McNair Scholars

Congratulations to Chinonso Opara, Misghana Andemichael, and Amir Hassen who have recently been named McNair Scholars.  These three students join Vicky Herrera at the McNair Program.

The Ronald E. McNair Program prepares undergraduates for doctoral study through involvement in research and scholarly activities. The purpose of the McNair Program is to assist in the academic and professional development of undergraduates whose goals are to teach and research at the college level. In order to help students achieve those goals, the program sponsors and supports undergraduate experiences that lay the foundation for a successful graduate school experience.


Departmental Scholarships

Thanks to the generosity of several alumni and others interested in helping deserving chemistry and biochemistry students, the Department of Chemistry has some scholarships and book prizes available to students who are currently UW students and declared biochemistry or chemistry majors.

Depending on the particular award, academic merit, financial need, career goals, employment history, extracurricular activities, and undergraduate research record are among the criteria used to determine the recipients. Generally, the scholarships are awarded to students who have been in the Department for a year or more.

For the 2012-13 academic year, applications for the departmental scholarships are available in Bagley Hall Room 303. Students can also print out the scholarship application here.

Completed applications are due by 4pm on November 30, 2012. The scholarship committee will meet in December 2012 to choose recipients. Awards will be disbursed for Winter quarter 2013.

Amgen Scholars announced

Three Biochemistry students  have been named Amgen Scholars! Congratulations  Chinoso Opara, Guillermo Romano, and Denis Smirnov.

Chinonso Opara is a rising junior in the department of Biochemistry at the University of Washington. This summer, he is working in the lab of Dr. William Atkins on developing a novel method of quantifying the concentration of quantum dots, using various biophysical techniques. Quantum dots are small nanoparticles with the capability of fluorescing under ultraviolet light, and have several applications ranging from enhancing LED lighting to cellular imaging and drug delivery.


Guillermo Romano is a rising senior at the University of Washington, working on a double degree in Public Health and Biochemistry. This summer he is working in the Maly lab to synthesize a small molecule capable of profiling Sarcoma Family Kinases.



Denis Smirnov is a rising junior at the University of Washington studying biochemistry and neurobiology. He is working with Dr. Chatterjee in the Department of Chemistry to investigate the ubiquitin-like protein degradation pathway in Mycobacerium tuberculosis, through mechanistic studies of the ligase enzyme PafA. Current research is aimed at working to determine the substrate scope of PafA by using novel chemical tools to monitor enzyme activity.



Goldwater Scholar

Congratulations to Michael Bocek who has has won the prestigious Goldwater scholarship.  Michael is a Biochemistry major at the University of Washington. He has done research in the department of Bioengineering  involving the design and evaluation of  polymer-based vectors to deliver therapeutic genes to neurons.  After graduation Michael plans to pursue a Ph.D in bioengineering, focusing on engineering bio-materials.  Afterwards, he hopes to go on to a scientific research career, either in academia or industry.


We are also happy to announce that Evan Boyle has been named as an honorable mention for the Goldwater Scholarship.  Evan is a Biochemistry and Microbiology double major, and works in the Gelb lab.  His lab work is aimed at characterizing a class of enzymes implicated in asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.  Evan wishes to counter the burgeoning wave of chronic conditions by pinpointing promising therapeutic targets in genetic technology.  After his undergraduate career, Evan will pursue a Ph.D in Genetics, and aspires to make a difference in medical outcomes for patients worldwide and to enhance the impact that biomedical research has on people’s lives.


Congratulation also go to Derek Nhan who has also been named an honorable mention for the Goldwater Scholarship.  Derek  is a junior majoring in Neurobiology and Biochemistry. He is currently performing research in Dr. Kyra Becker’s neurology lab focused on understanding the molecular and behavioral basis behind the systemic immune response to stroke. Currently, his project involves monitoring the consequences of post-stroke infection in an animal model and its impact on neurological outcome. After graduation, Derek plans to pursue a career in medical research and become involved in the development of targeted approaches for treatment of neurological disorders.

Timeless Future Award

Congratulations to Biochemistry major Kenji Fujitani who has been chosen to receive  a Timeless Future Award from the UW College of Arts & Sciences.

As part of the UW 150th celebration, the College of Arts & Sciences is recognizing outstanding undergraduate and graduate students with Timeless “Future” Awards.  The Timeless “Future” Awards are designed to honor graduating A&S students who have made outstanding contributions to society through their academic achievements, leadership, excellence in the arts, and service to the greater community.

UW team wins iGEM grand prize

The Department of Chemistry congratulates Chemistry graduate student Justin Siegel and undergraduate Chemistry and Biochemistry majors Casey Ager, Juhye An, Sydney Gordon, Elaine Lai, Seth Sagulo, Liz Stanley, Sarah Wolf, and Lei Zhang for a remarkable accomplishment. These students and 14 others were members of the UW team that won the Grand Prize in the sixth annual International Genetically Engineered Machine World Championship Competition (iGEM). This is the first time a team from the United States has won the award. Members of the UW community are invited to a celebration of their accomplishment on Monday, December 12, at 4:00 pm in the atrium of the Electrical Engineering/Computer Science and Engineering Building.

This year, 160 teams from around the world competed in regional competitions. The 65 most competitive teams worldwide convened at MIT to present their synthetic biology projects.  Awards were presented and the four top teams (from Imperial College London, MIT, ZJU-China, and the University of Washington) were named as finalists.  An international panel of judges awarded the University of Washington the grand prize.

The University of Washington project is an example of undergraduate students engineering solutions to real-world problems. The students developed a novel protein with promise for the treatment of gluten intolerance (Celiac disease), to be taken as an oral therapeutic similar to the lactaid pill.  Additionally, they produced diesel fuel from sugar by engineering a novel biological system.  These projects demonstrate how synthetic biology can be used to solve many of the world’s problems, and that significant progress can be made by a group of undergraduate students with little formal training in just one summer.  More information can be found at For more info about iGEM, visit

Three Chemistry/Biochemistry majors win Washington Research Foundation Fellowships

Michael Choi, Benjamin Horst, and Kwang Kim have each won a Washington Research Foundation Fellowship.

Michael Choi has been investigating embryonic stem cells and stem cell maintenance in the Ruohola-Baker laboratory, focusing on the metabolism of embryonic stem cells and how it relates to their function. Stem cells play a critical role in development and disease; by better understanding how these cells function in both normal and pathological conditions, scientists can learn how to control, treat, and cure disorders that arise.


Benjamin Horst works in the Keller Chemistry group where he has worked on refining a new fabrication technique for the formation of vesicles. He will be starting a new project aimed at determining how the miscibility temperature of lipid membranes varies with the composition as the surface pressure is held constant.




Kwang Seob Kim’s project with Dr. Ludo Max aims to better understand the central nervous system functioning in speech and non-speech movements, as well as the neural mechanisms underlying stuttering in particular.  The goal of his project is to design a protocol/procedure to quantify the ability of the speech sensorimotor systems to learn a completely novel sensorimotor mapping. This protocol has the potential to not only enhance our knowledge of motor learning, but to also improve the rehabilitation of individuals with movement disorders.


Congratulations Michael, Benjamin and Kwang Seob!

UW student selected for Rhodes Scholarship

Cameron Turtle, who has conducted research in the Keller Chemistry group and in Bioengineering, has been selected for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. The scholarship provides full financial support for scholars to study at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. Cameron is majoring in Bioengineering. His research in the Keller Chemistry group involved studying the 2-dimensional phase separation in lipid membranes. Cameron’s project was to incorporate charged lipids into the membranes and study the membranes’ miscibility transition temperatures.
Among his various accolades, Cameron is a Mary Gates scholar as well as a Goldwater scholar. He co-founded Bioengineers Without Borders and is also founder and CEO of Point of Care Technologies.

Congratulations Cameron!

Team of UW undergraduate science majors wins iGEM genetic engineering contest

A team of 23 UW undergraduates science majors has won the prestigious iGEM genetic engineering competition. The UW undergrad members came from the departments of biochemistry, microbiology, bioengineering, materials science, and computer science. The team did months of lab work to genetically engineer microbes that could either produce diesel fuel or help treat the difficult digestion problems for people with gluten intolerance.

Team members from Biochemistry and Chemistry include:
Casey Ager, Juhye An,Sydney Gordon, Elaine Lai, Austin Moon, Seth Sagulo, Sarah Wolf, Sean Wu, and Lei Zheng.

This year’s faculty advisers were David Baker, a UW biochemistry professor who predicts proteins’ 3-D structures in order to design new proteins; Eric Klavins, whose research investigates how bacteria and other systems can self-organize and Herbert Sauro, a UW bioengineering associate professor who does computer-aided design of biochemical interactions.

The research done by these students will likely be published in a peer-reviewed science journal. Congratulations!