Graduate News

Chemistry Joint Safety Team

Yale Safety PosterOn Friday, July 20, 2018, graduate students Cristin Bosko (Peczuh Group), Jasmin Portelinha (Angeles-Boza Group), and Jessica A. Martin (Pinkhassik Group) attended a “Networking with JST (Joint Safety Team)” event, hosted by Yale University. During the event, Dr. Christopher Incarvito, Director of Research Operations and Technology, led a tour of the facilities and equipment at Yale’s West Campus (formerly the site of Bayer Pharmaceuticals). JST President Victor Beaumont (Loria Group, Yale) then discussed some of the projects the JST has been working on to increase safety awareness in Yale’s Department of Chemistry. Current JST projects include: the production of informational safety posters for the various labs, raising awareness regarding laboratory safety resources, and outreach utilizing social media.

This event nicely complimented efforts by Portelinha and Martin to restart the “Stall Street Journal” publication this summer. “The Stall Street Journal,” found in the bathroom stalls of the UConn Chemistry Building’s Waring Research Wing, is a 1-page monthly flier designed to raise awareness amongst graduate students about chemical safety and to promote career development opportunities.

Given this new source of inspiration and support, these students have a great deal of interest in expanding upon the safety activities in the Department of Chemistry through collaboration with the Safety Committee currently chaired by Dr. Jing Zhao. If you are interested in being part of this endeavor, please contact Jessica A. Martin at, or stop by CHEM R414.

Art in Nanochemistry

Kumar Group Uses Electron Microscopes to Create Awe-Inspiring Images

Nature is a masterful artist, responsible for the sweeping vistas around us. Nature's hand is also evident on the microscopic level when microscopic objects are magnified a billion times over. Using high power electron or optical microscopes, Professor Challa V. Kumar and his Ph.D. students capture the natural world on the nano-level, creating awe-inspiring images of natural materials that are as majestic as the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls.

Over the past few years, Kumar and his students have designed an art exhibit entitled, "Art in Nanochemistry." The exhibit consists of individually framed, hand-colored electron micrograph images. Over twenty unique pieces exist in the collection. These pieces have been featured in locations such as the Homer Babbidge Library Gallery, the Bradley Airport Gallery, and the Windham Hospital Art Gallery.

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Epitope Resolved Detection of Peanut Specific IgE Antibodies by SPR Imaging

Min Shen, Amit A. Joshi, Raghu Vannam, Chandra K. Dixit, Robert G. Hamilton, Challa V. Kumar, James F. Rusling, Mark W. Peczuh*

Accurate characterization of antibodies (IgEs) in individuals exposed to allergens such as peanuts can provide insight into the clinical manifestation of an allergic reaction and also reveal how its fundamental immunobiology works. Measurement of IgEs to specific allergen epitopes in serum has been a major challenge. UConn Chemistry grad student Min Shen was the lead author on a recent paper in ChemBioChem reporting a new method that first captures IgEs from serum by using anti-IgE decorated magnetic nanoparticles, then measures IgEs binding to specific epitopes from allergen proteins using arrayed SPR imaging. The new technique was used to catalog anti-peanut IgEs in a set of patient samples and showed excellent correlation with clinical diagnostics. The cover art was prepared by Ella Maru studios.

Innovative Device Could Offer New Hope for Heart Patients

Recent Ph.D. graduate and current postdoctoral fellow Islam Mosa holds an ultrathin implantable bioelectronic device he developed that is powered by a novel supercapacitor capable of generating enough power to sustain a cardiac pacemaker. It is more biocompatible and lasts much longer than existing pacemaker batteries. (Photo courtesy Islam Mosa)

A UConn graduate student is developing a new micro-scale power source that is significantly smaller and more efficient than the batteries currently used in most cardiac pacemakers today.

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Graduate Student Awarded Fellowship

Svetlana Gelpi (Gascon Group) was awarded the GEM Fellowship sponsored by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. This fellowship awards students the following: $16,000 stipend in the first academic year of the GEM Fellowship; GEM Member University provides a living stipend up to the 5th year of PhD program; a minimum of one paid summer internship with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; full tuition and fees at a GEM University Member.

Gelpi will be working under the supervision of Dr. Felice Lightstone and Dr. Brian Bennion (from the Biochemical and Biophysical Systems Group at Lawrence Livermore) in collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline on a project to further automate Computer Aided Drug Design and Discovery.

2016-2017 Graduate Student Awards

The following awards were presented at the Chemistry Department’s Annual Safety Training on August 24, 2017. 
Waring (Scholastic) Award: Highest GPA for the 2016-2017 class.
Tianqi (Kiki) Chen (Rusling)
Masterton (Teaching) Awards: To be recommended by the TA committee or by instructors who may nominate their TAs for excellence in teaching. 
Islam Mosa (Rusling)
Mohamed Sharafeldin (Rusling)
Murali Anuganti (Lin)
Megan Puglia (Kumar)
Shelli Miller (Leadbeater)
Connecticut Chemistry Research Award: List of publications of the graduate student with full citations, and a nomination letter from the major advisor describing research contributions of the student.
Kyle Lambert (Bailey)
Karteek Kadimisetty (Rusling)
Outstanding Service and Research AwardNomination letter from faculty and/or staff describing specific activities or service provided to the department by the student, and a list of publications of the graduate student with full citations, and a nomination letter from the major advisor describing research contributions of the student.
Shannon Poges  (Suib)
Excellence in Service Award; Nomination letter from faculty or staff describing outstanding service by a graduate student, over and beyond normal expectation.
Alyssa Hartmann (Rouge)
Bobbitt-Chou Graduate Summer Research Fellowship: This is a fellowship to recognize early accomplishment in a student’s graduate studies and the promise of continued success. One student entering their third summer of research will be awarded a $3,500 fellowship. The fellowship will be awarded based on course grades and a letter from the primary research advisor. The letter should specifically address the technical abilities of the student and his/her conceptual ownership and creative contributions to the research project. 
Matthew Guberman-Pfeffer (Gascon)

Islam Mosa wins AAAS Student Poster Award

Islam Mosa (Rusling Group) won the first place award in the 2017 Science AAAS student poster competition (Category: Physical Sciences). The award includes recognition of the poster title and the winner’s name in the March 24th issue of Science, a cash prize, certificate, and a one-year AAAS membership. A committee of 7 judges from Harvard, MIT, and industry evaluated all posters and selected the winner. The 2nd and 3rd places of the same category received honorable mentions in Science and were awarded to Hendrik Utzak and Anahita Zare from MIT and University of Missouri respectively.

See all poster competition winners and honorable mentions here >>>

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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