Graduate News

Mani Group Paper Published in JACS

A new paper from the Mani Group appeared in the Journal of the American Chemical SocietyJason Buck, a 4th year graduate student, and Dr. Tomoyasu Mani demonstrated a new type of magnetic control of molecular emission. They take advantage of the quantum mechanical nature of radical pairs (pairs of radical anion and cation or molecular qubits) to control fluorescence by using weak magnetic fields and tune the field response range. The results present a new strategy for designing magneto-optical probes for imaging and give insights into molecular designs for spintronics and other molecular spin technology applications.

The research is funded by the Japan Science and Technology Agency, PRESTO, Creation of Life Science Basis by Using Quantum Technology.

For further details, read the paper in JACS.

Dr. James Rusling Among Highly Cited Authors

Paul Krenicki Professor of Chemistry James Rusling ranks among the top 5% of highly cited authors with Royal Society of Chemistry journals in 2019. Specifically, his most cited article, “Automated 3D-printed unibody immunoarray for chemiluminescence detection of cancer biomarker proteins,” received 15 citations in 2019. Collaborators include Chi K. Tang ’16 Ph.D. and Dr. Abhay Vaze.

Royal Society of Chemistry journals include: Analyst, Analytical Methods, Lab on a Chip, and JAAS.

2019-2020 Chemistry Graduate Student Awards

Waring Award
Matthew Howell (Advisor: Dr. Angeles)

Masterton Award
Arlene Bartolome (Advisor: Dr. Lin)
Chinthani Madduma Liyanage (Advisor: Dr. Adamson)
Marvin Naing (Advisor: Dr. Angeles)
Jasmin Portelinha (Advisor: Dr. Angeles)
Jon Smolen (Advisor: Dr. Hren)

Connecticut Chemistry Research Award
Lei Jin (Advisor: Dr. He)

Outstanding Service and Research Award
Reuben Bosire (Advisor: Dr. Kasi)

Excellence in Service Award
Ina De La Fuente (Advisor: Dr. Rouge)
Gillian Macusi (Advisor: Dr. Pinkhassik)

Bobbitt-Chou Graduate Summer Research Fellowship
Jason Buck (Advisor: Dr. Mani)

Welcome to Fall 2020

A Message from the Department Head

Dear All,

Welcome to a new semester! The campus and building have come alive once again. We are welcoming new faculty and graduate students to the Department, we have awards and a retirement to celebrate, and we have a large group of students eagerly lining up for general or organic chemistry classes. Alas, this is not going to be a normal semester. Almost everything will be very different and difficult in ways that are predictable and unpredictable. Continue reading

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.

Read the full article

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.

When a Distraction Becomes a Dissertation

In 2018, C&EN invited graduate students to submit essays about some aspect of their graduate experience for inclusion in the cover story “The Chemistry Graduate School Experience.” Now, C&EN continues to share diverse graduate student experiences.

The following perspective is provided by Ph.D. candidate Jessica Martin.

Jessica Martin“I may not get a Ph.D. in chemistry. After passing my qualifying exam and winning a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, I was able to plunge into my thesis project. That was when I discovered that I found my project uninspiring and began seeking out distractions. One distraction was analyzing safety and hazard assessment within the work of chemists. I have struggled with the dissonance between industry calls for strong safety cultures and the revelations of disastrous industry misconduct. This prompted questions about how academia prepares Ph.D. chemists, what skills are emphasized, and how hazard assessment of the chemicals we create should be included.

As I have pursued these ideas, I have had enthusiastic discussions with people throughout the chemical world who believe this work is necessary. I have gained fantastic mentors eager to engage in ways I never experienced with my previous project. This work became my focus, leaving no time for my official project.

My department has been remarkably supportive as I have changed my thesis to hazard assessment and peer-to-peer education within a graduate program. However, there is a debate brewing over what my thesis will look like come judgment day. There is the distinct possibility that it will be determined that this work does not add up to a Ph.D. in chemistry. Even if it does not, I will walk out with a body of work of which I am immensely proud and connected to a community that is doing work that inspires me.”

Read more about other graduate student experiences.

Excerpt courtesy of “Grad school, in students’ own words,” C&EN, Volume 96, Issue 36.

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.

Continue reading

Professor Rusling Receives Commercialization Grants


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.