Research News

2021 Women in Business Honorees

Assistant research professor Nicole Wagner ’07 (CLAS), ’13 Ph.D. was recently named among the Hartford Business Journal’s 2021 Women in Business Honorees. 25 total honorees were recognized for their inspiring leadership at the forefront of Connecticut’s industries. 

Wagner is the President and CEO of LambdaVision, a start-up company commercializing technology developed in the lab of professor emeritus Robert Birge. LambdaVision works to develop artificial retinas that could help patients regain their sight.

When asked about her key to maintaining business success, Wagner tells the Hartford Business Journal: “I think it is important to work hard, be authentic and to create an environment that is centered around trust and open communication. It is critical to lead by example; if you aren’t excited and passionate about what you do, it will be hard to get others to follow.”

Read more about Dr. Nicole Wagner and all 2021 Women in Business Honorees.

American Chemical Society Division of Inorganic Chemistry Travel Award Winner

Congratulations to graduate student Scott Pierce (Angeles-Boza Group) for winning the American Chemical Society Division of Inorganic Chemistry (ACS-DIC) Travel Award. This program supports graduate students intending to present research talks or posters at ACS National Meetings.

Scott will also be presenting in the ACS Spring 2021 (to be held online from April 5 – 30). He will be presenting his work on “Peptide-Ruthenium Conjugate as an Efficient Photosensitizer for the Inactivation of Multidrug Resistant Bacteria.”

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Recipient

Congratulations to graduate student Caroline Donaghy (Angeles-Boza Groupfor being awarded the prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP) recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported STEM disciplines.

Caroline will be working on developing green pesticides using glycopeptides throughout her fellowship.

The Research of our Environment: How UConn Researchers are Working to Save the Planet

With insects declining precipitously, plastics building up in our oceans, and indigenous cultures suffering under misguided eco-policies, these UConn researchers are working to save the planet, one ethical decision at a time.

About 30 years ago, the waters of the Long Island Sound were looking bleak.

Pollution from the more than nine million people living in the Sound’s watershed had reached epic heights. Nitrogen runoff led to chronic seasonal blooms of algae, which led to bacteria consuming so much oxygen that periodically, piles of dead fish turned up on beaches. Swimming was frequently banned in many areas, and the public began to notice in ways they hadn’t before.

“It was obvious that hypoxia in the Long Island Sound had been worsening and expanding,” says Penny Vlahos, associate professor of marine sciences*.

Enter the Long Island Sound Study, an unprecedented partnership among Connecticut and New York state government agencies, scientists, and nonprofit groups. Formed in 1985, it began collecting data on the Sound that informed an early-90’s conservation and management plan to restore the Sound to health.

Now, Vlahos and her colleagues have put this hard work to the test, showing that the Sound has vastly improved – but with some big caveats. Continue reading

The Wolff New Venture Competition and UConn Entrepreneurs

The Wolff New Venture Competition—championed through the UConn School of Business—mentors start-up candidates and awards those who are most likely to advance society with their ideas. Research professor Nicole Wagner ’07 (CLAS), ’13 Ph.D. is regarded as one of the first winners of this competition with her start-up company, LambdaVision. LambdaVision commercializes technology developed by professor emeritus Robert Birge to restore the vision of patients affected by retinal degenerative diseases. Nicole Wagner currently serves as President and CEO and research professor Jordan Greco ’10 (CLAS), ’15 Ph.D. serves as the CSO.

Read more about the Wolff New Venture Competition and how it benefited start-up companies like LambdaVision here.

Rouge Group Receives $2 Million NIH Grant

Jessica Rouge

The Rouge Group’s research focuses on the improving the delivery of RNA and DNA into cells. Recently, the news has focused on the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, which are designed to deliver mRNA into cells to encode the viral proteins that the immune system needs to recognize and fight off infections. In a similar fashion, the Rouge Group has been developing nanocarriers designed to maximize the delivery of short RNA and DNA molecules into cells that can silence genes involved in disease pathways. The greatest challenges surrounding the delivery of these molecules into cells is their chemical instability (i.e. RNA can only last a few minutes in cells and must be stored at ultra-cold temperatures prior to use) and our ability to get the RNA and DNA to the right cell types. Continue reading

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.

“Hot Paper” Published in Angewandte Chemie

Assistant Research Professor Sergey Dergunov and Associate Professor Eugene Pinkhassik published a “Hot Paper” in Angewandte Chemie. “Hot Papers” are chosen by the Editors for their importance in a rapidly evolving field of high current interest.

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/anie.202006793

Dergunov and Pinkhassik used organized environment of self-assembled bilayers to perform two-dimensional RAFT polymerization and uncovered substantial differences in reactivity of building blocks between bulk and bilayer-templated polymerization influenced by their placement and mobility. 

UConn Funds Five COVID-19 Research Projects, Announces Additional Funding

The Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) recently announced a new internal funding program to support researchers at all of UConn’s campuses who are using their expertise in fields as diverse as wastewater and chemosensory testing to find novel solutions to help the nation and the world address this crisis. The program will award up to $50,000 to recipients.

The OVPR awarded five awards to researchers from UConn and UConn Health:

James Cole, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Departments of Molecular and Cell Biology, $43,439
Targeting the Endoribonuclease of Coronaviruses
Co-PIs: Mark Peczuh, Chemistry Continue reading

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