Meet Schwenk Chair Dan Fabris

Dan Fabris

Professor Dan Fabris joined the UConn Department of Chemistry in January 2020 as the Harold S. Schwenk, Sr. Distinguished Chair. Below, Professor Fabris reflects upon his first year at UConn and his plans for the future.

Please describe your academic training and career before UConn.

Growing up near Venice (Italy), I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a scientist. My high school was a “liceo scientifico” with wonderful teachers who nurtured my love for the natural sciences. After completing my studies at University of Padova (Italy), I sought a postdoctoral position abroad to gain more experience and further prepare for a career in academia. My plans were to return to Italy after a couple of years and to parlay this experience into a faculty position in a research institution. Almost thirty years later, only the latter was realized, whereas the former faded away. I was first accepted as a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. C. Fenselau’s laboratory at University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), where I later became part of the research staff. After my mentor moved to a different institution, I was given the opportunity to become a faculty member and to establish my laboratory at UMBC, where I rose through the ranks. I was later recruited by University at Albany (SUNY) to become one of the founding members of the RNA Institute, before moving to UConn in January of last year. Continue reading

Rouge Group Receives $2 Million NIH Grant

Jessica Rouge

The Rouge Group’s research focuses on the improving the delivery of RNA and DNA into cells. Recently, the news has focused on the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, which are designed to deliver mRNA into cells to encode the viral proteins that the immune system needs to recognize and fight off infections. In a similar fashion, the Rouge Group has been developing nanocarriers designed to maximize the delivery of short RNA and DNA molecules into cells that can silence genes involved in disease pathways. The greatest challenges surrounding the delivery of these molecules into cells is their chemical instability (i.e. RNA can only last a few minutes in cells and must be stored at ultra-cold temperatures prior to use) and our ability to get the RNA and DNA to the right cell types. Continue reading

Mani Group Paper Published in JACS

A new paper from the Mani Group appeared in the Journal of the American Chemical SocietyJason Buck, a 4th year graduate student, and Dr. Tomoyasu Mani demonstrated a new type of magnetic control of molecular emission. They take advantage of the quantum mechanical nature of radical pairs (pairs of radical anion and cation or molecular qubits) to control fluorescence by using weak magnetic fields and tune the field response range. The results present a new strategy for designing magneto-optical probes for imaging and give insights into molecular designs for spintronics and other molecular spin technology applications.

The research is funded by the Japan Science and Technology Agency, PRESTO, Creation of Life Science Basis by Using Quantum Technology.

For further details, read the paper in JACS.

Meet Professor Kerry Gilmore

Kerry GilmoreMeet Assistant Professor Kerry Gilmore, an organic chemist who strives to gather and share reproducible data through automated, multi-step flow chemistry systems.

Early Career

Growing up in an oceanside Cape Cod town, a young Kerry Gilmore first went to college to study marine biology. However, upon taking a chemistry course during his sophomore year at Roger Williams University, Gilmore realized that chemistry was his true passion. “The more that I did chemistry, the more I loved it,” Gilmore says. “It was more complex and involved more of these layered problems you needed to figure out, and that was just really attractive to me.” That same year, Gilmore became involved in undergraduate research, studying organic synthesis and biology. Gilmore ultimately switched majors and graduated with a dual degree in chemistry and biology. Continue reading

Professor Bailey Retires After 45 Years of Teaching

William BaileyEver since Dr. Bill Bailey was a young child, he knew he wanted to teach. Now, looking back on a 45-year career of teaching and service, Bill embarks on a new chapter: retirement.

A Journey: From Plumbing to Teaching

Growing up, Bill was destined to become a plumber. Bill’s father and grandfather were plumbers, and his father owned a plumbing shop in their hometown of Jersey City, New Jersey. Although Bill had also earned his plumbing license, his true passion always lied in teaching.

Bill pursued a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry at St. Peter’s College in Jersey City. There, in a class of Chemistry majors, new Assistant Professor James Pegolotti explained that it was possible to go to graduate school for free and to be paid a stipend. Bill credits Dr. Pegolotti for instilling the confidence in him to apply to graduate school: “It’s a remarkable thing … Jim Pegolotti is the one that explained that such a thing was possible. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here [at UConn teaching].”

Bill then went on to attain a Ph.D. in Chemistry at the University of Notre Dame with Professor Ernest Eliel. Bill’s Ph.D. work involved investigations of the generalized anomeric effect and the stereochemical dependence of 13C shifts. After receiving his Ph.D. from Notre Dame in 1973, he accompanied Ernest to the University of North Carolina where he helped with the set-up of the newly built labs. Bill then departed for a postdoctoral fellowship with Professor Kenneth Wiberg at Yale University.

In 1975, Bill joined the faculty at the University of Connecticut. Bill reflects, “[Professor Emeritus] Jim Bobbitt … was the one that was head of the search committee and he was the one that convinced me that this would be a wonderful place.” Dr. Jim Bobbitt describes the moment he extended the offer: “I placed a telephone call to Bill Bailey at Yale to offer him a position on our faculty. He accepted, and that was a very good day for the University of Connecticut.”

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Dr. James Rusling Among Highly Cited Authors

Paul Krenicki Professor of Chemistry James Rusling ranks among the top 5% of highly cited authors with Royal Society of Chemistry journals in 2019. Specifically, his most cited article, “Automated 3D-printed unibody immunoarray for chemiluminescence detection of cancer biomarker proteins,” received 15 citations in 2019. Collaborators include Chi K. Tang ’16 Ph.D. and Dr. Abhay Vaze.

Royal Society of Chemistry journals include: Analyst, Analytical Methods, Lab on a Chip, and JAAS.

Six UConn Researchers to Join the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Six researchers from the University of Connecticut and UConn Health have been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) this year. Election as an AAAS Fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers.

This year 489 members have been awarded this honor by AAAS because of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. Continue reading

“Hot Paper” Published in Angewandte Chemie

Assistant Research Professor Sergey Dergunov and Associate Professor Eugene Pinkhassik published a “Hot Paper” in Angewandte Chemie. “Hot Papers” are chosen by the Editors for their importance in a rapidly evolving field of high current interest.

Dergunov and Pinkhassik used organized environment of self-assembled bilayers to perform two-dimensional RAFT polymerization and uncovered substantial differences in reactivity of building blocks between bulk and bilayer-templated polymerization influenced by their placement and mobility. 

UConn Funds Five COVID-19 Research Projects, Announces Additional Funding

The Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) recently announced a new internal funding program to support researchers at all of UConn’s campuses who are using their expertise in fields as diverse as wastewater and chemosensory testing to find novel solutions to help the nation and the world address this crisis. The program will award up to $50,000 to recipients.

The OVPR awarded five awards to researchers from UConn and UConn Health:

James Cole, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Departments of Molecular and Cell Biology, $43,439
Targeting the Endoribonuclease of Coronaviruses
Co-PIs: Mark Peczuh, Chemistry Continue reading

Teaching in the Time of COVID-19

Teaching Chemistry Remotely

Classrooms and teaching labs were emptied in late Spring 2020 because of public health measures to counter COVID-19. In response to a call for papers in April by the leading journal in chemical education, the ACS Journal of Chemical Education, chemistry educators from around the world chronicled their response to rapid changes in teaching modalities that resulted from the disruption associated with this global pandemic in a special issue, “Insights Gained While Teaching Chemistry in the Time of COVID-19.” Two groups of our faculty contributed to this endeavor of sharing experiences, innovations, and best practices.

In “Teaching Chemistry in the Time of COVID-19: Memories and the Classroom,” Assistant Professor in Residence J. Dafhne Aguirre and Associate Professor in Residence Fatma Selampinar detailed their experiences teaching general chemistry in the time of COVID-19. The publication compares the challenges, teaching strategies, laboratory methods, and discussion methods used by two different instructors teaching a three-semester chemistry course. (Read full publication)

Assistant Professor in Residence Kiet Tran, Lecturer Anwar Beshir, and Lecturer Abhay Vaze presented in “A Tale of Two Lab Courses: An Account and Reflection on the Teaching Challenges Experienced by Organic and Analytical Chemistry Laboratories During the COVID-19 Period” four shared challenges in the transition to the online format: experimental implementation, assessments and postlab activities, technological inequalities, and synchronization of student attendance. (Read full publication)