Neighboring Group Participation

Mark Peczuh, Toni Planas, and GroupFor Toni Planas, a sabbatical in rural Connecticut has accelerated a sweet collaboration with Mark Peczuh’s research group.

Carbohydrate chemists are readily familiar with the concept of neighboring group participation (NPG), where the electrons of a nearby functional group accelerate reactions at a given center. A sociological version of NPG operates in the everyday world of scientific collaborations. Antoni Planas (IQS, U. Ramon Llull, Barcelona) has just completed a year-long sabbatical at the University of Connecticut in the laboratory of collaborator Mark Peczuh. His close proximity to Peczuh and his research group has hastened the progress on their project to develop glycosidase enzymes that selectively hydrolyze septanose sugars, making Planas the human equivalent of a participatory neighboring group. Planas, who lived with his family in an old farmhouse on UConn’s main campus, previously hosted Peczuh as a Fulbright Fellow at IQS in 2013 – a visit that initiated the collaboration. Continue reading

UConn Researchers Win Patent

Lu & Kasi in lab
Xiuling Lu, (right) Assoc. Professor of Pharmaceutics and Rajeswari Kasi, (left) Assoc. Professor of Chemistry inside Lu’s lab.

When a researcher develops a drug that can help treat an illness, the next challenge they face is finding a way to actually get the drug delivered to the right location in a patient’s body in the right amount.

Two University of Connecticut professors have been granted a US Patent for a novel polymer they have designed to help deliver anti-cancer drugs to tumors. Rajeswari Kasi from the Department of Chemistry and Xiuling Lu from the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, both are affiliated with the polymer program within the Institute of Materials Science, have created a new copolymer that can self-assemble into nanoparticles in aqueous solutions. The nanoparticles can carry drugs and bio-responsively release drugs in cancer cells. Continue reading

Undergrad Advisor Gives Steps for Success

Jill GrakowskyMeet Jill Grakowsky, the Chemistry Department’s new Undergraduate Advisor. Learn more about Jill, her tips for success, and how to set up an advising appointment.

About Jill Grakowsky

Tell us about your journey — Where did you work before UConn?

I am joining the UConn community following three years of advising at Springfield College where I worked primarily advising exploratory, general studies, and non-matriculated students. As a graduate of Central Connecticut State University, I completed my most recent Master’s Degree in Counselor Education. Continue reading

Alumni & Friends Networking Reception

On August 19, 2018, a group of approximately 40 alumni, current faculty, and current graduate students gathered in Boston for our first Alumni & Friends Networking Reception.

Throughout the night, connections were made within and across various generations of research groups.

We look forward to the opportunity to host similar events in the future. Please stay tuned!

  • ASC Group Photo

Dr. Rusling Named Krenicki Professor

Rusling

On August 1st, 2018, the University of Connecticut Board of trustees approved Dr. James Rusling as the Paul Krenicki Professor of Chemistry.

The Paul Krenicki Professorship is possible with the support of John Krenicki Jr. '84 and Donna Samson Krenicki '84. The professorship is named after Krenicki's brother, Paul, who had a passion for chemistry but whose college career was cut short. Paul was bound for a career as a chemist, but died of cancer at age 22. The Paul Krenicki Professorship of Chemistry provides the Chemistry Department with a significant boost and will help bolster UConn's rising academic stature.

"To attract faculty, having these endowed professorships is a big deal. It's a big factor in terms of recruiting and retaining key faculty. It's a permanent commitment to the university. From where we sit, it's probably the best thing we can do to advance the university," said Krenicki, a longtime, generous donor to the University.

"This professorship will strengthen our Chemistry Department's already exceptional capacity to train undergraduates for science careers and to pursue research in fields like material science, biomedicine, and environmental sustainability. UConn undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty will all benefit from this gift for years to come, and for that we are truly grateful to them," said Jeremy Teitelbaum, former dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Professor Rusling was nominated for the inaugural Krenicki Chair by a search committee of his peers within the department. The nomination was based on his truly remarkable record of research and funding. Rusling came to UConn in 1979, and has authored more than 400 research publications and book chapters, in addition to mentoring 57 Ph.D. students and 36 postdoctoral fellows. He is currently the program director of two large multi-investigator NIH projects, one involving six Irish universities and another that targets new high throughput toxicity screening arrays. He has collaborated with numerous faculty over the years, both within UConn and externally. Professor Rusling is an example of a world-class researcher, dedicated educator, and engaged departmental member. We are proud to have such a truly deserving holder of this new chair within the ranks of our department.

Excerpts courtesy of Grace Merritt, UConn Foundation

Chemistry Joint Safety Team

Yale Safety PosterOn Friday, July 20, 2018, graduate students Cristin Bosko (Peczuh Group), Jasmin Portelinha (Angeles-Boza Group), and Jessica A. Martin (Pinkhassik Group) attended a “Networking with JST (Joint Safety Team)” event, hosted by Yale University. During the event, Dr. Christopher Incarvito, Director of Research Operations and Technology, led a tour of the facilities and equipment at Yale’s West Campus (formerly the site of Bayer Pharmaceuticals). JST President Victor Beaumont (Loria Group, Yale) then discussed some of the projects the JST has been working on to increase safety awareness in Yale’s Department of Chemistry. Current JST projects include: the production of informational safety posters for the various labs, raising awareness regarding laboratory safety resources, and outreach utilizing social media.

This event nicely complimented efforts by Portelinha and Martin to restart the “Stall Street Journal” publication this summer. “The Stall Street Journal,” found in the bathroom stalls of the UConn Chemistry Building’s Waring Research Wing, is a 1-page monthly flier designed to raise awareness amongst graduate students about chemical safety and to promote career development opportunities.

Given this new source of inspiration and support, these students have a great deal of interest in expanding upon the safety activities in the Department of Chemistry through collaboration with the Safety Committee currently chaired by Dr. Jing Zhao. If you are interested in being part of this endeavor, please contact Jessica A. Martin at jessica.a.martin@uconn.edu, or stop by CHEM R414.

Harold S. Schwenk, Sr. Distinguished Chair

Applications and nominations are invited for a Distinguished Professorship in Chemistry. The Schwenk Distinguished Professor will join the University of Connecticut to establish a program of the highest caliber in both scholarship and teaching.

The University of Connecticut (UConn) is in the midst of a transformational period of growth supported by the $1.7B Next Generation Connecticut (http://nextgenct.uconn.edu/) and the $1B Bioscience Connecticut (http://biosciencect.uchc.edu/) investments and a bold new Academic Plan: Path to Excellence (https://academicvision.uconn.edu/). As part of these initiatives, UConn has hired more than 450 new faculty at all ranks during the past three years.  We are pleased to continue these investments by inviting applications for this Distinguished Professorship. Continue reading

UConn Chemist Wins Patent for Tunable Metal Oxide Synthesis Method

Altug Poyraz, left, a graduate student, with Steven Suib, distinguished professor and director of chemistry on Jan. 9, 2014. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

UConn chemistry professor Steven Suib has been granted a US patent (9,908,103) for a new method developed with his former student, Altug S. Poyraz, now an inorganic chemistry professor at Kennesaw State University. The technology is capable of synthesizing and customizing a type of compound that has unique catalytic and electronic properties.

Suib and Poyraz have patented their process for synthesizing thermally stable mesoporous transitional metal oxides. Their process also allows them to control the size of the mesopores and nano-sized crystalline walls.

Continue reading

Award Announcements

Two University of Connecticut Chemistry professors recently received Research Excellence Program (REP) awards. Dr. Eugene Pinkhassik recently received the award for his proposal, “Catch and Release of Nucleic Acids with Porous Nanocapsules.” Dr. Yao Lin was awarded for his proposal, “Mechanics of Processive Enzymes that Degrade Crystalline Polymers and Its Implications in Designing Macromolecular Machines.” Congratulations!

Early College Experience at UConn Chemistry

Last week UConn opened its doors to 34 high school students from Berlin High School and Orville H. Platt High School (Meriden, CT) for a day of science lectures, demonstrations and hands on laboratory activities. The trip was coordinated by the Early College Experience office and Dr. Fatma Selampinar, with science activities hosted by Dr. RougeDr. Quardokus and their students (Molly W., Cynthia G., Veronica H., Alyssa H., Saketh G. and Halle Barber, UConn ‘20). In the morning, the students had a chance to visualize atoms and learn about the forces they exert on other nearby atoms. Later in the afternoon, they had a chance to visualize DNA, interpret a gel and learn that DNA can be used as a nanomaterial, not just a genetic code. To wrap up the day the students were taken on a tour of the Mass Spectrometry Facility, with an educational demo by Lei Wang. A fun day of science and outreach ranging from materials to chemical biology was had by all!