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September 2019

Department Head Martin Gruebele sitting at his desk 
Martin Gruebele 

Greetings from the Department Head

We recently welcomed back thousands of students to campus. Our chancellor, Dr. Robert Jones, has been especially hard at work preparing for their return.

As they all begin to settle into the routine of a new semester and new academic year, I invite you to catch up on our recent activities and meet our own newest class of students.

 Enleyona Weir, first Brady Scholar

HBCU summer research partnership continues the legacy of St. Elmo Brady

You’re probably familiar with Illinois alumnus St. Elmo Brady, who in 1916 became the first African American to receive a Ph.D. in chemistry in the United States. What you might not know is that, after leaving Illinois, Brady went on to found chemistry programs at Tougaloo College, Howard University, Fisk University, and Tuskegee University—four Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

To strengthen that shared legacy, we recently established the St. Elmo Brady Scholars Program, which provides summer research opportunities at Illinois for undergraduates from these four institutions.

Meet Enleyona Weir, our first Brady Scholar, and learn about her summer at Illinois.

 Two teenage girls doing experiments at Day Camp with a female University of Illinois student volunteer watching

Annual day camps offer opportunity for students, faculty to connect with community

On June 29 and July 13, more than 100 local middle school girls attended the 11th annual Bonding with Chemistry Day Camp for Girls, organized by the Women Chemists Committee.

Led by current graduate students and faculty, the camps encourage girls entering 6th-8th grades to become excited about chemistry.

 Headshots of Aastha Sharma, Nitya Satyavolu, Yiming Wang & Dinumol Devasia

A conversation with international Ph.D. students and alumnus

International students make up almost 30% of the Department of Chemistry student population.

To understand the unique challenges faced by international students and their experience at Illinois, we interviewed two graduate students and an alumnus.

 7 Tesla MRI machine

Collaborative investment in 7 Tesla MRI will impact Illinois research and patient care

Carle Foundation Hospital and the University of Illinois are launching an exciting, first-of-its-kind partnership to conduct both basic and applied research to advance and improve patient care. Chemistry at Illinois was one of several units that collaborated to make the partnership possible.

Twenty years in the making, the new leading-edge medical imaging research collaboration is finally becoming a reality.


 Prashant Jain headshot

Prashant Jain receives the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers

Prashant Jain received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), which was announced by President Donald J. Trump on July 2 of this year.

PECASE is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government to outstanding scientists and engineers, in the beginning of their independent careers, who show exceptional potential for leadership at the frontiers of scientific knowledge in this century.

Read more>>

 Headshots of Alison Fout, Yi Lu and Joaquín Rodríguez-López

Round two of Discovery Fund will support research by Fout, Lu, and Rodríguez-López

The Discovery Fund, established in 2018 and supported by a generous gift from chemistry alumni Ving Lee (Ph.D., ‘75, Rinehart) and May Lee (Ph.D., ‘76, Rinehart), provides funding for innovative research in the Department of Chemistry.

The fall 2019 round of funding will support research on enhanced MRI sensitivity (Prof. Alison Fout), genetic engineering (Prof. Yi Lu), and improved environmental pollutant monitoring (Prof. Joaquín Rodríguez-López).

Read more>>

 Xiaoming Chen and Peixin He headshots

Peixin He and Xiaoming Chen to receive Dean's Quadrangle Award

Peixin He (Ph.D., '85, Faulkner) and Xiaoming Chen will be honored by the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences (LAS) in October with the Dean’s Quadrangle Award. The award recognizes those who have personified the unique benefits and responsibilities that define liberal arts and science education throughout their lives and careers, and who have maintained a lifelong personal bond with the college.

Previous Illinois Chemistry recipients include John Witt (Ph.D., '61, chemistry) and Margaret Witt in 2018, Ted Brown (professor emeritus of chemistry) and Audrey Brown (BA, '89, religious studies) in 2015, Richard L. Wasson (BS, '53, chemistry) in 2013, Robert Springborn (BS, '51, chemistry) and Carolyn Springborn in 2011, and James L. Foght (MS, '60; Ph.D., '63, chemistry) in 2005.

 Steven Zimmerman headshot

Zimmerman polyurethane research reaches one goal; now to make it more affordable

The Zimmerman group has found a way to degrade polyurethane at room temperature instead of by high heat with toxic byproducts. What they end up with is a glue more powerful than Super Glue. The only draw-back: the cost.

Listen to his BBC Newshour interview (45:00-48:24) (or read more here).

 University of Illinois Entrepreneurship logo

Explore the Entrepreneurship Portal

Illini have founded companies all over the world. Explore this crowdsourced list of companies with founders affiliated with the University of Illinois.

Is your company missing? Add it to the list here.


Alumni News & Updates

  • Bryan Barton (Ph.D., ‘10, Rauchfuss) was named Young Investigator in the ACS division of organic chemistry for work he and colleagues did for Dow from 2010-2015 on shifting the oxidation pathways of polyethylene to create graphitic species in good carbon yield. Barton is a group leader in DuPont’s Chemical Mechanical Planarization business, within the Electronic and Imaging division.
  • St. Elmo Brady (Ph.D., 1916) will be a posthumous recipient of the Sankofa Award at Illinois.
  • H. N. Cheng (Ph.D., ‘74, Gutowsky) is a candidate for the 2020 American Chemical Society President-Elect.
  • Markita Landry (Ph.D., ‘12, chemical physics) has been named one of c&en’s 2019 Talented Twelve. She was one of the founding members of the SACNAS chapter at Illinois and is currently an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at UC Berkeley.

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


In Memoriam


Upcoming Events

LAS Young Alumni Happy Hour
Thursday, September 19 (Chicago, IL)

Foundation’s 84th Annual Meeting: The Collective Power of Giving
October 10-12, 2019 (Urbana, IL)

October 13-19, 2019 (Urbana, IL)

Illini Days
November 18-22, 2019 (Chicago, IL)


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