Category: Research

From the Chair

Dr. John Jaszczak
Dr. John Jaszczak, Chair

A lot has happened in the Department of Chemistry over the past year and there is much to brag about! I’d like to introduce some of them, with more details included in the following pages.

A highlight for the department is the annual spring awards program held in April. It was impressive and inspiring to hear the accomplishments of our undergraduate and graduate student award winners as their names were announced, attesting to their excellence in coursework, research, and teaching. A summary of the winners is presented later in the newsletter (page 10). Our featured awards program speaker, Laura Barrientos, who earned her PhD with Pushpa Murthy, shared some of her accomplishments as a scientist and entrepreneur, along with some good advice for the students. We were also delighted  to hear from Parag Jog, who earned his PhD with Dallas Bates, and Sonali Jog, who also earned her PhD with Murthy; both are enjoying productive careers in California.

Many thanks to our generous alumni and friends whose donations have allowed us to give a variety of awards to our students including undergraduate and graduate student summer fellowships, provide support for professional development, postdoctoral appointments, and acquisition of some key instrumentation (which we’ll highlight in a future newsletter). Your generous support greatly enhances our educational mission and research capabilities.

The department continues to be heavily engaged in research, which includes both our graduate and undergraduate students. I know from visiting with current and prospective undergraduate students that opportunities to do research is a high priority. I am grateful to all of our faculty who regularly mentor students on their research projects. This has been a particularly exciting year in terms of research funding. Since January 2019, five external grants have been awarded (details on page 7). Congratulations to these faculty and their research groups for their hard work and sustained efforts!

In regard to teaching and learning, we also have much to celebrate. This past spring, Paul Charlesworth was recognized for his outstanding teaching in first-year chemistry through the University’s Dean’s Teaching Showcase. Congratulations are also due to Andrew Galerneau, who is being promoted from lecturer to senior lecturer. Over the last academic year, three faculty and four students were recognized by the Provost as scoring in the “top 10 percent” of similarly sized classes, University-wide on their student evaluations of instruction. The department continues to work hard to recruit new undergraduate and graduate students to our programs. We are hopeful that we may have over 25 new first-year undergraduate students join us in the fall—the largest class since 2014.

Last year’s newsletter announced the opening of the new University Chemical Stores Facility located at the north side of the Chemical Sciences and Engineering building. The project would not have been successful without the skillful direction of Don Wareham, who served as manager of Chem Stores, and retired in January after many years with the University. Well wishers packed the Chemistry Learning Center on January 10 for a retirement party for Don.

Looking to the future, two important topics come to mind. First, the department will be continuing its search for a new department chair this year. More information will be made available on our webpage as the search develops. Second is the exciting new opportunity for the department and the University over the next several years with planning for the H-STEM building. This has been in the works for quite some time now, and was recently approved for the next steps by the State of Michigan. The building will greatly enhance research infrastructure for health sciences-related research, and the project will also include significant remodeling of the Chemical Sciences and Engineering building, which currently houses the chemistry and chemical engineering departments. A vision document for the project is being prepared and the capital outlay plan approved by the state is available at the following link in case you’d like to have a look.

This is going to be an exciting and productive year. I hope the same will be true for you. Please send us your news, visit our website, or even better, stop by and see the department!
John Jaszczak
Interim Department Chair and Professor

Full Chemistry newsletter

In Print

Graduate students Wafa MaziRashmi AdhiariShuai XiaMingxi Fang, research scientist Yibin Zhang, research assistant professor Momoko Tajiri, associate professors Rudy L. Luck, Ashutosh Tiwari, Marina Tanasova, and professor Haiying Liu published a paper titled “Fluorescent Probes with High pKa Values Based on Traditional, Near-infrared Rhodamine, and Hemicyanine Fluorophores for Sensitive Detection of Lysosomal pH Variations” in Methods on July 22, 2019.

New Funding

Marina TanasovaMarina Tanasova (Chemistry) is Principal Investigator on a project that has received a $446,849 research and development grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services—National Institutes of Health. The project is titled ” Exploiting Cellular Discrimination Through GLUTs With Small-Molecule GLUT-Targeting Probes.” Smitha Rao (Biomed Engineering) is the Co-PI on this potential three-year project.

New Funding

Haiying Liu (Chem) is Principal Investigator on a project that has received a $459,000 award (Award Number 2R15GM114751-02) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health. This new grant is based on a renewal proposal titled “Ratiometric Near-infrared Fluorescent Probes for Sensitive Detection of Lysosomal and Mitochondrial pH changes in Live Cells.” Ashutosh Tiwari (Chem) is Co-PI in this project.

Green Takes Part in Global Environmental Outlook

Sarah Green (Chem) has been in Nairobi, Kenya for the launch of the Sixth Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-6) at the United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA).

The GEO report assesses the state and trends of the environment, as well as examining the policies meant to improve it. Green has served as co-chair of the Scientific Advisory Panel for the report since its early planning meetings in 2015.
The 744-page GEO report identifies the key drivers of environmental degradation around the world in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and other international agreements. It calls for integrated social, economic, and environmental policy actions to address critical issues such as air pollution, biodiversity loss, ocean health, climate change, and land degradation. Human health and well-being are intertwined with the health of the planet through the food, water, and natural systems we depend on.
The report guides governments, non-governmental organizations, and businesses in strategies to design successful policies. GEO also investigate pathways to environmentally sustainable development and synergies among the SDGs.
Since 2015 Green has attended meetings of authors and government representatives in Bangkok, Geneva, Cairo, Cancun, Guangzhou, Singapore and Nairobi. She hopes to communicate the findings of GEO to a wide audience.
Read more about Sarah Green’s contribution in the Michigan Tech News articular “Tech Chemist Reviews UN Report on the Environment

Swept Away: Stream Gauges Essential to Storm Resilience

stream with wooden overhangStream gauges in the Keweenaw help us understand ecosystems and prepare our communities for flooding—but their existence is in jeopardy.

One of the most basic characteristics used to describe a stream is how much water it carries—the flow, or more accurately, discharge—which is measured in units of volume per time (typically cubic feet or cubic meters per second). Understanding how river discharge changes with time tells us important information about the stream, including how quickly something that is added to the river will be diluted and moved downstream. A river’s discharge rate also tells us how prone the river is to disturbances and what conditions the organisms that live there experience.

Understanding the river flow is also key for human communities. It allows planning for how quickly we can expect lakes and reservoirs to fill and how much water can be withdrawn for irrigation or drinking.

River flow also helps communities prepare for potential natural disasters, such as understanding how likely a river is to overflow its banks to cause a flood, and how to build culverts and bridges to withstand a flood like the one that Houghton experienced in June.

Read the full story on Unscripted.