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November 2020

Head shot of Cathy Murphy, department head, on a gray background 
Greetings from the Department Head
This fall has been so strange for all of us. As we approach fall break later this month, classes are still a hybrid of in-person and online instruction and will transition totally online after the break. Research operations are still not at full strength due to social distancing protocols that must be observed in the labs to keep everyone safe. Yet we are thankful for the health that we have and the progress we are still making.
I encourage you to read the recent C&EN feature about the innovative work of our faculty members, Martin Burke and Paul Hergenrother, who have been leading the university's response to the pandemic as members of the SHIELD team. Their ongoing work has kept the rate of COVID-19 cases on campus very low, enabling students to remain on campus this semester.
I am pleased to offer congratulations to alumna Hye Kyung Timken (PhD, '87, Oldfield), a Chevron fellow, who was honored October 29 with an Alumni Achievement Award from the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and graciously shared her research and development work in a virtual lecture. I also want to thank alumni Tripta Holtz (BS, '10), Yantao Hughes (PhD, '03), Mark Pytosh (BS, '86) and Olaseni Sode (PhD, '12) who shared their career experiences and advice with our students and faculty during the virtual Alumni Panel on October 2. We appreciate the support of all of our alumni and look forward to a time when we can safely meet again in person. 
I continue to be impressed by the resilience of our faculty, students and staff as we navigate these troubled times. The Department of Chemistry is part of you and is here for you. Check out our website and social media to learn about all the amazing people we have and the amazing science they are doing. 
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
 Photo of Doug Mitchell standing on an outdoor balcony overlooking U of I campus
Doug Mitchell's lasso peptide research leads to start-up company
A mechanistic enzymologist on the leading edge of discovering new natural products, chemistry professor Doug Mitchell's biosynthesis and bioengineering work on lasso peptides has led to the launch of a start-up company, called Lassogen.
With $4.5 million raised in a seed round, the company is now poised to demonstrate the power of lasso peptides for treating human diseases such as cancer and autoimmune disorders. 


 Head shot of Hye Kyung Timken on white background
Hye Kyung Timken (PhD, '87, Oldfield) receives LAS Achievement Award
As a research and development team leader at Chevron Corporation, Hye Kyung Timken has worked for the last 20 years on groundbreaking technology that is now poised to transform gasoline production at oil refineries into a safer, more efficient and more environmentally friendly process.
In recognition of that work, Timken is the recipient of an LAS Alumni Achievement Award, one of 10 alumni from the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences named recipients of the college’s 2020 annual alumni awards. 
 Portrait of Edzna Garcia on a gray background

Getting to know organic chemistry graduate student Edzna Garcia 

A graduate student in organic chemistry in professor Steve Zimmerman’s research group, Edzna Garcia has been working on developing artificial enzymes based on polymers.

Nearing completion of her PhD, Garcia reflects on her path to Chemistry at Illinois, which began in a magnet education program in a Los Angeles middle school where she received her first opportunity to truly explore science. That exposure set this first-generation college student on a whole new educational path.

 Head shot Professor Paul Hergenrother in front of a white wipe-off board with chemistry illustrations
Cancer research in Paul Hergenrother lab leads to Bayer licensing agreement
Researchers at the Cancer Center at Illinois discovered a novel small molecule compound that is now the subject of a new global licensing agreement, giving Bayer the exclusive rights to develop the compound, currently called ERSO, as a cancer therapy.
The compound was originally discovered by the laboratories of chemistry professor Paul Hergenrother and biochemistry professor David Shapiro. Their research was the first to show that the compound can effectively target and kill certain cancer cells, especially breast cancer cells that express the estrogen receptor.
 Photo of Greg George, Ben Mozier and Ricky Ford holding wine glasses in front of the distilled spirit technology they developed
Alumni receive R&D 100 Award for patented distilled spirit technology
A patented technology that two Chemistry at Illinois alumni jointly developed to produce premium distilled spirits at much lower costs than standard methods has won a 2020 R&D 100 Award.
Greg George (BS, ‘82) and the late Benjamin Mosier (PhD, ’57, Laitinen) worked together for years on the innovative technology that has been recognized in the Process and Prototyping category by the R&D 100, an annual worldwide research and development competition that is widely recognized in industry, government and academia as a mark of excellence for the most innovative ideas of the year.
 Head shot of graduate student Matthew Boudreau on a dark gray background
Graduate student's role in cancer compound discovery leads to NCI grant
Matthew Boudreau, a chemistry PhD candidate, has been awarded a prestigious grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) for his role in research at the Cancer Center at Illinois that led to discovery of a promising cancer-fighting compound.
A member of the lab of chemistry professor Paul Hergenrother, Boudreau’s research has centered around the novel therapeutic, ERSO, that the University of Illinois has licensed to Bayer and Systems Oncology to develop into a therapeutic approach for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer.
 Head shot of Sindhu Menon
Yi Lu, Xing Wang part of team launching Center for Pathogen Diagnostics
The pandemic has emphasized the need for cost-effective, accurate, and quick diagnostics. A university research team that includes chemistry professors Yi Lu and Xing Wang is launching the Center for Pathogen Diagnostics.
The mission is to create new detection systems that address limitations of current technologies, while leveraging the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze disease trends, analyze sensor data, and predict future outbreaks.
 Head shots of four alumni, top left, Tripta Holtz, top right, Yantao Hughes, bottom left, Mark Pytosh and bottom right, Olaseni Sode
Paying it forward: alumni share career advice in panel
The  department's annual alumni career panel is one of the highlights of the year, allowing our students to hear directly from alumni as they discuss the varied paths to which their chemistry degrees have led them and share valuable insights on navigating academic and professional challenges. The October 2, 2020, virtual event featured:
  • Tripta Holtz (BS, '10), senior fragrance evaluator with L'Oreal USA
  • Yantao Hughes (PhD, '03, van der Donk), master black belt at Ascend Performance Materials
  • Mark Pytosh (BS, '86), president and CEO of CVR Partners, LP, and executive vice president of Corporate Services with CVR Energy, Inc.
  • Olaseni Sode (PhD, '12, Hirata), assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Cal State LA
Hear what these alumni had to share in this recording of the virtual event.
 Four vials used for COVID-19 saliva tests sit in a blue holding tray
C&EN highlights COVID-19 testing that Burke, Hergenrother developed
Chemical & Engineering News recently published an extensive article, "How one university built a COVID-19 screening system," recounting how the University of Illinois SHIELD team, which includes chemistry professors Paul Hergenrother and Martin Burke, strategically deployed a rapid and scalable screening test on campus to detect the virus and virus antibodies.
Developed by Hergenrother, the saliva-based test has avoided bottlenecks of time, cost and supplies. It is now in process of being made available to others across the country. As a result, this innovative work has garnered national attention.
 Head shot of Lydia E.M. Hines with her hands clasped by her face
Lydia E.M. Hines (PhD, '71) wins ACS award for decades of volunteer efforts
In recognition of more than 40 years voluntarily engaging youth and adults in chemistry, the American Chemical Society has selected alumna Lydia E. M. Hines (PhD, '71, Applequist) as the recipient of the 2020 Helen M. Free Award for Public Outreach.
The award is presented annually by the ACS Committee on Public Relations and Communications to an ACS member whose outstanding achievements have improved public recognition and appreciation for the field of chemistry.
 Image of the cover of the 2019-2020 Annual Report, featuring a research image of polymer resin
2019-20 Annual Report now on website
The Department of Chemistry's 2019-2020 Annual Report is now available on the department website. The report contains an overview of the department's previous fiscal year, July 1, 2019-June 30, 2020.
You will find a timeline of news highlights as well as annual data for alumni, faculty, students, research and giving. It also features science images that were produced by chemistry researchers, some of which were submitted in the School of Chemical Sciences 2019 Science Image Challenge.

Department Awards and Honors

Prashant Jain, Alumni Scholar and Richard and Margaret Romano Professorial Scholar, has been named one of the Top 10 young scientists to watch in the Science News annual spotlight of early- and mid-career scientists on their way to greater widespread acclaim. Research by Christina White, the William H. and Janet G. Lycan Professor of Chemistry, exploring the "Holy Grail" of C–H activation is highlighted in a Chemistry World series. The American Chemical Society's Committee on Minority Affairs has selected Lloyd Munjanja, the department's associate director of Graduate Diversity and Program Climate, as the 2020 recipient of the Stanley C. Israel Regional Award for Advancing Diversity in the Chemical Sciences. And graduate student Justin Miller was selected the winner of the inaugural Professor Gary Schuster Mentoring Scholarship.


Alumni News and Updates

  • Jeanne Hankett (BS, ’10) launched the Richard G. Hankett Memorial Grant (RGHG) Foundation in April 2020 to support and advance multi-disciplinary academic cancer research. Despite having cancelled all in-person fundraising events in 2020 due to COVID-19, the foundation is excited to offer approximately $13,500-$14,000 to support academic research projects. Applications for the Fall 2021 grant cycle are due by April 1, 2021. Application instructions and the form and all other information can be found on the foundation website.

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

Upcoming Events
November 29 - December 5
Since departmental events will be virtual for the time being, we are delighted to invite our alumni and friends to attend the depatment's various lectures and seminars. We encourage you to check out our full calendar of events at the link above.

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