CCHF Receives $20 Million Renewal from NSF

Center Director Huw Davies (right) in the CCHF lab at Emory.

Emory’s Center for Selective C-H Functionalization has received a five year, $20 million renewal from the National Science Foundation. The CCHF is part of NSF’s Centers for Chemical Innovation (CCI) program that supports research centers focused on major, long-term fundamental chemical research challenges. The CCHF aims to bring about a paradigm shift in the logic of chemical synthesis, one that has the potential to impact the construction of all organic molecules. The Center is headquartered at Emory, but has satellite centers at research universities across the U.S. and internationally including UC Berkeley, Stanford, Princeton, and Georgia Tech, among others. The CCHF also works with industrial collaborators, including Novartis, Merck, and AbbVie.

Center Director Huw Davies says, “We are very excited with this opportunity because we feel the momentum of the CCHF continues to build.   An Outlook of the CCHF has just been published, which summarizes what we have achieved so far and where we plan to go in the future.”

As with all CCI, the CCHF also has an outreach mission, seeking to share their science with the public. They are regular participants in the Atlanta Science Festival and sponsors of the Graduate School Prep Club. The CCHF has also pioneered the use of virtual symposia offering talks by researchers that take place at one institution and are simulcast to partner centers and the public worldwide, reaching thousands of viewers.

The CCHF is profiled in-depth in a recent article in ACS Central Science.

Congratulations to Dr. Davies and all Center staff, students, and faculty on this major grant renewal!

Elaine Liu Receives ARCS Award

Elaine Liu
Elaine Liu

Elaine Liu (MacBeth Group) has been awarded an Advancing Science in America or ARCS Fellowship. The ARCS Foundation advances science and technology in the United States by providing financial awards to academically outstanding U.S. citizens studying to complete degrees in science, engineering and medical research. The awards are focused on helping researchers at the startup or “seed stage” of their work and discovery.

Elaine’s project is titled “Elucidating the mechanism of cobalt-mediated C-H functionalization.” She will investigate how to make more reliable, less expensive catalysts for sustainable use in chemical and pharmaceutical synthesis, potentially making life-saving drugs more accessible and affordable. 

In her own words, Elaine explains: “Organic chemists have shown the utility of readily available cobalt in catalyzing cross-coupling reactions by providing a relatively fast, simple, and high yield pathway for these reactions. However, the catalytic step has not been well characterized, leading to a trial-and-error approach in its implementation. By studying the cobalt-based reactivity in a step-wise manner, the mechanism and mechanistic requirements of the activation event can be mapped out. Elucidating the activation requirements will, in turn, allow for more targeted and complex carbon cross-coupling reactions.”

Elaine’s research advisor, Cora MacBeth, highlights the way that Elaine’s research takes advantage of the resources of the Emory University Center for X-ray Crystallography.  “Her studies have focused on understanding the step-wise bond forming processes by analyzing stoichiometric transformations using spectroscopy and single molecule X-ray diffraction – in collaboration with the X-ray Crystallography Center at Emory.  Her research has helped identify previously unreported (and un-proposed) intermediates in these catalytic processes.  She will use these findings to aid in the development of new reactions.”

The ARCS Award is an unrestricted $7,500 award given directly to the scientist and may be renewed for up to three years. In addition to advancing her research, Elaine plans to use the ARCS award to expand her outreach efforts in the Atlanta community. Outside the lab, Elaine is the vice President of Outreach and Academic Affairs for Pi Alpha Chemical Society.  The group frequently visits local elementary schools and museums to share science demos. Elaine plans to create a blog that will catalog these chemistry demonstrations and lectures. “[I] would like to keep track of what worked and what concepts were suited to the children as well as make these experiments and their materials accessible for home schooled students and students in underfunded and underprivileged schools.” A blog will also be an opportunity for Elaine to share her experiences as a woman scientist, raising the visibility of women scientists more generally and contributing to diversity in outreach as well as in research.

After Emory, Elaine hopes to teach at a primarily undergraduate institution, sharing her love of chemistry with another generation. 

Congratulations, Elaine!

Wuest Group Featured in ChemBioChem

Research from the Wuest Group is featured on the cover of the August issue of ChemBioChem. The article is “Efflux Pumps Might Not Be the Major Drivers of QAC Resistance in Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus.”

The inside cover picture shows that
cell-membrane composition might be
the primary driver of bacterial resistance to quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs). Our findings shed light on this daunting phenomenon with world-wide impact as QACs are ubiquitous in household cleaners and typically serve as the last line of defense in home sanitation.

Congratulations, Dr. Liangbing Fu!

Liangbing FuLiangbing Fu successfully defended his thesis, “Expanding the Scope of Reactions and Applications of Donor/Acceptor Rhodium(II)-carbenes” on Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016. Liangbing’s thesis committed was led by Huw Davies with Simon Blakey and Lanny Liebeskind as additional members.

Earlier this year, Liangbing received the Quayle Advanced/Senior Student Award. During his time at Emory, he published four first-author papers, among others. His first author paper in JACS expanded the scope pf Donor/Acceptor carbene C-H insertion reactions to include relatively electron-deficient substrates. 

Liangbing is currently a postdoctoral scholar at Georgia Tech.

Congratulations, Liangbing!

Frank McDonald Authors New Textbook

Frank McDonald
Frank McDonald. Photo by Jessica Lily Photography.

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  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. 

[Finding the Right Partner on Amazon]

Meet the New Graduate Class: Cameron Pratt

Cameron Pratt
Cameron Pratt

Cameron Pratt comes to Emory from Hope College in Holland, Michigan. At Hope, he had the opportunity to be involved in multiple research projects that sparked his love of chemistry as well as his interest in teaching at a primarily undergraduate institution in the future. This summer, Cam joined Emory as a summer rotation student in the Davies Group. He also became involved with Pi Alpha Chemical Society, helping stage demos for visiting summer camps. At Emory, he looks forward to getting excited about new research projects and learning more about teaching as a TA. Outside of chemistry, Cam enjoys theatre and improv and hopes to eventually start a graduate improv troupe at Emory.

Divisions of Interest: Inorganic, Organic, Physical

Meet the New Graduate Class: Dave Bruns


Dave Bruns
Dave Bruns

Dave Bruns comes to Emory from Vanderbilt University. Dave appreciated that Vandy—like Emory—offers “outstanding academics and great athletic programs that are not football.” After graduation, Dave worked for a year and he is excited to get back into the classroom. Dave says, “I chose Emory because the faculty were proactive in reaching out to me during the decision-making process and made it clear that they were concerned with developing me into the best chemist I can be. The beautiful new building also played a considerable role in my decision.” After Emory, Dave’s dream job would include teaching, whether as a research professor or lecturer.

Research Interests: Catalyst development, mechanistic and kinetic studies of catalytic conversions

Divisions of Interest: Inorganic, Organic, Physical

What makes Dave Unique: I once had a mullet that gave Joe Dirt’s a run for its money.


Meet the New Graduate Class: Yifan Zhu

Yifan Zhu
Yifan Zhu

Yifan “David” Zhu comes to Emory from USTC in China. Yifan grew up in Chengdu, China and attended a gifted school for young people at USTC before completing his undergraduate degree at the same institution. He chose Emory in part because of the interdisciplinary reach of the department and “the astounding work of Emory professors.” Yifan’s own research interests are interdisciplinary in scope, with a focus on the intersection of organic and materials chemistry. His research interests are influenced by his undergraduate experience working in a research group outside of his chemistry major and recognizing the possibilities for work across disciplinary lines.

Division of Interest: Organic

Meet the New Graduate Class: Yixiao Dong

Yixiao Dong
Yixiao Dong

Yixiao Dong comes to Emory from Wuhan University of Technology in China where he majored in polymer materials engineering . He also completed three years of research as a master’s degree student and one year as a research assistant where he gained experience in materials synthesis, characterization, and computation. His work during this time resulted in seven publications. Yixiao chose Emory for the great professors and he is looking forward to the rotation experience. His research interests include polymers and nanomaterials.

Divisions of Interest: Biomolecular, Organic, Physical



Meet the New Graduate Class: Jeffery Cornelison

Jeffery Cornelison
Jeffery Cornelison

Jeffery Cornelison comes to Emory from Duke University. He chose Emory for the “type, impact, and scope of research being done here.” His own research interests are focused on organic chemistry, in particular using organic chemistry and biochemistry to design and develop molecules capable of tweaking biology at the cellular level. Outside of chemistry, Jeffery is interested in movies and music—“being a film critic is my fall-back plan for graduate school.”

Division of Interest: Organic