Undergraduate News

Teaching in the Time of COVID-19

Teaching Chemistry Remotely

Classrooms and teaching labs were emptied in late Spring 2020 because of public health measures to counter COVID-19. In response to a call for papers in April by the leading journal in chemical education, the ACS Journal of Chemical Education, chemistry educators from around the world chronicled their response to rapid changes in teaching modalities that resulted from the disruption associated with this global pandemic in a special issue, “Insights Gained While Teaching Chemistry in the Time of COVID-19.” Two groups of our faculty contributed to this endeavor of sharing experiences, innovations, and best practices.

In “Teaching Chemistry in the Time of COVID-19: Memories and the Classroom,” Assistant Professor in Residence J. Dafhne Aguirre and Associate Professor in Residence Fatma Selampinar detailed their experiences teaching general chemistry in the time of COVID-19. The publication compares the challenges, teaching strategies, laboratory methods, and discussion methods used by two different instructors teaching a three-semester chemistry course. (Read full publication)

Assistant Professor in Residence Kiet Tran, Lecturer Anwar Beshir, and Lecturer Abhay Vaze presented in “A Tale of Two Lab Courses: An Account and Reflection on the Teaching Challenges Experienced by Organic and Analytical Chemistry Laboratories During the COVID-19 Period” four shared challenges in the transition to the online format: experimental implementation, assessments and postlab activities, technological inequalities, and synchronization of student attendance. (Read full publication)

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

Halle Barber ’20 (CLAS) Receives Outstanding Senior Women Academic Achievement Award

Halle BarberHalle Barber ’20 (CLAS) was an undergraduate researcher in the Rouge Lab since her first year at UConn, starting in the Fall of 2016. During her first two years in the lab, she helped with the synthesis of lipoplex nanoparticles designed to mimic endosomes and participated in fluorescence studies focused on the ability of modified DNA to rupture the lipoplexes, a study for which she co-authored a paper in ChemBioChem (https://doi.org/10.1002/cbic.201800302).

In later years, her research focus was on the synthesis and design of a new DNA-based bioconjugation approach for crosslinking surfactant micelles. For this independent project, she received the Chemistry Department’s 2018 Summer Research Fellowship, and the following year a 2019 UConn Summer Undergraduate Research Fund (SURF) award to continue her work. Also in 2019, Halle was the recipient of the 2019 LSAMP Fellowship Award which funded an opportunity for her to do research in Australia under the mentorship of Dr. Katharina Gaus at the University of New South Wales. Continue reading

Across the Pond and Back: Chemical Biology in Edinburgh, Scotland

Eric Mohan-University of Edinburgh Photos
Eric Mohan, Chemistry Department, UConn. Summer 2019: University of Edinburgh, Scotland

Undergraduate student Eric Mohan ’20 (CLAS), recipient of an Office of Undergraduate Research award, shares his experience conducting research abroad.

“I am the recipient of the 2019 Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) award, and I had the privilege of spending last summer in the laboratory of Professor Dominic Campopiano, in the School of Chemistry at the prestigious University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom. This was an amazing experience to work with a renowned professor helping solve an unmet and urgent medical need related to the resurgence of antibiotic resistance. My project focused on the inhibition of an important enzyme found in many infectious bacteria, such as those causing Tuberculosis. I was tasked with synthesizing, modeling, and characterizing the pathway by which a compound, ERG240, blocked the branch chain amino acid aminotransferase enzyme. I used optically active coupled reactions in this work. We then co-crystallized the inhibitor with the enzyme and employed x-ray crystallography to fully understand the mechanism of the enzyme. My research was presented as a poster at the Fall Frontiers program 2019 at UConn, Storrs. Continue reading

Pinkhassik Lab SURF Undergraduate Awardees

Building Functional Nanomaterials Abstract Image
Vesicle-templated nanocapsules offer a unique combination of properties enabled by robust shells with single-nanometer thickness containing programmed uniform pores capable of fast and selective mass transfer. These capsules emerged as a versatile platform for creating functional devices, such as nanoreactors, nanosensors, and containers for the delivery of drugs and imaging agents (Pinkhassik Lab).

Pinkhassik Lab Research

The research focus of the Pinkhassik Lab in the Department of Chemistry is making nanomaterials and nanodevices with new and superior properties to address current problems in energy-related technologies, medical imaging and treatment, and environmental sensing.

An article recently published in the Accounts of Chemical Research exemplifies the research conducted by the Pinkhassik Group: “Building Functional Nanodevices with Vesicle-Templated Porous Polymer Nanocapsules” (Acc. Chem. Res. 2019 52, 1, 189-198). In this account, Assistant Research Professor Sergey Dergunov et al. discuss how unique properties of vesicle-templated nanocapsules translate into the creation of functional nanodevices. See the full article here: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.accounts.8b00442.

Victoria Bozhulich ’21, Allison Zupan ’21, and Victoria Livingston ’21

SURF Award Recipients

The Pinkhassik Lab is looking forward to a busy summer! Three undergraduate student group members have won Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) awards to conduct work on nanocapsules during this period. Continue reading

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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2019 Undergraduate Awards

2019 Undergrad Award Ceremony



Presented to the top graduating senior.

Joshua Paolillo



Presented to a student who displays an aptitude for a career in Analytical Chemistry.

Caroline Anastasia



Recognizing achievements by an undergraduate in inorganic chemistry pursuing a career in chemistry.

Ahmed Ahmed



Presented to a student who has demonstrated excellence in organic chemistry and related fields based on research, coursework, and is committed to a career in chemistry.

Joshua Paolillo



Presented to a student who has demonstrated excellence in physical chemistry and related fields based on research, coursework, and is committed to a career in chemistry.

Mark Johnson



Presented to an outstanding senior.

Elyse Estra



Presented to undergraduate chemistry majors for achievements in General Chemistry.

Ana Magano

Ronghui You



This scholarship is presented annually to an outstanding undergraduate chemistry major. The award is made possible by family of Gary A. Epling, a former faculty member of the University.

Andrew Spielman



This is a scholarship created by the late Ulrich Müller-Westerhoff, an emeritus faculty member from the UConn Chemistry Department, to provide financial assistance to full-time undergraduate chemistry majors who have proven their commitment to the program and is participating in undergraduate research.

Cole Stearns



William R. Granquist, Jr., a chemistry major and UConn graduate (1983), died in an explosion at the Ensign-Bickford Co. on August 16, 1984. His parents, a number of friends, and Ensign-Bickford Co. have established a scholarship fund in his memory.

Hira Ilyas

Utsav Sheth

Hao Xu



This award is given to the best thesis. It was established through the generosity of the Roland Ward Family to encourage greater undergraduate participation in research and to foster better writing skills as part of t he educational process.

Caroline Anastasia

Pinkhassik Group on cover of Chemical Communications


Pinkhassik Group on Cover of Chem Comm

A paper from the Pinkhassik Group was featured on the cover of Chemical Communications. Drs. Sergey Dergunov and Eugene Pinkhassik -- working with collaborators from Saint Louis University -- uncovered evidence for freely diffusing ground-state atomic oxygen, an elusive species whose existence in solution was proposed by never proven. This study used hollow porous nanocapsules developed in the Pinkhassik Group to physically separate the donor and acceptor of an oxygen atom. Photochemical reactions in the presence of a nanometer-thin porous barrier ruled out direct oxygen atom transfer mechanisms and, for the first time, confirmed the formation of diffusing atomic oxygen. Previously produced in the gas phase, atomic oxygen is an extraordinary reactive oxygen species; it is highly reactive like hydroxyl radical, yet selective like singlet oxygen or ozone. Evidence for atomic oxygen in solution provides new insights into the mechanisms of many oxidation reactions, facilitates the search for synthetically viable sources of atomic oxygen, and lays the groundwork for studying the controlled release of small oxidants from photoactivatable precursors.

For further details, read the paper in ChemComm

UConn CLAS Alumni Help Undergraduates Navigate the Career Landscape

2018 Alumni Panelists
Dennis Maroney ’89 (CLAS), Eileen Meehan ’12 (CLAS) & ’14 M.S., and Dr. Al Berzinis ’75 (CLAS) & ’79 Ph.D. (UCSD)

Alumni Panel Offers Insights in Industrial Career Paths

So as to build a bridge between students interested in industrial career paths and professionals in industry, the UConn Department of Chemistry—in partnership with the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences (CLAS) and the UConn Foundation—offered students an opportunity to network with CLAS alumni during a panel event on November 8, 2018. Chemistry major Kailey Huot ‘20 (CLAS) reflected, “At a university, you only really get to see the research and academia side of chemistry. It was extremely beneficial and insightful to hear from the other side: people working in industry and how their career path has shaped them.” The panelists offered unique insights about their careers, answered questions regarding leadership and teamwork, and spoke of how UConn CLAS provided them with the skills needed to successfully navigate the career landscape. Continue reading

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