Graduate News

Professor Rusling Receives Commercialization Grants

Rusling

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.

Publication in Newest Volume of Inorganic Chemistry

UConn Chemistry Department Head Dr. Christian Brueckner and Chemistry Graduate Student Adewole Atoyebi published a novel process of preparing metalloporphyrins by simply grinding the porphyrin and the metal together in a mechanized mill. The work graced the August volume of Inorganic Chemistry.

Atoyebi, A.O.; Brückner, C. “Observations on the Mechanochemical Insertion of Zinc(II), Copper(II), Magnesium(II), and Select Other Metal(II) Ions into Porphyrins” Inorg. Chem., 2019, 58, 9631–9642.

2018 – 2019 Graduate Student Award

Waring (Scholastic) Award:

Arlene Bartolome (Adv. Lin)

Nathaniel Nisly (Adv. Suib)

 

Masterton (Teaching) Awards:

Karla Arias (Adv. Papadimitrakopoulos)

Samantha Rubio (Adv. Suib)

Jose Ortiz-Garcia (Adv. Quardokus)

Veronica Hayes (Adv. Quarkokus)

Megan Puglia (Adv. Kumar)

 

Connecticut Chemistry Research Award:

Srinivas Thanneeru (Adv. He)

 

Excellence in Service Award:

Svetlana Gelpi (Adv. Gascon)

Jessica Martin (Adv. Pinkhassik)

Lei Wang (Adv. Yao)

 

Bobbitt-Chou Graduate Summer Research Fellowship:

Mark Tolentino (Adv. Rouge)

Searle “IC” Duay (Adv. Angeles-Boza)

New 3D-Printed Technology Lowers Cost of Common Medical Test

A desire for a simpler, cheaper way to do common laboratory tests for medical diagnoses and to avoid “washing the dishes” led University of Connecticut researchers to develop a new technology that reduces cost and time.

Their pipette-based technology could also help make certain medical testing available in rural or remote areas where traditional methods might otherwise be prohibitively expensive and complicated to conduct.

The 3D-printed pipette-tip test developed by the researchers leverages what “has long been the gold standard for measuring proteins, pathogens, antibodies and other biomolecules in complex matrices,” they say. The method still employs the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, also known as ELISA, but through a different route. They detailed their findings in a paper recently published online in Analytical Chemistry.

 

UConn graduate student Mohamed Sharafeldin, and his advisor, chemistry professor James Rusling, developed a way to 3D print a pipette tip. (Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)

For 30 years or more, ELISA has been used to test blood, cells and other biological samples for everything from certain cancers to HIV, from Lyme disease to pernicious anemia.

Traditional ELISA tests are performed on plates featuring 96 micro-wells; each well works as a separate testing chamber where samples can be combined with various agents that will then react with the sample, typically by changing color. Technicians can then analyze whether a sample contains indicators of a particular disease or condition depending on the intensity of the color produced during the reaction. 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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Pinkhassik Group on cover of Chemical Communications

 

Pinkhassik Group on Cover of Chem Comm

A paper from the Pinkhassik Group was featured on the cover of Chemical Communications. Drs. Sergey Dergunov and Eugene Pinkhassik -- working with collaborators from Saint Louis University -- uncovered evidence for freely diffusing ground-state atomic oxygen, an elusive species whose existence in solution was proposed by never proven. This study used hollow porous nanocapsules developed in the Pinkhassik Group to physically separate the donor and acceptor of an oxygen atom. Photochemical reactions in the presence of a nanometer-thin porous barrier ruled out direct oxygen atom transfer mechanisms and, for the first time, confirmed the formation of diffusing atomic oxygen. Previously produced in the gas phase, atomic oxygen is an extraordinary reactive oxygen species; it is highly reactive like hydroxyl radical, yet selective like singlet oxygen or ozone. Evidence for atomic oxygen in solution provides new insights into the mechanisms of many oxidation reactions, facilitates the search for synthetically viable sources of atomic oxygen, and lays the groundwork for studying the controlled release of small oxidants from photoactivatable precursors.

For further details, read the paper in ChemComm

Art at the Mall

Art at the Mall

On December 18, 2018, The Chronicle featured Kumar Group's NanoArt display at the Windham Regional Art Gallery. The front-page article, "Art at the Mall," highlighted the Jumar Group's display, as well as the work of other local artists. The NanoArt collection showcases colored electron microscope images that capture proteins in a new light. "The art aspects of this is nature's art. We're trying to connect the signs, and the art bridges that," says Kumar.

Full Story Here

Doctoral students Anka Rao and Megan Puglia, Professor Challa Vijaya Kumar, and doctoral sutdents Mensi Malhotra and Jingwen Ding

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

A Copper Bullet for Tuberculosis

Bacteria Mycobacterium TuberculosisTuberculosis is a sneaky disease. The bacteria hide from antibiotics inside the very immune cells that are supposed to kill them, making treatment long and difficult. But in the November issue of ACS Infectious Diseases, UConn chemists report a new antibiotic that can find and kill tuberculosis bacteria where they hide.

Tuberculosis is the number one cause of death from infectious disease worldwide. About 25 percent of people on the planet are currently infected. Most of those infections will stay dormant, but one in 10 will become active, infectious, and often fatal if untreated.

Tuberculosis is caused by a bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Because of Mycobacterium’s unique lifestyle, in which they allow themselves to be eaten by macrophage immune cells and then grow inside of them, they are very hard to treat. People infected with tuberculosis must typically take a cocktail of antibiotics diligently over many months, because the bacteria are only susceptible to the drugs when they break out of the macrophage in which they were born and search out a new one to invade.

UConn chemist Alfredo Angeles-Boza and his then-graduate student, Daben Libardo, and colleagues from the Indian Institute of Science, the Max Planck Institute, and MIT, decided to make an antibiotic that could make its way into the macrophages and hit the Mycobacteria where they hide. Angeles-Boza and Libardo had previously worked with antibiotics produced by fish, sea squirts, and other sea creatures. Many of these sea creatures make antibiotic peptides – small pieces of protein-like material – with a special chemical talent: when they bind to copper atoms, they enable the copper to shift its electrical charge from +2 to +3 and back. Copper with this ability becomes aggressive, ripping electrons away from some molecules and adding them to others, particularly oxygen-containing molecules. The oxygen-containing molecules become free radicals, dangerous chemicals that attack anything they encounter, including Mycobacteria.

Human macrophages infected with Mycobacteria also use copper to attack the bacteria, but they do so in a less sophisticated way. They trap the bacteria in a bubble and then inject copper +1 ions – that is, plain copper atoms with a plus one charge (Cu+) – into the bubble. But the Mycobacteria can handle that. To them, the bubble is a safe haven, and the Cu+ ions are mere annoyances. The bacteria can steal an extra electron from the Cu+ to make it Cu2+. The copper becomes unreactive and safe that way. And when enough Cu2+ surrounds the Mycobacteria, other, more dangerous kinds of copper can’t get close.

Surrounded by defanged copper, “the bacteria can grow in peace. It’s elegant!” says Angeles-Boza. But if Angeles-Boza and Libardo have their way, the copper camouflage will become Mycobacteria’s downfall. If the antibiotic peptides can get close to the bacteria, they can grab onto one of the copper ions and weaponize it. The trick is getting the peptide close to the bacteria.

To do that, the chemists put the peptides into little bubbles similar to the kind cells use to move around packets of protein ingredients and other tasty stuff. When the bacteria snags one for a snack, the peptide works its chemistry and kills it.

The antibiotic peptide developed by Libardo and Angeles Boza effectively kills Mycobacteria living in macrophages in the lab, but they haven’t been able to cure tuberculosis in mice yet – peptide drugs have various problems that make them tricky to use in mammals. The next step in the research is to use the same chemistry in smaller molecules that can be taken as pills like more typical antibiotics.

This research was funded by grants from NSF.

Article by Kim Krieger, Courtesy of UConn Today

Smart Phone Soup

In the bottom drawer of your desk at home lie all the “must-haves” of yesteryear — a bundle of knotted earphones, a broken computer mouse, some overplayed CDs, a flip phone, an iPod. A study in The Global E-waste Monitor 2017 reported that in 2016 humans generated 44.7 million metric tons of electronic waste (e-waste). And in that graveyard of a desk drawer, the basement, or a landfill, all these devices will rot for hundreds, even thousands, of years before degrading. The glass used in just one cell phone takes some 500 years to decompose.

But what if the future smartphones and tablets were made of edible materials? To chemistry professor Challa Kumar, a future where you can pop your cell phone in a pot of water, swirl it around, bring it to a boil, and have yourself a yummy iPhone stew is not science fiction but a future reality of his research in bionanotechnology, or what he calls “edible chemistry.”

Kumar and his team of graduate students created a white LED light from bovine serum albumin (BSA), a waste product of the meat industry. White LEDs are used in electronics like phones and TVs that emit white light from their screens. Kumar’s “hamburger protein” LEDs emit white light at a higher resolution than current LEDs and, says Kumar, “When you are done with the device, you could eat it.”

“We are the only group in the world doing this where both products and reactants are edible ­— to humans, plants, or bacteria,” he adds.

The team’s research has clinical significance, too. The edible LED also has inexpensive pH and glucose sensing capabilities. Combined with the team’s food-based batteries, these LEDs could replace current electronic glucose meters for diabetics.

Kumar also is exploring the possibility of using lipids from coconut oil to replace the toxic elements in current cancer cell–targeting treatments. He and his students believe the uses for edible chemistry are limitless, that it is the future of tech­nology as well as environmental awareness.

In the not-too-distant future, they say, we could be watching our favorite Netflix series on screens made from the same materials as last night’s burgers.

-Cara Williams ’18 (CLAS) courtesy of UConn Magazine