Chemistry Alumnus Jessica Garcia Awarded Eastman Chemical Company Fellowship

Jessica Garcia, a 2021 graduate of the BA/MA program in Chemistry, was recently awarded a fellowship through the University of North Carolina. The Eastman Chemical Company Fellowship program is a newly established award bestowed to first year graduate students at UNC for their committed effort to enhance the departmental mission to create a diverse and inclusive community. Sponsored by the Eastman Chemical Company, Eastman Fellows receive a stipend that supports the continuation of their contributions to the Carolina Chemistry community.  Jessica is among six students who were awarded this prestigious fellowship. Join us in congratulating her on this momentous achievement!

Personick Wins Silver (and more) at USRowing Masters National Championships


Dr. Personick & teammates

From August 12-15th, Prof. Personick competed at the USRowing Masters National Championships on Melton Lake in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The weather was hot, but the water was flat and cold—perfect for racing and keeping cool. Her team, Riverfront Recapture, won medals in 46 events – 24 gold, 11 silver and 11 bronze – a team record. After a fog delay each morning, Prof. Personick raced to win one silver medal (women’s open B four with coxswain*) and three bronze medals (women’s club A four with coxswain, mixed AA four with coxswain, and mixed B eight). She also finished fourth in the women’s open A four with coxswain and fifth in the women’s open A single sculls.

All of these finishes contributed points to Riverfront’s success in the team points competitions. The team won the men’s points trophy and finished second for club points, third for overall points (out of 112 teams), and second for the efficiency competition (points per athlete). Overall, it was a great success, and the team is now looking forward to the fall racing season!


Dr. Personick & teammates


Dr. Personick 


Medals & Hat


Dr. Personick’s team 


Melton Lake in Oak Ridge, Tennessee


Melton Lake in Oak Ridge, Tennessee

Results: https://herenow.com/results/#/races

Pictures: https://www.row2k.com/gallery/index.cfm?year=2021&category=Masters%20Nationals

* Letters indicate the average age of the crew: AA = 21-26, A = 27-35, B = 36-42

Dr. Benjamin Elling Joins the Chemistry Department

The Chemistry Department is delighted to welcome Dr. Benjamin Elling as an Assistant Professor of Chemistry. His recently renovated lab, in the space formerly occupied by Albert J. Fry, will investigate new methods to synthesize and reprocess polymers. This semester he will be teaching CHEM 373, an upper-level course on polymer chemistry.

Professor Elling received his BA in chemistry from Cornell University, where he synthesized polymers for anion exchange membranes in the lab of Geoff Coates. He then attended Stanford University, where he became the first PhD student of Yan Xia and developed methods for sequence-specific polymerization via the ring-opening metathesis of substituted cyclopropenes. Prior to his appointment at Wesleyan, Professor Elling was a postdoctoral scholar in the lab of Professor Will Dichtel, where he designed new covalent adaptable networks and investigated strategies for mixed plastic compatibilization.

Here at Wesleyan, Professor Elling will combine his interests in synthetic methods development and sustainability. His lab will focus on leveraging strain energy to create polymers capable of controlled degradation, reprocessing thermosets through novel exchange chemistries, and incorporating renewable building blocks such as carbon dioxide into materials. The Chemistry Department is very pleased to have him join us.

Andrea Lee Receives PhD

     

Dr. Andrea Lee

Dr. Andrea recently defended her Ph.D. dissertation entitled “Examining Chromium(III)-based Contrast Agents for Use as a Model for Understanding Prototropic Exchange in ParaCEST MRI Contrast Agents.” Andrea started at Wesleyan University in 2014 after graduating with honors from the University of New Haven where she received a B.S. in Forensic Science and a B.S. in Chemistry. Her undergraduate thesis work focused on analyzing the triglycerides in biofuel made from acorns using HPLC with detection by FT-IR and UV-Vis. Upon starting at Wesleyan University, Andrea joined the research lab of Professor Westmoreland and worked on many research projects exploring various transition metal-based MRI contrast agents and their properties in aqueous solutions. She also received many opportunities as a teaching assistant which included taking on many responsibilities in the Introductory Chemistry Laboratory. She was also awarded the Tishler Teaching Award in 2018. This fall, Andrea will be starting as an Assistant Teaching Professor at Drew University where she will be teaching Analytical Chemistry.

Dr. Andrea Lee


Tom Lee


Dr. David Westmoreland


From left to right: Kimberly Lee, Terrie Tin, and Samantha Lee


Dr. Andrea Lee and Dr. David Westmoreland


A captive audience


From top to bottom, left to right: Eric Zanderigo, Kaylah Medvec, Annika Velez, Dr. David Westmoreland,
Dr. Andrea Lee, Jozafina Milicaj, Angelika Rafalowski, Dr. Alison O’Neil, Dr. Colin Smith
Sean McDarby, Mohammed Ullah, Oliver Cho, Kat Blejec


Celebratory cake

From left to right: Tom Lee, Kimberly Lee, Dr. Andrea Lee, Terrie Tin, and Samantha Lee

 

Chemistry Major Demonstrates Flimsiness of Amherst Construction

In a baseball game late in the spring semester, senior Chemistry major Dylan Judd shows that the Amherst fence is no match.  Dylan emerged unscathed and is now the only Wesleyan chemist we know who has gone viral (over 101,000 views and counting).  When he isn’t dispatching physical barriers, he works with Prof. Personick using nanoparticles to catalyze organic reactions.

 

Dr. Suara Adediran Publishes Paper in Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) – Proteins and Proteomics

Dr. Adediran and co-authors Michael J. Morrison and R.F. Pratt have published a paper in Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) – Proteins and Proteomics. The title is “Detection of an Enzyme Isomechamism by Means of the Kinetics of Covalent Inhibition.”

Unlabelled Image

Abstract

Turnover of substrates by many enzymes involves free enzyme forms that differ from the stable form of the enzyme in the absence of substrate. These enzyme species, known as isoforms, have, in general, different physical and chemical properties than the native enzymes. They usually occur only in small concentrations under steady state turnover conditions and thus are difficult to detect. We show in this paper that in one particular case of an enzyme (a class C β-lactamase) with specific substrates (cephalosporins) the presence of an enzyme isoform (E′) can be detected by means of its different reactivity than the native enzyme (E) with a class of covalent inhibitors (phosphonate monoesters). Generation of E′ from E arises either directly from substrate turnover or by way of a branched path from an acyl-enzyme intermediate. The relatively slow spontaneous restoration of E from E′ is accelerated by certain small molecules in solution, for example cyclic amines such as imidazole and salts such as sodium chloride. Solvent deuterium kinetic isotope effects and the effect of methanol on cephalosporin turnover showed that for both E and E′, kcat is limited by deacylation of an acyl-enzyme intermediate rather than by enzyme isomerization.

The full text of the paper can be found at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S157096392100087X

 

 

Dr. Colin Smith Receives NIH Grant

Colin Smith, Professor of Chemistry

The Smith Lab studies protein structure and dynamics using a combination of computer simulation and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. They are particularly interested in optimizing the dynamics of computationally designed proteins and understanding how mutations allosterically affect the functions of natural proteins.

To advance the understanding of atomic-level mechanisms behind critical protein functions like enzyme catalysis and allosteric regulation, it is important to first elucidate a true representation of the protein in solution. In an effort to achieve this long term goal, Dr. Smith will use the recently developed Kinetic Ensemble approach to transform the way in which nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) data is computationally modeled to solve protein structures and measure protein motions. NMR is one of the most powerful techniques for elucidating the structure and dynamics of proteins. It enables their study in solution (unlike X-ray crystallography) and can capture critical structural rearrangements as they happen at room temperature (unlike cryo-electron microscopy). However, despite these advantages, there have been relatively few practical improvements to one of the foundational aspects behind the way protein structures are solved, namely the calculation of interatomic distances from nuclear Overhauser effect (NOE) experiments. Such methods have remained largely qualitative, resulting in large uncertainties in the atomic positions for most NMR structures. Also, the field has almost completely ignored how angular motion and kinetics affect the NOE, resulting in atoms appearing much further away from one another than they actually are. To overcome these significant deficiencies, Dr. Smith and his team will implement and test new Kinetic Ensemble-based refinement algorithms that are considerably more accurate and physically realistic than previous approaches, accounting for both angular motion and kinetics. To eliminate a significant fraction of the systematic and random structural errors resulting from poorly quantified NMR spectra, they will also integrate advances made by the FitNMR peak quantification software recently developed by their lab. These methods will be used to create better experimental NMR structures, more exhaustive models of side chain dynamics, and determine differences between solution and crystal states with unprecedented detail. This work will allow much more accurate determination of the structural dynamics in parts of the protein exhibiting significant fluctuations, including protein active sites, regulatory regions, and hidden binding sites. Such knowledge will advance our fundamental understanding of protein biophysics and facilitate rational design of new therapeutics.

Funding for this R15 Grant is provided by National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS).

Dr. Brian Northrop Receives NSF Grant

Northrop’s proposal, titled “Phenazine chemistry as a means of assembling multifunctional π-conjugated organic materials” is motivated by the desire to understand how the structure, functionality, and dimensionality of π-conjugated organic materials impacts their physical, optical, redox, and electronic properties. Toward this fundamental goal he and his students will use the condensation reactions between ortho-phenylenediamine derivatives with ortho-quinone compounds to prepare multifunctional phenazine derivatives. Phenazines are example N-heteroacenes that, similar to their hydrocarbon acene analogues, exhibit desirable electronic and optoelectronic properties. Phenazines, however, are more stable, better electron acceptors (n-type materials), and more synthetically modular. The majority of phenazine derivatives synthesized to date have been linearly functionalized azaacenes while very few examples of organic materials combining phenazine and other π-conjugated functionalities are known. Developing a thorough understanding of phenazine assembly and integration into multifunctional molecules will lead to entirely new classes of organic electronic materials and significantly advance our ability to investigate fundamental relationships between size, functionality, lattice topology, and dimensionality on the properties of π-conjugated materials. The principle objectives of the proposed research are to: (1) combine experimental synthesis and first principles calculations to investigate the formation and aromaticity of simple phenazine derivatives as well as the impact of functional groups on the favorability and reversibility of phenazine condensation reactions; (2) synthesize a library of o-phenylenediamine and o-quinone functionalized building blocks that will be used in the controlled assembly of one-dimensional multifunctional phenazine derivatives and oligomers; (3) apply new knowledge from fundamental and one-dimensional phenazine studies to prepare monodisperse, two-dimensional phenazine ladders and grids. The phenazine-based multifunctional materials are expected to have unique semiconducting and optoelectronic properties with potential applications as organic field-effect transistors, photovoltaics, light-emitting diodes, and sensors.

Fire & Ice Event 2021

On May 4th, the Chemistry Majors’ group, the Free Radicals, held the annual Fire and Ice Event on the patio of the Exley Science Center. Students performed a number of chemical demonstrations and entertained fellow students, faculty, and staff with lighthearted one-liners.  Among the experiments performed, students blew up several balloons with various gas concentrations, created a flaming tornado inside two shields, burned a quantity of magnesium inside a solid block of dry ice, ignited thermite within a clay pot, and blew up guncotton (nitrocellulose).

Student demonstrations were performed by: Emily Aoki, Gianna Argento, California Clark, Oliver Cho, Bryan Guarin, Sterre Hesseling, Dylan Judd, and Kyle Sylvester.

Click here for a short video from the event.

 

2021 Annual Chemistry Department Awards

Awards – ACS Younger Chemists Committee

The Chemistry Department is proud to announce the recipients of the 2021 Annual Chemistry Department Awards:

ACS Analytical Award: Cole Harris
Awarded for excellence in analytical chemistry
ACS Award in Inorganic Chemistry: Abrar Habib
To recognize achievement in inorganic chemistry and to encourage further study in the field
ACS Award in Organic Chemistry: Niels Vizgan
To a student who has displayed a significant aptitude for organic chemistry
ACS Award in Physical Chemistry: Caitlin Grant
To recognize achievement in physical chemistry and to encourage further study in the field
ACS Connecticut Valley Section Award: Emma Shapiro
For outstanding achievement by a graduating chemistry major
American Institute for Chemists Award: Gianna Argento
For outstanding achievement by a graduating chemistry major
Bradley Prize: Sterre Hesseling & Emma Shapiro
To the senior or junior who excels in chemistry and particularly in special original work
Silverman Prize: Oliver Cho & Annika Velez
Awarded to a member of the junior or senior class for excellence in chemistry
Peirce Prize: Sophia Marra
Awarded for excellence in chemistry
CRC Award (General Chemistry): Alexis Papavasiliou 

For the outstanding first-year student in Principles of Chemistry
CRC Award (Organic Chemistry): Anne Kiely
For the outstanding first-year student in Organic Chemistry
Hawk Prize: Kate Luo
To the students who have done the most effective work in biochemistry
Martius Yellow Award: Sophie Wazlowski
Awarded for excellence in Integrated Chemistry Laboratory
The Wallace C. Pringle Prize for Research in Chemistry: Sean McDarby
Awarded to a student for excellence in research
Peterson Fellowship: Nick Wells
For graduate study in biochemistry
Tishler Prize: Jeff Keyes
Awarded to the best graduate teaching assistant in chemistry