this opportunity because we feel the momentum of the CCHF continues to build.   An Outlook of the CCHF has just been published, which summarizes what we have achieved so far and where we plan to go in the future.”

As with all CCI, the CCHF also has an outreach mission, seeking to share their science with the public. They are regular participants in the Atlanta Science Festival and sponsors of the Graduate School Prep Club. The CCHF has also pioneered the use of virtual symposia offering talks by researchers that take place at one institution and are simulcast to partner centers and the public worldwide, reaching thousands of viewers.

The CCHF is profiled in-depth in a recent article in ACS Central Science.

Congratulations to Dr. Davies and all Center staff, students, and faculty on this major grant renewal!

Emory Hosts Merck Lecture Series

Merck LecturesIn November and December, Emory is hosting a special series of Merck lectures on process chemistry. Merck is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. Emory is only the third graduate school to host lectures in this series—previously, the Merck lectures were held at Berkeley and Princeton. The lectures are part of a special graduate course being taught by Dennis C. Liotta and Huw Davies, CHEM 729R: Special Topics in Chemistry: Process Chemistry in Research.

The lectures are part of the “Preparing Future Innovators” series developed by the NSF-funded Center for Selective C-H Functionalization. Preparing Future Innovators offers lectures that prepare chemistry graduate students for a broad range of future careers via interactions with leaders in chemical industry.

The Merck lectures feature Merck leadership working in the field of process chemistry. The lectures seek to highlight the important differences between process chemistry and medicinal chemistry, particularly the ways in which process chemists can develop techniques that help to bring medical innovations to the public. Students attending the lectures will be better prepared to understand the differences between medicinal chemistry and process chemistry and will therefore by better able to consider a range of careers that apply chemistry to human health.

In addition to the lectures, visitors are attending meet-and-greet and lunches with students. Huw Davies, the Director of the Center for Selective C-H Functionalization, says “This is a great opportunity for our students and faculty to become familiar with cutting edge research in the pharmaceutical industry, and for the Emory chemistry department to develop a close relationship with Merck.”

Merck Lectures in Process Chemistry Schedule

All lectures take place from 4-6pm in Atwood 360. Current Students, there will be a Meet-and-Greet with Merck visitors at 11am on the day of each lecture in Atwood 316.

November 1st, 2016:

Merck Process Chemistry: Discovery & Development Of Innovative Synthetic Methods To Drive Best Chemistry
Rebecca T. Ruck, Ph.D.
Director, Process Chemistry, Merck Process Research & Development
Rahway, NJ

Merck Milestones in Chemistry: Medicine through Inspired Science
Michael H. Kress, Ph.D.
Vice President, Process Research and Development, Rahway NJ


November 29th, 2016:

Enabling High-Throughput Experimentation through High-Throughput Analysis
Yun Mao, Ph.D.
Director, Analytical Research and Development, Merck Research Laboratories

High-throughput Experimentation For Chemists: Rationally Designed Large Arrays Of Experiments For Solving Complex Chemical Problems
Michael Shevlin
Associate Principal Scientist, Catalysis Laboratory,Department of Process Research & Development


December 6th, 2016:

Biocatalysis At Merck
Matt Truppo, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Merck & Co., Inc

Best Chemistry And World Class Supply
Ian Davies, Ph.D.
Department of Process Research & Development, Merck & Co., Inc.



Student Spotlight: Robert Kubiak (Davies Group) Awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

Robert Kubiak (far right) pictured at on outreach event in March 2016. Photo provided by Pi Alpha Chemical Society.
Robert Kubiak (far right) pictured at on outreach event in March 2016. Photo provided by Pi Alpha Chemical Society.

Graduate students aren’t often tasked with completing that classic elementary school assignment: “How I Spent My Summer Vacation.” But Robert Kubiak has a great answer. After being accepted into Emory’s graduate program in chemistry, he got a jump start on his research by completing a summer rotation in the Davies Lab. This experience contributed to his successful application for the prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program. Robert says: “One critical aspect that the reviewers said was helpful in my application was that I had already began to reach out to the community here in Atlanta and take on leadership roles at Emory. Doing a summer rotation before the fall semester was key to making these connections.”

The National Science Foundation received over 17,000 applications this year for the Graduate Research Fellowship program and made 2,000 award offers. As one of the 2016 awardees, Robert will receive three years of tuition and a stipend from NSF. The award is intended to recognize promising scientists at the beginning of their careers, giving them the resources to reach their career goals.

Before starting at Emory, Robert served as a platoon senior medic in the Army’s 3rd Ranger Battalion. He brings this unique leadership experience to his work in chemistry through a commitment to building community using science. “I am really interested in working to introduce scientific conversations to those who may not realize the profound impact science has on every aspect of our daily lives. I hope to encourage young students to embrace scientific discovery and pursue careers in the STEM fields,” he says.

Robert’s research at Emory takes place in the context of the NSF Center for Selective C-H Functionalization. “C–H functionalization is new, relevant, and rapidly changing the way we approach organic synthesis. C–H functionalization bypasses the need for traditional functional groups saving time, money, and reducing the waste associated with synthesis.” Robert’s research project focuses on developing novel catalysts for N-sulfonyltriazoles–nitrogen-based compounds. This research has the potential for broad impact as nitrogen is found everywhere in nature and is an important component of many pharmaceuticals. “Inserting nitrogen through functionalization will save time and money in pharmaceutical synthesis,” explains Robert.

The research also has the potential to lead Robert on new professional adventures. “The CCHF offers a study abroad component, and this research would facilitate a great opportunity to collaborate with the Iatmi group in Japan.” The NSF award also opens up the possibility to participate in NSF’s Graduate Opportunities Worldwide (GROW) program. “I would like to take advantage of GROW to study abroad,” says Kubiak. “It will be an opportunity to develop my ability to teach basic scientific skills—ideally in a community where access to higher scientific education is limited.”

Robert’s proposal was completed in chemistry’s Proposal Writing Course, led by Frank McDonald. Robert says that his experience in the course was “absolutely critical in articulating my past experiences in a meaningful way that made me a competitive applicant.” Robert hopes to draw on the resources of the award to further develop his own mentoring skills. “I plan on working very hard over the next couple of years to develop a robust understanding of organic chemistry, my skills as a research scientist, and my proficiency as a mentor in the field. Fortunately, these goals go hand-in-hand together.”

Emory Chemistry at NOBCChE

Emory was well represented at the National Organization for Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers Conference (NOBCChE) last week.

Wallace Derricotte (Graduate Student, Evangelista Group) gave a research talk and received the ACS “Graduate Student Exchange Award” at NOBCChE. The award is a joint program between the American Chemical Society and other chemistry related organizations to provide students of these satellite organizations with travel funds for ACS national and regional conferences.

Keon Reid (Graduate Student, Kindt Group) received a NOBCChE conference award, the “Advancing Science Travel Grant.” The award covers registration and hotel costs for the conference and is intended to encourage graduate students and postdocs to attend NOBCChE in recognition of the integral contributions they make to the conference community. Keon also gave an excellent poster presentation at the conference.

Congratulations, Wallace and Keon!

Additionally, Felicia Fullilove, an Emory Alum of both the Davies and MacBeth groups, served as a speaker on a professional development talk.

Monya Ruffin, Senior Scientist and Director of Community, Diversity, and Outreach in the CCHF Center at Emory, gave a professional development talk on science communication.