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.”

Emory Chemists Find “Huge Shortcut” for Organic Synthesis Using C-H Bonds

Image of catalyst from eScienceCommons.
Image of catalyst from eScienceCommons.

Graduate student Kungbiao Liao (Davies Group) is the first author of a new paper in Nature that describes a “huge shortcut” for organic synthesis of carbon-hydrogen (C-H) bonds of an alkane without using a connecting group. Solymar Negretti (Davies Group), Jamal Musaev (Emerson Center), John Bacsa (X-ray Center), and Huw Davies are additional authors.

From Emory’s eScienceCommons:

The streamlined process described in the paper holds tremendous potential for the synthesis of fine chemicals, such as those needed for the development of pharmaceuticals.

“Organic synthesis is all about simplicity,” [Huw Davies] says. “It may lead to a sophisticated outcome, but it has to be simple to carry out in order to have practical applications.”

The work in this paper was made possible in part by Emory’s NSF Center for Selective C-H Functionalization, led by Dr. Davies.

[Full Article] [eScienceCommons] [Chemistry World] [C&EN] [ChemEurope]

Chemistry Researchers Receive 2016 NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

Congratulations to Robert Kubiak (Davies Group) and Roxanne Galzier (Salaita Group) for being awarded 2016 Graduate Research Fellowships from the National Science Foundation! Robert is a graduate student in the Department of Chemistry and Roxanne is a graduate student in the Emory/Ga Tech joint Biomedical Engineering program.

Congratulations also to Anthony Sementilli (Chemistry, Lynn Group) and Aaron Blanchard (BME, Salaita Group) who received Honorable Mentions.

For the 2016 competition, NSF received close to 17,000 applications, and made 2,000 award offers.

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based Master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited United States institutions. As the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind, the GRFP has a long history of selecting recipients who achieve high levels of success in their future academic and professional careers.

Congratulations, Dr. Nina Weldy!

Nina Weldy and Simon Blakey following her defense. Photo provided by Nina Weldy.
Nina Weldy and Simon Blakey following her defense. Photo provided by Nina Weldy.

Nina Weldy successfully defended her thesis, “Development of Transition Metal Catalyzed Metallonitrene and Metallocarbene Group Transfer Reactions” on Monday, August 3rd, 2015. Nina’s thesis committee was led by Simon Blakey with Huw Davies and Chris Scarborough as additional members. Nina’s research at Emory resulted in publications in Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., Chem. Sci., and a chapter in Science of Synthesis. Nina will be an Assistant Professor at Kennesaw State University starting in the Fall.

Congratulations, Nina!

Huw Davies elected to National Academy of Inventors

Chemistry professor Huw Davies–who holds 23 patents and has published 280 scientific article–was elected to the National Academy of Inventors. Dr. Davies’ current work is focused on the design of new catalysts to enable synthetic technologies for drug discovery. He is the Director of the Center for Selective C-H Functionalization.

Dr. Davies is the director of the Center for C-H Functionalization. Click here to watch a new video exploring the work of the center.

Congratulations, Huw!

Student Spotlight: Carolyn Cohen

Carolyn Cohen. Photo provided by Carolyn Cohen.
Carolyn Cohen. Photo provided by Carolyn Cohen.

Carolyn Cohen’s (EC ’14) has been awarded a 2014 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. NSF receives over 14,000 applications from across all scientific disciplines and picks 2,000 fellows each year. Fellows receive three years of stipend support at $32,000 per year and a $10,000 educational allowance. The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship is one of the most prestigious awards available to young scholars in the sciences.

Carolyn’s NSF award is the capstone to an undergraduate career in chemistry that is notable both for its breadth and depth, leading her to explore chemical concepts in the lab, the classroom…and even in Siena, Italy. In summer 2012, Carolyn travelled to Italy as part of the popular Summer Studies in Siena, Italy program. Carolyn took advantage of the summer program because it allowed her to fit travel abroad between busy semesters as a chemistry major and member of the Emory Women’s Swimming Team. She returned home with a deeper appreciation and understanding of Italian culture and of chemistry, ready to put her new knowledge to work doing organic synthesis research. In addition to exploring Italy through the lens of chemistry, Carolyn found that her summer in Italy helped her to build strong mentoring relationships with chemistry faculty, especially Simon Blakey.

Speaking of Carolyn’s achievements, Blakey praised Carolyn’s ability to quickly grasp difficult concepts and her patience when teaching others. “Carolyn exhibits a command of the chemical literature, a strong work ethic, and dedication in the laboratory,” said Blakey. “What amazes those of us who have come to know Carolyn as a remarkable Emory citizen is the fact that she has repeated this commitment, dedication, and excellence in many different environments.”

This includes the language classroom-last year, Carolyn received the Reppard Greek medal, the top prize in the Classics department. Carolyn serves as an ePass tutor for Greek and Latin, further evidence of her ability not only to master difficult concepts but to teach them to others effectively. Her willingness to teach is also evident in her weekly commitment to coaching special needs swimmers, a project that led her to attend the 2013 Georgia Summer Special Olympics to support swimmers in the program.

A Clare Booth Luce Research Scholar, Carolyn completed undergraduate research in the Davies Group at Emory and under the direction of Brian Stoltz at CalTech, both leaders in the field in C-H Functionalization. Huw Davies praised her abilities in the laboratory: “Carolyn is an exceptional student.  She is quiet, steady, and focused.  She is already performing at the level of a graduate student and I expect great things from her as she continues her research career.” Luce Fellowships are intended to encourage women pursuing careers in research and the physical sciences. To that end, Carolyn attends a mentoring group with other Luce scholars under the direction of graduate student Caitlin Davis (Dyer Group). Their support was integral in helping her to craft a successful NSF proposal.

Carolyn will apply her NSF award to graduate study in chemistry with an eye towards pursuing a research career in the pharmaceutical industry. She has recently accepted an offer of admission from Stanford University.