Author: Rheault, Kristin

LambdaVision/Birge Group Receives $5 Million from NASA

LambdaVision was awarded five million dollars from NASA to continue their work on the International Space Station (ISS) for an artificial retina that could help patients regain their sight. The award will fund flights to the ISS for the next three years to manufacture and improve the artificial retina technology previously developed by LambdaVision. The layer-by-layer process of producing the protein-based artificial retina requires less materials in a microgravity environment, reducing its cost and production time. In the future, LambdaVision hopes to begin clinical trials for their artificial retina technology.

LambdaVision was founded as part of the UConn Technology Incubator Program (TIP) and is spearheaded by Nicole Wagner (CEO) and Jordan Greco (CSO). Wagner and Greco are alumni of Dr. Robert Birge’s research group and currently serve as Assistant Research Professors in UConn’s Chemistry Department.

Read the full Business Wire article here.

UConn Alumnus Gives TEDx Talk

Dr. Matthew Guberman-Pfeffer, a UConn alumnus and current postdoctoral researcher at Yale University, is an accomplished chemist with a unique perspective on the molecular makings of our world. He also happens to be blind. In his TEDx Talk, he shares his story of resilience and how he learned to comprehend a subject that is typically taught by visuals in the classroom.

Matthew Guberman-Pfeffer


Watch his TEDx talk here:

Research Safety Workshop

The Department of Chemistry held their 2020 Research Safety Workshop for first year graduate students and Laboratory Safety Officers (LSOs) on Wednesday, January 15.  The Workshop was organized by the Department Safety Committee and the Joint Safety Team (JST) in conjunction with EH&S. Presentations were made by Dr. Jing Zhao (Chair of the Department Safety Committee), Jessica A. Martin (Head of JST), Eric Krantz (Head of Teaching Laboratory Services), and Brent Lewchik (Chemical Safety Manager, EH&S).  In all, 44 students were in attendance. A survey revealed that the vast majority of attendees found the material covered to be useful.

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Nature Communications Paper Publishing

Enzymes provide optimal three-dimensional structures for substrate binding and the subsequent accelerated reaction. Such folding-dependent catalytic behaviors, however, are seldom mechanistically explored with reduced structural complexity. A recent article in Nature Communications, from collaborated research between Professor Jianjun Cheng at UIUC and Professor Yao Lin at UConn, demonstrates that the α-helix, a much simpler structural motif of enzymes, can facilitate its own growth through the self-catalyzed polymerization of N-carboxyanhydride (NCA) in solvents with low dielectric constants. The leading authors with equal contributions are Ziyuan Song (UIUC), Hailin Fu (UConn) and Ryan Baumgartner (UIUC). In the paper, Hailin Fu developed a new two-stage polymerization kinetics involving a Michaelis-Menton mechanism, which helped to prove the auto-catalytic nature of the NCA polymerizations. The research was facilitated by funding from the National Science Foundation (CHE-1709820 to J.C. and DMR-1809497 to Y.L.). The editors at Nature Communications featured the article in the Editors’ Highlights of recent research on Organic Chemistry and Chemical Biology (

Molecular diagrams
Photo courtesy of: Nature Communications

Song, Z., Fu, H., Baumgartner, R., Zhu, L., Shih, K.-C., Xia, Y., Zheng, X., Yin, L., Chipot, C.*, Lin, Y.* & Cheng, J.* Enzyme-mimetic self-catalyzed polymerization of polypeptide helices. Nature Communications 10, 5470 (2019).

The First CT-Japan Photochemistry Workshop

On October 29th and 30th, UConn Chemistry held the first CT-JAPAN photochemistry workshop for high school students. The two-day workshop was held in conjunction with the visit of 5 high school students and 2 teachers of Matsuyama Minami High School from Ehime Prefecture, Japan. The total 50 high school students from Woodstock Academy attended the workshop. The workshop was organized by Prof. Tomoyasu Mani with the help from Prof. Fatma Selampinar and graduate assistants.

Group of high school students

The students from the two countries attended the lectures by Prof. Mani and afterwards jointly performed the experiments, learning new chemistry (photon upconversion on day 1 and charge-transfer absorption on day 2) and at the same time fostering friendship and cultural understanding. The agenda and the materials of the workshop (lecture slides and experiment procedures) are available online. The workshop was in part supported by the Department of Chemistry and Early College Experience. The trip of Matsuyama Minami High School was supported by the Japan Science and Technology through the Super Science High School program.

Professor Rusling Receives Commercialization Grants


Professor Jim Rusling recently received START and SPARK Technology Commercialization Grants for Self-powered Bioelectronics.

Aiming to commercialize the world’s first battery-free implantable pacemaker, Professor Rusling and his team received two early-stage technology commercialization grants, START ($10K) and SPARK ($50K). Unlike current pacemakers which are battery-powered and require replacement surgery when the battery is drained, the new self-powered pacemaker uses nanogenerator technology to harvest the patient’s body energy and store it in a tiny biosupercapacitor to power pacemakers, potentially for the patient’s lifetime. Commercialization efforts of this product are led by VoltXon inc, a recent startup spun-off from Prof. Rusling’s research and led by Postdoctoral Fellow and CTO of VoltXon, Dr. Islam Mosa and graduate student Esraa Elsanadidy.

For more information about the START and SPARK technology commercialization grants please visit their program website.

UConn Chemistry Professor Receives NSF Grant

The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded UConn Chemistry Professor José Gascón and Michigan State Professor Warren Beck a grant to study Carotenoid Photophysics in Photosynthetic Light-Harvesting.

With this $590,000 award, the Chemistry of Life Processes Program in the Chemistry Division is funding Dr. Gascón (PI) and Dr. Beck (co-PI) to investigate the energy transfer and photoprotection functions of carotenoids in the proteins of photosynthetic organisms. Continue reading

LambdaVision/Birge Group NASA Phase I SBIR Award

LambdaVision was awarded a NASA Phase I SBIR Award ($125K) to follow up on previous work that was conducted on the International Space Station. Initial experiments used a microgravity environment to manufacture their retinal implant technology, which is aimed at treating patients suffering from blinding retinal degenerative diseases. The NASA SBIR will help them continue this work and evaluate different manufacturing parameters that will allow them to construct the implants both on Earth and on the ISS.

This research was founded by the research group of Robert Birge (Harold S. Schwenk Sr. Distinguished Chair Emeritus; Founder of LambdaVision) and is led by Nicole Wagner (CEO) and Jordan Greco (CSO). Nicole Wagner and Jordan Greco both currently hold Assistance Research Professor positions in the Department.

Click here to read the press release, here to see the list of awardees and here to read a copy of their abstract.

Chemistry Professor Receives Research Excellence Award

UConn Chemistry Professor Dr. Kumar has been selected for the Fulbright US-Australia Research Excellence Award 2019, among six others to represent the US, and will visit Australia in 2020 to carry out research on the 3-D printing of enzymes to make progress toward the realization of Biobatteries. These batteries are intended to use sugar to power personal electronics.


To find out more information regarding the Fulbright US-Australia Research Excellence Award, please visit their website.