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Click here to see this online
 
 
 

September 2021

 
 
Head shot of Cathy Murphy, department head, on a gray background  
 

Greetings from the Department Head

A familiar and welcome flurry of activity has returned to the UIUC campus with the start of the new academic year.

Students, faculty and staff are back for mostly in-person course schedules. Some live events and activities have been revived. And vaccine requirements and other protocols are in place to safeguard our university community as we come together again.

I am proud to share that chemistry professors Martin Burke, Paul Hergenrother and chemistry lab technician Kelsie Green were among those to whom University of Illinois President Timothy Killeen presented Presidential Medallions in recognition of their ingenuity, hard work and dedication in the university system’s response to the pandemic.

This and other exciting things are happening in the Department of Chemistry, from innovative research, to plans to integrate data science into our curricula, and new mentoring initiatives for our students and junior faculty.

Looking ahead, we have a long list of things to accomplish this academic year, including hiring new faculty, starting and finishing some undergraduate lab renovations, and continuing our progress on the addition to Roger Adams Laboratory, official name: Center for Applied Molecular Sciences (CAMS). The architectural firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill continues the feasibility study on the roughly 90,0000-square-foot, five story addition. I look forward to sharing details of this project with you when the study is complete.

Thank you for your continuing support, and as always, please stay in touch and stay well. 

Catherine J. Murphy (BS, '86)
Head, Department of Chemistry
Larry R. Faulkner Endowed Chair in Chemistry

 
 
 

 
 
 

Exhibit at Beckman Institute displays first human MRI scanner

 
 
Left: Paul Lauterbur and Big Red, the first human MRI scanner, courtesy of Stony Brook University. Right: Big Red on display in the Illinois MRI Exhibit at Beckman Institute.
 
 

The first two human magnetic resonance imaging scanners, invented by late Chemistry at Illinois faculty member Paul Lauterbur, are on display in an exhibit at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology on the UIUC campus. Lauterbur won the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for work developing MRI.

Learn how the original human MRI scanner, "Big Red," was rediscovered

Read about the incredible legacy of MRI and UIUC's central role in its development.

 
     
 

Chemistry faculty, lab tech awarded Presidential Medallions

 
 
Photo outside on the UIUC quad with Martin Burke, Chancellor Robert Jones, Paul Hergenrother and Timothy Fan.
  From left, Martin Burke, Chancellor Robert Jones, Paul Hergenrother, and Timothy Fan, UIUC Veterinary Clinical Medicine professor
 
 
 
  Photo of Kelsie Green on the Quad with the Presidential Medallion around her neck
  Kelsie J. Green
 

Professors Martin Burke and Paul Hergenrother and lab technician Kelsie J. Green were awarded Presidential Medallions by University of Illinois President Timothy Killeen in an Aug. 23 ceremony attended by Gov. J.B. Pritzker on the UIUC campus. They were among 28 people recognized for their leadership in the development of the SHIELD test-and-trace system and subsequent organizations created to expand its use beyond the system’s universities.

Burke and Hergenrother were instrumental in developing the COVID-19 saliva test and leading the SHIELD program.

 
     
 
  Prof. Peter Beak seated next to his wife, Sandy Beak with DeKai Loo standing behind Peter and his wife, Jianjian, standing behind Sandy in 2013 in Hong Kong.
 

Alumni pay forward support received from Illinois chemistry professors

For more than a decade, Dekai Loo and Jianjian Zhang were subjected to hard labor during the Cultural Revolution in China, which halted their dreams of continuing their education after completing their undergraduate degrees. In their late 30s, they finally got the opportunity to pursue their PhDs in the United States in the Illinois chemistry program.

The alumni are now "paying forward" the support they received from their PhD advisors by establishing two scholarships honoring Gary Schuster and the late Peter Beak.

 
     
 

Scientists model step in hepatitis B viral infection at unprecedented atomic level

 
 
Head shots from left to right of Emad Tajkhorshid, Zhaleh Ghaemi, and Martin Gruebele with illustrations of hepatitus B infection in the background
  From left, Emad Tajkhorshid, Zhaleh Ghaemi, and Martin Gruebele. Photo courtesy of the Tajkhorshid lab.
 
 
 
Researchers in the Department of Chemistry and the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology used advanced computational methodologies to successfully simulate the capsid disassembly step of hepatitis B viral infection at an unprecedented atomic level. Understanding the fundamental steps of viral infection can help design drugs to interrupt these processes and prevent chronic infection. 
 
     
 

Graduate students recognized for inclusive excellence  

 
 
Side by side headshots
  From left, Jazmin Aguilar-Romero, Sarah Krueger, and Katie Stawiasz.
 
 
 

Jazmin Aguilar-Romero and Sarah Krueger, graduate students in Steven Zimmerman's group, were both chosen to receive the annual Women in Chemistry Inclusive Leadership Award. Katie Stawiasz, a graduate student in Jeffrey Moore’s research group, was also recognized, receiving the WIC Inclusive Leadership runner-up award.

 
     
 

Study: Small molecule called ErSO eradicates breast cancer in mice 

 
 
Illustration of the molecular structure of ErSO
 
 

A research team that includes scientists in the Department of Chemistry has discovered a small molecule, ErSO, that kills 95-100 percent of cancer cells in mouse models of human estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancers and their metastases in bone, brain, liver and lungs.

The pharmaceutical company Bayer AG has licensed the new drug and will explore its potential for further study in human clinical trials. The researchers will next explore whether ErSO is effective against other types of cancers that contain estrogen receptor.

 
     
 

Department Awards and Honors

Faculty 

Martin Burke and Paul Hergenrother received Presidential Medallions. Jefferson Chan and David Sarlah were promoted to associate professor. Hee-Sun Han was chosen a 2021 WISTEM2D Scholar Award winner. Prashant Jain was selected the 2021 recipient of Leo Hendrick Baekeland Award. Lisa Olshansky was appointed a Vallee Scholar. Deborah Leckband won a Langmuir Lectureship Award. Joaquín Rodríguez-López was named IAspire Leadership Academy fellow and received an International Society of Electrochemistry award. Charles Schroeder was selected the first James Economy Professor of Materials Science and Engineering. Mei Shen won a Scialog Award. Stephen Sligar was selected for a second research collaboration as Vallee Visiting Professor.

Students

Jazmin Aguilar-Romero, Sarah Krueger and Katie Stawiasz received Women in Chemistry Inclusive Leadership Awards.

Staff

Lab technician Kelsie J. Green was awarded a Presidential Medallion.

 
     
 

Alumni News and Updates

  • Markita del Carpio Landry (PhD, ‘12, Chemla) received a 2022 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Biomedical Science.
  • Christine Herman (PhD, '12, Bailey), a journalist at Illinois Public Media, was a featured speaker for the Virtual Career Seminar Series organized by the Department of Chemistry Graduate Student Advisory Committee (DCGSAC). 
  • Ryan Jadrich (PhD, '14, Schweizer), a data scientist and computational model developer at Los Alamos National Lab was also a featured speaker for the Virtual Career Seminar Series organized by DCGSAC.

We—and other alumni—would love to know what you’ve been up to! Please share your career updates, awards, and other news here.

 
     
 

In Memoriam

Marilyn Kay Nellis (AM/MA, '59), July 21, 2021
Jacklyn (Someroski) Vittimberga (MS, '57), July 23, 2021

Leroy Whitaker (PhD, '55, Adams), June 14, 2021
Joseph Wolinsky (BS, '52), July 2, 2021

 
 
 
Upcoming Events

Illinois Homecoming 2021: Close or Apart, We’re Illini at Heart
October 3–9, 2021
Let us know if you'll be on campus for Homecoming - we'd love to say hello! You can also participate in the virtual 5K from home, or simply keep an eye on social media to be part of the fun from afar.

Chemistry Student Research Lightning Talks
Friday, October 29, 2021
Learn about the exciting research being conducted by current Chemistry students.
To enable as many alumni to attend as possible, this virtual event will be held at two times:
8:00 AM (Central) and 2:00 PM (Central)

Alumni Lecture: Robert K. Yu (PhD, '67, Carter)
2 p.m. (Central), Tuesday, November 16, 2021
"Wandering in the Garden of Sphingolipids Searching for the Resilient Brain"

Alumnus Robert K. Yu, professor in the Department of Neuroscience & Regenerative Medicine in the Medical College at Augusta University in Georgia, will talk about new discoveries involving sphingolipids and their application related to neurodegenerative diseases. (This is a virtual event.)