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!

2018 STEM Research and Career Symposium Recap

The 2018 STEM Research and Career Symposium, organized by the Laney Graduate School, took place earlier this week.  Faculty and students from diverse backgrounds were invited to present their research, engage in networking opportunities, and get to know Emory’s graduate program. Attendees shared ideas and STEM experiences during oral presentations, breakout meetings, poster sessions, and meals. The Keynote speaker at the event was Dr. Jose Antonio Bowen, President of Goucher College and author of Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning. In an entertaining and humor-filled presentation, he discussed the biology of learning, tips to success, and more.

Davies group members Robert Kubiak and Yannick Boni presenting the CCHF poster.

Dr. James Kindt served as a Co-Organizer for the event alongside Dr. Eddie Morgan from the Department of Pharmacology. Several graduate students in the Department of Chemistry were spotted at the symposium mingling with visiting undergraduate students and sharing their amazing research. The event even featured a poster highlighting all that the Center for Selective C-H Functionalization (CCHF) has to offer.

Thank you to everyone who attended and represented the Department of Chemistry!

Photo from @Wuestlab on Twitter.

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!

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.

 

 

Emory at SACNAS 2016

Ann Dasher. Photo by Jessica Lily Photography.
Ann Dasher. Photo by Jessica Lily Photography.

The graduate program in chemistry at Emory will attend the annual SACNAS (Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science) conference in Long Beach, California. Ann Dasher, Graduate Program Development Coordinator will be at booth #414. Stop by to meet Ann along with some of our graduate students. We’ll have program literature available as well as some great Emory swag. Lloyd Munjanja from the Center for Selective C-H Functionalization–which has its headquarters at Emory–will also be attending the conference at booth #1019.

If you cannot attend SACNAS–or if you need more information about the graduate program–visit the Prospective Students page on our website. The fee-free application deadline is midnight on October 31st. The final application deadline is January 3rd, 2017.

 

Graduate 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.”