Outreach News

“Outpouring of Support” as Researchers, Barnes & Noble Donate Lab Supplies to UConn Health

UConn Health is on the frontline of the response to COVID-19, and in need of supplies like those collected by Yashan Zhang and others at UConn. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

“UConn is really my home,” said Yashan Zhang.

She lives in Farmington – just minutes from UConn Health – and she’s an assistant professor in residence in the Chemistry Department on UConn’s Hartford Campus. She’s also Chinese, though she’s been in Connecticut and part of the UConn community for the past 13 years.

“I started my PhD here in the Chemistry Department, and then I got my PhD and I got a job here,” Zhang said. “So I’ve been at UConn for a long time.”

For Zhang, it feels like the coronavirus pandemic has hit home twice: first, as it threatened her family and friends still living in China, and now, as its impact grows daily in the United States. It’s overwhelming for her at times – her voice fills with emotion when she talks about images of doctors forced to wear makeshift personal protective equipment, or to use the same protective mask for their whole shift. The daily reports of increasing positive cases of COVID-19 are tough for her to hear.

“Every day I see the numbers,” she said. “I always feel like, behind those numbers, they are actual, real people. That just makes me feel really sad.”

But like so many, it’s also empowered her to take action to help her neighbors and her UConn community – and her determination to help inspired a recent campus-wide effort to help support the doctors, nurses, and medical staff on the frontlines of the pandemic at UConn Health.

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The First CT-Japan Photochemistry Workshop

On October 29th and 30th, UConn Chemistry held the first CT-JAPAN photochemistry workshop for high school students. The two-day workshop was held in conjunction with the visit of 5 high school students and 2 teachers of Matsuyama Minami High School from Ehime Prefecture, Japan. The total 50 high school students from Woodstock Academy attended the workshop. The workshop was organized by Prof. Tomoyasu Mani with the help from Prof. Fatma Selampinar and graduate assistants.

Group of high school students

The students from the two countries attended the lectures by Prof. Mani and afterwards jointly performed the experiments, learning new chemistry (photon upconversion on day 1 and charge-transfer absorption on day 2) and at the same time fostering friendship and cultural understanding. The agenda and the materials of the workshop (lecture slides and experiment procedures) are available online. The workshop was in part supported by the Department of Chemistry and Early College Experience. The trip of Matsuyama Minami High School was supported by the Japan Science and Technology through the Super Science High School program.

Science Activity Day at UConn

In the past few months, UConn Chemistry has held numerous events to expand its outreach within the Connecticut community. Some of the more recent events that were held involved the UConn Chemistry Department partnering with local schools in an effort to teach young students about what pursuing an interest in Chemistry can do for them post-graduation. On April 25th and May 17th, the Department opened its doors to various high schools for a day of lectures, demonstrations, and hands-on laboratory activities for students.

The April 25th trip was coordinated by the Early College Experience office and Dr. Fatma Selampinar, with activities hosted by Dr. Jessica Rouge, Dr. Gaël Ung, and their graduate students (Alyssa H., Saketh G., Mark T., Kaitlynn A., Erin B., Nishya M. and Rebecca F.).  To kick off the day’s events, students learned about fluorescent molecules and biomacromolecules that can build structures at the nanoscale. During Dr. Ung’s activities, students were taught the principles of fluorescence and how light interacts with molecules. They were exposed to scientific thinking and given the opportunity to construct glow sticks. The students were asked to determine why molecules glowed and made hypotheses that they then verified experimentally. Later, the students gathered and shared the results of their experiments to observe the relationship between chemical structure and a molecules ability to glow.

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UConn Chemistry Provides Workshop for Connecticut Teachers

Photo courtesy of Tomoyasu Mani

May 15th, UConn Chemistry offered a day-long workshop for high school chemistry teachers in Connecticut. The workshop was coordinated by the Early College Experience Office, Dr. Fatma Selampinar, and Dr. Tomoyasu Mani. Dr. Mani, with help from graduate assistants Jason Buck (Mani Lab), and Jingwen Ding and Megan Puglia (Kumar Lab), organized the lecture and experiments. In the morning, the 23 Connecticut teachers attended a lecture on molecular photophysics and electron transfer theory, followed by hands-on experience on charge-transfer complexes. In the afternoon, teachers learned about photon upconversion followed by a demonstration in the lab. They were also taken on a tour of the laser laboratory in the Mani lab, where they observed state-of-the-art laser spectroscopies.


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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Engaging Future Scientists

  • Science Salon Jr. Event
    Assistant Professor in Residence Clyde Cady with Science Salon Jr. participant (UConn Alumni/ UConn Photo)

As part of Homecoming Weekend, children ages 5 to 12 joined UConn faculty, staff, and students for an afternoon of STEM experiments.

The UConn Science Salon Jr. featured manipulations in chemistry, engineering creations, and environmental adventures. The event is an offshoot of the popular UConn Science Salon series, café events designed to encourage public discourse at the intersection of science and culture.

It was held Sunday at the Peter J. Werth Residence Tower on campus.


Story by Lucas Voghell (CLAS ’20) | UConn Today
Photos courtesy of UConn Today and UConn Alumni

Early College Experience at UConn Chemistry

Last week UConn opened its doors to 34 high school students from Berlin High School and Orville H. Platt High School (Meriden, CT) for a day of science lectures, demonstrations and hands on laboratory activities. The trip was coordinated by the Early College Experience office and Dr. Fatma Selampinar, with science activities hosted by Dr. RougeDr. Quardokus and their students (Molly W., Cynthia G., Veronica H., Alyssa H., Saketh G. and Halle Barber, UConn ‘20). In the morning, the students had a chance to visualize atoms and learn about the forces they exert on other nearby atoms. Later in the afternoon, they had a chance to visualize DNA, interpret a gel and learn that DNA can be used as a nanomaterial, not just a genetic code. To wrap up the day the students were taken on a tour of the Mass Spectrometry Facility, with an educational demo by Lei Wang. A fun day of science and outreach ranging from materials to chemical biology was had by all!

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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2018 CT Middle School Science Bowl

2018 Science Bowl Volunteers

On Saturday, February 24, 2018, the Connecticut Regional Middle School Science Bowl event welcomed approximately 200 students and coaches—and their family members—to UConn for a day of learning and friendly competition. The Middle School Science Bowl is a fast-paced, question-and-answer-style event that emphasizes the importance of STEM education. This year, 32 teams from 24 different middle schools throughout Connecticut participated in the Science Bowl competition where they answered questions in the fields of Life Science, Physical Science, Earth and Space Science, Energy, and Mathematics. It is through the Science Bowl that students are able to engage in a challenging academic competition with peers that share a similar passion for science.

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UConn Chemistry in Motion at Science Salon Junior Event

UConn Chemistry lecturer Dr. Clyde Cady directed several dozen budding scientists through two interactive demonstrations of “Electrons in Motion” during last month’s Science Salon Junior event. Science Salon Junior, held during UConn’s 2017 Family Weekend, featured exciting experiments for children ages 5-12. Throughout the event, Cady and Greg Bernard, CLAS Director of Alumni Relations, led a team of chemists that included Professor Dr. Mark Peczuh, graduate students Svetlana Gelpi and Xudong Wang, and undergraduate student Shahan Kamal. In one demonstration, Salon Junior participants electroplated zinc onto copper pennies and then “brassed” them by heating them in a flame. In the other demonstration, students prepared solutions and observed the phosphorescence of a ruthenium (III) bipyridine complex. As the lights went out to observe the phosphorescence, one participant quipped, “Now I see the light!” Cady’s perspective on the event is equally profound, reflecting, “I hope we illuminated the power of chemistry for our young scientists and polished their interest in STEM so that it was just as bright and shiny as the brass pennies we made.”

These fun, kid-friendly demonstrations were part of the inaugural Science Salon Junior program, an off-shoot of UConn’s successful Science Salon events.


Photos courtesy of the UConn Foundation & Dr. Mark Peczuh