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.

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 promoted to Professor

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.

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

Brandi Cossairt promoted to Associate Professor with Tenure

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.

For more information about Professor Cossairt and her research program, please visit her faculty page and research group site.

Stefan Stoll promoted to Associate Professor with Tenure

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.

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

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.

For more information, please visit the UW Molecular Engineering Materials Center website:

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.