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 Monday, July 16th, Lara Patel successfully defended her thesis, “Changes in state: From phase transitions to nucleation and aggregation”. Lara’s thesis committee included her thesis advisor, Dr. James Kindt, and members Dr. Joel Bowman and Dr. Francesco Evangelista.
During her time at Emory, Lara contributed to the publication of four manuscripts:
1. Patel, L. A.; Kindt J. T., Simulations of NaCl aggregation from solution: Solvent determines topography of free energy landscape. J. Chem. Theory Comput. 2018. (Submitted)
2. Zhang, X.; Patel, L. A.; Beckwith, O.; Schneider, R.; Weeden, C.; Kindt, J. T., Extracting aggregation free energies of mixed clusters from simulations of small systems: Application to ionic surfactant micelles. J. Chem. Theory Comput., 2017, 13 (11), 5195–5206. (DOI: 10.1021/acs.jctc.7b00671)
3. Patel, L. A.; Kindt, J. T., Cluster free energies from simple simulations of small numbers of aggregants: Nucleation of liquid MTBE from vapor and aqueous phases. J. Chem. Theory Comput., 2017, 13 (3), 1023–1033. (DOI: 10.1021/acs.jctc.6b01237)
4. Patel, L. A.; Kindt, J. T., Coarse grained molecular simulations of DPPC vesicle melting. Soft Matter, 2016, 12, 1765-1777. (DOI: 10.1039/C5SM02560E)
On Thursday, July 12th, Ban-Seok Jeong successfully defended his thesis, “The Dynamics and Kinetics of Proton Related Biological Processes”. Ban-Seok’s thesis committee included his thesis advisor, Dr. Brian Dyer, and members Dr. James T. Kindt and Dr. Khalid Salaita.
New research from the Kindt Group was recently featured in eScienceCommons. The Kindt Group, in collaboration with students in the Mathematics and Computer Science Department, has developed a new method to calculate equilibrium constants using small-scale simulations. The software, which reduces computing time using tricks derived from number theory, has been named PEACH for “partition-enabled analysis of cluster histograms”. Moving forward, this method will give scientists the ability to simulate the behavior of numerous molecules and explore how molecular structures dictate assembly.
“‘Our method will allow computational chemists to make better predictions in simulations for a wide range of complex reactions — from how aerosols form in the atmosphere to how proteins come together to form amyloid filaments implicated in Alzheimer’s disease,’ says James Kindt.”
On Wednesday, September 27th, the Emory University Department of Chemistry was pleased to welcome Dr. Edwin (Ted) Bergin, Professor and Chair of Astronomy at the University of Michigan, to speak about “Strategies and Tactics Developed at the University of Michigan to Enhance Diversity and Excellence in the Hiring Process.”
Dr. Bergin has spent three years as a member of the University of Michigan’s STRIDE (Strategies and Tactics for Recruiting to Improve Diversity and Excellence) committee. STRIDE formed over a decade ago to provide information and advice for identifying, recruiting, retaining, and promoting diverse, well-qualified candidates for faculty positions at the University of Michigan. Since then, the committee has delivered more than 150 workshops to faculty recruitment committees at other Universities across the country.
“The committee has the mission to try to increase both diversity and excellence throughout the University, and the main vehicle is through the hiring process,” Dr. Bergin said. “Having a more diverse faculty can lead to more thoughtful and deliberative discussions. So, diversity and excellence go hand-in-hand.” During the STRIDE workshop seminar, Dr. Bergin provided attendees with insights into how hidden biases influence our perceptions and strategies to circumvent these biases. He outlined the “Top Ten Best Practices”, a comprehensive list of steps to take during the hiring process to recruit for diversity and excellence.
Emory as an institution strives to cultivate an inclusive and diverse community with a respectful intellectual stage for sharing ideas and innovation. Based on the Emory University 2016-2017 Academic Profile, minorities comprise 32 percent of the student body, 28 percent of faculty and 49 percent of staff, women comprise 58 percent of the student body, 42 percent of faculty and 62 percent of staff, and 17 percent of the student body is international.
Earlier this year, The Emory Department of Chemistry formed a task force, led by Dr. James Kindt, to address issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. One of its members, Dr. Susanna Widicus Weaver, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, invited Dr. Bergin for this seminar after learning that he was instrumental in achieving gender balance at an astrochemistry conference they both attended. “Our Emory Chemistry task force took a look at the goals of the STRIDE group and decided that Professor Bergin would be a fantastic speaker to bring in to kick off our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiative,” Dr. Widicus Weaver said. “Increasing diversity in our community means that we introduce new ideas, new ways of thought, and new perspectives. Diversity, equity, and inclusion makes us stronger as a Department and enriches our community.”
Moving forward, the Department of Chemistry Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion task force plan to have more events like this one to provide training and strategies to better address the possible bias-based obstacles to achieving a diverse and inclusive community. By raising awareness and starting conversations centered around these concepts, The Emory Department of Chemistry can take pride in not only seeking diversity, but truly taking the steps to achieve it.
Lewen Yang successfully defended his thesis, “Line tension assisted membrane permeation at the transition temperature in mixed phase lipid bilayers” in Fall 2017. Lewen’s thesis committed was led by James T. Kindt with Joel Bowman and Michael C. Heaven as additional members.
During his time at Emory, Lewen worked on explaining a phenomenon that was first observed in the early 1970’s, that ions can move more quickly through lipid bilayers when the temperature is close to the bilayer’s melting point. At that temperature, zones of ordered lipids, which are very hard to pass through, exist next to zones of disordered lipids. The experiments suggest that the presence of the ordered lipids make the disordered lipids even more permeable than they would be on their own. The explanation proposed originally, and widely cited still, is that the boundary between these zones is exceptionally leaky. Lewen performed simulations on a highly simplified model that pointed to a different explanation – that leakage doesn’t actually occur at the interfaces themselves, but rather that the line tension of the interface exerts a tension on the disordered lipids that makes them more permeable. He followed up this study with demonstrations, using a more realistic model, that the effect of the interface on the energy barrier to permeation could be predicted quantitatively. His work has opened up a whole new perspective on an interesting phenomenon that is relevant to efforts to use thermally activated lipid containers for targeted drug release.
Lewen started a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Delaware with Prof. Ed Lyman in April, where he continues to use molecular simulation to understand lipid phase behavior.
Xiaohong Wang successfully defended her thesis, “Reaction Dynamics and Vibrational Studies of Atmospheric Species on Potential Energy Surfaces” on Thursday, March 10th, 2016. Xiaohong’s thesis committee was led by Joel Bowman with Francesco Evangelista, James Kindt, and Susanna Widicus Weaver as additional members. Xiaohong is also an author of a recently-published Nature Chemistry paper based on research conducted during her time at Emory.
Drew Kise successfully defended his thesis, “Development of Microfluidic Mixing Techniques to study Enzyme Reactions” on Friday, March 25th, 2016. Drew’s thesis committed was led by Brian Dyer with James Kindt and Emily Weinert as additional members. After graduation, Drew will teach chemistry at Woodward Academy in Atlanta, GA.
Kyle Mascaritolo successfully defended his thesis, “A Journal Towards the Construction and Operation of a Photoelectron Velocity-Map Imaging Spectrometer” on Thursday, March 23rd, 2016. Kyle’s thesis committed was led by Michael Heaven with James Kindt and Susanna Widicus Weaver as additional members. After graduation, Kyle plans to pursue a postdoctoral position in gas phase molecular spectroscopy.
Keon Reid (Kindt Group) received a travel award from the Biophysical Society Committee for Inclusion and Diversity (CID) to attend the Society’s 60th Annual Meeting in Los Angeles, California. He will present his research “Exploring the Insertion Mechanism OF SVS-1 β-Hairpin Peptide into an Anionic Lipid Bilayer.” The award will be presented at a reception during the conference.