On the (Virtual) Road

Two members of Dr. Kathryn Perrine’s research group, Mikhail Trought, and Chathura de Alwis, presented at the spring Materials Research Society (MRS) meeting April 17th-23rd.

Trought presented on redox chemistry of iron oxide single-crystal surfaces using ambient pressure X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (AP-XPS). de Alwis presented on probing the initial stages of iron surface corrosion using AP-XPS. Dr. Perrine presented on measuring the effects of ions on iron surface oxidation at the air/liquid/solid interface using polarization modulation infrared reflection-absorption spectroscopy (PM-IRRAS) and surface analysis, the research group’s current focus.

This work is supported by the NASA award number NNX15AJ20H, a Michigan Space Grant Consortium faculty seed grant, NSF MRI CHE 1725818, and the Michigan Tech 2019 Research Excellence Fund.

2021 Chemistry Awards

On April 21st, 2021, the Chemistry department gathered to congratulate those students who have excelled and accomplished so much during this past year.

Congratulations to the following and thank you everyone for your hard work!

Outstanding Student in First-Year Chemistry – Justin Andersen

Doc Berry Award – Steve Beuther

Leslie Leifer Award in Physical Chemistry – Henry Roell

Undergraduate Award in Organic Chemistry – Ellianna Sempek

Undergraduate Award in Inorganic Chemistry – Collette Sarver

Undergraduate Award in Analytical Chemistry – Andrew Zampaloni

Undergraduate Award in Biochemistry – Henry Roell

Outstanding Senior Award – Collette Sarver

Outstanding Senior Research Award –  Ethan Burghardt

Departmental Scholar– Ethan Burghardt
Honorable Mentions: Steve Beuther, Henry Roell, and Garven Huntley

Rebecca Sandretto/Susan Stackhouse Summer Fellowship – Connor Hall

Outstanding Lower-Division Chemistry Teaching Assistant – Connor Hensley & Amanda Studinger
Honorable Mentions: Ethan Burghardt and Alexander Apostle

Outstanding Upper-Division Chemistry Teaching Assistant – Nick Newberry & Parya Siahcheshm

Ray E. and Eleanor K. Cross Endowed Graduate Fellowship in Chemistry – Priyanka Kadav

Robert and Kathleen Lane Outstanding Graduate Research Award – Dhananjani Eriyagama & Chathura Adambarage

Outstanding Graduate Student Summer Fellowship – Sodiq Waheed

Department of Chemistry Ambassador Awards – Komal Chillar, Erin Berglund, Gretchen Heins, and Abby Schwartz


Congratulations to Priyanka Dipak Kadav for winning third place in the oral presentations at the annual Graduate Research Colloquim for her presentation titled “Capture and Release (CaRe): A novel protein purification technique,’ on April 1st, 2021. Kadav was one of 31 oral presenters. The oral sessions were hosted live via Zoom. You can watch all the poster videos and recordings for the oral sessions here. Each presentation was scored by two judges from the same field of research.


Blake R. Peterson, Ph.D.

Our last speaker for our Spring Seminar Series is Dr. Blake R. Peterson from Ohio State University.

Dr. Peterson is the chair and a professor in the Division of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy, John W. Wolfe Chair in Cancer Research, Co-Leader, OSUCCC Translational Therapeutics Program, and Co-Director, OSUCCC Medicinal Chemistry Shared Resource.

The seminar on Subcellular Targeting for Phenotypic Drug Discovery is at 3:00 pm this Friday, April 9th, via Zoom.

Phenotypic drug discovery represents an important approach for the identification of therapeutics because it does not require extensive knowledge of a specific drug target or mechanism of action. We are using this approach in conjunction with the synthesis of molecular probes that accumulate in specific organelles to discover novel anticancer agents and tool compounds. In this seminar, I will describe the use of this phenotypic discovery / subcellular targeting strategy to identify small molecule anticancer agents. The organelle that we are targeting with these probes is the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), which is defined by an extensive network of intracellular membranes and plays critical roles in the processing of secreted and transmembrane proteins. To deliver small molecules to membranes of this organelle, we synthesized novel fluorinated fluorophores derived from a fluorophore that we previously reported termed Pennsylvania Green. I will describe how these compounds can be used to inhibit a specific protein processing pathway controlled by the ER, and how we built on this molecular platform to create uniquely sensitive sensors of the reactive nitrogen species peroxynitrite, which contributes to immunosuppression in cancer. We further used an optimized peroxynitrite sensor in a phenotypic drug discovery campaign to identify small molecules capable of blocking the production of this reactive species in immune cells prevalent in the tumor microenvironment. This approach could lead to novel small molecule inhibitors and repurposing of existing drugs as therapeutics that help overcome immunosuppression in cancer.

Blake Peterson was raised in Reno, Nevada. After receiving a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Nevada Reno in 1990, he pursued a PhD in Chemistry with Prof. François Diederich at UCLA. During his graduate training, he moved with Prof. Diederich to Switzerland, where he conducted research for two years at the ETH-Zurich. In 1994, he accepted a postdoctoral position with Prof. Gregory Verdine in the Dept. of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University as a Damon Runyon / Walter Winchell Cancer Research Foundation Fellow. In 1998, he joined the faculty in the Dept. of Chemistry at Penn State University as an Assistant Professor and was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 2004. During this time, he was named a research scholar of the American Cancer Society in 2003 and was the recipient of a Camille Dreyfus Teacher Scholar Award in 2004. In 2008, he joined the faculty of the Department of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Kansas as Regents Distinguished Professor and was named an Eminent Scholar by the Kansas Biosciences Authority. In 2013, he was elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). In 2019, he joined the faculty of The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy as Professor and Chair of the Division of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy. He additionally holds appointments at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center as John W. Wolfe Chair in Cancer Research, Co-Leader of the Translational Therapeutics Program, and Co-Director of the Medicinal Chemistry Shared Resource. His current research interests involve the pursuit of new strategies for early-stage anticancer drug discovery.


Dr. Patrick Tomco

Our next Chemistry Seminar will be this Friday at 3 p.m. via Zoom.

Dr. Patrick Tomco will be presenting his piece on “Petroleum-derived dissolved organic matter from oil spill cleanup at high latitudes: formation, photo-oxidation, and ecotoxicological effects.”

Dr. Tomco is an Assistant Professor and ASET Lab Coordinator in the Department of Chemistry from the University of Anchorage Alaska.

Oil and gas drilling have been occurring in Alaska since the 1950s, and additional lease sales are planned for Cook Inlet and the Beaufort Sea. As regions in the Arctic become ice-free, offshore drilling in that area is expected to increase. As petroleum development increases, so does the risk of another major oil spill. Oil spills can have a devastating effect on the marine environment, and dispersants, chemical herders, and in-situ burning are supposed to mitigate that effect. Despite some of the benefits, this technique appears to have on oil spill mitigation, opinions on the utilization of these strategies are polarized, and the issue requires careful consideration and study. This talk will focus on several recent investigations aimed at characterizing hydrocarbon-derived dissolved organic matter (DOMHC), photochemical products of DOMHC, photo-modified DOMHC bioavailability, and resulting toxicity potential of DOMHC to Arctic marine aquatic life (mussels, Mytilus trossulus). Characterization methods include Fourier Transform Ion Cyclotron Resonance Mass Spectrometry (FT-ICR MS), fluorescence excitation emission matrices (EEMs), toxicity biomarkers, 16S rRNA sequencing, and NMR-based metabolomics. 

Patrick Tomco, Ph.D is an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at the University of Alaska Anchorage, Chair of the Alaska ACS Local Section, and manager of the Applied Science Engineering and Technology (ASET) laboratory.


Dr. Clint P. Aichele

There will be a Chemistry Seminar at 3 p.m. Friday, March 26th via Zoom.

Dr. Clint P. Aichele will present “Biomimetic Hydrogels for Protein Delivery, Stabilization, and Immobilization.”

Aichele is an Associate Professor and Lew Ward Faculty Fellow in the School of Chemical Engineering at Oklahoma State University.

Abstract: Proteins are incredibly useful in medicine and industrial chemistry. Many of the most recent breakthroughs in cancer therapy are based on monoclonal antibody treatments. Yet, there are major difficulties that can act as deterrents in developments of such therapies. Sustained subcutaneous, oral or pulmonary deliveries of such therapeutics are limited by the poor stability, short half-life, and non-specific interactions between the therapeutic biomolecules (e.g. antibody) and the delivery vehicle. Similarly, usage of proteins as enzymes in processes is limited by poor stability, short half-life, and difficulties with reusability. With growing usage of proteins as pharmaceuticals and biocatalysts, and apparent shortcomings in both fields, there is a growing need to design materials that are protein compatible and can improve protein stability. The key to successfully utilizing proteins as therapeutics, biocatalysts or biosensors is to maintain their conformation and function. There is emerging evidence that biomimetic, biocompatible zwitterionic polymers can prevent non-specific interactions within proteins systems and increase protein stability. For the purpose of protein delivery, a biodegradable zwitterionic poly(carboxybetaine) based microscale hydrogel (microgel) was synthesized. The resulting microgels were characterized via FTIR, diffusion NMR, SANS, and cell culture studies. We examined a novel post-fabrication technique that resulted in effective loading of IgG in the microgels. The released antibodies (especially from the high crosslinked microgels) proved to be completely active and able to bind with antibody receptors. Furthermore, for the purpose of protein immobilization, reaction a scheme was developed and studied for covalent immobilization of the protein (α-chymotrypsin) (ChT) within the zwitterionic microscale hydrogels. This research paves the way for designing protein delivery vectors as well as fabrication of enzyme immobilized materials with extended enzyme lifetime and activity.

Bio: Dr. Clint P. Aichele is an Associate Professor and Lew Ward Faculty Fellow in the School of Chemical Engineering at Oklahoma State University. Dr. Aichele’s research is in the area of colloids and interfacial phenomena with specific applications in gas/liquid separation, emulsions, enhanced oil recovery, distillation, and flow assurance. His work specifically focuses on engineering interfaces to solve separation challenges in complex fluids. Dr. Aichele received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from OSU in 2004 and Ph.D. from Rice University in 2009. Dr. Aichele worked at ConocoPhillips as a Research Engineer for 3 years in the CO2 Capture and Avoidance group prior to joining the faculty at Oklahoma State University.


Professor Zhenan Bao

Our next Chemistry Seminar Speaker of our Spring Series is Professor Zhenan Bao, K.K. Lee Professor and Department Chair in the Department of Chemical Engineering, Standford University. Professor Bao is also a Courtesy Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Department of Materials Science and Engineering while also holding the title of Director of Stanford Wearable Electronics Initiative (eWEAR). Professor Bao will be speaking on “Skin-Inspired Organic Electronics.” The seminar will start at 3:00 pm, Friday, March 19th, via Zoom.

Abstract: Skin is the body’s largest organ, and is responsible for the transduction of a vast amount of information. This conformable, stretchable, self-healable and biodegradable material simultaneously collects signals from external stimuli that translate into information such as pressure, pain, and temperature. The development of electronic materials, inspired by the complexity of this organ is a tremendous, unrealized materials challenge. However, the advent of organic-based electronic materials may offer a potential solution to this longstanding problem. Over the past decade, we have developed materials design concepts to add skin-like functions to organic electronic materials without compromising their electronic properties. These new materials and new devices enabled arrange of new applications in medical devices, robotics and wearable electronics. In this talk, I will discuss several projects related to engineering conductive materials and developing fabrication methods to allow electronics with effective electrical interfaces with biological systems, through tuning their electrical as well as mechanical properties. The end result is a soft electrical interface that has both low interfacial impedance as well as match mechanical properties with biological tissue. Several new concepts, such as “morphing electronics” and “genetically targeted chemical assembly – GTCA” will be presented.

Image of stretchable electronic skin. Image credit: Amir Foudeh, Sihong Liu of Bao Group, Stanford University


Zhenan Bao is Department Chair and K.K. Lee Professor of Chemical Engineering, and by courtesy, a Professor of Chemistry and a Professor of Material Science and Engineering at Stanford University. Bao founded the Stanford Wearable Electronics Initiate (eWEAR) in 2016 and serves as the faculty director.
Prior to joining Stanford in 2004, she was a Distinguished Member of Technical Staff in Bell Labs, Lucent Technologies from 1995-2004. She received her Ph.D in Chemistry from the University of Chicago in 1995. She has over 550 refereed publications and over 65 US patents with a Google Scholar H-Index >160.
Bao is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Inventors. She is a Fellow of MRS, ACS, AAAS, SPIE, ACS PMSE and ACS POLY.
Bao was selected as Nature’s Ten people who mattered in 2015 as a “Master of Materials” for her work on artificial electronic skin. She was awarded the inaugural ACS Central Science Disruptor and Innovator Prize in 2020, the Gibbs Medal by the Chicago session of ACS in 2020, the Wilhelm Exner Medal by Austrian Federal Minister of Science 2018, ACS Award on Applied Polymer Science 2017, the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Award in the Physical Sciences 2017, the AICHE Andreas Acrivos Award for Professional Progress in Chemical Engineering in 2014, ACS Carl Marvel Creative Polymer Chemistry Award in 2013, ACS Cope Scholar Award in 2011, the Royal Society of Chemistry Beilby Medal and Prize in 2009, the IUPAC Creativity in Applied Polymer Science Prize in 2008.
Bao is a co-founder and on the Board of Directors for C3 Nano and PyrAmes, both are silicon-valley venture funded start-ups. She serves as an advising Partner for Fusion Venture Capital.


Dr. Bradley D. Smith

We welcome Dr. Bradley D. Smith, Emil T. Hofman Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Notre Dame, as this Friday’s Seminar Speaker. The seminar on Near-Infrared Fluorescent Probes for Bioimaging will begin at 3:00 pm via Zoom.

Abstract: The lecture will describe new families of near-infrared absorbing molecular probes. Cell microscopists have a need for fluorophores with high photostability, extreme brightness, low phototoxicity, and user-friendly bioconjugation. In contrast, in vivo imaging researchers and fluorescence-guided surgeons strongly prefer fluorescent probes that emit low-energy near-infrared light since it can penetrate through skin and tissue. A family of interlocked molecules called Squaraine-Rotaxanes are valuable as extremely bright and stable deep-red fluorescent probes and they are being used increasingly for single-molecule tracking studies. A new dye architecture called Squaraine Figure-Eight enables the insertion of peptide units into the probe structure to create targeted probes. Another new probe system is based on sterically shielded near-infrared heptamethine cyanine dyes that have unsurpassed performance properties such as high stability and low propensity for non-specific interaction with biological surfaces. Bioconjugates of these shielded heptamethine cyanine dyes include antibody and peptide systems with superb bioimaging performance in cells and in living subjects.

Bio: Bradley D. Smith is the Emil T. Hofman Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, USA. He is also Director of the Notre Dame Integrated Imaging Facility that supports university imaging research. He is the author of 260 research publications and Associate Editor of the ACS journal Bioconjugate Chemistry. His research group develops molecular probes for detecting and treating cancer or microbial infections in living subjects. Dr. Smith has invented a series of near-infrared fluorescent dye molecules and converted them into imaging probes for a wide range of applications in biomedical science, biotechnology, and nanotechnology.


Dr. Joseph Pignatello

Our next Chemistry Seminar Speaker of our Spring Series is Dr. Joseph J. Pignatello, Chief Scientist at The Connecticut Agricultural Experimental Station. Dr. Pignatello will be speaking on “Interactions of organic compounds with natural and human-made pyrogenic carbonaceous materials—sorption, reaction, and catalysis.” His seminar will start at 3:00 pm, Friday, February 19th, via Zoom.

Abstract: Pyrogenic carbonaceous materials (PCM) are solid products of pyrolysis or thermolysis of biomass. Chars from wildfires, crop residue burning, or land clearing practices are widely distributed in the environment, and may influence soil structure, microbial activity, and behavior of pollutants especially in highly impacted areas. Produced PCMs such as activated carbon, biochar, and related materials, are in use or under study as agents in water, soil, and air purification, and as additives to improve soil properties. Central to the behavior of PCMs is their role as adsorbents; however, PCMs and their physico-chemically modified forms, are attracting interest as electron-transfer mediators and catalyst substrates. This lecture will describe our recent efforts in understanding and manipulating sorptive functions, probing the inherent chemical reactivity of PCMs and their ability to mediate electron-transfer reactions, and the modification of PCMs for specific environmental remediation functions.

Bio: Dr. Pignatello has been a pioneer in Environmental Science, and currently is Chief Scientist at The Connecticut Agricultural Experimental Station There, he leads the Environmental Chemistry Group, which researches both fundamental and applied aspects of the environmental chemistry of pollutants and natural processes, such as physical-chemical processes for removing or degrading pollutants in soil, water and air, physical-chemical interactions of organic compounds with soils and soil components, and bioavailability of organic contaminants in natural particles. A recent research focus is studying the nature of the interactions between organic compounds and pyrogenic carbon, including studies of novel interactions between the carbons and behaviors, tailoring the carbon surfaces to adsorb and transform contaminants, and potential roles for these carbons in environmental management.