Jen Heemstra and Bill Wuest Named Scialog Fellows

Bill Wuest. Photo by Jessica Lily Photography for Work+Play.
Jen Heemstra. Photo by Jessica Lily Photography for Work+Play.

Associate Professors Dr. Jen Heemstra and Dr. Bill Wuest have both been named Scialog Fellows for the Chemical Machinery of the Cell. Scialog, supported by the Research Corporation for Scientific Advancement and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation,  aims to advance human knowledge by supporting and empowering early career scientists. Fellows work in community with other scientists in their theme area to learn and discover through the give-and-take of community building among multidisciplinary teams.

The Scialog on the Chemical Machinery of the Cell is based on the conviction that the time is right to bring together chemists and biologists to spark collaborations and develop interdisciplinary

Bill Wuest. Photo by Jessica Lily Photography for Work+Play.
Bill Wuest. Photo by Jessica Lily Photography for Work+Play.

projects that will catapult us to a deeper understanding of chemical machinery and reactions in the intact cell. The group will explore questions such as “How does the cell organize reactions in functionally distinct compartments that are not bound by membranes?” and “What combination of new chemical tools including chemical probes, optical techniques, and quantum methods can bring about molecular resolution of the chemical machinery in intact, living cells?”

Jen and Bill will have the opportunity to engage with other Chemical Machinery of the Cell fellows at the upcoming Scialog conference in Tucson, Arizona.

Congratulations, Jen and Bill!

 

Congratulations, 2017-2018 Graduates!

On Monday, May 14th, the Department of Chemistry celebrated the graduation of 63 undergraduate chemistry majors and 16 new PhDs. Congratulations to all of our graduates!

Jonah M. Adler
Raviteja Alla
Yusur Alsalihi
Eric Andreansky, Ph.D.
Rebecca Anne Bartlett, Ph.D.
Nia Nicole Bilal
Nika Braiman
Yulei Cao
Mandy Chan
Yuan Chang, Ph.D.
Bryant Chica, Ph.D.
Lekha Chilakamarri
Emily Bridget Crawford
Marika Deliyianni
Wallace Derricotte, Ph.D.
Long Di
Jose Armando Espinoza
Richard Xin Feng
Divine Joseph Francis
Up Next: Graduate School
Kyle E Giesler, Ph.D.
Akash R Gogate
You Na Ha
Ian I Heaven
Gillian G Hecht
Up Next: Graduate School at Columbia University Mallman School of Public Health(Future plans to attend medical school)
Daisha Holton
Up Next: PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences (Job offer for Teach for America in Houston)
Lillian Theresa Hough
Heejin Hur
Jessica Anna Hurtak, Ph.D.
Currently: Postdoc in the Tan Laboratory at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan
Cheston Husein
Ban-Seok Jeong, Ph.D.
Lisa Wang Jin
Yao Jing, Ph.D.
Verka Elena Williams Jordanov
Se Min Jung
Shashank Kalanithi
Parisa Keshavarz-Joud
Up Next: Research Technician with the Lutz Lab at Emory
(Future plans to attend graduate school for chemistry)
Carly Ryan Kies
2017-2018 Excellence in Undergraduate Educational Support Award (1st Year Mentor)
Up Next: Campus ministry in Australia for a year
Mooeung Kim, Ph.D.
Vishaal Kondoor
Georgia Kossoff
Carli Brooke Kovel
2018 Bobby Jones Scholar
Sang Don Kwan
Up Next: Medical school in Korea
Thomas Lampeter
Adonias C Lemma
2017-2018 Excellence in Undergraduate Educational Support Award (1st Year Lab TA)
Up Next: Emergency Department Medical Scribe with the Emory University Hospital
Yichen Li
Up Next: Grow Trainee in Manufacturing Department for BASF in Shanghai, China
Kuangbiao Liao, Ph.D.
Up Next: Senior Scientist at Abbvie Inc.
Yuhgene Liu
Samir Martin
Garett Michael
Charles Modlin, Ph.D.
Eddy Cristian Ortega
Analia Parana
Lilanni Perez
Thomas Nicholai Preiser
Chengyang Qian
Zheng Qiao
Ashwin Ragupathi
Up Next: Research Technician at MSKCC (Future plans to attend medical school)
Shambavi Jay Rao
Rolando Felipe Rengifo, Ph.D.
Adam M Ring
2017-2018 Excellence in Undergraduate Educational Support Award (2nd Year Lab TA)
Gabriela Rodriguez Bengochea
Daniel Rodriguez
Daniel Cristian Salgueiro
2017-2018 Outstanding Chemistry Major Award
2017-2018 Undergraduate Award in Organic Chemistry
Vivek Sawhney
Noah Allen Setterholm, Ph.D.
Nilang Nandlal Shah
Zoe Simon
Up Next: PhD in Chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh
Houston Hartwell Smith
2015 Recipient of the Early Career Achievement Research Grant
2017-2018 Excellence in Undergraduate Research Award
2017-2018 ACS P-Chem Award
Andrew Donald Steele, Ph.D.
Leann Quertinmont Teadt, Ph.D.
Matthew John Tucker
Catherine Urbano
Up Next: Medical School at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
Katherine June Woolard
2016 Excellence in Undergraduate Education Award (General Chemistry Lab)
Benjamin Aaron Yosen
Junchu Zeng
Up Next: MS in Operations Research at Columbia University
Qingwan Zhang
Xiancong Zhang
Xiaoyi Zhang

 

Dr. Tianquan (Tim) Lian Awarded $7.5 Million for Fuel Cell Research

Dr. Tianquan (Tim) Lian was recently awarded $7.5 million from the U.S. Department of Defense for research on the electrochemical basis of fuel cell technology. Research in the Lian lab centers around the advancement of solar energy conversion particularly through the preparation, characterization, and fundamental understanding of photovoltaic and photocatalytic nanomaterials. The tools and techniques being developed in the Lian lab will contribute to the advancement of fuel cell technology, supporting the widespread efforts for innovation and discovery.

““A deeper understanding of electrochemical processes is important in the quest for more efficient, renewable forms of energy,’ Lian says. “We hope to make a lasting impact in the field, opening doors to do things with electrochemistry that are currently out of reach.’”

[Read Full Article]

10 Great Things About the Emory Chemistry PhD Program

Curious to learn more about the Chemistry PhD Program here at Emory? Look no further! From research and resources to community and collaboration, Emory provides the perfect environment for cultivating ideas and inspiring innovation. Here, we have provided a comprehensive list to highlight some of the wonderful attributes that our university has to offer its graduate students.

1. Diverse Research Opportunities

The research opportunities within the Emory Department of Chemistry are far from limited, with over 20 research groups exploring topics ranging from catalysis to sustainable energy. Our research groups span the four major subdisciplines—inorganic, organic, biomolecular, and physical chemistry—providing graduate students the opportunity to pursue research in a variety of topics.

2. Size of Program

The chemistry PhD program at Emory is considered to be a mid-sized program. A program of this size, with 141 graduate students, 21 research groups, and 15 full-time staff members, is large enough to span most areas of chemistry, but small enough to facilitate effortless intradepartmental relationships. Graduate students in this scientific community find themselves surrounded by like-minded individuals and a supportive faculty providing a personalized and productive research environment.

3. Funding

With $11.7 million in research funding in the 2017 fiscal year, the research endeavors in the Emory Department of Chemistry are well-funded. External financial support affords our program high-end technologies, top of the line equipment, and all necessary laboratory resources.

4. Resources

As mentioned above, Emory is fortunate to be equipped with the latest and greatest instrumentation. With the Mass Spectrometry Center, the Solid-State NMR Center, the Robert P. Apkarian Integrated Electron Microscopy Core, the NMR Research Center, and the X-ray Crystallography Center, chemists in our department have access to an arsenal of state of the art equipment for all their scientific inquiries.

5. Collaboration Opportunities

Motivated by the idea that the best teaching and research happens in the context of a scientific community, everything from building design to department events are poised to promote collaboration. Graduate students in the chemistry department can connect with other researchers across the campus through seminars and courses and across the world through study abroad opportunities.

6. Support

Students in the department can find themselves armed with support throughout the duration of their graduate career. New students are paired with a senior graduate student at the start of their studies for mentorship and their progress is measured with yearly checkpoints. In addition, every new graduate student is automatically inducted into the social and service organization, Pi Alpha Chemical Society, where they will have the opportunity to strengthen relations with other graduate students in the program.

7. Future Careers

Graduate students from our department are uniquely equipped with the skills and training to be successful in a multitude of future careers. Some graduate students have gone on to hold faculty positions in colleges and universities across the country, while others hold positions in industry at companies such as DuPont or Pfizer. Our graduates are not limited to research-driven careers, with many branching out into law, medical practice, tech start-ups, government, science writing, or teaching. Strong alumni connections provide current students with networking opportunities and career resources.

8. Amazing Building

The heart of the program is centered in the beautiful, recently-renovated Sanford S. Atwood Chemistry Center on Emory’s main campus. With plenty of lab space, a glass-fronted atrium, numerous collaborative spaces, and an aroma-filled coffee shop, the Atwood Chemistry Center provides the perfect arena for innovation and discovery.

9. Beautiful Campus

Our main campus has been ranked by The Best Colleges as one of the top ten “most amazing college campuses”, ranking number 8 on the most beautiful campus list. Located in the magnificent Druid Hills neighborhood, the 630-acre campus features unique marble architecture amongst splendid trees and lush greenery.

10. Awesome City

Emory is situated in northeastern Atlanta, a city bursting with culture. The city, the capital and most populous city in Georgia, is home to Zoo Atlanta, the World of Coca-Cola, the Georgia Aquarium, the Atlanta Botanical Garden, and countless parks and museums. Atlanta takes pride in its dynamic culture, diverse cuisine, and southern hospitality, with no shortage of experiences for its tourists and residents.

Interested in learning more about our graduate program? Refer to our website or contact us at gradchem [at] emory [dot] edu.

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.”

Faculty Spotlight: Antonio Brathwaite Teaches Chemistry and Confidence

Dr. Antonio Brathwaite, Photo Credit: Jessica Lily Photography

In 2005, Antonio Brathwaite relocated from the South Caribbean to South Carolina, where he attended the College of Charleston on a full athletic scholarship. Shortly thereafter, he transferred to Erskine College where he donned a maroon #15 jersey for their men’s soccer team. While he undoubtedly knew his way around the soccer field, choosing a field of study proved to be a much greater challenge. At the time, Dr. Brathwaite was planning on pursuing his degree in physics, but he struggled to find himself truly excited by the coursework. After briefly considering sociology as a major, he decided to switch to chemistry, a decision which proved to be the right one after his first sophomore chemistry class.

While at Erskine College, Dr. Brathwaite conducted undergraduate summer research in the lab of Dr. Michael Duncan at the University of Georgia. He developed a deeper interest in chemistry as well as a rapport with Dr. Duncan. Dr. Duncan would go on to invite Dr. Brathwaite to join his lab as a graduate student, an offer which he graciously accepted.

Upon earning his doctorate degree, Dr. Brathwaite and his wife traveled to the United States Virgin Islands, where he worked as an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI). After three years, Dr. Brathwaite returned to Atlanta to join the Emory Department of Chemistry as a Senior Lecturer.

“I am passionate about empowering and inspiring students to find their purpose in life and develop the courage to walk in that purpose,” says Dr. Brathwaite. “My goal is to use chemistry as a platform to help students develop and refine the skills that they will need to realize their fullest potential.” This commitment to student success and empowerment was incredibly apparent to Dr. Tracy McGill, fellow undergraduate professor and chair of Dr. Brathwaite’s hiring committee. “From my initial introduction to Dr. Brathwaite through his application materials, he stood out as an engaged, creative scholar who is focused on the student experience and success,” says Dr. McGill. “He thinks deeply about teaching scientific practices with engaging, ‘real-world’ applications.”

Currently, Dr. Brathwaite teaches physical chemistry labs to junior and senior undergraduate students. While the material for this course can be a bit daunting, Dr. Brathwaite maintains a good rapport with the students by practicing an inclusive and transparent teaching style. “I make it my duty to be as open with my students as possible. It is a lot easier to convince someone about the quantum mechanical explanation for chemical bonds if you have a bond with them,” he says.

This creative, student-centered approach is appreciated by both students and colleagues. “During his first few months in our department, he has shown that he is devoted to supporting our amazing group of chemistry majors through a rigorous lab experience, but also by advising and mentoring,” says Dr. McGill. “His insights and ideas for creating a diverse and engaging experience for students at all levels in the department has already made the chemistry community stronger.  His approachability, sense of humor, creativity, and unwavering commitment to the holistic undergraduate experience is inspiring.”

In addition to being accessible and relatable, Dr. Brathwaite is also fully invested in each of his students and attempts to instill them each with a sense of confidence, an attribute that many students find invaluable in reaching their educational and professional goals. “My most special moments as a teacher are centered around the success of my students,” says Dr. Brathwaite. “I like having the ability to positively affect the lives of the next generation of scientists and leaders.”

One teaching moment that stands out to Dr. Brathwaite as being particularly special was witnessing the graduation of his first research student at UVI, Jean Devera. “Jean was a freshman student in my first general chemistry class at UVI. Within the first few weeks of class, I realized he was a special student and asked him to do research with me,” says Dr. Brathwaite. “Jean graduated summa cum laude and is currently enrolled at Boston University School of Medicine.” Dr. Brathwaite aims to inspire and empower students, and moments of success like Jean’s motivate him and serve as a reminder of the impact he can have.

Just as he continues to be an avid soccer enthusiast even after his time on the field has become more infrequent, he remains similarly enthusiastic about seeing his students go on to reach their fullest potential even beyond his mentorship. He takes pride in his role in helping students become the scientists, professionals, and people they are meant to be. “I am looking forward to sharing in the successes of my students at Emory,” he says.

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.

       

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.

13th Annual Emerson Center Lectureship Award Symposium

Dr. Emily Carter

On November 2nd, 2017, the Emerson Center held its 13th annual Lectureship Award Symposium. The theme this year was “Sustainable Energy: Fundamental Principles, Multidisciplinary Approaches, and Progress.” This year’s lectureship award winner, Dr. Emily Carter from Princeton University, gave the Keynote presentation entitled Quantum Mechanics Derived Solutions for Sustainable Energy. During her talk, Dr. Carter summarized her use of quantum mechanics “to help accelerate discovery, understanding, and optimization of materials for sustainable energy conversion processes.”

Her presentation was followed by talks from Dr. Christopher Jones, Dr. Jean-Luc Bredas, and Dr. Vince Conticello on topics ranging from atmospheric CO2 extraction to organic electronics to peptide and protein nanomaterials. These talks were proceeded by a poster session, during which students and postdocs were given the opportunity to present their research. Brandon Haines was the Poster Award winner .

Dunham Group Publication in Nature Chemical Biology

Graduate student Ha An Nguyen of the Dunham Group recently published a News and Views article for the journal Nature Chemical Biology entitled, “Genome Mining: Digging the Tunnel for Chemical Space” based on a July article published in the same journal, “Klebsazolicin Inhibits 70S Ribosome by Obstructing the Peptide Exit Tunnel”.

In her review, Ha An summarizes the major findings of the Metelev et al. paper and emphasizes the value of genome mining in the discovery of new antimicrobials. “We previously thought we had beaten bacterial infections with ‘miracle drugs’ but if you look at the numbers from the CDC, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections in the United States alone,” Ha An says. “Techniques such as genome mining used in this paper can help sift through tons of sequencing data and can lead us to places we would have never thought of to look.”

Beyond its scientific contributions to the field, this manuscript held particular value to Ha An. “As a novice scientist, this paper on klebsazolicin provides a nice story of a scientific study that walks through the project from conception in silico and into the laboratory for mechanistic and structural investigation,” she says. “It also let me dip my toes into making figures of ribosomes structures, which I am hoping to do a lot of during my time in the Dunham lab to tease out the details of bacterial translation with atomic-level resolution.”