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!

Congratulations, Dr. Noel Xiang’ An Li!

Photo credit: Dr. Shaoxiong Wu

On Wednesday, April 25th, Noel Xiang’ An Li successfully defended his thesis, “Amyloid-beta strain amplification and their connection to tau in Alzheimer’s Disease”. Noel’s thesis committee included his thesis advisor, Dr. David Lynn, and members Dr. Stefan Lutz, Dr. Vincent Conticello, Dr. Lary Walker (Emory Neurology), and Dr. Yury Chernoff (GA Tech Biological Sciences).

Noel is applying for jobs in the pharmaceutical/biotech industry while wrapping up some experiments in the Lynn Lab.

Congratulations, Dr. Li!

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].

Atlanta Science Festival: Chemistry Carnival Recap

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.

One particularly fun event, the Chemistry Carnival, provided children and families with an evening of entertainment and education through a series of hands-on activities. The Atwood Commons was abuzz with enthusiastic young learners playing games, asking questions, and learning about science and technology.

Some highlights of the carnival included Peptide Jenga, where participants learned about attraction and repulsion, Pin the Tail on the Substrate, where guests were blindfolded and tasked with “pinning the polar-head to the [3.3.0] bicycle-octene”, and Electron Transfer Ring Toss, complete with glow-sticks and illuminated Erlenmeyer flasks. On the second floor of the commons, visitors could Build a Bio Material out of clay, play the Bacteria Board Game, or pop balloons with darts in Superbug Pop.

The event wouldn’t have been complete without a few science-y sweets. Guests could enjoy hand-spun cotton candy or Dippin’ Dots made with liquid nitrogen.

A huge “Thank you!” to everyone who helped make the Chemistry Carnival such a successful and fun night! We couldn’t have done it without you!

More: Read postdoc Claire Jarvis’ (Wuest Group) interview with festival organizers Anthony Sementilli and Elaine Liu on the Emory Postdoctoral Association blog!

Pin the Tail on the Substrate
Peptide Jenga
ALEX visited the Science Commons Library
Colorful Ring Toss chemistry props
Bacteria Board Game
Students welcoming guests to the Chemistry Carnival
Build a Bio Material
Superbug Pop
Liquid nitrogen Dippin’ Dots
Laser Maze, Photo by Mallory Theis
Laser Maze, Photo by Mallory Theis
Laser Maze, Photo by Mallory Theis

Atlanta Science Festival: Frankenstein and the Future of Science

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.

The classic science fiction novel “Frankenstein”, written by Mary Shelley, is commonly thought of as an entertaining story about a scientist and the monster he creates. While laced with grandeur and fantasy, the novel raises important questions and has ignited conversations about ethics and modern science. In light of its relevance for the world of chemistry and the future of the field, the novel has recently inspired several artistic creations ranging from animations to anthologies.

As part of the Atlanta Science Festival, three Atlanta playwrites explored the themes of the novel in the context of scientific research being conducted here at Emory in “Frankenstein Goes Back to the Lab”. The three animated art pieces, “The Rites of Men” by Edith Freni, “Indian Maeve” by Neeley Gosset, and “A Light Beneath Skin” by Addae Moon, were enjoyed and discussed by ethicists, scientists, and artists. The conversations tackled topics including cloning, evolution, epigenetics, apotheosis, morality, and more.

Similar topics were addressed in a recently published anthology, Frankenstein: How a Monster Became an Icon, the Science and Enduring Allure of Mary Shelley’s Creation. Emory faculty explored the topics of science, society, and philosophy that are woven throughout the book. The anthology, co-edited by Sidney Perkowitz and Eddy Von Mueller, features chapters collected from 17 experts across the country.

One of the featured experts is chemistry’s own David Lynn, who co-wrote a chapter with Jay Goodwin entitled “What Would Mary Shelley Say Today?” “Chemistry professor David Lynn writes about how his own work, to uncover the molecular basis of life, echoes ideas expressed in Frankenstein,” writes Carol Clark, author of the Emory News feature It’s Alive!.

In his chapter, David writes:

“Neither Shelley nor the scientists of her time could have imagined the molecular scale we now understand to be so critical to ultimately designing new forms of life, now within the domain and promise of systems and synthetic biology.”

To read the full It’s Alive! feature, click [here].

To purchase Frankenstein: How a Monster Became an Icon, the Science and Enduring Allure of Mary Shelley’s Creation, click [here].

Alumni Spotlight: Kornelius Bankston, From Bench to Business

Kornelius Bankston

When reflecting back on his graduate work with the Emory University Department of Chemistry, Kornelius Bankston remembers his scientific endeavors with the Lynn Group to be ambitious. “I had this grandiose idea to develop a therapeutic using amyloid fiber sequences that self-assemble into tubes,” says Kornelius. “That was my big vision statement.” This “think big” mentality and enthusiasm for progress led him to seek opportunities that would couple science with business. “I enjoy innovation and have been able to navigate towards roles that really help express that part of my interests.”

After graduation, Kornelius worked for a startup company led by Dr. Dennis Liotta, where he got the chance to truly experience the interface between science and business.  From there, Kornelius took on a project manager role with the Georgia Department of Economic Development, where he worked to bring large scientific companies, such as Baxter Pharmaceuticals, to Georgia. During his time with the department, Kornelius refined his business acumen and developed invaluable professional networks, but he missed the scientific and technical aspects that motivated his interest in business to begin with. To bring the scientific context back to his business ventures, he opted to go to business school at Georgia Tech to study management of technology.

With his MS in biomolecular chemistry and his MBA in management of technology, Kornelius was equipped with the training to pursue his professional goals. He worked at Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) as Program Manager for the Office of Translational Technologies. During his time in this position, he developed the first marketing campaign for MSM’s intellectual property at the 2012 BIO International Convention, developed and implemented protocols for licensing of the intellectual property, and negotiated the first industry sponsored clinical trials in the Division of Industry Collaborative Research.

Now, Kornelius is involved in several business ventures. He started a campaign called “I AM YOUR” to bring awareness to communities that lack engagement in healthcare regarding men’s health and prostate cancer. In addition, as the Director of Bioscience Ecosystem Expansion with the Metro Atlanta Chamber, he is helping to enhance the diverse scientific ecosystem by seeking funding opportunities to retain, recruit, and grow companies in Georgia. He is a member of several boards including the Innovation Crescent Regional Partnership (ICRP) for publicizing Georgia as a life-science hub and the Georgia Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) board focusing on the health-IT community in Georgia.

Although his educational and professional history is full of diverse experiences, there are two clear themes that have steered him along his path: community engagement and scientific progress. He explains that he wants to 1) show that science can be fun and exciting and 2) improve the health of people through technology and therapeutics. “I enjoy innovation,” says Kornelius. “Hopefully, one day, I will get to lead a company around this whole concept of developing a therapeutic or technology, and taking it to the next level so people can actually utilize it on a broad spectrum.”

While Kornelius gathered the skills necessary to be successful in the realms of science, technology, and business through academic experiences and professional training, he lends credit to Emory for his problem-solving skills. “The graduate school experience helped my problem-solving ability across sectors, across disciplines. To look at a problem and say, ‘Okay, this is a problem’ and ‘How do I address this problem in a systematic way?’” This skill has proven to be indispensable in his current pursuit of a diagnostic for prostate cancer, where he is motivated to solve the problem of healthcare access for minority men in a way that is engaging and effective.  Kornelius also emphasized the importance of networking during the process of transitioning into the workplace.  He explains that, while it can sometimes feel a bit unnatural to initiate new relationships with people in the field, the ability to communicate effectively to people across a spectrum of familiarity with the science is vitally important. To connect with people in this way allows one to share ideas, learn from others, and potentially open doors to new and exciting opportunities.

Overall, Kornelius wants to encourage students to listen to their guiding internal voice when deciding a career path. “One of the things that I would like students to know is to not be afraid to challenge the norm,” says Kornelius. “Take all the advice and feedback people give you, but also be true to yourself and what you are really led to do.” He explains that he always had an innate interest in business, but the opportunities to engage with people and learn how business operates would have been missed had he not listened to his internal voice and challenged the idea at the time that academia was the best path. “Be true to what you are passionate about because I think it will always pull you back.”

Lynn Group Featured in Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry

Research from the research group of Dr. David Lynn is featured on the cover of the latest issue of Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry. OBC is a weekly journal for the publication of highly significant original research and reviews in all areas of organic chemistry, including organic synthesis, physical organic chemistry, supramolecular chemistry and bioorganic chemistry.

The cover art is related to the article “Amyloid scaffolds as alternative chlorosomes” contained in the issue. Recent graduate Rolando Rengifo is first author with Noel Li, Anthony Sementilli, and David G. Lynn as additional authors.

Congratulations, Lynn Group!

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!

Congratulations, Dr. Galior!

Kornelia poses with her group and her best friend after a successful defense.
Kornelia poses with her group and her best friend after a successful defense.

Kornelia Galior successfully defended her thesis, “Protein-Based Tension Probes: From Mapping Integrin Adhesion Forces to the Mechanopharmacology of Smooth Muscle Cells” on Wednesday, April 12th, 2017. Kornelia’s thesis committed was led by Khalid Salaita with Vince Conticello and David Lynn as additional members.

During her time at Emory, Kornelia received two Quayle awards. She will start a clinical chemistry fellowship at the Mayo Clinic in July.

Congratulations, Kornelia!

New Research from the Lynn Group on How Protein Misfolding May Kickstart Chemical Evolution

Photo of Brain from eScience Commons
Photo of Brain from eScience Commons

Exciting new research from the Lynn Group is featured in this week’s eScience Commons blog:

Alzheimer’s disease, and other neurodegenerative conditions involving abnormal folding of proteins, may help explain the emergence of life – and how to create it.

Researchers at Emory University and Georgia Tech demonstrated this connection in two new papers published by Nature Chemistry: “Design of multi-phase dynamic chemical networks” and “Catalytic diversity in self-propagating peptide assemblies.”

“In the first paper we showed that you can create tension between a chemical and physical system to give rise to more complex systems. And in the second paper, we showed that these complex systems can have remarkable and unexpected functions,” says David Lynn, a systems chemist in Emory’s Department of Chemistry who led the research. “The work was inspired by our current understanding of Darwinian selection of protein misfolding in neurodegenerative diseases.”

The Lynn lab is exploring ways to potentially control and direct the processes of these proteins – known as prions – adding to knowledge that might one day help to prevent disease, as well as open new realms of synthetic biology.

Read the [Full Story] by Carol Clark on Emory’s eScience Commons blog!