David Ginger, Sotiris Xantheas elected to the Washington State Academy of Sciences

Professor David Ginger and Affiliate Professor Sotiris Xantheas are among the 29 new members of the Washington State Academy of Sciences, in recognition of their “outstanding record of scientific and technical achievement and willingness to work on behalf of the Academy to bring the best available science to bear on issues within the state of Washington.” The Washington State Academy of Sciences provides expert scientific and engineering analysis to inform public policy-making, and works to increase the role and visibility of science in the State of Washington. The new members, elected based on their achievements, will be inducted during the academy’s eleventh annual meeting at the Seattle Museum of Flight on September 13, 2018.

  • David S. Ginger, Jr., Alvin L. and Verla R. Kwiram Professor of Chemistry, University of Washington, “pioneered the application of scanning probe and multimodal microscopy to study the optoelectronic properties of thin film semiconductor materials including organic semiconductors, quantum dots, and halide perovskites.”
  • Sotiris Xantheas, Laboratory Fellow, PNNL and Affiliate Professor of Chemistry, UW-PNNL Distinguished Faculty Fellow, “is renowned for his physical chemistry research involving the nature of intermolecular interactions in aqueous clusters and liquid water/ice. He has served the scientific community through participation in Department of Energy and National Science Foundation workshops and advisory committees, where he has focused on computation’s role in addressing topics such as advanced materials, catalysis, and carbon management.”

As the WSAS noted in their press release, of the 29 new members, 16 were elected directly by the WSAS membership, while the other 13 reflect “a re-doubling of WSAS’s efforts to invite members of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine living in Washington State to serve as members of our Academy.” Professors Ginger and Xantheas were among those directly elected by the WSAS membership, which has a total of 286 members including those newly elected.

For more information about Prof. Ginger and his research, visit his faculty page or his research group website.

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

Ashleigh Theberge receives a 2018 Beckman Young Investigator Award

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.

For her selection as a Beckman Young Investigator by the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation Board of Directors, Professor Theberge will receive up to $600,000 over four years in support of her proposed research, Uncovering Chemical Signals in Complex Cellular Environments with Open Microfluidic Methods.

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

Additional coverage provided by the UW College of Arts & Sciences

Alshakim Nelson receives NSF CAREER Award

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.

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

Chiu, Vaughan receive NIH Transformative Research Award

Assistant Professor Joshua Vaughan and Professor Daniel Chiu are among the eight awardees selected by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for a 2017 NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award. This program is one of four in the NIH High-Risk, High-Reward Research program, which funded 86 awards to scientists working in biomedical research in 2017.

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.

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

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

Adapted by Diana Knight from a October 6, 2017 story by Jennifer Langston of UW News and Leila Gray of UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine.

Karen Goldberg elected to the National Academy of Sciences

UW News story by James Urton

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.

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.

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 American Chemical Society’s Division of Biological Chemistry.

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 on Sunday, August 19, at the 256th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.

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

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.