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   JANUARY 2021  

    I: Community Update
January is National Mentoring Month
Getting to Know: Daniel Najera
    II: Community News
NOBCChE Black History Month Conference
New Faculty Member Nick Jackson
2020 Science Image Challenge
Serenity Desmond, LAS Awardee
Women's Resource Center Services
    III: Upcoming Events
Beyond the Elements, a NOVA series
NOBCChE Black History Month Conference
ACS Student Chapter & RSO Involvement Fair
NIH Mental Health and Well-Being Seminars
    IV: Resources
Royal Society of Chemistry Diversity Report
Chemistry Women Mentorship Network
National Research Mentoring Network
Advisor/Advisee Compacts



January is National Mentoring Month

Happy New Year, everyone! We hope 2021 is starting well for you. This month is National Mentoring Month, and it also marks the second anniversary of the launch of the "Community, Culture and Climate" newsletter. Archived issues can be found on the department website, which has a new appearance. It is the result of mostly minor design changes that align our website with new campus branding standards. The vast majority of the content remains the same.

Head shot of Daniel Najera 

Ph.D. student Daniel Najera grateful for mentors, mentoring opportunities

Reflecting on his educational path that began in Mexico and brought him to the United States at age 16, graduate student Daniel Najera credits the support and influence of multiple mentors.

“My mom has always been my greatest inspiration. She worked so hard to give me the opportunity to pursue my goals,” said Najera, a doctoral student in The Fout Group, who was born in the U.S. and raised in Mexico until moving to Texas in high school to pursue educational opportunities. 

Throughout his education, Najera credits individual mentors and mentoring programs that have inspired, guided, and supported him on his current journey to a Ph.D. in chemistry.

“Suffice to say I have been, and still am, blessed to have great mentors who have helped me along the way,” Najera said.

Read his story here.



Portrait of Tyrone Hayes, left, in a blue collared shirt with arms crossed, leaning against a tree, and a portrait, on the right, of Sibrina Collins, a in a suit jacket and shirt with arms crossed on a gray portrait background.

NOBCChE conference features two dynamic keynote speakers.

The UIUC chapter of the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers is hosting a two-day virtual conference Feb. 19-20, 2021, in honor of Black History Month and in celebration of Black chemists and chemical engineers who have laid the foundation and are conducting groundbreaking research. Register now for this conference that is free and open to the public. 

The event will feature research presentations, panel discussions, and two keynote speakers, Professor Tyrone B. Hayes, an integrative biology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and Dr. Sibrina N. Collins, executive director of the Marburger STEM Center. 

  • Feb. 19 keynote address: The St. Elmo Brady Lecture will feature Hayes, whose research focuses on the role of steroid hormones in amphibian development. A Harvard University graduate in biology, he earned his Ph.D. in integrative biology from UC Berkeley, where he has been a professor since 1992. "A Valuable Reputation" in The New Yorker chronicles how Hayes devoted more than a decade studying atrazine, a herbicide made by Syngenta, and how his reputation was impacted after he said that the chemical was harmful. He was also recently highlighted in a Mercury News article, "Black at UC Berkeley: Professor Tyrone Hayes on discrimination in academia."
  • Feb. 20 keynote address: The Black History Month Lecture will feature Collins, an inorganic chemist and STEM administrator who is the founding executive director of the Marburger STEM Center at Lawrence Technological University. The Center is the intellectual home of campus-wide STEM initiatives at LTU and promotes inclusiveness, excellence, creativity, and innovation. Collins was recently featured in C&E News Career Ladder. She said her keynote address will be "The Importance of Storytelling in Chemical Education," based on her recent paper in Nature Chemistry. She said she would also mention an LTU student film, “Women Untold,” a profile of chemist Alice Augusta Ball. Collins said she encourages students and faculty to watch the film.
 Head shot of Nick Jackson on light gray background

New theoretical chemist Nick Jackson joins Illinois chemistry faculty 

The Department of Chemistry welcomes Professor Nick Jackson, who has officially joined the faculty this semester after finishing his previous position as an assistant scientist at Argonne National Laboratory.

After a bachelor's in physics, Jackson earned his Ph.D. in 2016 at Northwestern University in theoretical and computational chemistry, studying optoelectronic processes in semiconducting polymers and small molecules. He then accepted a Maria Goeppert Mayer Fellowship at Argonne National Laboratory, where he was promoted in 2019 to assistant scientist in the Materials Science Division at Argonne. 

Just before moving to Urbana-Champaign earlier this month, Jackson said he was "excited to get started." 

He has graduate students onboard his research group and continues to recruit. He is also teaching Chem 442, an undergraduate physical chemistry course. His office is 350E Noyes Lab in the Center for Theoretical Chemistry.

Read more about Jackson and his research.

 Processed, confocal fluorescence image showing human lung differentiation. Epithelial cells recovered from aerosol exposure and differentiated into goblet (green), ciliated (orange) and club (red) cells, and nuclei stained in blue.

Chemistry research images win 2020 SCS Science Image Challenge

Congratulations to all of the Department of Chemistry winners and finalists in the 2020 Science Image Challenge sponsored by the School of Chemical Sciences!

Chemistry research images won both categories this year, and three other research images were among the five finalists. This year's winner in the Main Category was graduate student Tianle Chen in the lab of Emad Tajkhorshid, an affiliate faculty member in chemistry and faculty member in the Center for Biophysics & Quantitative Biology. And the Cover Art Category winner was chemistry Professor Xing Wang and Tulsi Voralia, senior art editor for Nature Research. 

Thank you to Taras Pogorelov for organizing the challenge again this year. And thank you to all the researchers who submitted images.

 Head shot of Serenity Desmond

Serenity Desmond selected to receive LAS Academic Professional Award

The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences has recognized Serenity Desmond, teaching laboratory coordinator in the Department of Chemistry, with the college's Academic Professional Award.

She is one of seven staff and academic professionals recognized for outstanding contributions to the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences in 2020-21. The recognition comes with a $1,000 award and a $1,000 salary increment supported by LAS alumni donations.

Desmond coordinates the chemistry teaching labs (100-400 level), oversees these spaces' safety and operations, and creates and provides lab-specific training for teaching assistants. 

“She functions as the local safety officer, waste disposal officer, maintenance head, assessor of experiment success, and, during COVID-19, something of an informal counselor,” one colleague said. “She keeps our teaching laboratories up and running.”

The recipients will be honored during a virtual ceremony in March.

 Image of a poster with information about Women's Resources confidential advising.

Women's Resource Center reminds students of services available

The Women’s Resources Center (WRC) is continuing to offer Sexual Misconduct Advocacy Services to students. Isolation, worries over physical and mental health, and real concerns over safety on campus have a profound impact on individuals’ overall health and wellbeing, so with the start of a new semester, the WRC is reaching out to remind the campus community that confidential support is available to students prior to any formal reporting as well as during and even after reporting. Confidential Advisors have been working throughout the pandemic using both phone and virtual support services. The center is also conducting walk-in services for those who cannot safely meet virtually or over the phone, Monday through Thursday.




Beyond the Elements, a NOVA series

Premieres at 8 pm CT, Feb. 3, 2021, on PBS

This three-part NOVA series begins on Feb. 3 and delves into the fascinating chemistry that makes our world and everything in it. The series features some of our University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign scientists, and our department Head Cathy Murphy has served as a science advisor for the series. Look for her name in the credits! Here is NOVA's description of this three-part series:

"Picking up where he left off in NOVA’s popular special, Hunting the Elements, David Pogue sets out on a worldwide quest to find the key molecules and chemical reactions that have paved the way for human civilization, life, and even the universe as we know it. And along the way, he uncovers the simple principles that produce such a dizzying diversity of matter from elements on the periodic table."

UIUC NOBCChE 2021 Black History Month Conference

5 pm to 7:15 pm CT, Friday, Feb. 19, 2021, and 9 am to 1 pm CT, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021

Join the UIUC NOBCChE chapter to celebrate Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers in honor of Black History Month. The two-day virtual conference includes keynote addresses, research presentations, and panel discussions on a wide range of topics: Registration information and more.

Join the ACS UIUC Student Chapter at RSO Involvement Fair

11 am to 3 pm CT, Feb. 3, 2021, Zoom link (Meeting ID: 265 381 8851 Password: ACS)

If you are interested in becoming a member of the American Chemical Society's UIUC Student Chapter, stop by (virtually) the RSO involvement fair on Feb. 3. The Student Chapter Executive Board is hosting a Zoom meeting to learn what ACS can offer you and your academic career. Anyone is welcome to attend, regardless of major.

NIH Seminar Series: The Mental Health and Well-Being of Researchers

Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders, 1 pm - 3:15 pm ET, Feb. 1, 2021, virtual seminar

The National Institutes of Health's Office of Intramural Training & Education has monthly virtual seminars focused on the health and well-being of the sciences' research workforce. The program is open to trainees at all educational levels and administrative staff, faculty, and other research supervisors at universities, the NIH, and other research institutions. Read more about the program and find information, registration links, and a schedule for upcoming seminars, including the next in the series on Feb. 1.




Royal Society of Chemistry publishes first analysis of diversity

The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) is one of the first publishers to gather and report diversity data across the organization, launching its first biennial diversity report on Dec. 16, 2020. These new figures for 2020 reveal the representation of women, racial or ethnic minorities, and sexual minorities among its leadership, prize and grant winners, and publishing pipeline.
Read the article in Chemistry World.

Chemistry Women Mentorship Network (ChemWMN)

The goal of this organization is to create a national network of women in chemistry to provide support, encouragement, and mentorship for young women considering continuing their education or pursuing careers in academia.

National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN)

Consider the myNRMN, a social networking platform for students and researchers to connect with one another for anything from general questions about research and professional development as a scientist to scheduling more formal mentorship appointments one-on-one or as a group.

Advisor/Advisee Compacts
Graduate Student and Advisor Relationship Compact 
Postdoc and Advisor Relationship Compact

Please find frameworks for ensuring that both the PI and the postdoc/graduate student's interests are aligned. This resource describes what the advisor expects of their postdoc/graduate student and what the postdoc/graduate student expects of their advisor. Please find an example of such a contract by Dr. Trina McMahon at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.