Graduate News

Bird Eggshells Just Became More Colorful

Two eggs showing novel eggshell pigments: guacamole green and purplish-brown of two tinamous speciesFor well over 100 years, only two pigments have been identified in avian eggshells: rusty-brown protoporphyrin (e.g., brown chicken eggs) and blue-green biliverdin (e.g., turquois eggs of robins). However, tinamou (chicken-like forest dwellers of South America) eggshells display unusually colored eggshells, suggesting the presence of other pigments. The Brückner Group, in collaboration with the ornithologists and eggshell and bird color experts Daniel Hanley (Long Island University) and Richard Prum (Yale University), investigated this. Through extraction, derivatization, spectroscopy, chromatography, and mass spectrometry, they identified two novel eggshell pigments: yellow–brown bilirubin and red–orange uroerythrin from the guacamole-green and purplish-brown eggshells of two tinamous species. Both pigments are known porphyrin catabolites and were found in the eggshells in conjunction with biliverdin. A colour mixing model using the new pigments and biliverdin reproduced the respective eggshell colours. These discoveries expand our understanding of how eggshell colour diversity is achieved. The ability of these pigments to photo-degrade may have an adaptive value for the tinamous – this is the subject of follow-up studies for the ornithologists.

Hamchand, R.; Hanley, D.; Prum, R.O.; Brückner, C. ‘Expanding the Eggshell Colour Gamut: Uroerythrin and Bilirubin from Tinamou (Tinamidae) Eggshells’ Sci. Rep. 202010, 11264.

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Matthew Howell Awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

Matthew HowellCongratulations 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.

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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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