Joy Cote receives PhD

Left to right: Dr. Joy Cote, Susan Cote

Meet Joy Cote, a recent PhD student who graduated from the chemistry department in January. Joy came to Wesleyan after receiving her BS in chemistry from the College of Mount Saint Vincent in 2012. During her time as an undergraduate, Joy participated in two separate research projects. Both a synthetic project aiming to create porphyrins and a development project aiming to understand sperm development in Drosophila. Although both projects nurtured her scientific aspirations, she was not completely satisfied with either of them. Upon coming to Wesleyan, Joy joined Prof. Erika Taylor’s lab and spent the next 5 years investigating the dynamics of Heptosyltransferase I, an enzyme found in Gram-negative bacteria, using a variety of biophysical techniques. It was during this time that she realized that research focused on understanding proteins in a quantitative manner was something she was passionate about and would drive her future studies. Since graduating, Joy has started a post-doctoral associate position at Fox Chase Cancer Center. Here she is working with Dr. Andy Andrews on how acetylation of metabolic enzymes that play a role in regulation.


Chemistry Department Welcomes Prof. Colin Smith

Prof. Colin Smith

The Chemistry Department welcomes Professor Colin Smith to the faculty where he also holds an affiliated appointment in the Molecular Biophysics Program.  He earned his BA from New York University and a PhD from the University of California San Francisco, where his research focused on protein design and developing new methods for computationally modeling protein flexibility. Prior to coming to Wesleyan, he was a postdoctoral scholar at the Max Plank Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen. There he studied protein motion at the atomic level and its implications for how biological activity is regulated.

At Wesleyan Prof. Smith will continue his work in protein dynamics, with a focus on determining the atomic-level mechanisms of how changes in regions far from the active site propagate through proteins and ultimately affect their functions.  For example, some remote mutations can cause proteins to malfunction and lead to disease. In other cases, protein engineering has discovered unusually located mutations that enhance activity, making new synthetic and therapeutic applications possible. Work by Prof. Smith and others has identified an increasing number of cases where this communication happens not through a change in the structure, but in the extent of protein motion.

Prof. Smith and his students will take a distinctly multidisciplinary approach, including computational simulation and modeling, in addition to high-resolution biophysical techniques like nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), to determine both structure and dynamics at the atomic level.  His group’s goal is to understand better how protein activity is remotely controlled by nature and ultimately enable its rational manipulation for therapeutic or synthetic applications.

Prof. Smith’s recent and near future course offerings include Practical NMR (CHEM 382), Physical Chemistry for the Life Sciences (CHEM 381), and Molecular Modeling and Design (CHEM 396).

Chemistry Department Welcomes Prof. Carlos Jiménez-Hoyos

Prof. Carlos Jiménez-Hoyos

The Chemistry Department welcomes Professor Carlos Jiménez-Hoyos to the faculty as a computational chemist. He earned a BS in Chemistry from Monterrey Tech in Monterrey, Mexico and a PhD in Chemistry from Rice University, working under Gustavo Scuseria in developing computationally efficient methods to describe molecules and materials that are strongly correlated. He then moved to work with Garnet Chan at Princeton University and the California Institute of Technology as a postdoctoral scholar. There he worked, among other things, on the development of embedding methods for practical quantum chemical calculations.

At Wesleyan Prof. Jiménez-Hoyos plans to continue his work on the development of efficient, scalable methods for electronic structure to investigate chemical and physical properties on systems beyond the reach of current techniques. He is very interested in strongly correlated molecules and materials, such as molecular magnets and bioinorganic clusters. In addition, he aims to improve current computation approaches for studying heterogeneous catalysis at transition metal surfaces or nanoparticles, for which he plans to continue his work with embedding techniques. Lastly, Prof. Jiménez-Hoyos is interested in understanding the nature of delocalized excitations in molecular aggregates.

Prof. Jiménez-Hoyos will be offering the following courses in the near future: Thermodynamics, Statistical Mechanics, and Kinetics (CHEM 338) and Intro to Quantum Chemistry (CHEM 340).  He will also be a major contributor to our initiative to restructure the Introductory Chemistry Laboratory (CHEM 152).

Recent Retirements

Among the biggest recent changes in the Chemistry Department is the advancement of several of our faculty to emeritus status over the last few years.  The department wishes them well on their new adventures.

Wallace (“Pete”) Pringle retired in 2012 after 43 years at Wesleyan.  He divides his time between Connecticut and Florida.  When he’s in the state, Pete can frequently be found around Hall-Atwater, where he still collaborates with Stew Novick’s group.
Phil Bolton became emeritus in 2016 and still resides in West Hartford where he is devoting more time to his horticultural interests and going on hikes with his dog, Daphne.
Also retiring in 2016, George Petersson has relocated to the Philadelphia area where he still stays scientifically active as a Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Chemistry at Temple University. 
Rex Pratt became emeritus at the beginning of 2017 and has returned to Melbourne, Australia, quickly becoming an expert on the local pub culture and enjoying watching a lot more international cricket.
David Beveridge has simply moved across Lawn Avenue to assume the co-directorship of the Wasch Center for Retired Faculty.
Al Fry, who officially retired in Jan 2017, is still an active presence in the department and has no plans to do anything else until his current group of undergraduate and master students, has graduated.

Phi Beta Kappa Election

Two 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 in the fact that two of them are our majors.  Maya Marshall is a double major in Chemistry and Hispanic Literatures and Cultures and plans to pursue a medical career.  Aaron Stone is pursuing degrees in Chemistry and Math is working on a senior thesis in the Westmoreland lab.  This fall he will be heading off to a Ph.D. program.

More on the fall class of Phi Beta Kappa recipients and an attractive photo may be found at:

Free Radicals

The tie-dye tradition continues!  The chemistry majors’ group, the Free Radicals, got together on a sunny Saturday afternoon last October to make tie-died lab coats.  Organized by Associate Professor of the Practice Andrea Roberts, and the Free Radicals co-leaders Jeanette Thornton (’18), Giselle Reyes (’18) and Theo Prachyathipsakul (‘19), nearly forty chemistry majors dyed lab coats, consumed Thai food, and indulged in liquid nitrogen ice cream.  The results are shown below.

Holiday Party 2017

The Chemistry Department’s holiday party, organized largely by the graduate students, was held on campus at the Daniels Family Commons at the end of last semester.  It is always a highlight of the year and nearly everyone attended, but the absence of Prof. Pratt resulted in fewer creative dance moves this year.  Some candid photos from the event are below.

Prof. Colin Smith, Quanli Gu, Prof. Joe Knee, Barbara Knee
Steven Bertolino, Prof. Michelle Personick, Prof. Carlos Jiménez-Hoyos, Melisa Moreno Garcia
Walter Emmons, Terry Emmons, Holly King, Tom King
Sola Adediran, Prof. Suara (Deji) Adediran
Rachel Lowe, Prof. Anthony Davis
Tore King, Melissa King, Joy Cote
Angelika Rafalowski, Jozafina Milicaj
Sean McDarby, Andrea Lee

New Scanning Electron Microscope

The Chemistry Department welcomes a new Hitachi SU5000 field-emission scanning electron microscope (FE-SEM), which arrived in mid-January, to the newly renovated microscopy classroom in Wesleyan’s Advanced Microscopy Facility. The SU5000 has a resolution of 1.2 nm and it is equipped with an energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (EDS) detector to provide elemental and chemical analysis as well as other specialized detectors. The instrument will support the growing Materials Cluster in the Chemistry Department, particularly Prof. Personick’s research with catalytic metal nanoparticles, and will also be used by other research groups in Earth & Environmental Sciences, the Planetary Sciences Cluster, Physics, and Biology. Funding for the purchase of the FE-SEM was provided by a grant from the National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation program, as well as matching funds from Wesleyan. Click here for more information on this new scanning electron microscope.

Some photos of the newly renovated space and renovations: