Author: Ashley Orcutt

Meet Professor J. Nathan Hohman

J. Nathan HohmanProfessor J. Nathan Hohman was drawn to chemistry from a young age. As a young teenager, he had a subscription to Popular Science and recalls reading – with great interest – about buckyballs and carbon nanotubes. He was especially drawn to the patterns of connectivity and strength and properties of these unique materials. By his 10th grade chemistry class, Hohman was certain that he wanted to pursue a degree in chemistry. He completed his undergraduate studies at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana and went on to study under Professor Paul S. Weiss at Penn State for his Ph.D. From there, a sudden change in Weiss’s appointment led Hohman to complete his studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. From LA, Hohman moved his way up the West Coast, completing a postdoctoral research position in the Stanford University Materials Science and Engineering Department. Shortly after his post doc, he began working at the Molecular Foundry at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

After working for three years at the Molecular Foundry, Hohman realized he missed the world of academics and the joys of teaching students. He wanted to be closer to the faculty and students while experiencing the independence that comes from being a faculty member. Hohman chose UConn after searching for a university that would provide him the opportunity to teach and pursue his research interests. Continue reading

Chemistry Building Celebrates 20th Anniversary

Chemistry Building

(Peter Morenus/UConn)

Transformative. Iconic. Chemistry.

Opening in 1999, the Chemistry Building was the first UConn building to be built as part of the 10-year UConn 2000 initiative, a series of 85 capital projects across UConn's campuses. This iconic campus landmark marked the beginning of an amazing transformation of the Storrs campus. In these years, the Department has experienced tremendous growth thanks to the hard work, innovation, and success of all those that call the Chemistry Building “home.” 

UConn 2000, the Beginning of a Transformation

Signed into law in 1995, UConn 2000 was a 10-year plan to transform the University of Connecticut. As the Connecticut Legislature approved a $1 billion package to rebuild and expand the University of Connecticut, the state's investment in its flagship public university marked the largest such initiative in the nation at the time. The success of the bill is credited—in part—to a wave of "Huskymania" that overtook Connecticut as the women's and men's basketball teams vied for national championships.1

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2019 Undergraduate Awards

2019 Undergrad Award Ceremony



Presented to the top graduating senior.

Joshua Paolillo



Presented to a student who displays an aptitude for a career in Analytical Chemistry.

Caroline Anastasia



Recognizing achievements by an undergraduate in inorganic chemistry pursuing a career in chemistry.

Ahmed Ahmed



Presented to a student who has demonstrated excellence in organic chemistry and related fields based on research, coursework, and is committed to a career in chemistry.

Joshua Paolillo



Presented to a student who has demonstrated excellence in physical chemistry and related fields based on research, coursework, and is committed to a career in chemistry.

Mark Johnson



Presented to an outstanding senior.

Elyse Estra



Presented to undergraduate chemistry majors for achievements in General Chemistry.

Ana Magano

Ronghui You



This scholarship is presented annually to an outstanding undergraduate chemistry major. The award is made possible by family of Gary A. Epling, a former faculty member of the University.

Andrew Spielman



This is a scholarship created by the late Ulrich Müller-Westerhoff, an emeritus faculty member from the UConn Chemistry Department, to provide financial assistance to full-time undergraduate chemistry majors who have proven their commitment to the program and is participating in undergraduate research.

Cole Stearns



William R. Granquist, Jr., a chemistry major and UConn graduate (1983), died in an explosion at the Ensign-Bickford Co. on August 16, 1984. His parents, a number of friends, and Ensign-Bickford Co. have established a scholarship fund in his memory.

Hira Ilyas

Utsav Sheth

Hao Xu



This award is given to the best thesis. It was established through the generosity of the Roland Ward Family to encourage greater undergraduate participation in research and to foster better writing skills as part of t he educational process.

Caroline Anastasia

Chem Café’s Susan Monroe Retires

Susan from Chem Cafe
Photo courtesy of: Milton Levin

Susan Monroe has watched the UConn campus cafés grow–including the Chem Café–since the day she first started working at UConn on March 4, 1994. April 1, 2019, we are sad to announce Susan’s retirement from the Chem Café after a wonderful 25 years of work through UConn Dining Services.

Susan grew up in Mansfield, Connecticut and attended college at Eastern Connecticut State University.  When she graduated, she became a librarian for some time before moving back to her hometown.  She’s lived all over Connecticut, including New Britain and Manchester, and has also spent some time in Massachusetts.  However, nothing has truly felt more like home than the time she has spent in Mansfield.  As she gears up for retirement, Susan says she will miss the students most, and their stories about sports and other weekly events that happen on campus.

Although she’s the constant, familiar face in the Chemistry Building, Susan didn’t always work at the Chem Café. Before coffee shops, Susan started at Jonathan’s in the old Student Union, did catering, and worked on the first mobile unit (the “Paw Pad”). She had also been a supervisor at Papa Gino’s, in Jonathan’s, and then went on to working at the cafés within UConn Dining Services.

Throughout the years with Dining Services, she has worked at “Wilbur’s Café” in Wilbur Cross, as well as “Up and Atom” when it first opened, and worked there for a total of 6 years.  However, she always found her way back to the Chem Café, reflecting, “I always like coming back because it’s like a family here.”  Getting to speak with her more, we were able to unlock some of Susan’s favorite (and least favorite!) meals at the Café.  She loves the soup, enough to eat two cups per day, but her all-time favorite is the turkey lasagna.  Along with soup, she treats herself to half a sandwich, completing her daily meal routine.  On the contrary, she’s not keen on the gluten free items, although she admittedly hasn’t tried any of the gluten free options.

When asked to describe her years of working at the Chem Café in one word, Susan replied “People. I always love being around people.”  She’ll miss the hustle and bustle of students coming in and out of class, as well as handling the upkeep of the Café, but most of all, she’ll miss the Chemistry Building as a whole.  Susan’s friendly greetings and warm smiles will be gone, but we will never forget her impact on making the Chem Café feel like home for so many.

From everyone in the Chemistry Building, we wish Susan a relaxing and peaceful retirement!

Article Courtesy of Kailey Huot ’19 (CLAS)

UConn CLAS Alumni Help Undergraduates Navigate the Career Landscape

2018 Alumni Panelists
Dennis Maroney ’89 (CLAS), Eileen Meehan ’12 (CLAS) & ’14 M.S., and Dr. Al Berzinis ’75 (CLAS) & ’79 Ph.D. (UCSD)

Alumni Panel Offers Insights in Industrial Career Paths

So as to build a bridge between students interested in industrial career paths and professionals in industry, the UConn Department of Chemistry—in partnership with the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences (CLAS) and the UConn Foundation—offered students an opportunity to network with CLAS alumni during a panel event on November 8, 2018. Chemistry major Kailey Huot ‘20 (CLAS) reflected, “At a university, you only really get to see the research and academia side of chemistry. It was extremely beneficial and insightful to hear from the other side: people working in industry and how their career path has shaped them.” The panelists offered unique insights about their careers, answered questions regarding leadership and teamwork, and spoke of how UConn CLAS provided them with the skills needed to successfully navigate the career landscape. Continue reading

2017-2018 Graduate Student Awards

IC Duay Award
Department Head Christian Brückner presents Graduate Student Searle “IC” Duay with the Masterton-Hurley Teaching Award

Bobbitt-Chou Graduate Summer Research Fellowship

Lei Jin, He Group


Outstanding Research and Service Award

for outstanding performance in service and research

Sam Juliano, Angeles Group


Connecticut Chemistry Research Award

for outstanding performance in research

Hailin Fu, Lin Group


Waring Award

for outstanding academic performance

Anne Mirich, Suib Group


Masterton-Hurley Teaching Award

for outstanding performance as a teaching assistant

Julia DiSapio, Gorka Group

Searle “IC” Duay, Angeles Group

Alyssa Hartmann, Rouge Group

Veronica Hayes, Quardokus Group

Jyoti Nandi, Leadbeater Group

Engaging Future Scientists

  • Science Salon Jr. Event
    Chemistry major Taryn Wisniewski '19 (CLAS) with Science Salon Jr. participant (UConn Alumni/ UConn Photo)

As part of Homecoming Weekend, children ages 5 to 12 joined UConn faculty, staff, and students for an afternoon of STEM experiments.

The UConn Science Salon Jr. featured manipulations in chemistry, engineering creations, and environmental adventures. The event is an offshoot of the popular UConn Science Salon series, café events designed to encourage public discourse at the intersection of science and culture.

It was held Sunday at the Peter J. Werth Residence Tower on campus.


Story by Lucas Voghell (CLAS ’20) | UConn Today
Photos courtesy of UConn Today and UConn Alumni

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