Faculty News

#FacesOfUConnChem: Meet Undergraduate Program Director, Dr. Nicholas Leadbeater

Next for our faculty highlights is Dr. Nicholas Leadbeater!

Background: Ph.D. and research fellowship at the University of Cambridge, UK; faculty position in London

Current position: Associate Professor and Undergraduate Program Director at UConn Storrs, where he has been since 2004. He chose UConn Chemistry because of its great facilities and faculty. Continue reading

Meet Assistant Professor Alexander Aksenov

Meet Assistant Professor Alexander Aksenov, a chemist who is passionate about exploring the underlying chemistries of the molecular world using mass spectrometry.

Early Career

Growing up, chemistry had always piqued young Alexander Aksenov’s interest. Although having a physicist as a father certainly helped, it wasn’t until he found a mentor in his chemistry teacher that he decided to pursue the subject further. “That’s how it always starts doesn’t it…. I had not considered that path, but my teacher encouraged me to continue with chemistry, and the rest is history,” Aksenov says. He went on to complete his Bachelors of Science in Chemistry at Moscow State University.

From there, Alexander says that his path becomes a winding one. Coming to the US was not a part of his original academic plan, after receiving offers to continue his graduate studies in Moscow and the United Kingdom. Regardless, he found his way to the University of Florida, where he earned his Ph.D. in Chemistry. It was at this point that his interests shifted from physical chemistry to all-things mass spectrometry. Alexander explains:

It wasn’t something that I ever expected myself to become interested in…. Physical chemistry and mass spectrometry are two different worlds. I was convinced to switch fields by my Ph.D. advisor, Professor John Eyler, and I was surprised to find myself excited and engaged by it. Continue reading

Four Chemistry Professors Awarded Research Funding From UConn Office of Vice President for Research

The UConn Office of the Vice President for Research established the START Preliminary Proof-of-Concept (PPOC) Fund through support from the CTNext Higher Education Fund. The program aims to support the preliminary validation of innovative early stage technologies from across all disciplines for early stage projects that may one day result in inventions and technologies that address unmet needs and have potential for commercial application.

The START PPOC Fund competition accepted written proposals on a quarterly basis and selections for funding were made on a review of the written proposals by a selection committee. Recipients come from UConn, the University of Bridgeport, and Southern Connecticut State University.

Congratulations to following UConn Chemistry professors for who received START PPOC funding awards!

Q2 Awardees:
Douglas Adamson, $10,000 – Electrifying and Polarizing HEPA Filters with Graphene to Improve the Efficiency of Virus Removal from Air
Alexandru Asandei, $10,000 – Controlled Radical Polymerization of Conjugated Alkenes in Water

Q3 Awardee:
Eugene Pinkhassik, $10,000 – Integration of palladium-catalyzed cross-coupling reactions in flow processes

Q4 Awardee:
James Rusling, $10,000 – Rapid CRISP-Based Point-of-Care Detection of COVID-19 and COVID-19 Antibodies in Saliva

#FacesOfUConnChem: Meet Department Head, Dr. Christian Brueckner!

This year, we are doing a series of features on all the amazing people that make up UConn Chemistry, and who better to start with than our department head, Dr. Christian Brückner!

Academic background: MS at RWTH, Germany; Ph.D. at University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada; Postdoc at University of California at Berkeley

Current position: Dr. Brückner has been at UConn Storrs since 1998. He now serves as a professor and the Department Head, where he enjoys some of the challenges it brings (but not the realization that this doesn’t afford more hours to the day!) Continue reading

New Faculty Bring Antiracism and the Environment to the Forefront

New faculty join the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) this fall as part of two groups launched by Dean Juli Wade to increase interdisciplinary scholarship in human-environment interactions and diversity, equity, and inclusion.   

Over the past year, faculty within the College collaborated to propose topic areas for the cluster hires, and two were selected in environment and human interactions, and antiracism.   Continue reading

8 UConn Faculty Receive NSF CAREER Awards

Eight UConn researchers across six disciplines have received CAREER awards for 2021.  

The National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (NSF CAREER) Program awards competitive grants to support the research programs of early-career faculty who demonstrate remarkable potential to become leaders in their field.  

In addition to advancing research, these projects work to actively engage students and the community. This broadens the impact of the research and encourages students on all levels and community members to take an interest in STEM researcher.  

2021 is the second-highest number of CAREER awards for the university, second only to when UConn faculty received nine in 2019.   Continue reading

Tiny Bubbles: Treating Asthma with Gene Silencing Nanocapsules

Steroid-based inhalers deliver life-saving medication for millions of asthma sufferers, providing relief and the ability to simply breathe. Unfortunately, inhalers do not work for all patients, and with rates on the rise for a disease that leads to hundreds of thousands of deaths world-wide each year, new asthma treatments and strategies are needed.

A team of UConn researchers – including Assistant Professor of Chemistry in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Jessica Rouge and Associate Professor of Pathobiology in the College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources Steven Szczepanek – are collaborating to develop novel asthma therapeutics using gene-silencing nanocapsules in a bid to help patients who aren’t benefiting from existing treatments. Their research was published in ACS Nano. Continue reading

Professors He and Rusling Receive NSF Grant

Chemistry professors Jie He and Jim Rusling have been awarded a 3-year $464,000 NSF grant from the CBET division entitled “SusChEM: C-H Bond Electroactivation of Nonpolar Organic Substrates in Water: Enzyme-Mediated Reaction Pathways in Microemulsions.”

This project will explore new electrocatalyst materials for activating enzymes in films to synthesize high value chemicals using fluids called microemulsions that are structured fluid solvents consisting of water, oil, and surfactants and are able to dissolve a wide variety of polar and non polar reactants while still maintaining a water rich environment for the enzymes.

High School Students Exposed to UConn Chemistry Through Virtual Event

Students from Berlin High School didn’t let COVID-19 get in the way of learning directly from UConn faculty

The UConn Department of Chemistry, working alongside the Office of Early College Programs & UConn Early College Experience (ECE), annually brings high school students from around Connecticut to the Storrs campus to see exactly what happens in their research laboratories – a tradition that continued this year, despite the challenges of a global pandemic.

The yearly event is a great chance for high schoolers to be exposed to chemistry and related STEM fields as they consider their future studies and careers.

While the COVID-19 pandemic prevented those types of in-person visits this year, a Berlin High School chemistry teacher worked with UConn to make sure his students had that type of experience virtually.

“The visits to UConn are really important to the students taking UConn classes for credit in high school,” says Brendan Wilkosz ’03 (ED), ’04 M.Ed., who has been at Berlin HS since 2004, and teaches a chemistry class that grants UConn credit through the ECE program. “There can be a disconnect for the students if they are physically separated from UConn. This year, that was not possible, but it was important for me to do something, so we worked on a virtual day. There was a real willingness at UConn to get that done to have students experience the challenges and complexities of the work, but also see that the research is cutting edge.” Continue reading

Fulbright Distinguished Chair Award 2021-22

Professor Challa Vijaya Kumar of the Chemistry Department has won the Fulbright Distinguished Chair Award 2021-22 from the US State Department for his proposal on desalination by forward osmosis. He will conduct research in developing protein-based membranes for desalination by a revolutionary concept using state of the art methods. This is his fourth Fulbright award from the US State Department.