What’s inside that 400 MHz Superconducting Magnet?

Many of our alumni remember the big stainless steel superconducting magnet on the 400 MHz NMR in the basement of Hall-Atwater. Last year the department replaced this venerable workhorse with a newly refurbished magnet. Facilities Manager Dr. Camille Keeler suggested that it might be interesting to disassemble it to find out what’s really inside. On April 6 and May 3, we did just that. With food contributed by the department, a group of undergraduate and graduate students (and some faculty) assisted Dr. Keeler, who turns out to wield of a mean metal saw. See below for a time-lapse video (courtesy of David Cabanero) are below. The coils will be mounted and displayed in cross section next to the new magnet.

A video may be found HERE.

Brian Northrop to receive Binswanger Teaching Prize

Associate Professor of Chemistry Brian H. Northrop has been named a recipient of the Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching. The prize is awarded by the Wesleyan University Alumni Association to recognize excellence in teaching, as exemplified by commitment to the classroom and student accomplishment, intellectual demands placed on students, lucidity, and passion. In the past few years Prof. Northrop has taught courses in first-year general chemistry, sophomore organic chemistry, nanomaterials, and physical organic chemistry. He is the sixth member of the department to receive the prize (with Michael Calter, Andrea Roberts, Irina Russu, Erika Taylor, and T. David Westmoreland).
The Prize will be presented at Commencement on May 26.

Tishler Pizza Party and Awards Ceremony

The 2019 Tishler Chemistry Pizza Party & Awards Ceremony was held on May 1 this year. Department Chair Westmoreland noted the following milestones and accomplishments for the department:

– The Department published 23 papers (with 37 different Wesleyan authors).
– Eight graduating seniors will receive Honors or High Honors for their senior theses.
– Six majors were elected to Phi Beta Kappa this year.
– Six M.A. students and two Ph.D. students have completed their degrees this year.

The 2019 Chemistry Department Awards were announced. Congratulations to all our award recipients!

ACS Analytical Award: Leticia Costa
Awarded for excellence in analytical chemistry
ACS Award in Inorganic Chemistry: Grace Chen
To recognize achievement in inorganic chemistry and to encourage further study in the field
ACS Award in Organic Chemistry: David Cabanero
To a student who has displayed a significant aptitude for organic chemistry
ACS Award in Physical Chemistry: Matt Erodici
To recognize achievement in physical chemistry and to encourage further study in the field
ACS Connecticut Valley Section Award: Jaquelin Aroujo
For outstanding achievement by a graduating chemistry major
American Institute for Chemists Award: Eija Kent
For outstanding achievement by a graduating chemistry major
Bradley Prize: David Cabanero and Theo Prachyathipsakul
To the senior or junior who excels in chemistry and particularly in special original work
Silverman Prize: Alison Biester
Awarded to a member of the junior or senior class for excellence in chemistry
CRC Award (General Chemistry): Megan Tran
For the outstanding first-year student in Principles of Chemistry
CRC Award (Organic Chemistry): Sally Tepper
For the outstanding first-year student in Organic Chemistry
Hawk Prize: Frank Tucci and Victoria Yu
To the students who have done the most effective work in biochemistry
Martius Yellow Award: Allie Goss and Rochelle Spencer
Awarded for excellence in Integrated Chemistry Laboratory
The Wallace C. Pringle Prize for Research in Chemistry: Alison Biester
Awarded to a student for excellence in research.
Peterson Fellowship: Cody Hecht
For graduate study in biochemistry
Tishler Prize: Vasileios Drogkaris
Awarded to the best graduate teaching assistant in chemistry

Undergraduates Present Research at ACS Section Symposium

Seven of our undergraduate majors presented their research work at the American Chemical Society Connecticut Valley Section Undergraduate Research Symposium held Apr 27 in the new science center at Amherst College. At the symposium Jacquelin Aroujo was presented with Wesleyan’s Connecticut Valley Section Award, given for outstanding achievement by a graduating chemistry major. In addition, David Cabanero received one of two prizes for the Best Poster Presentations. The students enjoyed sharing their work and hearing about what their peers at other schools are doing.

Grace Chen (’20): A 1H Relaxometric Approach to Understanding the Solution Speciation of Mn(II) Complexes in the Context of MRI Contrast Agents
Eija Kent (’19): Synthesis of Gold Alloyed Nanoparticles
Jessica Garcia (’19): Synthesis of Pyridine-Based Ligands for Use in MRI Contrast Agent Design

Abrar Habib (’21): Synthesis of Bimetallic Palladium-Copper (Pd-Cu) & Silver-Platinum (Ag-Pt) Nanoparticles
David Cabanero (’19): Investigating the Mechanism to Enantioselective Induction of the “Interrupted” Feist-Bénary Reaction
Jaquelin Aroujo (’19): An Enantioselective Synthesis of Rocaglamide via an “Interrupted” Feist-Bénary Reaction
Theo Prachyathipsakul (’19): Synthesis and Study of a Water-Soluble Macrocycle

Participants in the ACS-CVS Undergraduate Research Symposium. Seated (left to right): Jessica Garcia, Eija Kent, Grace Chen, Jaquelin Aroujo, Abrar Habib, David Cabanero, and Theo Prachyathipsakul. Standing: Professor Westmoreland

Abrar Habib with his poster waiting the start of the session.

Jaquelin Aroujo receiving the ACS-CVS Award.

David Cabanero with his winning poster.

Chemistry Majors Blow Things Up for WesFest

The annual WesFest chemistry demonstrations show, (Barely) Controlled Substances, was held on Apr 12 for a large and appreciative crowd of visitors and Chemistry Department hangers-on. The demonstrations included the classics gun cotton and thermite, as well as exploding hydrogen/oxygen bubbles, elephant toothpaste, a chemical oscillator, and others. The Chemical Demos Student Forum (Shelly Duong and Victoria Yu as student leaders plus David Cabanero, Leticia Costa, Jessica Garcia, Allie Goss, Sojeong Park, and Kate Sundberg) treated the survivors to liquid nitrogen ice cream afterwards. Pictures and a link to a video (compiled by Shelly Duong and Chloe Qiu) are below.

Kate Sundberg ignites an inordinate amount of gun cotton, which is always a crowd pleaser.

Leticia Costa demonstrates the catalyzed decomposition of hydrogen peroxide to give “toothpaste”.

The Chemical Demonstrations student forum members; bottom row left to right: Sojeong Park (BA ’18, MA ’19), Kate Sundberg (’20), Allie Goss (’20), David Cabanero (’19); top row: Victoria Yu (’19), Jessica Garcia (’19), Leticia Costa (’19), Shelly Duong (’19).

VIDEO from the presentation (courtesy of Shelly Duong and Chloe Qiu):

Chemistry Majors Elected to Phi Beta Kappa – Spring 2019

Three senior chemistry majors have been elected to the Gamma Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. They will be honored at an induction ceremony during Reunion/Commencement on Saturday, May 25, 2018 at 4:00 p.m. in the Chapel. The honorees are:
• David Cabanero
• Lucas Mani
• Victoria Yu
They join Alison Biester, Theo Prachyathipsakul, and Alexa Strauss, who were elected in the fall semester. This has been another very good year for chemistry students and we proudly extend our congratulations to all.

BA/MA Completion Celebration: Zachary Hillman, Giselle Reyes

Giselle Reyes and Zachary Hillman during their celebration.

Giselle Reyes:

Giselle graduated in December 2017, having completed the graduation requirements in seven semesters. At that point she had already applied and been admitted to the B.A./M.A. program and had been working in my laboratory for two years, including two summers. Giselle’s research was a study of the electrochemical cleavage in acetonitrile of benzylic carbon-oxygen bonds, primarily those of benzhydrol and substituted benzhydrols but also simpler benzyl alcohols, taking advantage of the very negative potentials attainable in platinum cathodes in aprotic solvents. The reductions of benzhydrols were found to afford diphenylmethanes in high yield under these conditions. She then turned her attention to the same reductions carried out in perdeuterio acetonitrile (CD3CN). It was anticipated that reduction of the benzhydryl C-OH bond would produce benzhydryl carbanion, which would then abstract a deuteron from the solvent to afford the monodeuterio product (C6H5)2CHD. Surprisingly, the reactions were found by carbon and proton NMR spectroscopy to afford not only the expected monodeuterio product (C6H5)2CHD) but also substantial amounts of the dideuterio and diprotio isotopomers C6H5)2CD2 and (C6H5)2CH2, demonstrating the reversibility of proton transfer from acetonitrile to benzhydryl carbanion. Giselle successfully defended her thesis on December 19, 2018.

Zackary Hillman:

In Spring 2017, Zach received Honors for his senior thesis describing his research in my laboratory. He then applied and was admitted to the BA/MA program to continue his research on the reductive dimerization (Zn/AlCl3) of alkyl aryl ketones (C6H5COR) to 1,2-dialkyl-1-alkanones (C6H5)2CHRCOR) and reaction of the latter with superoxide ion, a reaction previously studied by Elaine Tsui of my group (now a graduate student at Princeton University). Our original work on this reaction had been limited to dimeric ketones in which both alkyl groups are the same. However, Zach showed that mixed dimers can be synthesized by using mixtures of two different ketones in the reductive dimerization step. An exciting development in the course of this work was his discovery that the reductive dimerization of cyclohexyl phenyl ketone affords a dicyclohexyl ketone in which ring inversion of one of the cyclohexyl groups is highly sterically constrained, i.e., that the ring is conformationally rigid, as confirmed by x-ray crystallography, variable temperature NMR spectroscopy, and quantum chemical computations. His thesis was defended successfully on December 21, 2018.

Summaries written by Professor Albert Fry

Wesleyan Chemistry Mini-reunion in Evanston, IL

On a recent visit to the Chicago area, Prof. Westmoreland stopped by Evanston, IL for a tasty brunch with the cohort of Wes alumni who are currently in the Northwestern University Chemistry Ph.D. program.  Everyone enjoyed hearing about the latest news from the department and waxed nostalgic for their days in the tender embrace of Hall-Atwater.

From left to right: Joanna Korpanty (’18), Max Distler (’18), Natalia Powers-Riggs (’13), Prof. Westmoreland, and Dan Laorenza (’16, M.A. ’17). Aaron Stone (’18) overslept and is not pictured. (Photo credit: Dana E. Westmoreland)

Prachiti Bhatawdekar Receives PhD

Dr. Prachiti Bhatawdekar successfully defended her PhD thesis, “Conservation of Enantiomeric Excess Throughout a Multistep Reduction / Elimination Reaction Sequence Starting with an Interrupted Feist-Bénary Product”, on November 30, 2018. Prachiti came to Wesleyan in 2011 after receiving her combined Master’s/Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from  Jiwaji University in India. Prachiti joined Prof. Calter’s lab in the fall of 2011 and worked on a number of projects before settling on a methodological study. She discovered the Interrupted Feist-Bénary products commonly produced in the Calter labs could be reduced to useful benopyran derivatives. Prachiti is now completing an industrial post-doc at CheminPharma in Branford, CT.

Fall Phi Beta Kappa Election 2018

Three senior chemistry majors were elected to the Phi Beta Kappa honor society this fall.  The fall election is limited to just a few students and the department is particularly proud that three of our Chemistry majors are among them.

Alison Biester is from Philadelphia, PA and a double major in Chemistry and MB&B.  Theo Prachyathipsakul, who hails from Bangkok, Thailand, is a Chemistry major and an East Asian Studies minor. He is also one of the student leaders of the Free Radicals.  Alexa Strauss, from Glen Rock, NJ, majors in Chemistry and in MB&B.  All three are headed off to Ph.D. programs later this year.

More on the fall class of Phi Beta Kappa recipients with a completely unposed photo may be found at: http://newsletter.blogs.wesleyan.edu/2018/12/06/16-seniors-elected-to-phi-beta-kappa/