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.

 

Bo Zhang promoted to Professor

The Department of Chemistry congratulates Associate Professor Bo Zhang on his promotion to Professor, effective September 16, 2017.

Professor Zhang’s research focuses on the development and application of electroanalytical measurement tools to study single electrochemical events and processes. The Zhang group uses nanometer-scale electrodes to study electron transfer reactions of single molecules and single metal nanoparticles, electrocatalysis, and mass transport at the electrode/solution interface. This work is being conducted in pursuit of fundamental understanding of heterogeneous electron-transfer reactions and electrode/solution interfaces as well as single-cell chemistry and biological function such as neuronal secretion and brain activity.

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

Alexandra Velian to join faculty

We are delighted to announce that Dr. Alexandra Velian will join us as Assistant Professor of Chemistry.

Dr. Velian completed her undergraduate studies in chemistry at Caltech, where she conducted research with Professor Jonas C. Peters prior to developing the synthesis of low-valent mono- and bimetallic complexes supported by a rigid terphenyl diphosphine framework with Professor Theodor Agapie. She received her Ph.D. under the direction of Professor Christopher C. Cummins at MIT, where she developed the synthesis of anthracene and niobium-supported precursors to reactive phosphorus fragments and studied their behavior using chemical, spectroscopic, and computational methods. Notably, this work gave rise to the synthesis of the 6π all-inorganic aromatic anion heterocycle P2N3, produced in the “click” reaction of P2 with the azide ion. She is currently a Materials Research Science & Engineering Center postdoctoral fellow with Professor Colin Nuckolls at Columbia University, where she is working to create well-defined functional nanostructures by linking atomically precise metal chalcogenide clusters.

Dr. Velian will launch her research program at the University of Washington in July 2017. Her independent program will focus on the development of synthetic strategies to access new generations of molecular and heterogeneous inorganic catalysts and electronic materials. In the long term, she seeks to contribute fundamental understanding of chemical processes happening at the surface of semiconductor materials. With a primary foothold in inorganic and organometallic chemistry, her research program will interface with chemical engineering and materials science.

For more information about Dr. Velian and her research, please visit her faculty page or contact her directly via avelian@uw.edu.

Champak Chatterjee promoted to Associate Professor with Tenure

The Department of Chemistry congratulates Assistant Professor Champak Chatterjee on his promotion to associate professor with tenure, effective September 16, 2017.

Research in the Chatterjee group focuses on various aspects of protein regulation by reversible chemical modifications. By investigating how the biophysical and biochemical properties of key bacterial and human proteins change with their modification states, the Chatterjee group is uncovering the molecular mechanisms that drive critical events in cell growth and survival, such as gene transcription and protein degradation. This mechanistic knowledge enables the design of therapeutics that selectively target protein-mediated processes that are misregulated in a wide range of human diseases.

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

Open tenure-line faculty position in inorganic chemistry

UW_W-Logo_RGBApplications are invited for a full-time, tenure-track appointment in the Department of Chemistry. Outstanding candidates in all areas of inorganic chemistry and interdisciplinary areas involving inorganic chemistry will be considered for appointment at the Assistant or Associate Professor level; a hire at the Professor level may be considered in exceptional circumstances.

University of Washington faculty members engage in teaching, research, and service. Successful candidates will be expected to participate in undergraduate and graduate teaching and to develop innovative, vigorous, externally-funded research programs. Applicants must have a Ph.D. or foreign equivalent degree by date of appointment.

For information about the Department and to apply, visit http://apply.interfolio.com/38686; applications should include a cover letter, curriculum vitae, statement of future research interests, and (at the Assistant Professor rank) three letters of reference. Priority will be given to complete applications received by November 14, 2016. The search will be led by Professor Julia Kovacs; please direct all inquiries or disability accommodation requests to search@chem.washington.edu.

University of Washington is an affirmative action and equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, age, protected veteran or disabled status, or genetic information.

Sotiris Xantheas to join faculty

xantheas-squareWe are delighted to announce that Sotiris S. Xantheas has joined the Department as Affiliate Professor of Chemistry. He also holds the title of UW-PNNL Distinguished Faculty Fellow.

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.

As Affiliate Professor of Chemistry with graduate faculty status, Dr. Xantheas is able to serve as a graduate advisor. Dr. Xantheas’ research facilities are located on the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory campus in Richland, WA.

For more information, please visit his faculty page, his PNNL staff page, or contact him directly via email at xantheas@uw.edu.

Sarah Keller wins 2017 Avanti Award in Lipids

kellerThe Biophysical Society has announced Professor Sarah Keller as the recipient of the 2017 Avanti Award in Lipids. Avanti Polar Lipids, Inc. established this annual award to be given by the Biophysical Society in recognition of an investigator’s outstanding contributions to understanding of lipid biophysics. Professor Keller will be honored at the Awards Symposium on February 14, 2017, during the Society’s 61st Annual Meeting in New Orleans.

In their announcement, the Biophysical Society stated that Professor Keller “is being recognized for her seminal work that has contributed to the understanding of phase behavior of multicomponent lipid membranes.” She is among the youngest recipients for this honor, in terms of years since Ph.D. at the time of award. Her numerous professional accolades include two previous BPS awards: the 2014 Thomas Thompson Award, which recognizes an outstanding contribution in the field of membrane structure and assembly, and the 2005 Margaret Oakley Dayhoff Award, which is given to a woman who holds very high promise or has achieved prominence while developing the early (pre-tenure) stages of a career in biophysical research.

Professor Keller is a biophysicist who investigates self-assembling soft condensed matter systems, primarily centered around how simple lipid mixtures within bilayer membranes give rise to complex phase behavior. In addition to her primary work in Chemistry, she is also Adjunct Professor of Physics, and previously served as Associate Dean for Research Activities in the College of Arts and Sciences.

For more information about Professor Keller and her research, please visit her faculty page and her research group website.

Nature Methods cover article details refined, accessible technique for expansion microscopy

dividing_finalCongratulations to Assistant Professor Joshua Vaughan and his UW co-workers, whose recent work was featured on the cover of Nature Methods. Their report details the development of a simplified method to “inflate” cellular structures for use in an imaging technique known as expansion microscopy.

Efforts to improve the resolution of cellular structures typically focus on addressing the limitations of microscope hardware. With expansion microscopy, higher resolution is achieved through physical alteration of the specimen. By linking swellable polymers to customized fluorophores, researchers can physically expand the specimen to enable super-resolution microscopy with a conventional laboratory microscope.

As noted in the journal, Vaughan and co-workers have “developed and characterized new methods for linking fluorophores to the polymer that now enable expansion microscopy with conventional fluorescently labeled antibodies and fluorescent proteins.” By simplifying the procedure and expanding fluorophore options, they came up with separate approaches to provide high resolution imaging of individual cells and of tissue slices. In addition to facilitating a range of biological studies, these refinements broadly expand access to the technique, enabling researchers to use a variety of conventional fluorophores and ordinary laboratory microscopes to achieve high resolution cellular imaging.

More information about this work can be found in Nature Methods and in the UW News press release.

For more information about Professor Vaughan and his research, please visit his faculty page and research group website.