Chemistry students win awards at UA Undergraduate Research Conference

Congratulations to the Chemistry winners at the UA Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Conference

A&S Science and Math Division, Oral Presentations

2nd Place: Megan Johnson, “Palladium-Catalyzed Direct Intramolecular Arylations Using Water-Soluble Phosphine Ligand.” Advised by Dr. Kevin Shaughnessy
4th Place: Shuwen Yue, “Computational Studies of the Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels.” Advised by Dr. David Dixon
Honorable Mention: Travis Atchley, “Donor-Acceptor Cocrystallization for Molecular Assembly.” Advised by Dr. Silas Blackstock

A&S Science and Math Division, Poster Presentations

1st Place: Morgan Whitaker, “Polymer Coated Magnetic Nanoparticles: Formation and Usage for Cancer Therapy.” Advised by Dr. David Nikles
3rd Place: Sarah McFann, “Characterization of Picolinium Quinodimethane under Electro-Optic Device Conditions.” Advised by Dr. Anthony Arduengo
Honorable Mention: Amanda Volk, “Multifunctional Gold Nanoparticles.” Advised by Dr. David Nikles

UA company receives NSF small business grant

ThruPore Technologies, a company started by Prof. Martin Bakker and Dr. Franchessa Sayler (PhD 2013), has received a $150,000 NSF grant to help commercialize technology developed by Prof. Bakker and Dr. Sayler.  The grant will fund the development of new solid-supported catalysts for industrial processes.  Prof. Kevin Shaughnessy is a co-PI on the grant and will direct the catalyst testing at UA.

Dr. Gupta to receive CRSI Medal

Dr. Arunava Gupta will receive the Chemical Research Society of India (CRSI) Medal at the CSRI meeting in February 2014.  The CRSI medal is given to chemists of Indian origin working outside of India in recognition of the extensive contributions to chemical research.

Prof. Busenlehner has “Paper of the Week” in JBC

A paper co-authored by Prof. Laura Busenlehner entitled, “Escherichia coli SufE Sulfur Transfer Protein Modulates the SufS Cysteine Desulfurase through Allosteric Conformational Dynamics,” was selected as a “Paper of the Week” by the editors of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.  The paper describes work done in collaboration with Prof. Wayne Outten from the University of South Carolina.  The Journal of Biological Chemistry is one of the top journals in the area of biochemistry and biological chemistry.  Selection as a “Paper of the Week” places the paper in the top 50-100 papers of the over 6,000 published by the journal each year.

Robert Noyce Teacher Scholars Grant

The University of Alabama’s impact on k-12 STEM education will grow over the next five years following the announcement of a $1.45 million grant from the National Science Foundation. The Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program, a national education initiative of the NSF, seeks to encourage talented science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, majors and professionals to become middle and high school mathematics and science teachers.

Beginning Oct. 1, The University of Alabama Noyce Scholars Program will award 21 two-year scholarships ($16,000 per year) over the next five years to undergraduate and master’s level students who plan to major in chemistry, mathematics or physics and complete teacher certification.  Freshmen and sophomores at UA will have opportunities to be among roughly 120 students who will participate in paid summer internships over the next four years. During the summer, students will participate in seminars hosted by the participating UA departments and by teacher education faculty from the department of curriculum and instruction.

Co-project investigators are Drs. Jeremy Zelkowski and Jim Gleason in mathematics education and mathematics, Cynthia Sunal in teacher education, Kevin Shaughnessy in chemistry, J. W. Harrell in physics and Sharon Vincent at Shelton State.

UA press release

Frantom Wins NSF Award

Dr. Patrick Frantom has received an NSF CAREER award in excess of $1 million to support his research. The CAREER is the premiere award for young faculty from the National Science Foundation. Find out more about this award on the UA news site.

Gupta Named Distinguished Research Professor

A chemistry professor who is internationally known for his expertise in investigating thin films and nanostructured materials for use in information technology and energy applications has been named a Distinguished University Research Professor by The University of Alabama Board of Trustees. Dr. Arunava Gupta, a professor in the College’s Department of Chemistry, received the appointment at a recent meeting of the board.

Gupta, who holds a joint appointment in the College of Engineering’s Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and is associated with UA’s Center for Materials for Information Technology (MINT), was recognized as being a UA faculty member who has achieved international accomplishments in his field and has been given extensive peer recognition for his scholarly contributions and noteworthy academic service as a teacher, researcher, and clinician.

While working as a researcher at IBM, he played an influential role in the expansion of research and industrial interest in these fields. During 1988-1990, his team at IBM reported the use of solution-based-precursors for the synthesis of high temperature superconducting oxide films and also made pioneering contributions to the development of the Pulsed Laser Deposition technique for oxide film growth, which is now well recognized.

In the 1990s Gupta conducted similar groundbreaking research in the area of magnetic oxides, being the first to report large magnetoresistance effects at low fields in devices fabricated from manganites and other half-metallic oxides.

Since joining UA’s faculty in 2004, Gupta has remained at the forefront of research into the synthesis, properties, and applications of oxide and chalcogenide thin films and nanostructured materials, an area as rich for continuing research as it is for industrial and commercial application. During his career he has published over 300 research papers in highly regarded scientific journals including NatureNature MaterialsScienceNano LettersPhysical Review LettersApplied Physics Letters, and the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

In 2010, he gained international acclaim when he received Germany’s prestigious Humboldt Research Prize awarded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. The $75,000 award is given to internationally renowned scientists and scholars. In 2011, he was elected by his peers as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science. He is also a fellow of the American Physical Society.

Since coming to The University of Alabama, Gupta has been awarded more than $5 million in funding from such key sources as the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Department of Defense.

In the recommendation letter to the Board of Trustees, Dr. Robert Olin, dean of the College and Dr. Charles Karr, dean of the College of Engineering wrote, “Dr. Gupta is highly effective at leading and inspiring research groups with participants that range from the most accomplished scientists to graduate, undergraduate and, indeed, on occasion, high school students. His amicable and professional manner makes him an exemplary representative of the University.”

This article originally appeared in the March 2013 Desktop News.

Discovery Still Has Impact 20 Years Later

Dr. Anthony J. Arduengo, a professor in the Department of Chemistry, made a discovery more than 20 years ago that changed the way chemists understand highly reactive substances known as carbenes. As he continues his research, Arduengo’s breakthrough continues to influence some of the most cutting edge research being done today.

Chemists once viewed carbenes as highly reactive, transient species that were important intermediates in some reactions. Prior to Arduengo’s discovery of an isolable carbine known as N-heterocyclic (NHC), scientists could only predict that carbenes could be stabilized by making structural modifications.

At the time of the discovery, Arduegno was a researcher at DuPont. In 1999, he joined the faculty in the College’s Department of Chemistry. He also has a joint research appointment with the Technical University of Braunschweig, in Germany.

Arduegno says the transition back into academia has allowed him to continue discovery-driven applied research on carbenes. Some of his latest work includes developing modified versions of NHC and using NHCs for different reactions.

His foray into stable carbenes has been overwhelmingly gratifying, said Arduegno.

“I have had the opportunity to meet and interact with some of the world’s luminary scientific figures and help many hardworking young scientists in my group,” he said. “As a trumpet player, I can tell you that one’s musical performance improves with the quality of the musicians with whom you associate and perform. This intellectual concert enhancement holds true among chemists.”

He’s also thrilled that many chemists have picked up on and found success with NHCs. “It’s invigorating to know you’ve made a contribution that will leave a mark,” Arduengo says. “As a scientist, that is something we all hope for I think, to push the science forward and give others tools to work with so they can go even further.”

Fishing for Uranium

Chemistry Professor Researches Unlikely Resource in the Uranium Extraction Process

More common than silver, tin, or mercury, uranium is found nearly everywhere on Earth — yet it is often difficult to obtain. On land, uranium mining is damaging to the environment and risky for workers. And though the world’s oceans contain some 4.6 billion tons of uranium, the element is found in very low concentrations there, making it expensive to collect.

But a UA chemistry professor has developed a cheap, environmentally friendly means of extracting uranium from seawater, using a substance found in shrimp shells.

Dr. Robin Rogers and his team produced an ionic liquid that extracts chitin, a polymer, from discarded shrimp shells. Chitin can be woven into mats designed to be suspended in the ocean, where they filter uranium atoms out of the water.

Rogers was already working with chitin when the infamous BP oil spill occurred, and he learned about an initiative by the Alabama Agricultural and Seafood Cooperative to construct a green treatment facility for their shell waste. “They were hard hit by the oil spill and we reached out to work with them,” says Rogers.

And they are still reaching. Rogers and his team are researching chitin as a component in medical products such as bandages, sutures, and drug delivery agents. Chitin may also be used in the development of advanced textiles and sensors, or even as a cosmetics additive.