Alumni News

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 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

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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Alumnus Serves as Postdoctoral Fellow on Team of 2016 Nobel Prize Winner

Michael OtleyAlumnus Michael Otley is now a postdoctoral fellow on the team of one of the 2016 Nobel Prize winners in Chemistry, Dr. J. Fraser Stoddart, at Northwestern University. During Michael Otley’s graduate studies in the Sotzing Group (Ph.D. Organic Chemistry, 2015), Michael focused on developing the next generation of organic electronics using conductive polymers.

Currently, Michael is still working with organic electronics but now uses macrocycles instead of polymers in the Stoddart Group. He has developed a self-assembly system of redox-active macrocycles to form ‘nanotubes’ for membrane applications, and also works on energy storage by using rigid redox-active macrocycles for organic rechargeable batteries.

Chemistry Provides Student with Marketable Skills

UConn Today

Before SCasey Camireun Products Corp. hired UConn chemistry major Casey Camire as a summer intern, students studying engineering typically dominated the internship application pool.

Many companies, like Trumbull, Conn.-based Sun Products, which develops and markets household cleaning supplies, typically look first for chemical engineering college students when recruiting for their internship programs. But chemistry major and math minor Camire knew that with his background in chemistry and applied laboratory experience, he too could be a good fit for such a job.

“After my experiences there, they are now looking for more chemistry students,” he says.

Camire says he was able to market himself for his internship at Sun Products Corp. by showing – through a resume he posted on the Center for Career Development’s Husky Career Link – that the analytical skills he learned in his chemistry classes and his practical laboratory knowledge from three years of research experience were applicable to a real-world chemistry research environment. Continue reading

Innovation Takes Center Stage

UConn faculty honored at Innovation eventCutting-edge technologies, innovative partnerships, and bold leadership took center stage April 10, during UConn’s Second Annual Celebration of Innovation event at Rentschler Field in East Hartford. The event, presented by the Office of Economic Development, recognized the research and development achievements of UConn faculty, alumni, and UConn-related startup companies, as well as industry partners and state leaders.

“The event is an opportunity to spotlight the amazing research coming out of UConn, and recognize our partners in industry and state government who are leading the way to innovate business and industry in our state,” said Mary Holz-Clause, vice president of economic development, who served as master of ceremonies.

Holz-Clause said that this past year, UConn researchers have developed 80 new inventions and filed 42 U.S. patents, and the University has signed 10 license deals. Commercializing university innovations is a growing resource for the University that has generated $1.2 million in patent revenue alone in the past year. Continue reading

Distinguished Chemist Returns to UConn

Azita OwliaWhen Azita Owlia, PhD ’84, traveled from her home of Tehran, Iran to visit family in Connecticut in 1978, she didn’t expect to stay – let alone to go on to earn a BS, MS and PhD in chemistry at UConn. But when the senior vice president at Bayer Material Science returned to Storrs this year for the first time in 23 years, her heart swelled with nostalgia for her former home. “It was such a homecoming for me,” Owlia said. “It’s been such a long time, but every time I hear people talk about UConn, I have such a sense of pride.” Owlia returned to UConn as the first recipient of the chemistry department’s Distinguished Alumni award, presented by her graduate adviser, Professor Jim Rusling. The award recognizes Owlia’s achievements in the field of chemistry and materials science, and also as a trailblazer: she is the first woman vice president at Bayer.

After earning her PhD, Owlia took a job as a chemist at Bayer in Houston, Texas, and earned a business degree in the evenings. Now, more than a decade later, she’s based in Hong Kong but spends most of her time traveling for the company, which conducts $50 billion in sales yearly. Although she admits that for much of her life she’s been a woman in a man’s world, Owlia has never seen her situation as having to do with gender. “I love diversity, and Bayer is very diverse. I take pride in that,” she says. “It’s not really about being male or female because everyone comes from such different backgrounds. And we naturally find areas of commonality with other people.” Owlia also spoke with chemistry graduate students during her visit and encouraged them to follow the advice that she always gives herself. “I tell students that they should be open-minded,” she says. “I didn’t have every step planned in my life. When you have an open mind, you expose yourself to things you never thought you’d find.”

-Article adapted from CLAS Today