2021 Chemistry Newsletter
Message from the Chair
Dear Chemistry Department alumni and friends,
The last year has been a challenge for a number of us, but I admire your perseverance and hope that the GW Chemistry community can be a source of restoration and help to facilitate a return to the new normal.
Over the past year, the virtual learning period has been an expansion of our classroom technology and ability to broadcast, which has greatly expanded the reach of our seminars. This is clear through our continued Friday seminar series, which are broadcasted live for anyone to view.
Our department recently launched a new course called Frontiers of Chemical Research, which will be followed up next spring with the course Building a Chemistry Identity. Professors Joseph Meisel and LaKeisha McClary are currently addressing opportunities to encourage undergraduate research participation sooner in the undergraduate curriculum, and to develop a broad set of skills for STEM success.
I want to close with a few words of gratitude to my predecessor, Chemistry Professor Emeritus Michael King, who is well known for his tireless commitment to and advocacy for the GW Chemistry Department. His latest demonstration of this commitment comes in the form of a substantive bequest to establish the Michael, Linda and Jacob King Endowed Professorship in Organic Chemistry. The magnitude of this gift allows us to recruit world class faculty in the field of chemistry, which will greatly impact our department’s operations, output and reputation. We could not be more grateful to the King family and flattered by their generous spirit and actions.
Dr. Chris Cahill
Inspired by her faculty mentors, Maggie Teliska, PhD ’04, forged a career in sustainable energy. Now she’s helping other chemistry students make their mark in STEM industries. She talked with CCAS Spotlight about her lifelong connections made in the Chemistry Department.
Alumni Class Notes
- Davette Abkowitz, AA ’44, BS ’45, graduated almost 80 years ago and stills remembers her time at GW with fondness. She says while it was unusual to be a woman in the sciences in the 1940's, she is proud to see how far women have now come in physics, chemistry and mathematics.
- Yuliya Allakhverdiyeva, BS ’09, is an ecologist working on construction of the New International Terminal in Almaty, Kazakhstan. He works on adhering existing airport facilities to International standards in environmental management.
- Abisola Ayodeji, BA ’03, is a board-certified pediatric anesthesiologist.
- John Bailey, PhD ’82, had a great career as a researcher and manager at the FDA and then as the head of the science department at the Personal Care Product Council. He is mostly retired but continues to consult and speak at seminars.
- Nirali Bhatt, BS ’04, MD ’09, is a practicing ophthalmologist (uveitis and medical retina) in the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Ophthalmology.
- Wyn Dobbs, BA ’18, is a fourth-year medical student at GW taking a leave of absence to pursue an MPH at The Johns Hopkins University.
- Miriam Edelstein, BS ’55, retired from Westchester Inorganic Environmental Chemistry. She remarried in November 2020. Her children are all grown, and she is a proud grandmother.
- Daniel Gatewood, PhD ’09, is a primary patent examiner at the USPTO and resides in D.C.
- Philip George, BS ’10, MD ’14, lives by the Jersey Shore and specializes in hernia and anti-reflux surgery.
- Emmeline Ha, BS ’14 MD ’18, graduated from Stanford Family Medicine Residency in June 2021. During residency, she served as chief resident during an eventful pandemic year and was recognized by state and national awards for family medicine excellence.
- Eric Haas, BS ’98, is a pediatric infectious disease and public health specialist. He is the director of the Department of Routine Immunizations in Israel's Ministry of Health.
- Atul Jani, BS ’82, remains in private practice in Salinas, Calif., now in his 32nd year as a general surgeon. He is married and has two daughters in their early 20s.
- Mark Kalaj, BS ’16, is a research scientist at Singular Genomics, a San Diego startup company that focuses on developing technology for next generation sequencing.
- Trudy Kohout, BA ’86, joined the pharmaceutical industry where she is the executive director of scientific evaluation and strategy at Lexicon Pharmaceuticals.
- Matthew (Jake) Lefler, PhD ’21, graduated from the Licht Lab and began a postdoctoral appointment at the US Naval Research Center in Reston, Va.
- Molly Little, BS ’21, began graduate school in pursuit of a PhD at Emory University in Biochemistry, Cell and Developmental Biology.
- Natalie Logsdon, BS ’04, is a consultant pharmacist and has earned her certification in geriatric pharmacy. She lives in Greencastle, Penn.
- Jeff McPhee, BS ’04, is a principal scientist at Merck Research Laboratories, leading programs in the preclinical and clinical space.
- Greg McWhir, BS ’10, is an emergency medicine attending physician and clinical teaching faculty at Cape Fear Valley Hospital in North Carolina.
- Habeeba Park, BS ’03, is an associate trauma medical director and surgical critical care director at the new trauma center with Extant Healthcare at Ascension St. Thomas Rutherford Hospital in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
- Caroline Racke, BS ’19, MPH ’21, is a research assistant in the Center for Biobehavioral Health at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. She is investigating the effects of a nutritional supplement given during toddlerhood on children's growth and development.
- Ritesh Sheth, BS ’98, is the global vice president for Stoller Group. He received his 10+ patent this year.
- Laith Samaah, PhD ’21, received the American Institute of Chemists graduate award.
- Trinh Ton, BS ’21, is pursuing graduate studies in chemistry at the College of William and Mary. He received both the American Institute of Chemists graduate award and the William E. Fitch Prize.
- Hanhui Xu, MS ’06, is a scientific specialist focused on specialty chemical development and analysis at Lonza LLC.
- Tammy Wang, BS ’21, joined the AmeriCorps VISTA program.
- Christopher Cahill is a co-principal investigator in a multi-university Nuclear Science and Security Consortium charged with training the next generation of nuclear scientists and engineers, and engaging in research and development activities that support the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) nuclear security and nonproliferation missions. The consortium was recently awarded a $25 million grant from the DOE/NNSA, which will be distributed over a five-year period.
- The Chemistry Department’s annual departmental retreat took place in October 2020 and featured several impressive alumni including Nan An, PhD ’18, Xu (Jack) Wang, PhD ’18 Charlie Snyder, MS ’20, Keegan Caldwell, PhD ’14 and Jessica Stolee, BS ’07, PhD ’13.
- The American Chemical Society awardees included current seniors Erin Gladu (Division of Analytical Chemistry) and Nay Thu Rein Aung (Division of Physical Chemistry Undergraduate Award), Leah Garman, BS ’21 (Division of Inorganic Chemistry Undergraduate Award) and Samuel Kirby, BS ’21 (Division of Organic Chemistry Undergraduate Award).
- Dr. Ling Hao was selected as an emerging investigator in the Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry and was named as one of the 2021 Five of the Future Alumni Rising Stars in the UW-Madison School of Pharmacy Magazine. Dr Hao also received the Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award.
- The 2021 Alpha Chi Sigma award went to Brendan Maguire, BS ’21.
- Dr. LaKeisha McClary developed the “Let's Talk About” series as a welcoming approach to inviting undergraduates to come and learn about undergraduate research. She also was the co-editor with Dr. Heather Falconer from the University of Maine on a book titled Inclusive STEM: Transforming Disciplinary Writing Instruction for a Socially Just Future.
- Dr. Martin Zysmilich was elected as a member of the CCAS Graduate Affairs Committee. Dr. Zysmilich continues to serve on the University Grievance Committee as a volunteer on the Maryland Medical Reserve Corps, and as the Chemistry Department’s Director of Graduate Studies and Deputy Chair.
- Dr. Erik Rodriguez won the Chemistry & Engineering News #RealTimeChem Week contest for the #EverydayFluorescence category and the Optical Society and Optics & Photonics News International Photo Contest in December 2020. Alongside Dr. Jimmy Saw and Dr. Ioannis Eleftherianos from the Columbian College Department of Biology, Dr. Rodriguez also coached the inaugural GW International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Team that competed at the Virtual International Competition in 2020.
Department Lab Updates
The Erik A. Rodriguez lab published four papers in 2020 and 2021. The Nature Communications and International Journal of Biological Macromolecules each have 21 citations and three research papers are under review. John-Hanson Machado’s, BS ’16, first-authored article was published in the Royal Society of Chemistry Chemical Biology in 2021. Current graduate student Sara Mattson joined the lab in spring 2021 and her first authored paper was accepted in Methods in Molecular Biology, and her first patent is pending. The Rodriguez Lab received the Addgene Blue Flame Award for sharing a single DNA plasmid with over 100 labs. The lab has shared more than 600 DNA plasmids with labs in over 25 countries.
The Adelina Voutchkova lab focuses on developing catalytic processes for sustainable, safe chemical production. It is celebrating 10 years at GW this year. Over the course of 10 years, the lab has had 22 undergraduate students carry out research in the group, three minted PhDs, three postdocs and a current team of four graduate students. Their hard work and dedication has resulted in the development of a number of new catalytic processes for upgrading renewables to platform chemicals.
The Claire Besson lab’s former undergraduate research assistant Elliot Heywood, BS ’21, is now a chef at the Michelin starred Bouchon Bistro in Yountville, CA. Undergraduate research assistants Tammy Wang, BS ’21, and Trinh Ton, BS ’21, presented their computational work on pyrazole derivatives at the university research days before graduating from GW in May. Trinh is pursuing graduate studies in chemistry at the College of William and Mary, and Tammy joined the AmeriCorps VISTA program. Their work has been picked up by undergraduate researcher Natalia Ceron Parra and her high school mentee Indira Nair. Natalia won a Madeline Reines Jacob fellowship that funded her work over the summer. Current graduate student Chenyang Ma presented a brilliant talk in March and is currently working on several papers. Graduate student Maegan Dailey’s paper on the polymorphs of bisphthalocyaninatolanthanoid complexes has been accepted by CrystEngComm. Graduate student Christopher Hossack, co-mentored with Professor Cahill, won a Cosmos Scholar Award. He also presented his 30-minute seminar and had his first paper accepted in Inorganic Chemistry. All three graduate students presented their work in talks at the Fall ACS National meeting at the end of August.
The Stephen Boyes lab continues research in surface modifications using polymers with applications in water purification, gas separations, anti-bacterial coatings and biomedical applications. This work resulted in four peer-reviewed papers published this year. The group added a new undergraduate researcher, Victoria Skovorodnev, and said goodbye to Max Shlafstein, BS '21. We also welcomed a new honorary member to the group, Soren Dickhudt. Soren is the latest addition to graduate student Rhys Dickhudt’s family.
The Christopher Cahill group produced a number of publications, including firsts for current graduate students Nicole Byrne, Dominique Brager and Chris Hossack. Graduate student Ben Walusiak spent the summer at Los Alamos National lab learning powder X-ray diffraction as part of the Keepin Fellowship Program. Our group said farewell to Aaron Nicholas, who is now at Pacific Northwest National Lab, as well as Nicolina Albano, BS ’21, and Leah Garman, BS ’21.
The Cynthia Dowd lab was awarded a new patent of 11,098,072 in August 2021. The Dowd lab’s Kenny Heidel, PhD 21, defended his PhD and Sam Kirby, BS ’21, published his first paper. Professor Dowd is participating in the search for GW’s next president as a member of the Faculty Consultative Committee. And our current doctoral student Darean Bague was awarded a Benjamin D. Van Evera Memorial Prize for Effective Teaching.
The Ling Hao lab received a five-year $2 million NIH R01 grant to support research in “Developing Mass Spectrometry Strategies to Decipher the Dynamic Lysosomal Dysfunctions in Frontotemporal Dementia.” Ashley Frankenfield, a third-year PhD student in the Hao lab, received a prestigious ARCS Scholarship. Haorong Li, a second-year PhD student in the lab, published his first research article in the Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry and was featured on the front cover of the journal.
The Jakub Kostal lab, is continuing its NSF-funded, computational work on indirect photodegradation of pesticides and deconstruction of biomass by ionic liquids. Both projects aim to promote the development of safer and more sustainable chemicals. The group has published on these projects in the journals RSC Green Chemistry and ACS ES&T, along with collaborative publications on toxicological-data uncertainty (with the Plugge group at Verisk 3E), toxicity of biobased polycarbonates (with the Sutton group at ORNL) and greener surfactants (with the Lipshutz group at UCSB). As part of their outreach efforts, the Kostal group has developed online curricula focused on toxicology for chemists in collaboration with Beyond Benign.
The Stuart Licht research group has been active during the pandemic. Publications included those in Accounts of Chemical Research, a few in Scientific Reports and the Journal of CO2 Utilization, Separation and Purification Technology, Materials Today Chemistry and Nature Catalysis. Senior graduate student Xinye Liu passed her PhD candidacy exam. Dr. Licht's Carbon XPrize team made a major step towards mitigating global climate change by winning the Carbon XPrize XFactor Award for a compelling demonstration of their technology at the finale of this multi-year international competition. The team uses a new chemistry to incentivize climate change mitigation by transforming the greenhouse gas CO2 directly into the world's strongest material.
The Joseph W. Meisel lab has grown to four graduate students and four undergraduate researchers. Dr. Meisel designed a new chemistry course this fall, which introduces undergraduates to the Chemistry Department’s Chem 2199: Frontiers in Chemical Research. Undergraduate researcher and current senior Carolina Stocchi was named a Robert Vincent Scholar, current junior Priscilla Long won the Madeleine Reines Jacobs Scholarship for summer research and Emily Hannah, BS ’21, departed the lab to begin medical school at the University at Buffalo.
The Michael Massiah group’s Jessica Webb, MS ’21, is now working at Astrazeneca in Rockville, Md., and Molly Little, BS ’21 started her PhD degree at Emory University. Over the summer, undergraduate student Erin Gladu was successful in demonstrating how MID1 protein interacts with the cohort E2 conjugating enzyme, UbcH5. She is continuing on this project and is now training a new undergraduate student, Daisy Williams. In addition, Erin and Iman Syed are working on a book chapter focusing on analyzing the structural implications of two classes of enzymes, of which MID1 is a member of one.
The J. Houston Miller lab watched as Monica Flores, MS ’20 was awarded a special prize for the "Mathematical and Physical Sciences" category at GW's Research Showcase 2021. She along with David Bomse from Mesa Photonics and Dr. Houston Miller also published a paper in the journal Sensors titled “Statistical Characterization of Temperature and Pressure Vertical Profiles for the Analysis of Laser Heterodyne Radiometry Data." Dr. Katherine Hinnant defended her dissertation and submitted the first of many articles resulting from her work to the Fire Safety Journal titled “Enhancing Foam Fire Suppression Analysis through CO2 TDLAS Quantification.” Jennifer Giaccai presented a paper titled “Binding Energies and Electronic Structure of PAH Ions and Radicals” at the US Combustion Meeting and is finalizing a manuscript for the Journal of Raman Spectroscopy in the identification of carbon-based inks in Asian Art. This latter work was presented in a talk at the Freer and Sackler Galleries of the Smithsonian Institution in August 2021.
The Akos Vertes lab saw Laith Samarah, PhD ’21, graduate from the group. He is continuing his research efforts as a postdoctoral scientist at Princeton University. This year the Vertes lab’s work has been disseminated in an impressive number of publications.