Munira Khalil elected as APS Fellow

Associate Professor Munira Khalil was recently elected as a Fellow of the American Physical Society. Professor Khalil was nominated by the Division of Laser Science “for probing coherently coupled vibrational and electronic motion during ultrafast charge transfer processes by using a unique combination of infrared, visible, and X-ray experiments to provide new insights into this mechanism.”

Newly elected APS Fellows number no more than one-half of one percent of Society membership and election is considered a distinct honor because the evaluation process, conducted by the Fellowship committees of individual divisions, topical groups and forums, is done entirely by one’s professional peers. The list of 2017 Fellows, as well as a list of all past and present Fellows, is available on the APS Fellow Archive.

To learn more about Professor Khalil’s research, please visit her faculty page and her research group website.

Brandi Cossairt named newest Associate Editor of Inorganic Chemistry

Assistant Professor Brandi Cossairt was announced as the newest Associate Editor of the American Chemical Society journal Inorganic Chemistry. Her appointment to the journal’s editorial board will begin January 1, 2018.

The announcement via the ACS Axial blog regarding the appointment of Professor Cossairt and two others to the journal’s editorial board included thoughts from Inorganic Chemistry Editor-in-Chief William B. Tolman about what each appointee would add to the journal.

“Brandi Cossairt brings new expertise in inorganic materials chemistry to the Associate Editor team. As an early-career investigator, Brandi has established herself as an outstanding leader in the field, whose work focuses on phosphide and arsenide colloidal nanoclusters, quantum dots, and other materials, as well as on the development of bimetallic catalysts for small molecule conversions,” Tolman says. “Also notable is her additional background in main-group small-molecule chemistry. Importantly, Brandi will play a key role in handling the growing number of submissions to Inorganic Chemistry focused on inorganic materials and nanochemistry.”

See the ACS Axial announcement for more information, including Professor Cossairt’s thoughts on her research, challenges in the field of inorganic chemistry, her goals for this new role, and more.

For more information about Brandi Cossairt and her research, please visit her faculty page and research group website.

UW Molecular Engineering Materials Center established through NSF MRSEC award

The University of Washington is home to a new national center of excellence for research, education, and training in materials science. The UW Molecular Engineering Materials Center is funded by a $15.6 million, six-year grant from the National Science Foundation as part of its highly competitive Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) program. The UW center is a partnership among UW faculty from the College of Arts & Sciences, the College of Engineering, the Clean Energy Institute (CEI) and the Molecular Engineering & Sciences Institute (MolES).

The new center builds on the UW’s record of innovative, collaborative and cross-disciplinary research in the materials sciences, and on a legacy of timely institutional and state investments in materials research at the UW. Initial research will focus on nanocrystals and thin films — toward goals such as developing new materials for applications in clean energy, photonics and quantum computing.

“The primary goal of the UW MRSEC is to empower the next generation of science and engineering leaders,” said center director and UW chemistry professor Daniel Gamelin. “This will involve engaging and supporting students and postdoctoral researchers — and giving them the research and educational experiences, training and cross-disciplinary mentorship that they will need to forge careers on the cutting edge of materials science.”

The center will embark on new research and training endeavors to:

  • Pursue so-called “moonshot” projects, which are research endeavors with potentially high payoff, but are generally beyond the feasibility of smaller research grants awarded to individual professors.
  • Implement new cross-disciplinary training and mentorship programs for doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers, including opportunities to conduct research with the center’s industrial and international partners, and with partners at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and at other National Laboratories run by the U.S. Department of Energy.
  • Broaden educational and research opportunities for UW students and researchers, including advanced training on new equipment purchased with center funds.
  • Expand outreach and mentorship efforts to high school students from underrepresented minorities to encourage them to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education as undergraduates.
  • Implement comprehensive outreach efforts to recruit military veterans at the UW and at local community colleges into research and education for STEM careers.
  • Provide support for additional doctoral and postdoctoral researchers.

The center’s inaugural team of 15 faculty come from a variety of disciplines across engineering and the physical sciences. In addition to their home departments in the College of Engineering and the College of Arts & Sciences, 10 are also faculty members in the CEI and 11 in the MolES. This diverse cohort reflects the center’s goal to foster novel and innovative collaborations across traditionally separate disciplines.

The center will make use of existing research and education space across the UW campus, including in the Molecular Engineering & Sciences Building. The CEI and the MolES, both of which are headquartered in that building, will provide access to equipment for center research and training.

The center’s outreach activities — both within the UW and around the region — emphasize education and training for materials science careers. Each year it will host a Research Experiences for Undergraduates program for students from around the country to conduct research with a UW faculty member during the summer. In addition, center scientists will mentor pre-college students from underrepresented minority groups, providing support and resources to help prepare them for college and encourage them to pursue STEM education. In an entirely new endeavor, the center also will set up programs to engage veterans in center research, very few of whom pursue STEM education and careers.

“With this NSF support, the center will bring new opportunities in STEM education to groups that are underrepresented in STEM careers,” said UW professor of materials science & engineering Christine Luscombe, who is the center’s executive director for education and outreach. “Programs like these are expanding access to science.”

The center will focus on two broad research areas, in nanocrystals and thin films.

The first goal, co-led by Gamelin and Luscombe and including eight initial faculty members, is to pursue new approaches to engineer defects in nanocrystals such as semiconductor quantum dots. Though “defects” often have a negative connotation, in materials science they are opportunities to create substances with novel and technologically attractive properties. Precisely targeted defects or impurities, for example, could make a substance cool down — rather than heat up — when hit by a laser. These new materials could also lead to products such as solar-concentrating window films that absorb photons from sunlight and shunt them to photovoltaic cells for energy conversion.

The center’s other focus is the creation of new ultrathin semiconductor materials with unique properties. This team will include seven initial faculty, and is co-led by associate professor of physics and materials science and engineering Xiaodong Xu and assistant professor of physics and electrical engineering Kai-Mei Fu. This research creates thin sheets of materials — often just one layer of atoms thick — and investigates the unique quantum-mechanical properties revealed when these sheets are layered together. These layered materials could form the basis of new ultrathin semiconductors for applications in clean energy, optoelectronics and other applications. In fact, using this approach, one UW team recently discovered a 2-D magnetic material.

“We chose nanocrystals and ultrathin semiconductors because they promise to yield basic, fundamental and impactful discoveries in materials science,” said Gamelin. “And those advances will fuel new innovations and applications in growing industries — from quantum computing to clean energy.”

Gamelin, Xu, and Fu — along with assistant professor of chemistry Brandi Cossairt and electrical engineering professor Scott Dunham — represented the UW team in Washington, D.C., during the final leg of the multi-stage competition for NSF-MRSEC support. Funding for the UW’s Molecular Engineering Materials Center began September 1. The NSF supports 20 MRSECs across the nation, and the UW’s is one of only two on the West Coast.

Story by James Urton, UW News. Additional coverage from GeekWire and the Seattle Times.

Michael Gelb to receive the 2018 Repligen Award

Michael Gelb, Professor and Boris and Barbara L. Weinstein Endowed Chair in Chemistry, was selected as the 2018 recipient of the highly prestigious Repligen Corporation Award in the Chemistry of Biological Processes. This award was established in 1985 to “acknowledge and encourage outstanding contributions to the understanding of the chemistry of biological processes, with particular emphasis on structure, function, and mechanism.” The award is given annually by the Division of Biological Chemistry of the American Chemical Society.

Professor Gelb and his co-workers have made numerous seminal scientific contributions during his three decades of research at the University of Washington. Among these are the elucidation of the structure and mechanism of phospholipase A2, an enzyme that operates at the membrane-water interface, the discovery of protein prenylation, and the development of the first practical method to screen newborns for a family of rare genetic diseases. The latter protocol is being adopted world-wide.

This award is an extraordinary honor for lifetime scientific achievement in biological chemistry. Professor Gelb joins a list of previous recipients that includes leading figures in the history of biological chemistry such as Robert Abeles, Stephen Benkovic, Harold Scheraga, Frank Westheimer, Jeremy Knowles, Judith Klinman, William Jencks, Christopher Walsh, and JoAnne Stubbe. He will receive the award at an upcoming ACS national meeting, anticipated for the latter part of 2018.

To learn more about Professor Gelb and his research, please visit his faculty page and research group website.

Recent work by Alshakim Nelson published in The Economist

Recent work by Assistant Professor Alshakim and colleagues was published on July 6 in the Science & Technology section of The Economist (“Print me a brewery”), as well as in Geekwire and Digital Trends.

Yeast and other microbial species have long been used in a variety of industrial applications, ranging from alcohol fermentation to pharmaceutical and protein production. Fermentation is typically performed as a batch process, wherein the cells and the necessary metabolites are all introduced into a stirred reactor. Professor Nelson and his research team (Dr. Abhijit Saha, Trevor Johnston, and Ryan Shafranek) developed a process to 3D print yeast cells immobilized within a hydrogel lattice, which could be used for fermentation processes. The advantage of this approach is that these yeast-immobilized 3D printed lattices can potentially reduce reactor downtime, minimize product inhibition, and reduce the total footprint of the reactor. The yeast cells are incorporated into the hydrogel under mild conditions while maintaining the viability and metabolic activity of the embedded cells. The Nelson group has shown that these 3D-printed bioreactors are capable of fermenting solutions of glucose into ethanol, continuously, for upwards of three months.

Future work in this area by the Nelson group will include exploring the lifetimes of the bioreactor devices, while also expanding the portfolio of compounds that the reactors can produce, and the species of microbes they can maintain. Eventually, the group would like to implement these printed reactors in continuous fermentation reactors to produce high-value chemical targets.

To learn more about Professor Nelson and his research, visit his faculty page or research group website.

Sotiris Xantheas awarded Fulbright Fellowship

Sotiris S. Xantheas, Affiliate Professor of Chemistry and UW-PNNL Distinguished Faculty Fellow, was awarded a fellowship by the Greek Diaspora Fellowship Program and the Fulbright Foundation.

Started in 2016, the Greek Diaspora Fellowship Program, managed by the Institute of International Education and the Fulbright Foundation in Greece and funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, is part of an effort to develop long-term collaborations between universities in Greece and the United States while enhancing opportunities for Greek students. “This award has the potential to positively affect the lives of young students and it is an excellent opportunity to reciprocate the educational benefits I received — for free — from my own country,” said Xantheas, who was one of thirty Greek- and Cypriot-born scholars scholars selected in this round of awards among professors in U.S. institutions in fields ranging from humanities, law, medicine and science.

Dr. Xantheas will work with Dr. George Boulougouris at the Department of Molecular Biology & Genetics at the Democritus University of Thrace in Alexandroupoli to pursue curriculum co-development and collaborative research in analyzing and modeling the formation of the hydrogen bond network in a variety of aqueous environments by bridging quantum and classical modeling approaches. During the five-week program, Dr. Xantheas will collaborate on research projects, work with students and give lectures on the intricate network of bonds within watery environments.

Dr. Xantheas is a Laboratory Fellow in Chemical Physics & Analysis, part of the Physical Sciences Division at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Dr. Xantheas is widely recognized for his expertise related to the molecular science of aqueous systems. His innovative studies of intermolecular interactions in aqueous ionic clusters and use of ab initio electronic structure calculations to elucidate their structural and spectral features are at the forefront of molecular theory and computation.

For additional coverage, see the PNNL news brief and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation announcement.

For more information about Dr. Xantheas and his research, visit his faculty page or his PNNL staff page.

South Asia ICEMR receives 7-year, $9.3M renewal from NIH

Pradipsinh Rathod, left, and Laura Chery, right. Dennis Wise/University of Washington

The National Institutes of Health has renewed a major grant that funds a University of Washington-led research center to understand malaria in India.

The initiative — Malaria Evolution in South Asia (MESA), first funded in 2010 — is one of 10 NIH-supported International Centers of Excellence for Malaria Research, or ICEMRs. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases announced that it would provide $9.3 million in funds to the South Asia ICEMR over the next seven years, beginning July 1, 2017.

South Asia sits in the middle of the malaria corridor that cuts from Southeast Asia to Africa.

“India is a country of critical importance for understanding the spread of virulent malaria globally,” said Pradipsinh K. Rathod, a UW professor of chemistry and the director of the Malaria Evolution in South Asia ICEMR. “While most deaths caused by drug-resistant strains of malaria have occurred in Africa, most drug-resistant parasites arise first in Asia.”

Malaria in India remains underappreciated. The country has 1.3 billion people and more than 90% of the population live in areas where there is risk of malaria transmission. India had an estimated 13 million cases of malaria in 2015, according to the World Health Organization. Beyond that, the picture of malaria in India is one of diversity.

“There is enormous variation in the prevalence of malaria around the country — variation in levels of immunity and variation in the species of mosquitoes that spread the disease,” said Laura Chery, the South Asia ICEMR’s associate director. “Most importantly, there is unexpectedly high genetic diversity in malaria parasites that are circulating in India.”

In addition to researchers from the UW, the South Asia ICEMR also includes U.S. scientists from Harvard University, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Stanford University. But by far the largest contingent of researchers that make up the center’s efforts are the dozens of scientists, clinicians and field workers at sites across India.

“We have formed wonderful, productive partnerships with hospitals, clinics, government agencies and community members,” said Chery. “Together, we have learned to do advanced science on the ground at clinically important sites.”

Through partnerships with local hospitals and research institutes, the center currently works out of six sites across India. The locations capture the diversity of this massive country: Four sites are in eastern and northeastern India, where malaria is endemic and cases can reach as high as 50 to 100 per 1,000 people. Two other sites are on the west coast, where the prevalence of malaria can be relatively low — fewer than 1 case per 1,000 people. But these sites include urban hospitals that attract and treat large numbers of malaria patients, including migrants from other parts of the country.

“We believe that movement of people within the country can partly explain the complexity of malaria in India,” said Rathod. “However, we do not fully understand the basis for such variations.”

At each site, staff enroll patients to obtain malaria parasite samples, as well as information on each patient’s health history. From on-site laboratories in India, center staff and partners pursue a number of research projects: analyzing parasite samples for signs of drug resistance, understanding the basis for variations in disease presentation, sequencing parasite genomes and determining their genetic relatedness to one another, and testing how well different mosquito species take up various malaria strains.

In addition to setting up complex research infrastructure, in its first seven years the center has made some surprising conclusions about malaria in India. Parasites in India show more genetic diversity than parasites in the rest of the world combined, according to Rathod. As a consequence, some standard laboratory tests for drug resistance, developed elsewhere in the world, do not accurately predict whether Indian parasites will show drug resistance.

Drug resistance is a major concern in malaria. Chloroquine was once an effective drug to fight malaria. But a generation ago, malaria parasites began to evolve resistance to it, rendering it largely ineffective. Today, the drug artemisinin is considered the best treatment against malaria. But artemisinin-resistant strains of malaria already have been identified in Southeast Asia. The Indian government and the South Asia ICEMR are on the lookout for artemisinin resistance among patients in northeastern and eastern India. Beyond that, the South Asia ICEMR is looking for parasites that mutate at extraordinary rates, as seen in Southeast Asia.

“By getting a clearer picture of malaria in India, we’re ‘closing the gap’ on how this complex parasite behaves globally,” Rathod said.

For the 2017-2024 cycle, other South Asia ICEMR project leaders are Neena Valecha, director of the National Institute of Malaria Research in India, and Manoj Duraisingh at Harvard University. Additional U.S.-based senior contributors are Joseph Smith at the Center for Infectious Disease Research, Shripad Tuljapurkar at Stanford University and James Kublin and Holly Janes at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Additional India-based senior contributors are Anup Anvikar at National Institute of Malaria Research; Subrata Baidya at Agartala Government Medical College; D.R. Bhattacharrya and P.K. Mohapatra at Regional Medical Research Centre, NE Region; Edwin Gomes at Goa Medical College & Hospital; Sanjeeb Kakati at Assam Medical College; Ashwani Kumar at National Institute of Malaria Research, Goa Field Unit; Sanjib Mohanty and A.K. Singh at Ispat General Hospital; and Swati Patankar at Indian Institute of Technology Bombay.

For more information about Professor Rathod and his research, please visit his faculty page or the NIH NIAID South Asia ICEMR website.

Story by James Urton, UW News. Additional coverage in the July 2017 Perspectives Newsletter from the College of Arts & Sciences.

 

Recent work by David Ginger and coworkers published in Nature Materials

Recent work by Professor David Ginger and colleagues was published online on June 19 in Nature Materials. The research was also highlighted in a News & Views article.

Lead author Rajiv Giridharagopal, left, and co-author Lucas Flagg standing next to an atomic force microscope. Dane deQuilettes

The Ginger group, in collaboration with Professor Christine Luscombe (Materials Science & Engineering) and the Clean Energy Institute, has discovered the basic design principles for constructing polymers that can transport both electrons and ions. This is a critical step toward making polymer-based devices at the interface of biology and electronics, such as improved biosensors and bioelectronics implants.

“Most of our technology relies on electronic currents, but biology transduces signals with ions, which are charged atoms or molecules,” said David Ginger, Alvin L. and Verla R. Kwiram Endowed Professor of Chemistry and chief scientist at the UW’s Clean Energy Institute. “If you want to interface electronics and biology, you need a material that effectively communicates across those two realms.”

UW researchers directly measured a thin film made of a single type of conjugated polymer—a conducting plastic—as it interacted with ions and electrons. They show how variations in the polymer layout yielded rigid and non-rigid regions of the film, and that these regions could accommodate electrons or ions—but not both equally. The softer, non-rigid areas were poor electron conductors but could subtly swell to take in ions, while the opposite was true for rigid regions.

The Luscombe group made new P3HT films that had different levels of rigidity based on variations in polymer arrangement. Tests conducted by the Ginger group showed a clear correlation between polymer arrangement and electrochemical properties. The less rigid and more amorphous polymer layouts yielded films that could swell to let in ions, but were poor conductors of electrons. More crystalline polymer arrangements yielded more rigid films that could easily conduct electrons.

Their results demonstrate how critical the polymer synthesis and layout process is to the film’s electronic and ionic conductance properties. Their findings may even point the way forward in creating polymer devices that can balance the demands of electronic transport and ion transport.

“The implication of these findings is that you could conceivably embed a crystalline material—which could transport electrons—within a material that is more amorphous and could transport ions,” said Ginger. “Imagine that you could harness the best of both worlds, so that you could have a material that is able to effectively transport electrons and swell with ion uptake—and then couple the two with one another.”

See the UW News article for expanded coverage.

To learn more about Professor Ginger and his research, please visit his faculty page and research group website.

To learn more about Professor Luscombe and her research, please visit her faculty page and research group website.

To learn more about the UW Clean Energy Institute, please visit the CEI website.

 

Dan Fu receives a 2017 Beckman Young Investigator Award

Assistant Professor Dan Fu has been selected as one of eight recipients of the 2017 Beckman Young Investigator Award. The Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation aims to support “the most promising young faculty members in the early stages of their academic careers in the chemical and life sciences, particularly to foster the invention of methods, instruments and materials that will open new avenues of research in science.” The recipients were selected from a pool of over 300 applicants after a three-part review led by a panel of scientific experts.

“We are excited to support these amazing researchers,” says Dr. Anne Hultgren, Executive Director of the Foundation. “The Foundation is committed to helping launch our next generation of talented scientists by giving them the funding and flexibility they need to pursue novel areas of study that have the potential for revolutionary breakthroughs.”

Additional coverage of Professor Fu’s research and his Beckman Young Investigator Award can be found in the Summer 2017 issue of the ChemLetter and the July 2017 Perspectives Newsletter from the College of Arts & Sciences.

To learn more about Professor Fu and his research, please visit his faculty page and research group website.

Ashleigh Theberge and Erwin Berthier receive Kavli Microbiome award

Assistant Professor Ashleigh Theberge and Affiliate Assistant Professor Erwin Berthier were selected to receive a Kavli Microbiome Ideas Challenge grant, which supports novel, cross-cutting tools and methods in the field of microbiome research. “The Kavli Microbiome Ideas Challenge is an exciting opportunity to support high risk, interdisciplinary research that does not normally receive traditional funding,” said Tim Donohue, Chair of the Scientific Advisory board for the Kavli Challenge. “The grants selected for funding demonstrated great potential for the generation of novel tools and methods that will be broadly applicable across the many environments and move the field forward in the causal understanding of microbial and community function. The Kavli Foundation is to be commended for investing in this rapidly emerging field with this program.”

The Theberge group, along with collaborator Nancy Keller at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, will use their Kavli grant to develop a tool for deciphering multi-kingdom communication molecules using engineer cellular traps. The team will create new analytical chemistry and engineering tools that pull out key molecules from a mix of molecular noise in order to selectively “listen” to molecular signals produced by specific fungi, bacteria, or human cells.

To learn more about Professor Theberge and her research, please visit her faculty page and research group website.