Seminar Schedule for Spring 2017

Outside the Atwood Hall seminar room. Photo by Josh Meister.
Outside the Atwood Hall seminar room. Photo by Josh Meister.

The Department of Chemistry at Emory University frequently welcomes researchers from around the world to share their science with our community. Our Spring 2017 schedule includes a special Johnston Seminar with Frank Neese (Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversionas well as a Hightower-sponsored visit by Robert J. McMahon (University of Wisconsin, Madison) who will serve as the keynote speaker for our annual undergraduate poster session and awards ceremony in April. Additionally, our graduate students will host a special seminar with Carl Lineberger (University of Colorado, Boulder), the first-ever recipient of their “Chemmy Award” for excellence in chemistry.

The most up-to-date seminar schedule is always available on our department calendar on the front page of chemistry.emory.edu. Additionally, seminars are included on the printed calendars posted weekly around the department.

Seminars are open to all members of the Emory community. All seminars take place in Atwood Hall 360, the Department of Chemistry seminar room. Monday seminars take place at 4 p.m. and Wednesday seminars take place at 2 p.m. Occasionally, special seminars may take place at other days/times/locations. These changes will always be announced in advance on our department calendars.

Wednesday, February 1st
Christopher Uyeda, Purdue University

Monday, February 6th
Sean Garrett-Roe, University of Pittsburgh

Wednesday, February 8th
Carl Lineberger, University of Colorado, Boulder

Monday, February 13
David Flannigan, University of Minnesota

Wednesday, February 15th
Laszlo Kurti, Rice University

Monday, February 20th
Gordana Dukovic, University of Colorado, Boulder

Monday, February 27th
Joel Collier, Duke University

Wednesday, March 1st
Valentine Ananikov, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow

Monday, March 20th
Amit Reddi, Georgia Institute of Technology

Wednesday, March 22nd
Alex Radosevich, Pennsylvania State University

Monday, March 27th
Anatoly Frenkel, Brookhaven National Lab

Wednesday, March 29th
Noah Burns, Stanford University

Monday, April 10th
Johnston Lecture with Frank Neese, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion

April 17-21st, 2017
Undergraduate Research Week with Robert J. McMahon, University of Wisconsin

Monday, April 24th
Joshua Pierce, North Carolina State University

Tuesday, April 25th (2pm, Atwood 360)
Klaus Pörschke, Max Planck Institute for Coal Research

Wednesday, April 26th
Anne J. McNeil, University of Michigan

Graduate Student Spotlight: Brian Hays (Widicus Weaver Group) Wins ACS Astrochemistry Dissertation Award

Brian Hays. Photo provided by Brian Hays.
Brian Hays. Photo provided by Brian Hays.

Brian Hays (Widicus Weaver Group) is honest when asked what it was like to write his dissertation. “The dissertation writing process was grueling,” he says. “I rewrote it several times and stayed up all night for many nights.” Developing the dissertation project was also a challenge. “There were a lot of challenges to getting the PhD, many of them experimental. Usually they involved something that had never been experienced before in the lab, and we would have to learn a new skill and apply it immediately to research.”

That hard work paid off. Brian successfully defended his thesis in April 2015 and in May 2016 he was announced as the winner of the American Chemical Society’s Astrochemistry Dissertation Award for 2016. The award is intended to promote the emerging discipline of Astrochemistry within the PHYS Division of the ACS by recognizing an outstanding recent Ph.D. thesis submitted by an Astrochemistry Subdivision member. Brian will receive a $500 award and will give an invited presentation at the August 2016 ACS Meeting in Philadelphia.

Speaking to Brian, it’s clear that hard work and challenges on the road to the dissertation were met with a spirit of discovery and determination. “It was always very exciting to dive into something new [ . . . ] I was looking forward to building an experiment from scratch.” “Something new” for Brian included the development of novel spectroscopic methods that increased scanning speed by almost 100 times, leading to faster results.  Mentoring support from advisor Susanna Widicus Weaver also made the journey towards the PhD easier. “Susanna was the person at Emory who most helped me towards getting the PhD,” says Brian. “Her mentoring and support is very important to me.”

Photo shows fluorescence from an excimer laser intersecting with molecular source inside a vacuum chamber with infrared beam path coming underneath in the Widicus Weaver Lab. Photo provided by Brian Hays.
Photo shows fluorescence from an excimer laser intersecting with molecular source inside a vacuum chamber with infrared beam path coming underneath in the Widicus Weaver Lab. Photo provided by Brian Hays.

The award-winning research that resulted is “primarily concerned with making and examining unstable molecules that may lead to prebiotic molecules in space.” The research relies on spectroscopic techniques that allow scientists to compare the results of an experiment to astronomical observations of star forming regions. “[We] see if we can make a molecule in the lab and detect it in space,” explains Brian. These techniques allow scientists to make informed observations about far-away regions of space from within the confines of the lab. For Brian, that didn’t completely rule out travel to places far, far away. He took advantage of Professional Development Support funds from the Laney Graduate School to perform astronomical observations in Hawaii.

Currently, Brian is a postdoctoral fellow at Purdue in the lab of Tim Zwier working on chirped pulse microwave spectroscopy. As in the PhD, Brian is seeking new capacities for existing tools “building up [Zwier’s] current instrument towards including mass spectrometry and towards new double resonance techniques.” Their next project will look at processes related to Titan’s atmosphere using these new techniques.

A theme of Brian’s dissertation and postdoctoral work seems to be the excitement he finds in new experiences, techniques, and questions. What does he find most exciting about what’s new and next for the field of astrochemistry? “I am most excited about the proliferation of rotational spectroscopy to more experiments in physical chemistry. This allows for a very high resolution picture of molecules that is state dependent and can be applied in a wide variety of experiments now, including those of astrophysical interest.”