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!
On Wednesday, March 28th, Yao Jing successfully defended her thesis, “Structure-Activity Relationship and Quantitative Structure-Activity Relationship of GluN2C/D Subunit Selective Antagonists of the N-Methyl-D-Aspartate Receptor”. Yao’s thesis committee included her thesis advisor, Dr. Dennis Liotta, and members Dr. Frank McDonald, Dr. Stephen Traynelis, and Dr. Emily Weinert.
Yao is currently searching for a job with an eye toward healthcare data science.
On Friday, October 20th, Kyle Giesler successfully defended his thesis, “The Design, Synthesis, and Evaluation of Novel LipidProdrugs for Nucleoside Analogues.” Kyle’s thesis committee included his thesis advisor, Dr. Dennis Liotta, and members Dr. Khalid Salaita and Dr. Frank McDonald.
During his time at Emory, Kyle designed a novel prodrug strategy for tenofovir and other antiviral nucleosides that “unlocks” their therapeutic potential and significantly rivals well-accepted conjugation strategies used in the clinic. His research contributed to 8 publications and a patent application. In addition, Kyle initiated a collaboration between Emory and Morehouse School of Medicine, developed analogs for the treatment of chronic viral infections and cancer, and was awarded the Graduate Diversity Fellowship awarded to outstanding graduate students showing academic excellence and “exceptional promise as future leaders in their fields”.
Looking forward, Kyle plans to pursue a post-doctoral position at U.C Berkeley with Dr. Nirem Murthy where he intends to jump into bioengineering and develop delivery strategies for genome editing technology. After that, Kyle hopes to land an industrial position at the interface of chemistry and biology and be a part of a creative and team that operates at the forefront of human knowledge to design and discover novel therapeutics to change the course of human disease.
On Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017, Noah Setterholm successfully defended his thesis, “Investigations of exo-Mode Oxacyclizations for the Synthesis of Cyclic Ethers”. Noah’s thesis committee included his advisor, Dr. Frank McDonald, and members Dr. Simon Blakey and Dr. Lanny Liebeskind.
After his defense, Noah and his wife, Hannah, moved to San Diego, California where Noah is now a postdoc in the laboratory of Dr. Gerald Joyce at the Salk Institute.
Eric Andreansky successfully defended his dissertation, “Synthetic Studies Toward Methanoquinolizidine-Containing Akuammiline Alkaloids” on Wednesday, April 26th, 2017. Eric’s committee was led by Simon Blakey with Frank McDonald and Lanny Liebeskind as additional members.
On Friday, May 16th, 2017, Jessica Hurtak successfully defended her thesis,”Exo-mode oxacyclization strategies for synthesis of trans-fused polycyclic ethers: the ABC ring sector of brevenal”. Jessica’s thesis committee included her thesis advisor, Dr. Frank McDonald, and members Dr. Simon Blakey and Dr. Nate Jui.
Prof. Frank McDonald has announced the publication of the first volume of his graduate-level textbook, “Finding the Right Partner”, now available in e-book form at Amazon.com. This volume focuses on selectivity in carbon-heteroatom bond-forming reactions; a second volume on carbon-carbon bond-forming reactions is under development and hopefully will be published within the next couple of years.
The Department of Chemistry is hosting fire extinguisher safety training in June and July. The first two sessions took place on Thursday, June 23rd and Friday, June 24th. During training, each participant will have the opportunity to put out a small fire in a controlled situation.
“Fire extinguisher training is valuable not only for laboratory safety, but may also save lives and diminish the extent of fire damage if you encounter a small fire at home (kitchen, electrical appliance, automobile) or elsewhere outside of the work environment,” says safety coordinator Frank McDonald.
Training takes place on the service road next to the Peavine Visitor Parking surface lot. The focus is on teaching participants the PASS sequence–Pull, Aim, Squeeze, and Sweep–so that they will be prepared to respond quickly in an emergency.
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.”
Katie Strong successfully defended her thesis, “The Design, Synthesis, and Biological Evaluation of Subunit-Selective N-Methyl-ᴅ-Aspartate Receptor Potentiators” on Wednesday, October 28th, 2015. Katie’s thesis committed was led by Dennis Liotta with Frank McDonald and Stephen Traynelis (Pharmacology) as additional members. After graduation, Katie plans to pursue a postdoctoral position in the pharmacology department at Emory.