Congratulations to Ph.D. candidate Matthew Howell, the recent recipient of a prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. This fellowship will begin in Fall 2020 and continue through Spring 2023. Given the growing crisis of antibiotic resistant bacteria, Matthew—in collaboration with advisor Dr. Alfredo Angeles—is interested in examining the relationships between peptides, metal ions, and antibiotics. Together, they are searching for combinations that demonstrate synergistic killing of these bacteria.
“UConn is really my home,” said Yashan Zhang.
She lives in Farmington – just minutes from UConn Health – and she’s an assistant professor in residence in the Chemistry Department on UConn’s Hartford Campus. She’s also Chinese, though she’s been in Connecticut and part of the UConn community for the past 13 years.
“I started my PhD here in the Chemistry Department, and then I got my PhD and I got a job here,” Zhang said. “So I’ve been at UConn for a long time.”
For Zhang, it feels like the coronavirus pandemic has hit home twice: first, as it threatened her family and friends still living in China, and now, as its impact grows daily in the United States. It’s overwhelming for her at times – her voice fills with emotion when she talks about images of doctors forced to wear makeshift personal protective equipment, or to use the same protective mask for their whole shift. The daily reports of increasing positive cases of COVID-19 are tough for her to hear.
“Every day I see the numbers,” she said. “I always feel like, behind those numbers, they are actual, real people. That just makes me feel really sad.”
But like so many, it’s also empowered her to take action to help her neighbors and her UConn community – and her determination to help inspired a recent campus-wide effort to help support the doctors, nurses, and medical staff on the frontlines of the pandemic at UConn Health.
Researchers from the University of Connecticut’s Sotzing Research Group are studying conductive and dielectric polymers for a number of applications, from color-changing fabric to medical applications of chemicals in cannabis to high-speed projectile launchers for the military.
The group is led by chemistry professor Gregory Sotzing. The group’s wide-ranging base of research is due to the number of applications for the polymers they study.
Sotzing explained that studying polymers really just means making new kinds of materials.
“We’re pretty much the people who make new materials, new compositions of matter. Then the engineers will take and test out these new things and see how well they work inside of certain kinds of applications,” Sotzing said.