Brandi Cossairt receives 2018 National Fresenius Award

Congratulations to Associate Professor Brandi Cossairt, named by Phi Lambda Upsilon as the recipient of the 2018 National Fresenius Award.

Phi Lambda Upsilon was founded in 1899 as the first honor society dedicated to a single scientific discipline. There are now 75 chapters with more than 60,000 members. The University of Washington is home to one of the oldest chapters—the Epsilon chapter—chartered in 1910.

Established in 1965, the National Fresenius Award recognizes outstanding chemists whose early achievements have an exceptionally high quality and who show great promise for distinguished careers in chemistry. The award, consisting of a unique metal plaque and an honorarium, is given to “a person under 35 years of age who has made notable contributions to chemical research, education, and/or administration.” The recipient list reflects the society’s success in recognizing excellence and potential for future excellence in chemistry, particularly given that each awardee was nominated for it prior to having reached their thirty-fifth birthday.

Phi Lambda Upsilon announced on their website: “We would like to congratulate the 2018 Fresenius Award winner – Prof. Brandi M. Cossairt of the University of Washington. The Cossairt lab at UW focuses on developing the synthetic inorganic chemistry of molecules and materials for targeted applications in emissive displays, light harvesting, and catalysis. Prof. Cossairt has received a number of awards for her contributions in this area including a Packard Fellowship, a Sloan Research Fellowship, an NSF CAREER Award, and a Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award. She is also an Associate Editor of the ACS journal Inorganic Chemistry.”

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

Samantha Robinson to join instructional faculty

We are delighted to announce that Dr. Samantha Robinson will join the Department of Chemistry as Lecturer, with a focus on introductory-level courses in general and organic chemistry.

Dr. Robinson received her B.S. in chemistry from the University of Iowa. She then received her Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Washington, where she studied inorganic synthesis with Prof. D. Michael Heinekey. Following a year of postdoctoral research at the Institute for Integrated Catalysis at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Dr. Robinson joined the faculty at Seattle Pacific University. As an assistant professor, Dr. Robinson taught lecture and laboratory courses in general chemistry and upper-division inorganic chemistry, with significant curriculum and course development contributions in those areas.

We look forward to having Dr. Robinson join us in September as our fifth lecturer, following the recent departure of Dr. Jasmine Bryant.

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 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.