Stephen Frayne receives PhD

Dr. Stephen Frayne

Stephen Frayne recently defended his Ph.D. dissertation and will be receiving his degree at commencement this May. Steve joined the Department of Chemistry at Wesleyan in 2012 after having received his B.S. in chemistry from Fordham University. At Fordham Steve worked in the laboratory of Dr. Ipsita Banerjee focusing on the rational design of artificial biomaterials. While in the Banerjee group Steve investigated the pH-dependent self-assembly of plant-based acids such as abscisic acid and ellagic acid into templates for the growth of cadmium selenide (CdSe) nanoparticles, with potential applications in bioimaging, cell targeting, and environmental remediation. Upon coming to Wesleyan, Steve joined the lab of Prof. Brian Northrop where he has been conducting experimental and computational research with the aim of streamlining the design and synthesis of organic materials. Much of Steve’s work has focused on the fundamentals of thiol-Michael reactions and, in particular, selective thiol-Michael reactions that enable researchers to synthesize multifunctional polymers and dendrimers more rapidly and efficiently. After graduating Steve will be joining the lab of Prof. Jeffrey Grossman in the Materials Science and Engineering department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he will apply his experimental and computational expertise to develop new materials that address important energy related challenges, such as nanoporous membranes for water desalination.

Items Fall 100 Feet, Explode at the Third Annual Big Drop

Giselle Reyes (’18, MA ’19) ignites her favorite “textile”, gun cotton.

The 3rd annual Big Drop was held on May 9 outside the Exley Science Center to mark the last day of classes for the Spring semester. A series of smashable items—including water balloons, bouncy balls, watermelon, apples, pineapple, discarded computer equipment, plastic, and Oobleck—were dropped from the building’s rooftop. The Free Radicals also contributed a variety of explosions including the burning of an Orgo Lab report in liquid oxygen.

Click here for a short video and photos from the event.


David McCamant (’95) receives teaching and mentorship award

David McCamant, an alum of the Class of ’95, has received the very first College Award for Undergraduate Teaching and Research Mentorship from the University of Rochester, where he is Associate Professor of Chemistry.  He notes that “his goal is pass along to students the same excitement he felt as a chemistry undergraduate at Wesleyan University.”  You can read the full story at the link below.  Congratulations Prof. McCamant!

Chemistry majors present at conference

Christine Little, Cody Hecht, and Emily Kessler (third, fourth, and fifth from left)
Christine Little, Cody Hecht, and Emily Kessler (third, fourth, and fifth from left)

Chemistry majors Christine Little, Emily Kessler, and Cody Hecht, along with three MB&B majors, attended the annual Experimental Biology (EB) conference in San Diego in mid-April. All three were invited as members of the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), a participating society of EB. At the meeting, Christine, Emily, and Cody each competed in an undergraduate poster competition (in which Christine was awarded an honorable mention for an exceptional poster!) and presented their posters in sessions according to their area of research.

Christine’s project in Ishita Mukerji’s lab focuses on characterizing the binding interactions of yeast histone H1 to DNA four-way junctions. Cody’s research in Erika Taylor’s lab investigates the protein dynamics of Heptosyltransferase I as part of ongoing inhibitor design efforts. Emily’s work in Manju Hingorani’s lab concentrates on the link between mutations in DNA mismatch repair protein MutS and Lynch Syndrome.

Seniors Elected to Phi Beta Kappa

Five senior chemistry majors have been elected to the Gamma Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.  They will be honored at an induction ceremony on Saturday, May 26, 2018 at 4:00 p.m. in the Chapel.  The honorees are:

  • Max Distler
  • Kenneth (Cody) Hecht
  • Joanna Korpanty
  • Carlo Medina
  • Daniel Robertson

They join Maya Marshall and Aaron Stone, who were elected in the fall semester.  This has been a banner year for chemistry students and we proudly extend our congratulations to all.

Personick group presentations at ACS meeting

Members of the Personick research group (left to right: David Solti ’18, Melissa King (grad), Prof. Personick, and Danny Robertson ’18) attended the American Chemical Society Spring National Meeting in New Orleans, LA from March 18-22, 2018. Danny gave a talk on Sunday on “(Ag)Au concave cubes as experimental models of computationally predicted active sites for the oxygen-assisted coupling of alcohols.” Melissa presented on Wednesday about her work on “Coupling competitive surface interactions: a synthetic route to enhanced grain boundaries at the exterior of multiply twinned palladium nanoparticles.” On Thursday, Prof. Personick presented the group’s recently published research regarding “Approaches for bridging dissimilar reduction kinetics in the synthesis of bimetallic nanomaterials.” All of the talks were well received by their respective audiences.

In addition to presenting their research, the Wesleyan contingent also recruited prospective graduate students for the Wesleyan PhD program at the graduate school recruiting fair, and Melissa was invited to participate in a panel on “Graduate School: The In’s and Out’s of Getting In” which was very highly attended. Prof. Personick caught up with Wesleyan alum Prof. John Keith (Univ. of Pittsburgh) over breakfast, and everyone spent time sampling the local cuisine.

Daniel Robertson (’18) receives travel award from American Chemical Society

Daniel Robertson, a senior chemistry major, has been awarded a travel grant from the Division of Inorganic Chemistry of the American Chemical Society (ACS).  The grant will help defray the costs for him to attend the 255th National Meeting of the ACS, where he will be presenting on his recent research in Prof. Michelle Personick’s lab.  His talk is titled “(Ag)Au concave cubes as experimental models of computationally predicted active sites for the oxygen-assisted coupling of alcohols”.  The selection criterion for this competitive award is the scientific merit of the work being presented.  The meeting will be in New Orleans during the second week of the Wesleyan spring break.  If you are attending the meeting, Danny’s talk is scheduled for Sunday, March 18 at 8:50 a.m. in room 212 of the Convention Center.  He and Prof. Personick would be delighted to have you there.

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).