Sarah Keller, working with Roy Black, affiliate professor of bioengineering, has helped to unravel some of the mystery surrounding the origin of cells in Earth’s ancient oceans. The work, recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, describes the unexpected interaction of the chemical components of RNA and fatty acids and their role in stabilizing the precursors to cellular membranes.
The chemical components crucial to the start of life on Earth may have primed and protected each other in never-before-realized ways. That could mean a simpler scenario for how that first spark of life on the planet came about. Scientists have long thought that life started when the right combination of bases and sugars produced self-replicating ribonucleic acid, or RNA, inside a rudimentary ‘cell’ composed of fatty acids. Under the right conditions, fatty acids naturally form into bag-like structures similar to today’s cell membranes. In testing one of the fatty acids representative of those found before life began – decanoic acid – Keller and Black discovered that the four bases in RNA bound more readily to the decanoic acid than did the other seven bases tested. By concentrating more of the bases and sugar that are the building blocks of RNA, the system would have been primed for the next steps, reactions that led to RNA inside a bag.
Descriptions of the published research can be found on the UW News website and on Babbage, the science and technology blog of The Economist.
To learn more about Professor Keller, visit her faculty page and research group website.
Charles Campbell, Professor and B. Seymour Rabinovitch Endowed Chair in Chemistry, is the recipient of the 2013 Robert Burwell Lectureship in Catalysis of the North American Catalysis Society, sponsored by Johnson Matthey.
The Robert Burwell Lectureship in Catalysis is given in recognition of substantial contributions to one or more areas in the field of catalysis with emphasis on discovery and understanding of catalytic phenomena, catalytic reaction mechanisms and identification and description of catalytic sites and species.
Professor Campbell is being recognized for “bridging the gap between surface science and catalysis, for developing new concepts and tools in both disciplines, and for his service to both communities as Editor-in-Chief of Surface Science. His knowledge and his contributions over the last three decades have encompassed enormous depth and breadth. He has made seminal contributions in (1) developing methods to measure surface bond energies, specifically calorimetry using an apparatus developed by his research group and which currently ranks as the most sensitive heat detection tool for the study of model catalysts; (2) accurate measurements of the binding of metal atoms and nanoparticles to oxides, which has led to mechanistic approaches and fundamental treatments of catalyst sintering; (3) advancing and using microkinetic treatments of catalytic reactions, especially by providing many classic examples of how surface science can contribute to the understanding of catalytic mechanisms; and (4) formalizing the concept of ‘the degree of rate control’ to assess the extent to which individual steps in a catalytic sequence limit reactions rates.”
The award consists of a plaque and an honorarium of $5,000, and is awarded biennially. Professor Campbell will present lectures at the local catalysis clubs and societies during the two-year period covered by this award. The plaque will be presented during the closing banquet ceremonies at the 2015 North American Meeting of the Catalysis Society.
More information about the Robert Burwell Lectureship in Catalysis can be found on the award website.
To learn more about Prof. Campbell and his research, please visit his faculty page and research group page.
The American Society for Mass Spectrometry (ASMS) has awarded Assistant Professor Matt Bush a research award in the amount of $35,000. The ASMS presents two awards annually. Professor Bush’s award is sponsored by the Waters Corporation for the purpose of promoting academic research by young scientists in mass spectrometry. The awards are open to academic scientists within four years of joining the tenure track faculty or equivalent in a North American university.
More information about the ASMS Research Awards can be found on the award website.
To learn more about Prof. Bush and his research, please visit his faculty page and research group page.
Assistant Professor Gojko Lalic has received a CAREER (Faculty Early Career Development) Award from the National Science Foundation. The CAREER 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.” Prof. Lalic received the award for his research proposal, “CAREER: Catalytic Methods for Hydrofunctionalization of Unsaturated Compounds”. The award funds research that will investigate new general strategies for the hydrofunctionalization of unsaturated compounds using transition metal catalysis. In particular, Prof. Lalic will be:
- Investigating the highly selective copper-catalyzed reduction of alkynes to alkenes – a method that avoids common side reactions such as over-reduction and alkene isomerization.
- Studying the copper-catalyzed anti-Markovnikov hydrobromination reactions of terminal alkynes for the preparation of alkenyl bromides. These provide valuable alternatives to stoichiometric methods currently used for the synthesis of this class of compounds.
- Investigating the synthesis of Z- and E-alkenes via the hydroalkylation of alkynes.
- Studying a new general approach to the asymmetric synthesis of quaternary stereocenters based on gold-catalyzed hydrofunctionalization of chiral allenes. Using this approach, new methods for the synthesis of enantioenriched tetrahydrofurans, tetrahydropyrans, chromans, pyrroles, piperidines, and a variety of carbocyles containing quaternary stereocenters are under investigation.
In addition to providing valuable tools for organic synthesis, Prof. Lalic is active in promoting STEM education at two local high schools by contributing to guest lectures and participating in school science fairs and Seattle-area science exhibits.
For more information about this NSF CAREER Award, please visit the award website.
For more information about Gojko Lalic and his research program, please visit his faculty page and his research group page.
Five graduate students working in the Department of Chemistry were awarded National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships, with four additional students receiving an honorable mention. The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions.
NSF Graduate Research Fellowship recipients:
Kimberly Hartstein, Gamelin Research Group
Heidi Nelson, Gamelin Research Group
Dana Sulas, Ginger Research Group
Niket Thakkar (Applied Math), Masiello Research Group
Caroline Weller, Chatterjee, Research Group
Jonathan Goldberg, Heinekey and Goldberg Research Groups
Stephanie Hemmingson, Campbell Research Group
Patrick Lestrange, Li Research Group
Sarah Vorpahl, Ginger Research Group
For more information, visit:
NSF GRFP Awards and Honorable Mentions: https://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/grfp/AwardeeList.do?method=loadAwardeeList
NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program: http://www.nsfgrfp.org/
Professor Robert E. Synovec has been awarded the GCxGC Scientific Achievement Award. He presented a plenary lecture and received his award at the 10th International GCxGC Symposium in May 2013. The GCxGC Scientific Achievement Award recognizes the pioneering contributions of key scientists in promoting two-dimensional gas chromatography (GCxGC) instrumentation, software, and method development and/or applications. Comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography is an analytical technique ideally applicable to the separation of complex samples of volatile and semi-volatile compounds. Professor Synovec and his research group have made significant contributions to this emerging technology since 1998.
To learn more about Professor Synovec’s research, please visit his faculty page and research group website.
Assistant Professor Munira Khalil has been named a 2013 Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar by The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation. The Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Awards Program supports the research and teaching careers of talented young faculty in the chemical sciences. Based on institutional nominations, the program provides discretionary funding to faculty at an early stage in their careers. Criteria for selection include an independent body of scholarship attained within the first five years of their appointment as independent researchers, and a demonstrated commitment to education, signaling the promise of continuing outstanding contributions to both research and teaching. The Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Awards Program provides an unrestricted research grant of $75,000.
To learn more about the Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Awards Program, please visit the Dreyfus Foundation website. To learn more about Prof. Khalil, please visit her website and research group page.
The Computers in Chemistry Division of the American
Chemical Society has awarded Assistant Professor David Masiello the ACS COMP OpenEye Outstanding Junior Faculty Award. His work will be presented at the 2013 Fall ACS meeting in Indianapolis and is titled “Elucidating the
Signatures of Fano Interferences in Electron Energy-Loss and Cathodoluminescence Spectroscopies via Multiscale Electrodynamics Simulations”. The award is presented to up to four outstanding tenure-track junior faculty members based on the novelty and importance of their research. The award aims to assist new faculty members in gaining visibility within the computers in chemistry community.
To learn more about Professor Masiello and his research, please visit his faculty page and research group site.
Professor Karen Goldberg, Nicole A. Boand Endowed Professor of Chemistry and Director of the Center for Enabling New Technologies through Catalysis received the 2012 Hopkins Award and, on March 15, delivered the award lecture titled “Collaboration in Chemistry: Growing the Center for Enabling New Technologies through Catalysis (CENTC), the first NSF Center for Chemical Innovation”. The presentation described Professor Goldberg’s experiences transitioning from a primarily sole-investigator research program to becoming a part of a large-scale multi-investigator collaborative effort to solve big problems in chemistry.
The Paul B. Hopkins Endowed Faculty Award is awarded to a member of the Department of Chemistry faculty to honor outstanding achievement in any area of professional responsibility. The award was established through an endowment from Emeritus Professor B. S. Rabinovitch and awardees are selected by a committee of faculty members. Unlike typical awards, usually given by professional societies or within specific fields of chemistry, the Hopkins Award is given by UW Chemistry faculty to their colleagues for outstanding achievement. Previous Hopkins Award recipients are: James M. Mayer, Frantisek Tureček, Charles T. Campbell, and Alvin L. Kwiram.
Professors Michael Gelb and František Tureček in the Department of Chemistry are being presented with the Gustavus John Esselen Award for Chemistry in the Public Interest for their work in developing a sensitive, specific, and inexpensive technique for detecting genetic diseases in newborns. Lysosomal storage diseases, a group of rare genetic diseases that affect about 1 in every 5000 persons, cause serious abnormalities in children, and often result in premature death. Using the fact that certain errors in metabolism can be detected by enzymatic assays, Professors Gelb and Tureček have developed a multiplex assay technique that uses tandem mass spectrometry to identify these diseases using blood samples that are already routinely collected. The new procedures are so reliable and inexpensive that several states are now mandating that every newborn be tested. The diseases include Gaucher, Krabbe, Pompe, Nieman-Pick, Fabry, and Hurler syndromes. Oftentimes they are evident in the first few years of life but sometimes not apparent until later. Early detection is important for the best chances of effective treatment.
The Gustavus John Esselen Award for Chemistry in the Public Interest honors outstanding scientific achievement in scientific and technical work which contributes to the public well-being and has thereby communicated positive values of the chemical profession. The award is presented annually by the Northeastern Section of the American Chemical Society and has honored such publicly renowned chemists as F. Sherwood Rowland and Mario J. Molina (effect of chlorofluorocarbons on the ozone layer), Carl Djerassi (birth control drugs), and Kary Mullis (polymerase chain reaction). The Esselen Award is given to honor the memory of G. J. Esselen, past chair of the Northeastern Section and founder of Esselen Research Corporation.
In recognition of their contributions, Professors Gelb and Tureček will receive the Gustavus John Esselen Award for Chemistry in the Public Interest on Thursday, April 4, 2013, in a ceremony at Harvard University’s Mallinckrodt Chemistry Laboratories at 8:00 pm. Free and open to the public, the award lecture, to follow the presentation, is entitled “The Chemistry of Next Generation Newborn Screening.” Further information concerning the award can be found on the ACS Northeastern Section website.
To learn more about Professor Gelb, the Harry and Catherine Jaynne Boand Endowed Professor of Chemistry, and his research, please visit his faculty web page or his research group website.
To learn more about Professor Tureček and his research, please visit his faculty web page.