In essence, Jennifer R. Davis’s doctoral dissertation is a study of how microbes with a rare and precious aptitude could gain even greater potential. In some ways, that’s also the narrative of Davis herself. She arrived at Brown in 2008 as an uncommonly impressive go-getter. This week she graduates as a highly skilled scientist with the 2013 Joukowsky Outstanding Dissertation Award in the life sciences category.
“It was a great learning experience and I think that’s what a Ph.D. should be,” Davis said. (read more)
Professor David Cane among 198 newly elected members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
David Cane, the Vernon K. Krieble Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Biochemistry is among 198 of the world’s most accomplished leaders from academia, business, public affairs, the humanities, and the arts in the 2013 membership class of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. They will be formally inducted into the AAAS during ceremonies on Oct. 12. 2013, in Cambridge, Mass.
Professor Cane's research focuses on the chemistry, enzymology and molecular genetics of natural product biosynthesis. His work has led to the discovery of several previously unknown enzymes and identification of their modes of action. Cane is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the 2013 winner of the American Chemical Society’s Alfred Bader Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to bioorganic or bioinorganic chemistry.
One of the nation’s most prestigious honorary societies, the AAAS is also a leading center for independent policy research. Members contribute to AAAS publications and studies of science and technology policy, energy and global security, social policy and American institutions, and the humanities, arts, and education.
Graduate student Dorothy Fibiger awarded an American Dissertation Fellowship from the American Association for University Women
Graduate student Dorothy Fibiger was recently awarded an American Dissertation Fellowship from the American Association for University Women, which supports women scholars completing dissertations in the STEM fields. The fellowship provides partial stipend support for Dorothy as she completes her Ph.D. in Chemistry.
In case you are interested:
Emma Handy selected to receive 2013 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship
The Department is pleased to announce that Emma Handy (Sello Lab) was selected to receive a 2013 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship (GRFP) Fellowship. This prestigious fellowship is awarded to students who’s potential will contribute to strengthening the advancement of US science and engineering enterprise.
The fellowship carries three to five years of funding for graduate students engaged in a full time graduate program at an accredited US university or college.
Weili Li to receive Outstanding Self-Financed Students Abroad award
Congratulations go out to Weili Li (Wang Lab) on receiving the Outstanding Self-Financed Students Abroad award. This award is a scholarship set up by the China Scholarship Council (CSC) to honor overseas Chinese students with outstanding academic accomplishments. Established in 2003, the Chinese Government Award for Outstanding Self-Financed Students Abroad is developed to encourage research excellence and to recognize the achievements among Chinese students abroad. This award includes a 5,000-U.S.-dollar cash prize and a CSC-issued certificate. The award ceremony will be on May 17 in the Consulate General of PRC in New York. All the awardees' family and their advisor's family are invited to participate in the award ceremony and festivities in New York. Let's all congratulate Weili for this great recognition.
Huiyuan Zhu selected to receive International Precious Metal Institute (IPMI) 2013 Student Award
Congratulations go out to Huiyuan Zhu in the Sun Lab. Huiyuan was selected to receive one of the IPMI (International Precious Metal Institute) 2013 Student Awards. This award is awarded to students who plan to do research or development projects in the field of precious metals. She will travel to Arizona in June to attend the IPMI 37th Annual International Conference to receive her award. This award carries a cash prize and travel expenses to the conference.
Additionally, Professor Shouheng Sun was awarded a Faculty Advisor Award from IPMI and will travel to Arizona in June to receive his award.
Way to go Sun Lab!
Researchers at Brown and Yale have demonstrated a new “enabling technology” that could use excess carbon dioxide to produce acrylate, a valuable commodity chemical involved in the manufacture of everything from polyester cloth to disposable diapers.
Daniel Carney is awarded Poster Excellence Prize
Dan Carney, a graduate student in the Sello Lab, won an excellence prize for his poster entitled, Diversity Oriented Synthesis of Cyclic Acyldepsipeptide Antibiotics, in the Drug Discovery sector at the First International Conference on Frontiers in Pharmaceutical Science: Global Perspectives. The conference was held at the University of Rhode Island in late Septmeber.
Congratulations to Professor Sarah Delaney
Effective July 1, 2013, Professor Sarah Delaney will be promoted to the rank of Associate Professor of Chemistry. Read about ongoing research in the Delaney Lab.
Yiying Zhu to present at the 9th annual US HUPO meeting
Yiying Zhu, a graduate student in the Bazemore Walker Lab, was selected to give an oral presentation at this year's US HUPO meeting. The US HUPO engages in scientific and educational activities to encourage the use of proetemics technologies and to disseminate knowledge pertaining to the human proteome and that of model organisms. Yiying was also awarded a student travel stipend. This year's meeting will take place in Baltimore, MD.
Kelly Schermerhorn to attend 63rd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting
Kelly Schermerhorn, a graduate student in the Delaney Lab, has been selected to attend the 63rd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau, Germany. The scientfic program of the 63rd Lindau Meeting will be dedicated to the Nobel Prize discipline of chemistry. Thirty five Nobel Laureates will gather to meet the next generation of leading scientists and researchers. 625 undergraduate and postgraduate students from 78 countries have been selected to participate in the meeting this summer. Congratulations Kelly!
Eunsuk Kim, assistant professor of chemistry, will have $550,000 to elucidate chemical principles that can shed light on the roles of cellular iron-sulfur clusters in nitric oxide (NO) signaling in the body. Among the questions Kim will study is, “What are the physiological and/or deleterious consequences of the reaction between NO and iron-sulfur clusters?” The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is the NSF’s most prestigious award in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education, and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations. CAREER awards also support outreach to various groups ranging from primary and high school students to graduate students from overseas.
Prof. David E Cane Receives 2013 ACS Alfred Bader Award in Bioinorganic/Biorganic Chemistry
(reprinted from Chemical & Engineering News, 91(6), February 11, 2013, by Amanda Yarnell)
Natural product biosynthesis expert David E. Cane nearly missed his calling. As a young graduate student in E. J. Corey’s lab at Harvard University, he turned down the opportunity to explore the biosynthesis of steroids in favor of focusing on organic synthesis. Luckily, a second chance materialized in the form of a postdoc with Duilio Arigoni, an expert in the biosynthesis of terpene natural products at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich (ETH ). Cane, now 68 and a chemistry professor at Brown University, says he was instantly hooked: “I wanted to know how nature does organic chemistry.” Today, Cane is “one of the most accomplished and respected scientists in natural product biosynthesis in the world,” says fellow natural products expert Chaitan Khosla of Stanford University, a longtime collaborator of Cane’s. “Over the past three decades he has made seminal contributions to our understanding of how polyketides, terpenes, and vitamin B-6 are synthesized in microorganisms.”
But Cane’s influence has extended far beyond just these natural products. “The field of natural product biosynthetic chemistry has lately undergone a revolution as a result of the synergistic application of chemical and biological tools,” Khosla says. “Nobody has been more instrumental in setting the tone for this sea change than David E. Cane.”
Cane agrees the tools of his trade have changed dramatically since he got his start. In the early 1970s, scientists typically would feed a labeled precursor to an organism, see what the organism spit out and where the compounds were labeled, and then take an educated guess at what chemistry might have transpired.
As Cane began to build his lab at Brown, he championed the widespread utility of 13 C nuclear magnetic resonance for biosynthetic investigations. Later he adopted recombinant DNA technology to make and customize enzymes involved in natural product biosynthesis; X-ray crystallography to better understand those enzymes’ structures; the tools of mechanistic enzymology to quench and dissect complex, multistep enzymatic reactions; and genomic sequencing methods to pinpoint the machinery that uncultured microbes use to make natural products.
Cane credits his many collaborators—including Khosla, Washington State University plant biochemist Rodney Croteau, and University of Pennsylvania crystallographer David W. Christianson—for helping him take advantage of these tools.
Cane’s collegiality was the key to those collaborations, colleagues note. Cane is quick to share information, reagents, and advice, says Salk Institute for Biological Studies ’ Joseph P. Noel , an expert in the evolution of plant metabolism. “He’s more concerned with learning something new rather than who finished first.”
A New York City native, Cane completed his bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. degrees at Harvard. After a postdoc stint at ETH, he joined the faculty at Brown in 1973. Among his many other awards are the Ernest Guenther Award in the Chemistry of Natural Products, the Cope Scholar Award, and the Repligen Award in Chemistry of Biological Processes of the ACS Division of Biological Chemistry. But when asked about his most notable accomplishments, Cane points to coediting a 2003 book of letters his father sent his mother while serving in World War II, offering an eyewitness account of some of the most dramatic events of the war.
Cane will present the award address before the ACS Division of Organic Chemistry.
Dr. Kristie J. Koski to Join the Brown Department of Chemistry
Dr. Kristie J. Koski will be joining the Department of Chemistry at Brown University as an Assistant Professor commencing Summer 2013. Currently, Kristie is a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford University in the Department of Materials Science & Engineering working with Professor Yi Cui. In 2009, Kristie was a postdoctoral scholar at Arizona State University. She received her Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, under the direction of Professor A. Paul Alivisatos. She received a dual B.S. in Physics and in Chemistry at the University of Wyoming in 2002. Dr. Koski’s research has been featured in many popular media sources including the Los Angeles Times, Slate, Materials 360, and Science Daily.
Microorganisms that can break down plant biomass into the precursors of biodiesel or other commodity chemicals might one day be used to produce alternatives to petroleum. But the potential of this “biorefinery” technology is limited by the fact that most microorganisms cannot break down lignin, a highly stable polymer that makes up as much as a third of plant biomass.
Streptomyces bacteria are among few microorganisms known to degrade and consume lignin. Now a group of researchers at Brown University has unlocked the genetic and molecular mechanisms behind a key part of that process. The results are published in the journal Nucleic Acids Research.
Jason Sello, professor of chemistry at Brown, and Rebecca Page, professor in biology in the Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, and Biochemistry, directed the research with graduate students Jennifer Davis and Breann Brown.
Graduate Student Dorothy Fibiger Receives Outstanding Student Paper Award
Graduate student Dorothy Fibiger received an Outstanding Student Paper Award for a poster presentation entitled "Towards the Tracing of NOx Sources by Isotopic Signature," based upon method development she is pursuing in the laboratory of Asst. Prof. Meredith Hastings in the Department of Geological Sciences. Dorothy made the presentation at the American Geophysical Union Meeting in San Francisco, CA in December 2012. In addition to her award-winning poster, Dorothy also gave an invited oral presentation entitled "Processing of Nitrate in Snow at Summit, Greenland," a project that has taken Dorothy to the Greenland ice sheet during the last two summers. Congratulations, Dorothy!
On December 3 and 4, 2012, the Brown University chapter of Phi Beta Kappa and the Department of Chemistry will host a two-day visit by Professor Ka Yee C. Lee. Professor Lee comes to Brown under the auspices of the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholars Program. Founded in 1776, Phi Beta Kappa is the oldest academic honor society in the nation. During her visit, Professor Lee will meet informally with students and faculty, take part in classroom discussions, and give a public lecture to the entire academic community.
Her visit to Brown is a homecoming for Ka Yee C. Lee, who received an Sc.B degree from the university in electrical engineering in 1986. In 1992, she received her Ph.D from Harvard. Since 1998, she has taught at The University of Chicago, where she is a professor in the department of chemistry, the Institute for Biophysical Dynamics, and the James Franck Institute. She also serves as director of the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center at Chicago.
Professor Lee has been honored with the Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. A fellow of the American Physical Society, she is a recipient of the Margaret Oakley Dayhoff Award (biophysical science) and the Searle Scholar Award, as well as fellowships from the Sloan Foundation and the Packard Foundation.
In her research, Professor Lee studies the interactions between lipids and proteins to gain insights into the biophysical aspects of diseased states. The title of her talk, which is free and open to the public, is “Poking and Sealing Holes in Lipid Membranes.”
Each year, the Visiting Scholars Program supports visits by a dozen or so distinguished scholars to colleges and universities around the country that shelter chapters of Phi Beta Kappa. The purpose of the Visiting Scholars Program is to contribute to the intellectual life of academic institutions by making possible an exchange of ideas between the Visiting Scholar and resident faculty and students. This is the 57th year of the Visiting Scholars program. Since 1956, the program has sponsored 4,917 two-day visits by 600 scholars. Professor Lee is the tenth scholar hosted by Brown through the program.
For more information about the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholars Program or about Professor Ka Yee C. Lee, please contact Mary Jo Foley, 401-863-2288, firstname.lastname@example.org.
There’s a new contender in the race to find an inexpensive alternative to platinum catalysts for use in hydrogen fuel cells. Brown University chemist Shouheng Sun and his students have developed a new material — a graphene sheet covered by cobalt and cobalt-oxide nanoparticles — that can catalyze the oxygen reduction reaction nearly as well as platinum does and is substantially more durable. (read more)
Thin, conductive films are useful in displays and solar cells. A new solution-based chemistry developed at Brown University for making indium tin oxide films could allow engineers to employ a much simpler and cheaper manufacturing process. (read more)
The world is awash in antibiotics. Once used for a limited number of diseases, they are now called upon to treat even the common cold. The resistance that bacteria have evolved against these medications has given rise to a host of superbugs and strains of infectious diseases that our antibiotics can’t treat.
For all three of his summers at Brown, Daniel Greenwald researched solutions to this global threat. Growing up in Madison, Wisconsin, he was a Legos kid, building something, taking it apart, and then building something new. No wonder that, as a freshman at Brown, he took organic chemistry and loved it. “I’d found where I belonged,” he says. Constructing the solution of antibacterial resistance was like building something out of Legos: all you have to do is connect the pieces.
Working with a Jason Sello, a graduate student who soon became an assistant professor of chemistry, Greenwald built molecules in the lab, a challenge that can take weeks. Greenwald used a process called the Ugi reaction, in which a molecule’s elements are fused together all at once. Using this approach, he could create a new compound overnight.
In the end, with the support of Brown’s Royce Fellows Program, which provides research grants to undergraduates, Greenwald created more than fifty different compounds, each one a kind of Lego structure he then studied and tested. One of the first compounds Greenwald and his colleagues made was the most successful. Called BU-005, it’s a small molecule that attacks the thousands of efflux pumps found in a bacterium cell. When an antibiotic penetrates a bacterium cell, the efflux pumps, located in the cell membrane, pump it out, saving the bacterium’s life. BU-005 was three times more effective than similar compounds at shutting down the pumps. It’s still very early, but Greenwald hopes that in the long term BU-005 may be able to work against antibiotic-resistant strains of tuberculosis and Staphylococcus. He published the results of his research, in collaboration with Professor Sello and his graduate student colleagues, in the December 2011 issue of Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry. “By becoming a published research scientist, I lived out the dream I had as a little kid,” Greenwald says.
Greenwald next plans to work in Boston with a consulting company that helps drug companies set prices for its products. “The appeal is being able to apply the same methodology and academic rigor to the world of business,” he says. “I don’t feel like I’m leaving the science behind.”
Nanochemistry Faculty Search Is Open
The Department of Chemistry at Brown University invites applications for a tenure track, Assistant Professor position in Nanoscience/Chemistry. This faculty position is associated with Brown's Institute for Molecular and Nanoscale Innovation. Candidates with creative research programs in any area of nanoscience having a molecular focus are encouraged to apply. The preferred start date is July 1, 2013. To guarantee full consideration, all application materials should be received by October 15, 2012. Applicants must have a Ph.D. and /or postdoctoral training in chemistry or in physics / engineering with a molecular focus, and are expected to demonstrate potential for outstanding scholarship and teaching. Candidates should submit a complete curriculum vitae, graduate transcripts, publication list, statement of research plans, a teaching statement or portfolio, and should have three letters of reference sent on their behalf. Please submit application and reference letters on line at http://www.interfolio.com/apply/13152. Brown University is an EEO/AA employer. Minorities and women are encouraged to apply. (7/11/12)
Summer @ Brown Chemistry
This summer twenty-eight undergraduate students are working in chemistry department research labs. Several of these students are supported on UTRA (Undergraduate Teaching and Research Awards) grants. UTRAs provide students with valuable academic experience that prepares them for graduate study and that contributes directly to course development at Brown.
Working in close collaboration with faculty, students translate their academic knowledge into hands-on practice that results in the production of new knowledge. Faculty benefit from the assistance and perspectives undergraduates bring to their work.
Among the research areas explored this summer are:
- An Activity Based Probe Targeting Acyl Protein Thioesterases
- Investigation of the Resistance of Bacteria to Potential Antibacterial Drugs
- The Biosynthetic Pathway of the Potent Antibiotic: Indolmycin
- Development of an Efficient Chemical Synthesis of Lydiamycin, an Anti-Tuberculosis Drug Lead
- Synthesis of a Novel Polymer Class via Olefin Metathesis
- 2D Nanopatterning of Thin Films
- What Interacting Protein Complexes are Found in the Mitochondrial Associated Membrane?
- Liver Cancer Detection by X-ray Scatter Imaging with Nanoparticles
- Electrochemical Reduction of Carbon Dioxide in Clathrate Hydrates
- Catalytic Carbon Dioxide Reduction (turning carbon dioxide into useful fuels)
- Catalytic Carbocyanation via C-C Bond Activation
- Phenol Nitration Induced by Cysteine-Bound DNIC [Fe(Cys)2(NO)2]
- Finding the Geodesic Pathways through the Potential Energy Landscape of a Diatomic Liquid
- Innovation in Freshman Laboratory Teaching (7/11/12)
Professors Rose-Petruck and Sello Promoted
Professor Rose Petruck, who arrived at Brown University in 1998, has a PhD from Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich, Germany.
Professor Rose Petruck areas of research are :
The ultrafast motions of atoms during chemical reactions are investigated theoretically and experimentally using x-ray absorption fine structure spectroscopy.
Physical processes, such as the propagation of shock waves in metals, are measured using ultrafast x-ray holography.
Biomedical x-ray phase contrast imaging studies of the micro vasculature of livers are performed.
X-ray phase contrast imaging of organs during ultrasound irradiation is used to selectively enhance organ tissue featrues.
Sello is investigating new approaches to antibacterial therapy and to biofuel production that are inspired by the unique metabolites and physiology of Streptomyces bacteria. A hallmark of the program is the synergistic application of experimental methods from synthetic organic chemistry, molecular microbiology and biochemistry. Thematically, Sello's research is organized around potential solutions to challenges in human health and in energy.