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.

UW and PNNL launch NW IMPACT in joint pursuit of new materials

UW News story by James Urton

Many innovations of 21st century life, from touch screens and electric cars to fiber-optics and implantable devices, grew out of research on new materials. This impact of materials science on today’s world has prompted two of the leading research institutions in the Pacific Northwest to join forces to research and develop new materials that will significantly influence tomorrow’s world.

With this eye toward the future, the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Washington announced the creation of the Northwest Institute for Materials Physics, Chemistry and Technology — or NW IMPACT — a joint research endeavor to power discoveries and advancements in materials that transform energy, telecommunications, medicine, information technology and other fields. UW President Ana Mari Cauce and PNNL Director Steven Ashby formally launched NW IMPACT during a ceremony on January 31 at the PNNL campus in Richland, WA.

PNNL and UW leaders attend the launch of NW IMPACT at the PNNL campus on Jan. 31. Left-to-right: NW IMPACT co-director David Ginger; UW President Ana Mari Cauce; PNNL Director Steven Ashby; NW IMPACT co-director Jim De Yoreo.

PNNL and UW leaders attend the launch of NW IMPACT at the PNNL campus on Jan. 31. Left-to-right: NW IMPACT co-director David Ginger; UW President Ana Mari Cauce; PNNL Director Steven Ashby; NW IMPACT co-director Jim De Yoreo. Andrea Starr/PNNL

“This partnership holds enormous potential for innovations in materials science that could lead to major changes in our lives and the world,” said Cauce. “We are excited to strengthen the ties between our two organizations, which bring complementary strengths and a shared passion for ground-breaking discovery.”

“The science of making new materials is vital to a wide range of advancements, many of which we have yet to imagine,” said Ashby. “By combining ideas, talent and resources, I have no doubt our two organizations will find new ways to improve lives and provide our next generation of materials scientists with valuable research opportunities.”

The institute builds on a history of successful partnerships between the UW and PNNL, including joint faculty appointments and past collaborations such as the Materials Synthesis and Simulations Across Scales Initiative, the PNNL-led Battery 500 consortium, and the UW Molecular Engineering Materials Center, a new NSF-funded Materials Research Science and Engineering (MRSEC) Center. But NW IMPACT is the beginning of a long-term partnership, forging deeper ties between the UW and PNNL.

The goal is to leverage these respective strengths to enable discoveries, innovations and educational opportunities that would not have been possible by either institution alone.

UW President Ana Mari Cauce speaking with Miqin Zhang, a UW professor of materials science and engineering, at the launch of NW IMPACT on Jan. 31.

UW President Ana Mari Cauce speaking with Miqin Zhang, a UW professor of materials science and engineering, at the launch of NW IMPACT on Jan. 31. Andrea Starr/PNNL

“By partnering the UW and PNNL together through NW IMPACT, the sum will truly be greater than the parts,” said David Ginger, a UW professor of chemistry and chief scientist at the UW Clean Energy Institute. “We are joining together our expertise and experiences to create the next generation of leaders who will create the materials of the future.”

Ginger will co-lead the institution in its initial phase with Jim De Yoreo, chief scientist for materials synthesis and simulation across scales at PNNL and a joint appointee at the UW.

Over its first few years, NW IMPACT aims to hire a permanent institute director, who will be based at both PNNL and the UW; create at least 20 new joint UW-PNNL appointments among existing researchers; streamline access to research facilities at the UW’s Seattle campus and PNNL’s Richland campus for institute projects; involve at least 20 new UW graduate students in PNNL-UW collaborations; and provide seed grants to institute-affiliated researchers to tackle new scientific frontiers in a collaborative fashion.

Some of the areas in which NW IMPACT will initially focus include:

  • Materials for energy conversion and storage, which can be applied to more efficient solar cells, batteries and industrial applications. These include innovative approaches to create flexible, ultrathin solar cells for buildings or fabrics, long-lasting batteries for implantable medical devices, catalysts to enable high efficiency energy conversion and industrial processes, and manufacturing methods to synthesize these materials efficiently for commercial applications.
  • Quantum materials, such as ultrathin semiconductors or other materials that can harness the rules of quantum mechanics at subatomic-level precision for applications in quantum computing, telecommunications and beyond.
  • Materials for water separation and utilization, which include processes to make water purification and ocean desalination methods faster, cheaper and more energy-efficient.
  • Biomimetic materials, which are synthetic materials inspired by the structures and design principles of biological molecules and materials within our cells — including proteins and DNA. These materials could be applicable in medical settings for implantable devices or tissue engineering, and for self-assembled protein-like scaffolds in industrial settings.

“The science of making materials involves understanding where the atoms must be placed in order to obtain the properties needed for specific applications, and then understanding how to get the atoms where they need to be,” said De Yoreo.

NW IMPACT will draw on the unique strengths and talents of each institution for innovative collaborations in these areas. For example, PNNL has broad expertise in materials for improved batteries. The lab also offers best-in-class imaging, NMR and mass spectrometry capabilities at EMSL, the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, a DOE Office of Science user facility. DOE supports fundamental research at PNNL in chemistry, physics and materials sciences that are key to materials development. The UW brings complementary facilities and equipment to the partnership, such as the Washington Clean Energy Testbeds and a cryo-electron microscopy facility, as well as expertise in a variety of “big data” research and training endeavors, highly rated research and education programs, and ongoing materials research projects through the National Science Foundation-funded Molecular Engineering Materials Center.

See the original UW News article for additional photos from the event.

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: http://depts.washington.edu/uwmemc/.

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.

Recent work by Alshakim Nelson published in The Economist

Recent work by Assistant Professor Alshakim and colleagues was published on July 6 in the Science & Technology section of The Economist (“Print me a brewery”), as well as in Geekwire and Digital Trends.

Yeast and other microbial species have long been used in a variety of industrial applications, ranging from alcohol fermentation to pharmaceutical and protein production. Fermentation is typically performed as a batch process, wherein the cells and the necessary metabolites are all introduced into a stirred reactor. Professor Nelson and his research team (Dr. Abhijit Saha, Trevor Johnston, and Ryan Shafranek) developed a process to 3D print yeast cells immobilized within a hydrogel lattice, which could be used for fermentation processes. The advantage of this approach is that these yeast-immobilized 3D printed lattices can potentially reduce reactor downtime, minimize product inhibition, and reduce the total footprint of the reactor. The yeast cells are incorporated into the hydrogel under mild conditions while maintaining the viability and metabolic activity of the embedded cells. The Nelson group has shown that these 3D-printed bioreactors are capable of fermenting solutions of glucose into ethanol, continuously, for upwards of three months.

Future work in this area by the Nelson group will include exploring the lifetimes of the bioreactor devices, while also expanding the portfolio of compounds that the reactors can produce, and the species of microbes they can maintain. Eventually, the group would like to implement these printed reactors in continuous fermentation reactors to produce high-value chemical targets.

To learn more about Professor Nelson and his research, visit his faculty page or research group website.