Staff News

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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Chem Café’s Susan Monroe Retires

Susan from Chem Cafe
Photo courtesy of: Milton Levin

Susan Monroe has watched the UConn campus cafés grow–including the Chem Café–since the day she first started working at UConn on March 4, 1994. April 1, 2019, we are sad to announce Susan’s retirement from the Chem Café after a wonderful 25 years of work through UConn Dining Services.

Susan grew up in Mansfield, Connecticut and attended college at Eastern Connecticut State University.  When she graduated, she became a librarian for some time before moving back to her hometown.  She’s lived all over Connecticut, including New Britain and Manchester, and has also spent some time in Massachusetts.  However, nothing has truly felt more like home than the time she has spent in Mansfield.  As she gears up for retirement, Susan says she will miss the students most, and their stories about sports and other weekly events that happen on campus.

Although she’s the constant, familiar face in the Chemistry Building, Susan didn’t always work at the Chem Café. Before coffee shops, Susan started at Jonathan’s in the old Student Union, did catering, and worked on the first mobile unit (the “Paw Pad”). She had also been a supervisor at Papa Gino’s, in Jonathan’s, and then went on to working at the cafés within UConn Dining Services.

Throughout the years with Dining Services, she has worked at “Wilbur’s Café” in Wilbur Cross, as well as “Up and Atom” when it first opened, and worked there for a total of 6 years.  However, she always found her way back to the Chem Café, reflecting, “I always like coming back because it’s like a family here.”  Getting to speak with her more, we were able to unlock some of Susan’s favorite (and least favorite!) meals at the Café.  She loves the soup, enough to eat two cups per day, but her all-time favorite is the turkey lasagna.  Along with soup, she treats herself to half a sandwich, completing her daily meal routine.  On the contrary, she’s not keen on the gluten free items, although she admittedly hasn’t tried any of the gluten free options.

When asked to describe her years of working at the Chem Café in one word, Susan replied “People. I always love being around people.”  She’ll miss the hustle and bustle of students coming in and out of class, as well as handling the upkeep of the Cafe, but most of all, she’ll miss the Chemistry Building as a whole.  Susan’s friendly greetings and warm smiles will be gone, but we will never forget her impact on making the Chem Café feel like home for so many.

From everyone in the Chemistry Building, we wish Susan a relaxing and peaceful retirement!

Article Courtesy of Kailey Huot ’19 (CLAS)

Insight into Molecular Makeup at UConn’s NMR Facility

Director of UConn's NMR facility, Vitaliy Gorbatyuk.
Director of UConn's NMR facility, Vitaliy Gorbatyuk. (Carson Stifel/UConn Photo).

Right now, there are atoms and molecules inside everything around you. These tiny particles of matter may seem insignificant as you go about your everyday life. But for many scientists and researchers, understanding the compounds that make up the materials they are working with can be critical.

At the University of Connecticut, the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) facility provides instrumentation that can identify compounds produced by chemists, biologists, or extracted from natural products.

NMR is a technique used to gain insight into the building blocks, composition, and spacing of atoms in a molecule. The equipment used in this process is called a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer. In NMR, a solution of a compound is placed inside a very strong magnet. In this magnetic environment, nuclei of atoms gain properties that allow them to absorb the electromagnetic fields applied to probe these nuclei. Once the nuclei return from the excited state to the ground state they emit the absorbed energy. There are radio antennas inside of the instrumentation that detect the radio-frequency signals which the nuclei radiate. The emitted signals make up a frequency chart (spectrum) characteristic of the compound placed in the magnet.

With approximately 150 active, registered users, the facility directly supports and impacts research programs in the following areas: chemical synthesis, pharmaceutical chemistry, molecular recognition and drug binding, macromolecules, nanomaterials, analysis of chemical mixtures, protein structure-function relationships, protein folding and design, nucleic acid structure and reactivity, and molecular dynamics.

Instead of analyzing samples for prospective users, the facility director, Vitaliy Gorbatyuk, Ph.D., trains scientists to utilize the instrumentation on their own.

“I am glad that I can train researchers to use this equipment because often the skills they gain at this facility can help them later on in their careers. Their mastery of the NMR spectrometers here can provide a foundation for them to become skilled at using even more advanced types of instrumentation in the future,” says Gorbatyuk.

The facility houses multiple spectrometers, including: Varian INOVA 600 MHz, Bruker AVANCE 500 MHz, Bruker AVANCE III 400 MHz, and Bruker AVANCE 300 MHz. Gorbatyuk has years of experience in the field of NMR spectrometry that allow him to be of great help to the users of this facility. In 2001, Gorbatyuk came to the United States as a researcher, and used NMR techniques to work on projects in structural biology related fields. He began working at UConn’s NMR facility ten years ago.

The facility is part of the university-wide Partnership for Excellence in Structural Biology and maintains collaborative ties with its sister NMR facility at UConn Health in Farmington. It is jointly operated by the Department of Chemistry and as part of the Center for Open Research Resources and Equipment (COR2E).

The services and equipment of the UConn NMR Facility are also available to industry and other academic institutions.

Gorbatyuk can be reached at vitaliy.gorbatyuk@uconn.edu or by phone at 860.486.4069.

Follow UConn Research on Twitter & LinkedIn.

Story Courtesy of UConn Today

Undergrad Advisor Gives Steps for Success

Jill GrakowskyMeet Jill Grakowsky, the Chemistry Department’s new Undergraduate Advisor. Learn more about Jill, her tips for success, and how to set up an advising appointment.

About Jill Grakowsky

Tell us about your journey — Where did you work before UConn?

I am joining the UConn community following three years of advising at Springfield College where I worked primarily advising exploratory, general studies, and non-matriculated students. As a graduate of Central Connecticut State University, I completed my most recent Master’s Degree in Counselor Education. Continue reading

Fuller Named National Scientific Materials Manager of the Year

Charlene Fuller was chatting amiably with the Airgas delivery man over a gas cylinder shipment when the FBI agents arrived.

Charlene Fuller with Professor and Former Department Head of Chemistry Amy Howell in the Chemistry Main Stockroom. (Bri Diaz/UConn Photo)

She saw them approaching, their dark figures loping down the underground hallway, their reflector sunglasses glinting in the fluorescent light. Suits in the UConn Chemistry Building? Must be salesmen, she thought, and locked the stockroom door.

But they knocked, and flashed their badges. “We have a few questions for you,” one said. Wow, just like the movies, she thought. The UPS driver scurried to his truck.

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