Author: Ashley Orcutt

UConn Chemistry in Motion at Science Salon Junior Event

UConn Chemistry lecturer Dr. Clyde Cady directed several dozen budding scientists through two interactive demonstrations of “Electrons in Motion” during last month’s Science Salon Junior event. Science Salon Junior, held during UConn’s 2017 Family Weekend, featured exciting experiments for children ages 5-12. Throughout the event, Cady and Greg Bernard, CLAS Director of Alumni Relations, led a team of chemists that included Associate Professor Dr. Mark Peczuh, graduate students Svetlana Gelpi and Xudong Wang, and undergraduate student Shahan Kamal. In one demonstration, Salon Junior participants electroplated zinc onto copper pennies and then “brassed” them by heating them in a flame. In the other demonstration, students prepared solutions and observed the phosphorescence of a ruthenium (III) bipyridine complex. As the lights went out to observe the phosphorescence, one participant quipped, “Now I see the light!” Cady’s perspective on the event is equally profound, reflecting, “I hope we illuminated the power of chemistry for our young scientists and polished their interest in STEM so that it was just as bright and shiny as the brass pennies we made.”

These fun, kid-friendly demonstrations were part of the inaugural Science Salon Junior program, an off-shoot of UConn’s successful Science Salon events.

 

Photos courtesy of the UConn Foundation & Dr. Mark Peczuh

Meet Dr. Alexander Gorka

Alexander GorkaWhen Dr. Alexander Gorka began college at Monmouth University, he did not originally intend to pursue a degree in Chemistry. Instead, he was enrolled as a criminal justice/forensic science major. As time went on, he came to realize that he most enjoyed the physical sciences courses and that a degree in Chemistry would provide the broadest opportunities. This was solidified through undergraduate research, where he “caught a glimpse of just how fun and rewarding it can be to challenge yourself with your own questions and ideas.” Hence, a chemistry career was born.

Upon graduation, Dr. Gorka moved to Washington, D.C., to earn his Ph.D. under the guidance of Prof. Paul Roepe at Georgetown University. Dr. Gorka then completed a Cancer Research Training Award (CRTA) Postdoctoral Fellowship with Dr. Martin Schnermann at the National Cancer Institute. In Fall 2017, Dr. Gorka joined the faculty at the University of Connecticut (UConn) as an Assistant Professor of Chemistry.

Dr. Gorka is excited to both teach and to launch his research lab at UConn: “What drew me to this career was that there’s never a dull moment. Things are fun, crazy, terrifying, and fulfilling, all at the same time.” Dr. Gorka is most looking forward to mentoring students—helping them to form their own paths and careers—and exploring new ideas in his research lab. His goal is to answer important questions, do impactful science, publish high-quality articles, present at conferences, build networks to collaborate, and “be as good a mentor to [his] students as [he] can be in helping them achieve their goals.” Continue reading

2017 Connecticut Middle School Science Bowl

Science Bowl audienceOn Saturday, February 25, 2017, the Connecticut Regional Middle School Science Bowl event welcomed approximately 200 students and coaches—and their family members—to UConn for a day of learning and friendly competition. The Middle School Science Bowl is a fast-paced, question-and-answer-style event that emphasizes the importance of STEM education. This year, 32 teams from 19 different middle schools throughout Connecticut participated in the Science Bowl competition where they answered questions in the fields of biology, chemistry, Earth and space science, physics, and math. It is through the Science Bowl that students are able to engage in a challenging academic competition with peers that share a similar passion for science.

The Connecticut Middle School Science Bowl is hosted by the UConn Chemistry Department and organized by Assistant Professor in Residence Joe DePasquale and Program Assistants Aneesa Bey and Ashley Orcutt. This event would not be possible without the assistance of approximately 85 volunteers who donate their time to prepare for and participate in this exciting competition. Among the volunteers are undergraduate students, graduate students, alumni, and local high school students. Many of the volunteers are STEM-based majors who share the same affinity and aptitude for science as the young competitors.

The Department of Chemistry would like to thank Gerber Technology, the UConn College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, and the UConn Institute of Materials Science for their support. The Department would also like to thank the UConn School of Engineering Diversity & Outreach Center, Connecticut Science Center, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Subway Restaurant for their contributions to this event as well.

The top teams of the day were:

First Place: Talcott Mountain Academy (Avon, CT)
Second Place: Middlesex Middle School (Darien, CT)
Semi-Finalist: Cloonan Middle School (Stamford, CT)
Semi-Finalist: Irving A. Robbins Middle School (Farmington, CT)

Talcott Mountain Academy will represent Connecticut’s middle schools at the National Science Bowl competition in Washington, D.C. April 27 – May 1.

The National Science Bowl is a nationwide academic competition hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy. “The National Science Bowl® continues to be one of the premier academic competitions across the country and prepares America’s students for future successes in some of the world’s fastest growing fields in science, technology, and engineering,” said Dr. J. Stephen Binkley, Acting Director of the Department’s Office of Science, which sponsors the nationwide competition, now in its 27th year. “Each year the DOE Office of Science provides this unique opportunity, and I am honored to congratulate all the competitors who are advancing to the national finals, where they will continue to showcase their talents as top students in math and science.” More than 14,000 students compete in the NSB each year.

More information can be found on the CT Middle School Science Bowl website and the National Science Bowl website.

2nd Annual Alumni Panel

By Gabriella Reggiano

Upon earning their Ph.D., graduate students of the UConn Chemistry Department can pursue careers in fields such as government, academia, or industry. The transition to life after graduate school, however, can be daunting. In order to help students navigate this next period in their lives, the Graduate Student Advisory Committee organized the 2nd Annual Alumni Panel, which included five UConn alumni: Drs. Faith Corbo, Jun Nable, Gavin Richards, Junichi Ogikubo, and Jason McCarthy. Careers ranged from a marketing manager at a specialty chemical company to an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. The group answered questions about interviewing, the merits of industry versus academia, graduating in four years, and the job application timeline.

The panelists, many of whom are now involved in the hiring process, discussed what they tend to look for in resumes and cover letters. Dr. Jason McCarthy, Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School, emphasized alma maters, first author publications, and evidence of productivity and independence. Dr. Junichi Ogikubo, Manager of Radiochemistry Operations at Avid Radiopharmaceuticals, offered his perspective from industry. Dr. Ogikubo stressed the importance of applicants grabbing his attention early: “I get 20 resumes in one email, so a lot of times I’m clicking through several resumes at the same time. Usually, I look at half of your first page, and if that doesn’t work, then I move onto the next one.” Each panelist also spoke about tailoring a resume and cover letter for the job. Dr. McCarthy pointed out how simple it is to identify a generic cover letter. He recommends writing specific cover letters that say, “Here’s what I do, here’s what you do, and here’s how we can work together.”

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Considering Graduate School

Gascon

Dr. José Gascón

Associate Professor & 

Chair, Graduate Admissions Committee

Because graduate application season is upon us, we interviewed Dr. José Gascón, Chair of the UConn Chemistry Graduate Admissions Committee, to gain insight into the application and decision process.

What advice do you have for freshman and sophomores who are considering graduate school?

If you had some research experience and you enjoyed trying to solve a scientific question, then you will enjoy graduate school. If that is the case, then I would advise spending some time looking up the research that is being conducted within your choice of schools.

What are the top three traits/experiences you look for in an applicant?

In no particular order: transcripts and GPA, research or internship experience, letters of reference.

How do GRE scores and publications factor into your decision making process?

In my personal opinion, GRE scores are not a deal breaker and they only compliment other more important credential aspects (i.e. GPA, research experience, and letters). Publications are highly regarded if students have them, but their absence is not considered negative.

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Searching for Assistant Professor

Position Summary

The University of Connecticut (UConn) is entering 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 Vision (http://academicvision.uconn.edu). We are pleased to continue these investments by inviting applications are invited for a tenure-track position in the Chemistry Department.

The Chemistry Department at the University of Connecticut (UConn) seeks applications for a full time tenure-track position to begin in August 2017. All areas of organic, bioorganic, or biological chemistry will be considered, with preference given to candidates whose research contributes to the above initiatives and complements that of current faculty. Continue reading

Meet the UConn Chemistry Club

By Gabriella Reggiano

Chem Club paints the rock

The UConn Chemistry Club creates a space for undergraduates to discuss and learn about chemistry in a relaxed setting. The executive board consists of seven students: Christopher Chapman as President, Joshua Paolilo as Vice President, Farrell Brown as Secretary, Kevin Stein as Treasurer, Quinn Lacasse as Experiment Specialist, Julia Swanson as Event Coordinator, and Taylor Simao as Minister of Information. The officers decide upon a theme for each meeting that draws connections between chemistry, current events, an experiment, and a member activity. Recently, the Chem Club discussed the role of oxidation in violent reactions. Their experiment, adding a gummy bear to liquid potassium chlorate, involves the oxidation of sugar, which produces noise as well as a flame.

The Chemistry Club earned an Honorable Mention from the American Chemical Society (ACS) for their work last year. The executive board submits an annual report that includes a description of each meeting held as well as additional details about community service, green chemistry, professional development, and outreach activities. The ACS then evaluates the club on whether they met their goals, in addition to the quality and quantity of all the services they provide to the UConn community. In this year’s report, ACS specifically highlighted the Chemistry Club’s ability to create engaging and informative meetings. “The best way to retain members is to make the meetings both interesting and relevant – and it seems that you did just that. It is impressive that you combined fun and learning at your meetings.” Continue reading

Undergraduate Instrument Center

By Gabriella Reggiano

“Hands-on experience with state-of-the-art instrumentation” are the keywords Department Head Dr. Christian Brückner used to describe the new Undergraduate Instrument Center. This lab, located in T-310 of the Chemistry Building, currently houses an Atomic Force Microscope (AFM), an Electron Paramagnetic Resonance spectrometer (EPR), and an X-Ray Powder Diffractometer (PXRD).

With funding from the UConn College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Office of the Provost, Dr. Clyde Cady and Dr. Edward Neth spearheaded the creation of the Undergraduate Instrument Center over the summer of 2016. The Center provides students with the opportunity for hands-on experience with advanced equipment both inside and outside the classroom. Importantly, these are also instruments found in industry and research laboratories.

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Undergraduate Summer Researchers

Each summer, UConn Chemistry undergraduate students take part in research opportunities across campus and across the globe. The three undergraduate students below offer a snapshot of their summer experiences as an Analytical Chemist Intern at The Sun Products Corporation, a Student Researcher at Fudan University, and a Summer Undergraduate Research Fund (SURF) Awardee at the University of Connecticut. Click on their photos to learn more about their summers and their advice for other undergraduate students.

For more information about undergraduate research opportunities, please see our Undergraduate Research page.

Chris Chapman
Ryan Clarke
Lacie Dube

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Meet the New Department Head

Christian
Brückner

Department of Chemistry

 
Ph.D.: University of British Columbia, Canada
 
Office Location: Chemistry Building

bruckner-interview
 
What would you say are the Department of Chemistry’s areas of strength in your field?
We are agents of change. We transform matter on many scales, we monitor the change, and we strive to predict how these changes occur. In practical terms, we are a mid-sized department that is large enough to offer teaching and research that covers all the classic subfields of chemistry as well as their modern interdisciplinary permutations. But we are small enough so everyone knows everyone, making everyone feel at home. Importantly, we are a very young department, with a third of our faculty hired in the past 5 years. This has added tremendous strength and momentum and brought expertise to campus in contemporary fields that were not even heard of some years ago.

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