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November 2021

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

Greetings from the Department Head

Last month, I had the opportunity to connect with some of you during our virtual event, “Catching up with Chemistry,” that was exclusively for alumni and friends of the Department.

I enjoyed seeing familiar faces and getting to know some new ones in addition to answering your questions and sharing recent Illinois Chemistry highlights, which you will find more of in this newsletter. If you didn’t get the chance to attend the event, you can access the video recording online through a link below.

I still look forward to a time when we can host in-person gatherings and events again, but in the meantime we plan to continue providing virtual events, which allow us to connect with our alumni and friends no matter where they are in the world. We offered Catching up with Chemistry at two times on Oct. 29, including an 8 a.m. session that we hoped would be more convenient for those of you in time zones outside the U.S.

What other things can the Department do to help you thrive and stay connected to other Illini chemists? If you have ideas for other types of virtual events, I am all ears. Feel free to share your suggestions by emailing us at chemistry@illinois.edu.

As always, thank you for your continuing support and stay well. 

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



Department of Chemistry 2020-21 Annual Report available  


From creative, groundbreaking research impacting public good to new initiatives advancing the Department of Chemistry’s core mission of educating the next generation of chemists, the 2020-2021 academic year was a good year, despite COVID-19.

The digital edition of the 2020-21 Annual Report, which provides an overview of the past academic year, is now available on the Department website. Digital versions of Annual Reports from previous years are also available on the website.

The 2020-21 edition features a timeline of Department news highlights in addition to interesting data and facts about our alumni, faculty and students as well as a summary of gifts to the Department and a data snapshot of research funding and projects for the year.


Technique rapidly isolates, characterizes organelles in cells

Photo of research team members standing side-by-side in the lab in front of equipment used in this project
  From left, professor Stanislav Rubakhin, molecular and integrative physiology graduate research assistant Dan Castro, professor Jonathan Sweedler, professor Elena Romanova and bioengineering graduate research assistant Yuxuan Richard Xie. Photo by L. Brian Stauffer

A research team that was led by professor Jonathan Sweedler and also includes chemistry research professor Elena Romanova has developed a new analytical technique that tests the limits of analytical chemistry. Rapidly isolating and chemically characterizing individual organelles within cells, the technique reveals the chemical composition of organelles that control biological growth, development and disease.

“Cells are not just little sacks full of chemicals,” said Sweedler, James R. Eiszner Family Endowed Chair in Chemistry. “They contain organelles that perform specific functions. The ability to characterize the chemical composition of individual organelles should lead to a better understanding of how cells develop and express diseases.”


H.N. Cheng (PhD, ’74) still sees the possibilities in chemistry

  Head shot of H.N. Cheng

A research chemist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and President of the American Chemical Society, H.N. Cheng (PhD, '74) continues to "see future possibilities" in his research developing green chemistry methodologies related to agro-based materials and using them to produce eco-friendly and sustainable products.

In an alumni profile, Cheng reflects on his work as a chemist, his time as a graduate student at Illinois and his current term as president of the American Chemical Society.

Cheng is the 26th Illinois chemistry alum or faculty member to serve as President of ACS. Find out who else is on the list.


Light in, sound out: Molecular probe targets disease

image of Jefferson Chan in the lab, talking about his research

Chemistry professor Jefferson Chan and his team are creating small-molecule photoacoustic probes that, when excited by laser light, emit sound waves that help them non-invasively detect the biomarkers of harmful substances in the body. Recent work successfully targeted excess copper in tissue, like that found in the livers of Wilson's disease sufferers.


Developing a rapid point-of-care-device for detecting sepsis

  Head shot of chemistry professor Hee-Sun Han

Early detection of sepsis is a critical need in the healthcare industry, and an Illinois research team that includes chemistry professor Hee-Sun Han, the Mark A. Pytosh Scholar, has received a $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop a rapid and accurate point-of-care device for early detection of the life-threatening medical condition.

Currently there are no tools in existence with this capability, so this proposed approach could transform how sepsis is diagnosed by making it possible to monitor a patient's inflammatory status in real-time with a bedside test. 



Event recording: "Catching up with Chemistry"


Department Head Catherine J. Murphy met virtually with alumni and friends of the Department in an exclusive event on Oct 29, 2021, that featured updates on some of the latest Illinois Chemistry news and highlights. A recording of the event is now available on Illinois Media Space.


Getting to know: Graduate student Catherine Jalomo

  Head shot of Catherine Jalomo standing in front of the entrance to Roger Adams Laboratory

A second-year PhD candidate in the research groups of professors Steve Zimmerman and Cathy Murphy, Catherine Jalomo is working on functionalized gold nanoparticles for bioapplications. She never imagined as a kid that she would be on a path to a PhD in chemistry.

A native of Fresno, Californa, Jalomo is a first-generation college student with a BS in chemistry from Fresno Pacific University and the first among her three college-graduate siblings to pursue a graduate degree. The Illinois chemistry program met the three preferences she was looking for in a graduate program.


Department Awards and Honors



  • Six chemistry undergraduate students are new recipients of TechnipFMC Scholarships for the 2021-22 academic year: Andrew Feng, Austin Huang, Claire Zimmerman, Conrad Milton, Evan Dray, and Aryann Mei.

Alumni News and Updates

  • Matthew D. Alvin (BS, ’09) has joined Rhode Island Medical Imaging as a radiologist.
  • Richie Kohman (PhD, ’09, Zimmerman) was appointed Chief Scientific Officer by The Wyss Center.
  • Timothy Loftus (BS, ’02) has joined the University of Miami School of Law as the Health Disparities Project Fredman Family Foundation Practitioner-in-Residence and Lecturer.
  • Robert Yu (PhD, ’67, Carter) was the featured speaker for the Department of Chemistry's Alumni Lecture on Nov. 16, 2021. He is a professor in the Department of Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine within the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University.

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

George Craig Atkinson (BS, '82), August 21, 2021
George P. Speranza (MS, '49; PhD, '51; Fuson), August 22, 2021

Upcoming Events

LAS Winter Convocation
December 18, 2021, 1:30 PM
Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, UIUC Campus

ACS Alumni & Friends Reception (tentative)
March 20, 2022 (San Diego, CA)
We are tentatively planning to resume our alumni and friends receptions in conjunction with the ACS Spring 2022 National Meeting. More details to come!

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