Assistant Professor Alshakim Nelson has received a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation. The CAREER (Faculty Early Career Development) Program is a Foundation-wide program that “offers the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.”
Professor Nelson applies his expertise in organic chemistry, polymer chemistry, and supramolecular chemistry to design stimuli-responsive materials for life science applications. Using interdisciplinary approaches such as living anionic polymerizations, rheological characterization, culturing microbes, and direct-write 3D printing, the Nelson research group is leveraging the stimuli-responsive behavior of materials to facilitate their fabrication or patterning. Ongoing work includes the development of polymer-living cell composite materials (“living materials”) and polymers to create anatomical models for human tissue.
Professor Nelson’s NSF CAREER proposal, “CAREER: Supramolecular engineering of hydrogel forming triblock copolymers,” aims to elucidate molecular-level design principles that can govern and control the physical properties of hydrogels. Improved understanding of the properties of hydrogels—soft materials largely comprised of water with numerous health-related uses (e.g., hygiene, contact lenses, medical implants, wound care)—will foster new design strategies for this important class of materials. In addition to the scientific goals, this project aims to expand access to and interest in polymer science for pre-college and college students and increase diversity within the field. Efforts will include the creation of educational modules to introduce polymer science to K-12, undergraduate, and graduate students, the engagement of disadvantaged and under-represented groups in STEM, and an emphasis on teacher training to maximize the overall impact of this project.
For more information about this NSF CAREER Award, please visit the award website.
Assistant Professor Ashleigh Theberge has been selected to receive a 2018 Beckman Young Investigator Award. She is one of ten recipients selected from applicants across the chemical and life sciences following a three-part review led by a panel of scientific experts.
Through the Beckman Young Investigator Program, 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 Foundation is committed to helping launch the 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.
The NIH High-Risk, High-Reward Research program funds exceptionally creative scientists proposing to use highly innovative approaches to tackle major challenges in biomedical research. The program accelerates scientific discovery by supporting high-risk ideas with high-impact potential, and applicants are encouraged to think outside the box and to pursue exciting, trailblazing ideas in any area of research relevant to the NIH mission.
The NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award, established in 2009, promotes cross-cutting, interdisciplinary approaches and is open to individuals and teams of investigators who propose research that could potentially create or challenge existing paradigms.
Professors Chiu and Vaughan are developing radical new technologies for high-resolution mapping of brain tissue, including circuit-level spatial information down to a resolution of 50 nanometers and comprehensive analysis of the types of proteins present across large regions of the brain. These techniques are needed because it is technically difficult to directly detect large numbers of proteins in brain tissue.
Instead of trying to measure proteins directly, most approaches measure RNA molecules—a precursor to proteins. But RNA detection in spatially complex brain tissue has its flaws. Current approaches struggle with dim signals that are difficult to detect over background noise in complex, thick tissues. Professors Chiu and Vaughan will develop new fluorescent probes to light up RNA molecules in tissues and will use a novel, large-area light sheet microscope—together with sample processing techniques—to rapidly probe large volumes of brain tissue at high spatial resolution.
The work of 2017 NIH award recipients will be featured at the 2018 High-Risk, High-Reward Research Symposium, held June 6-8, 2018 in Bethesda, MD. The symposium is free, open to the public, and will bring together recipients of the NIH Director’s Pioneer, New Innovator, Transformative Research, and Early Independence awards to share their groundbreaking research and discoveries.
Karen Goldberg, an affiliate professor of chemistry at the University of Washington, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Goldberg is one of 84 new members to join, each chosen for “distinguished and continuing achievements in original research,” according to a statement released by the Academy. Their addition brings the total number of active members of the National Academy of Sciences to 2,382.
Goldberg studies catalysts, which are materials that act to increase the rate of chemical reactions. Catalysts are essential for industrial production methods ranging from pharmaceuticals to construction materials. In addition, catalysis methods enable essential laboratory experiments and scientific breakthroughs in chemistry, physics, biology and medical research.
Goldberg’s current research is focused on creating new catalytic methods to synthesize fuels and other chemicals more efficiently. Her approach is to elucidate the mechanisms of reactions that are mediated by organometallic compounds. This new knowledge aids in both understanding current catalytic methods and identifying routes to develop new and innovative catalytic protocols. This work could potentially lead to more sustainable sources of energy as well as other valuable organic chemicals for industrial applications.
Goldberg was a full-time UW faculty member in the Department of Chemistry from 1995 to 2017 and was the Nicole A. Boand Professor of Chemistry at the University of Washington. She moved to the University of Pennsylvania to become a Vagelos Professor of Energy Research and the inaugural Director of the Vagelos Institute for Energy Science and Technology. From 2007 to 2017, she served as director of the National Science Foundation-funded Center for Enabling New Technologies through Catalysis, a consortium of 20 faculty members and research labs at more than a dozen universities and research institutions pursuing innovative approaches to catalysis. Goldberg is a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Washington State Academy of Sciences. In 2016, she received the American Chemical Society Award in Organometallic Chemistry.
The Department of Chemistry congratulates Associate Professor Munira Khalil on her promotion to the rank of professor, effective September 16, 2018.
Research in the Khalil group focuses on the development and application of advanced spectroscopic techniques to understand the ultrafast structural dynamics of light-driven chemical and biological processes in solution. Using multidimensional infrared (IR) and ultrafast x-ray absorption spectroscopies, the Khalil group studies how coupled electron and vibrational motions and their interactions with the surrounding solvent dictate the course of ultrafast charge transfer reactions in chemical and biological systems. This work will ultimately provide fundamental understanding of molecular energetics and the dynamics of chemical reactions, with broad practical applications in the design of new materials and molecular devices.
The Department of Chemistry congratulates Assistant Professor Brandi Cossairt on her promotion to associate professor with tenure, effective September 16, 2018.
The Cossairt research group uses synthetic inorganic chemistry approaches to address key problems related to sustainability, such as developing new, efficient light emitting materials for display technologies, designing catalysts to make fuel from water or carbon dioxide and sunlight, and exploring new inexpensive materials for solar energy harvesting. To advance clean energy technology, the Cossairt group is developing low-tech solution methods to synthesize high-tech electronic materials from Earth-abundant elements, as well as methods to capture and store solar energy in the form of chemical bonds. They have advanced the understanding and control of leading alternatives to replace toxic cadmium-containing materials in solid-state lighting and display applications through innovative syntheses of phosphide nanocrystals, particularly zinc phosphide (Zn3P2) and indium phosphide (InP). They are also building energy conversion devices for water reduction to generate solar H2 based on the motif of catalyst-modified photocathodes, developing new hydrogen evolution catalysts that can be easily attached to electrode or semiconductor surfaces.
The Department of Chemistry congratulates Assistant Professor Stefan Stoll on his promotion to associate professor with tenure, effective September 16, 2018.
The Stoll research group uses cutting-edge magnetic resonance tools to study the structure and function of proteins and enzymes. Central to this work is their use of advanced electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy, a spectroscopic method that provides information on the structure and dynamics of systems with unpaired electrons (i.e., paramagnetic systems)—while conceptually similar to nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), in EPR the magnetic moments observed are electron spins rather than nuclear spins. In addition to continuing contributions to the field of theoretical and computational EPR spectroscopy, particularly through the EasySpin EPR spectra simulation package, the Stoll group is advancing the experimental and theoretical methodology for pulse EPR spectroscopy and its application to important problems in structural biology.
Many innovations of 21st century life, from touch screens and electric cars to fiber-optics and implantable devices, grew out of research on new materials. This impact of materials science on today’s world has prompted two of the leading research institutions in the Pacific Northwest to join forces to research and develop new materials that will significantly influence tomorrow’s world.
PNNL and UW leaders attend the launch of NW IMPACT at the PNNL campus on Jan. 31. Left-to-right: NW IMPACT co-director David Ginger; UW President Ana Mari Cauce; PNNL Director Steven Ashby; NW IMPACT co-director Jim De Yoreo. Andrea Starr/PNNL
“This partnership holds enormous potential for innovations in materials science that could lead to major changes in our lives and the world,” said Cauce. “We are excited to strengthen the ties between our two organizations, which bring complementary strengths and a shared passion for ground-breaking discovery.”
“The science of making new materials is vital to a wide range of advancements, many of which we have yet to imagine,” said Ashby. “By combining ideas, talent and resources, I have no doubt our two organizations will find new ways to improve lives and provide our next generation of materials scientists with valuable research opportunities.”
The goal is to leverage these respective strengths to enable discoveries, innovations and educational opportunities that would not have been possible by either institution alone.
UW President Ana Mari Cauce speaking with Miqin Zhang, a UW professor of materials science and engineering, at the launch of NW IMPACT on Jan. 31. Andrea Starr/PNNL
“By partnering the UW and PNNL together through NW IMPACT, the sum will truly be greater than the parts,” said David Ginger, a UW professor of chemistry and chief scientist at the UW Clean Energy Institute. “We are joining together our expertise and experiences to create the next generation of leaders who will create the materials of the future.”
Ginger will co-lead the institution in its initial phase with Jim De Yoreo, chief scientist for materials synthesis and simulation across scales at PNNL and a joint appointee at the UW.
Over its first few years, NW IMPACT aims to hire a permanent institute director, who will be based at both PNNL and the UW; create at least 20 new joint UW-PNNL appointments among existing researchers; streamline access to research facilities at the UW’s Seattle campus and PNNL’s Richland campus for institute projects; involve at least 20 new UW graduate students in PNNL-UW collaborations; and provide seed grants to institute-affiliated researchers to tackle new scientific frontiers in a collaborative fashion.
Some of the areas in which NW IMPACT will initially focus include:
Materials for energy conversion and storage, which can be applied to more efficient solar cells, batteries and industrial applications. These include innovative approaches to create flexible, ultrathin solar cells for buildings or fabrics, long-lasting batteries for implantable medical devices, catalysts to enable high efficiency energy conversion and industrial processes, and manufacturing methods to synthesize these materials efficiently for commercial applications.
Quantum materials, such as ultrathin semiconductors or other materials that can harness the rules of quantum mechanics at subatomic-level precision for applications in quantum computing, telecommunications and beyond.
Materials for water separation and utilization, which include processes to make water purification and ocean desalination methods faster, cheaper and more energy-efficient.
Biomimetic materials, which are synthetic materials inspired by the structures and design principles of biological molecules and materials within our cells — including proteins and DNA. These materials could be applicable in medical settings for implantable devices or tissue engineering, and for self-assembled protein-like scaffolds in industrial settings.
“The science of making materials involves understanding where the atoms must be placed in order to obtain the properties needed for specific applications, and then understanding how to get the atoms where they need to be,” said De Yoreo.
NW IMPACT will draw on the unique strengths and talents of each institution for innovative collaborations in these areas. For example, PNNL has broad expertise in materials for improved batteries. The lab also offers best-in-class imaging, NMR and mass spectrometry capabilities at EMSL, the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, a DOE Office of Science user facility. DOE supports fundamental research at PNNL in chemistry, physics and materials sciences that are key to materials development. The UW brings complementary facilities and equipment to the partnership, such as the Washington Clean Energy Testbeds and a cryo-electron microscopy facility, as well as expertise in a variety of “big data” research and training endeavors, highly rated research and education programs, and ongoing materials research projects through the National Science Foundation-funded Molecular Engineering Materials Center.
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.
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.
“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.