Archive for the ‘ChemComm1st’ Category

ChemComm Milestones – Soumyajit Das

We’ve been enjoying getting to know the first-time authors who have decided to publish in ChemComm and we hope that you have too. This week, we spoke to Soumyajit Das who recently published his #ChemComm1st article: Revisiting indeno[2,1-c]fluorene synthesis while exploring the fully conjugated s-indaceno[2,1-c:6,5-c′]difluorene

Read about Soumyajit below

What are the main areas of research in your lab and what motivated you to take this direction?
We are working on π-conjugated molecules and materials, and wish to contribute to the field of polycyclic aromatic, antiaromatic and proaromatic hydrocarbons. We are currently engaged in extending the scope of fully conjugated indenofluorene (IF) isomers into the higher-order indacenodifluorene (IDF) isomers which are rare in literature. The motivation came from my earlier training in the field of conducting polymers and polyradicaloid hydrocarbons, in addition to the recent developments in the field of physical and synthetic organic chemistry associated with the organic semiconductors

Can you set this article in a wider context?
Our article is about a mild synthetic approach to synthesize the formally antiaromatic indeno[2,1-c]fluorene, an electron-accepting fragment of fullerene-C60 that showed promise in bulk-heterojunction devices, and extension of the same synthetic approach to construct the s-indaceno[2,1-c:6,5-c’]difluorene as the second constitutional isomer of the potentially tetraradicaloid s-indacenodifluorene (s-IDF) family. The IDF isomers may be viewed as two indenofluorene units conjoined through one shared benzene (outer) ring, and they represent the non-alternant isoelectronic motifs for synthetically challenging octacene considering the bonding picture of the outer conjugated circuit as [34]annulene. [2,1-c:6,5-c’]s-IDF showed smaller HOMO-LUMO and singlet-triplet (theoretical) energy gap compared to its first structural isomer s-indaceno[1,2-b:5,6-b’]difluorene. Consequently, a broad electronic absorption spectrum reaching the NIR region and NMR line broadening at elevated temperatures were also observed. Notably, only two IDF isomers (including ours) were now reported in the literature. Given the efficiency of our synthetic route and the interesting chemistry associated with the existing isomers, we are excited to develop the related unexplored non-benzenoid π-conjugated systems.

What do you hope your lab can achieve in the coming year?
I am still at an early stage of building my independent research career, and the current pandemic has already affected the research activity in the group. Publishing our first paper has already been a good achievement for us since we are just one-year-old group at IIT Ropar. I am hoping that the normal research activity in the laboratory resumes soon so we can explore many possibilities in the coming year including the extension of our present research findings. Since our research has the potential to be multidisciplinary, I am also exploring new research directions by finding collaborations with applied physicists and device engineers.

Describe your journey to becoming independent researcher.
After finishing my M.Sc. in chemistry in 2007 from IIT Guwahati (India), I joined Dr. Sanjio S Zade’s group at IISER Kolkata (India) to work on the zirconocene-mediated synthesis of novel heterocycles including their polymerizations. There I was attracted to the fascinating field of π-conjugated materials, and to further explore the field, I joined Prof. Jishan Wu’s group in the NUS Singapore in 2012 to work on the open-shell polycyclic hydrocarbons. To my delight, the findings of my postdoctoral research were published in some of the renowned high-impact journals, and naturally, I started applying for the academic positions in India from 2016 onward with a very optimistic mindset. I realized then how competitive it was to get an academic position. It took me almost 2.5 years to get the assistant professor position in IIT Ropar after finishing my postdoc, after a couple of rejections and failures. Meanwhile, I gained the industrial experience by working as a scientist in the medicinal chemistry units of Sai Life Sciences (2016-2018) and Aurigene (2018-2019). Perhaps the lack of job satisfaction in the industries and the keen desire to become an independent researcher kept me motivated to search for assistant professorship positions in Indian institutes/universities till my age eligibility was allowed, and I kept on applying for that. After joining IIT Ropar on March 2019, I quickly applied for the available funding opportunities and I am pleased to say that currently my research is funded by the Science and Engineering Research Board of India (SRG, 2019-2021) and the institute seed grant (ISIRD, 2019-2022). I look forward to building a vibrant and successful research group while continuing my journey.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
It’s tough to answer. Professionally, the good one was ‘work hard, but stay alert to unexpected things’, which I pass to my students too. Personally, when the failures hurt, my wife used to say ‘you failed because you have a better opportunity waiting, so don’t quit’.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?
I chose ChemComm because it is renowned, having a high impact, and broad readership across all the chemical science subdisciplines. My first publication was ChemComm in 2010, and I am very glad to be a part of this journal again by contributing my research group’s first publication as the corresponding author.

Soumyajit’s Biography:

  • Assistant Professor: 03/2019 – Present, Indian Institute of Technology Ropar, India.
  • Senior Scientist: 03/2018 – 02/2019, Aurigene Discovery Technologies, Bangalore, India.
  • Research Scientist: 09/2016 – 02/2018, Sai Life Sciences, Pune, India.
  • Research Fellow: 03/2012 – 08/2016, National University of Singapore. Supervisor: Prof. Jishan Wu
  • Ph.D. in Chemistry: 11/2007 – 02/2012, Indian Institute of Science Education & Research Kolkata. Supervisor: Prof. Sanjio S. Zade

Follow Soumyajit on Twitter: @chmsdas

#ChemCommMilestones

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ChemComm Milestones – Yizhen Liu

Yizhen Liu published his first independent article with ChemComm in 2016. We wanted to find out more about Yizhen’s experience as a first-time author and what it was like to publish with our journal. Check out his #ChemComm1st article here: A DNA kinetics competition strategy of hybridization chain reaction for molecular information processing circuit construction.

Read more from Yizhen below:

What are the main areas of research in your lab and how has your research progressed since publishing your first article?
My laboratory mainly focus on DNA molecular circuits and biosensors related to DNA single base mutation detection. Based on DNA chain replacement and toehold exchange reaction, we constructed a series of DNA molecular logic devices (4 ChemComm in total). The first work reported DNA three-digit keypad lock, and then we successively constructed 4 to 2 encoders, computational redundant modules and three-bit molecular registers. In the work of the 4 to 2 encoder, for the first time we combined the logic judgment function of DNA circuit with the detection of single base mutation, so that the sensor based on hybridization analysis can not only recognize the presence of single base mutation, but also realize the information feedback of the mutation site region.

What do you hope your lab can achieve in the coming year?
In the coming year, we hope to make breakthroughs in specific enrichment and intelligent sensing of low abundance SINGLE base mutations in DNA.

Describe your journey to becoming independent researcher.
I obtained my Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry (2008) and Doctoral degree in Analytical Chemistry (2014) from Wuhan University. My doctoral thesis was on nucleic acid colorimetric sensing based on DNA gold nanoparticles and surface-enhanced Raman analysis method. During this process, I developed a strong interest in DNA circuits. Using molecules to build computing hardware can well combine my major with my hobby in computer science. Therefore, after I got recruited by Shenzhen University as an independent researcher, I focused more on the fields related to DNA nanotechnology, and by attending professional academic conferences and learning from excellent reports of domestic and foreign researchers, my understanding of this frontier field has sufficiently deepened. My first review invitation as an independent researcher also came from ChemComm. Being a reviewer has greatly helped me to stick to the current academic frontier and offered me inspiration in my research.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
As my father always teaches me that “details determine success or failure”, I am strict with myself in every thing I do in my work and life, paying attention to every detail and always thinking twice, which has indeed brought me many successes, big and small.

Why did you choose to publish your first article in ChemComm?
In fact, my first academic paper was published in ChemComm. ChemComm is very friendly to young researchers and encourages all kinds of novel ideas to be published, which impressed me a lot. In 2016, together with my sophomore students, I was very glad to publish my first paper (and the third one in my academic career) in ChemComm as an independent researcher. We modified the hybridization chain reaction to construct a molecule-level DNA three-digit keypad lock, and were honored to be selected as the outside front cover paper. This bond between ChemComm and my academic career has been continuously strengthened and I sincerely wish ChemComm a prosperous future!

Biography: Yizhen Liu is an Associate Professor of College of Chemistry and Enviromental Engineering at Shenzhen University. Liu obtained his BAchelor’s degree in Chemistry (2008) and Doctoral degree in Analytical Chemistry (2014) from Wuhan University. His thesis work with Prof. Jiming Hu focused on colorimetric and surface-enhanced Raman biosensors based on DNA gold nanoparticles. After receiving his PhD in 2014, he joined the College of Chemistry and Environmental Engineering at Shenzhen University to start his independent research. His current research interests include DNA logic circuits, DNA sensing methods and efficient solar seawater desalination technologies. Outside the lab, you might find him occasionally wandering the PUBG world, training in team leadership. Find him: yzliu@szu.edu.cn

 

 

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ChemComm Milestones – Amie Norton

If you haven’t heard already, we are speaking to first-time independent researchers who have chosen to publish their first article with ChemComm. This week, we spoke to Amie E. Norton who recently published her #ChemComm1st article: Phase transformation induced mechanochromism in a platinum salt: a tale of two polymorphs

Find out more from Amie below:

What are the main areas of research in your lab and what motivated you to take this direction?
I work as a Research Chemist at the USDA-ARS. As a Research Chemist at the USDA, I work in the grain quality laboratory. One focus of my research is to synthesize new materials (such as nanomaterials) out of the grain. The motivation to take the research in this direction was that I realized I could use my expertise in a new field, thus merging my Ph.D and the new job I was hired to do. The other focus of my research is to design rapid testing of grain products to measure biochemical components to ensure grain quality. I work under Dr. Michael Tilley to accomplish our research program goals under National Plan 306. Rapid testing of materials to measure biochemical components to ensure grain quality falls under this plan.

Can you set this article in a wider context?
I worked in vapochromic sensors, anion sensors and mechanochromic materials. Our end goal was to design rapid testing methods for anions in drinking water and to have a fundamental understanding on these vapochromic materials. These materials were Pt(II) square planar materials that would change colours when the environment around them changed. They would change colours when introduced to a certain anion or vapor. The complexes were stacking Pt(II) complexes, when the complexes were yellow, they would stack in a dimer or monomer orientation, such as a Pt…Pt…Pt orientation of short…long distances. When the Pt complexes were red, they stacked in a linear chain the Pt…Pt…Pt orientation was short…short distances. The surprising thing is that the Pt(II) complex was often selective in anion sensing to just one anion. The selectivity was built into the complex. I was interested in nitrate as a sensing anion so I decided to play around with adding nitric acid to see if adding a proton helps with the anion exchange with the complex going from yellow to red (understanding the role of pH in the anion exchange). I stumbled on this mechanochromic behaviour and then I grew crystals out of nitric acid (pH 1) and acetone. We went to mount the crystals and they started to change when we touched them with a mounting loop. I knew that structural determination of both of the crystalline forms of mechanochromic material were rare as long range order is often lost in the material after the mechanochromic event. I decided to study this behaviour. It turned out to be one of the most interesting projects, but the discovery of the material was serendipitous.

Describe your journey to becoming independent researcher.
I received a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Chemistry from the University of Missouri (Mizzou). During my time at Mizzou, I studied abroad twice, once in London and once in a two week business class in Prague and Vienna. I also minored in Religious Studies and Sociology; I find that we need to be well-rounded in science. I completed a Ph.D at the University of Cincinnati in 2017 where I worked on vapochromic and anion sensors. My Ph.D taught me how to conduct research, and I mentored 30 undergraduates in the lab setting during this time. I feel it’s important to share knowledge and mentor the next group of future scientists.

Afterwards, I worked at NIOSH (National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health) and learned Real-time Sensing Methods. I helped build a robot out of a Roomba vacuum to survey a room for chemical hazards. Next, I worked as a post-doctoral researcher at Bowling Green State University from 2018-2019 working on photo-active materials. I now work for the USDA-ARS as a Research Chemist (2019-present). Currently, I am working on developing new materials out of grain. My current position has allowed me to learn many aspects of grain research. While I came in with little knowledge of the entire process, I am now able to contribute knowledge from my other areas of study and apply them to my current job. The process of getting grain from the field to our tables is actually a very involved process which I’m proud to be a part of. One thing in my career I have always done is welcome a challenge and take the opportunity to learn new skills as they might be needed in my future work.

What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
There are two pieces of advice that I’ve been given that I always try to follow. My parent’s advice growing up was to have “humble confidence”. The definition of “humble confidence” is to be confident without being arrogant, and to be modest while still projecting competence. The other piece of advice I received was from my Ph.D advisor. He taught me that in research when you see something unusual, most people want to run away from it. Make that unusual more dramatic by designing an experiment to figure out what caused it. Some of the most interesting discoveries are found by the unusual. Do not run away from it, instead become more inquisitive about it.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?
ChemComm has a good reputation. The communication fit well with ChemComm. I felt like the information should be a rapid communication.

#ChemCommMilestones


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ChemComm Milestones – Hemant Joshi

Hemant Joshi recently published his first independent research article with ChemComm. We wanted to celebrate this exciting milestone by finding out more about Hemant and his research. Check out his #ChemComm1st article: Selenium coordinated palladium(II) trans-dichloride molecular rotor as catalyst for site selective annulation of 2‐arylimidazo[1,2‐a]pyridines

What are the main areas of research in your lab and what motivated you to take this direction?
We are a young research group who started in July 2019. Our research group mainly works on two different research areas: molecular rotors chemistry and homogenous catalysis by pincer complexes. We are trying to develop new and better catalysts for site-selective catalysis. The main motivation behind choosing these fields is my early training as a chemist in homogeneous catalysis and the interesting yet challenging chemistry associated with these fields.

Can you set this article in a wider context?
Our article describes first synthesis of a new class of intramolecular secondary interactions (SeCH…Cl) controlled molecular rotors having Cl−Pd−Cl rotor attached to Se−Pd−Se axle. These molecular rotors showed low rotational barriers which is essential for these molecular machines. The rotor was used as a catalyst for annulation of 2‐arylimidazo[1,2‐a]pyridines. The molecular rotor catalyst was designed in such a way that phenyl ring of ligand is involved in CH−π interactions with 2‐arylimidazo[1,2‐a]pyridines, which interestingly leads to revers regioselective annulated product which is otherwise challenging to obtain.

What do you hope your lab can achieve in the coming year?
Currently, the main focus is to build my independent research profile at CuRaj and to extend the possible network of collaborations to explore more challenging problems in the future. Our group’s main focus is to develop unidirectional molecular rotors with low rotational barriers.

Describe your journey to becoming independent researcher.
Since my early academic days, I was more inclined towards experimental chemistry which was the main driving force for me to choose a chemistry major during my masters. As a PhD research scholar, I joined Dr. Ajai K. Singh’s lab at the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, India. My doctoral work was mainly focused on synthesis of new air stable metal complexes and metal chalcogenide nanoparticles for catalytic organic synthesis. To further strengthen my training as a chemist and to gain interdisciplinary research experiences, I started my post-doctoral research in Prof. John A. Gladysz’s laboratory at the Texas A&M University, College Station, USA. In Dr. Gladysz’s lab I was introduced to the beautiful word of molecular gyroscopes. Training with both of my previous advisors helped me to learn about how research labs function, and how to carry out projects and run the lab. The training from these labs built the foundation of my independent research which I would like to take up at CuRaj.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
The two best pieces of advice which helped me are from my parents and my research advisor. The first: to be a better human being and help others which helped in my personal life. The second which was useful in my professional career: run behind solving problems and not high impact factors.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?
ChemComm is renowned journal known to publish interdisciplinary research with urgency. Our research group is glad to start with ChemComm.

Dr. Hemant Joshi is an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Central University of Rajasthan (CuRaj), India. Hemant obtained his undergraduate (BSc) degree in chemistry from University of Rajasthan, India (2008) and master’s degree from Malaviya National Institute of Technology Jaipur, India (2010). After completing his master’s degree, Hemant joined the PhD program at the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, India in 2010. His thesis work with Prof. Ajai K. Singh was focused on synthesis of new air stable metal complexes and metal chalcogenide nanoparticles for catalytic organic synthesis. In early 2016, Hemant joined the laboratory of Prof. John A. Gladysz at the Texas A&M University, College Station, USA. In his post-doctoral research work, he was engaged in building new molecular gyroscopes with large cage sizes and understanding their rotational behaviors. Hemant moved back to India in August 2018, and joined BITS Pilani, Pilani Campus, as DST Inspire faculty. In July 2019, Hemant started his independent research career at Central University of Rajasthan. Find him on Twitter: @hkjiitd

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ChemComm Milestones – Marco Di Antonio

Marco Di Antonio recently published his first independent research article with ChemComm. We wanted to celebrate this exciting milestone by finding out more about Marco and his research. Check out his #ChemComm1st article: A short peptide that preferentially binds c-MYC G-quadruplex DNA

What are the main areas of research in your lab and what motivated you to take this direction?

My group is interested in developing chemical and biological tools to underpin key chemical and structural changes that DNA undergoes during ageing and diseases development. I have always been fascinated by the relevance of DNA in biology, and to apply fundamental chemistry knowledge to unravel the mysteries behind DNA biology. Indeed, I have been working within this research framework pretty much during my entire career. What attracted me the most to this research topic is the idea that human genomic DNA, which is around 2 meters long, is compacted in a volume of few m2 in a cell. The 3-dimensional architecture that DNA adopts when compacting within a cell nucleus, as well as the chemical modifications that it undergoes to achieve compaction, are key to biological processes such as cell-differentiation, ageing and cancer development. Therefore, we are very interested in understanding what is the role of chemistry and chemical modifications in DNA compaction.

Although we have distinct research projects currently ongoing in my group, they are all aimed at developing chemical biology tools to unravel the fundamental mechanisms that regulate DNA structural dynamics in the context of ageing and diseases, such as cancer. We are particularly interested in non-helical structures that DNA can adopt, and we combine chemistry and biology to investigate how the formation of such non-canonical DNA structures affect human biology.

Can you set this article in a wider context?

It has been almost 70 years since the DNA double-helical structure was described for the first time. Since then, several other DNA structures have been reported. Amongst those, G-quadruplexes have emerged as a stable alternative to the double-helix due to their thermodynamic and kinetic stability. Increasing evidence supports G-quadruplex formation in the context of living cells; therefore, developing chemical tools to target these structures against the canonical DNA double helix is essential.

Several molecules that target selectively G-quadruplexes already exists, but there is a chemical need to develop new probes that can target one individual G-quadruplex over the ~700,000 that can form in the human genome. This will allow us to investigate the biology regulated by the targeted G-quadruplex structure and disentangle it from the other G-quadruplexes present in the genome. In this manuscript, we describe a short-peptide that displays preferential selectivity for the G-quadruplex structure present in the promoter region of the oncogene MYC and negligible biding towards other G-quadruplex structures. This has a double impact in the context of G-quadruplex biology: i) it provides a starting point to the design novel peptide-based probes to target specifically other G-quadruplexes besides MYC ii) it will allow biological investigation of the role(s) played by the stabilisation of MYC G-quadruplex, which is relevant in the context of cancer treatment.

What do you hope your lab can achieve in the coming year?
Publishing our first research paper has already been an incredible achievement, considering this has happened a bit more than just a year after starting my group and in the middle of a pandemic! For this, I am particularly thankful to Andrew Jamieson and his PhD student Danielle Morgan who have collaborated with us on this project and have been extremely supportive. For the coming year, it would be great to close a couple of projects that we have currently ongoing but it is a bit too early to predict this! My group started only with a PhD student (Denise Liano) and a PDRA (Aisling Minard), to whom I am very grateful for their relentless work, and we have already come a long way so keeping this trajectory for the next year would be great. We will be expanding in October with two new PhD students joining the team, so I really look forward the vibrant scientific environment that we are establishing within the group, which is helping my creativity significantly!

Describe your journey to becoming independent researcher.

The journey to become an independent academic is not an easy one, I would lie if I said the opposite. But this does not mean that is impossible, and I would encourage anyone reading this to try without even thinking about giving up a single time, if they really want to become independent researchers.

Personally, I have studied for my MSci in Chemistry in Pavia University (2007) and continued for a PhD in Padua University (2011). During my PhD, I almost exclusively worked in a synthetic chemistry laboratory, where I developed some novel G-quadruplex binding small-molecules. After getting my PhD, I was lucky enough to get a postdoctoral offer from Cambridge University to work in the group of Prof. Sir. Shankar Balasubramanian. I have been working in Shankar’s group as a Research Associate for 4 years and then as a Senior Research Associate for 3 more years. My time in Cambridge has been scientifically transformative, I have been moving from synthetic chemistry to biochemistry, cell-biology and genomics. The amount of new skills developed and the extremely intellectually challenging environment that characterises Shankar’s group have been key to develop independent thinking and to start my academic career. It has allowed me to develop a comprehensive view of nucleic acids chemistry and biology that now is at the foundation of my research group.

In December 2017, BBSRC awarded me a David Phillips Fellowship which I have used to start my group at Imperial College Chemistry. Although my research is still very much focused on the chemical biology of nucleic acids, I felt that moving to Imperial has been key to establish my research group in a new environment that is helping me to flourish as an independent scientist.

During my last 3 years of postdoc I started to apply for independent positions, and I am not afraid to share that I failed most of those applications both for fellowships and lectureships. So, my two key pieces of advice to anyone who wants to become independent researcher are: i) give yourself plenty time to make the transition, it will take at least 1 year from applying for a fellowship to get it, even if you get the first one you apply for! So, don’t wait until the end of your contract before giving it a shot; ii) Expect to fail! This is totally normal, and you shouldn’t take it personally, but rather learn from mistakes and improve your applications!

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
The best piece of advice I have been given is from my former post-doc supervisor Prof Sir Shankar Balasubramanian, who always told me: “less is more”. It sounds like a very simple sentence, but as scientists we always tend to overcomplicate things and add extra experiments or extra information in our papers. Being able to disentangle key experiments from non-essential ones, as well as writing up a research paper with the least possible amount of words and jargon, is an essential skill that every scientist needs to keep working on. This is by far the best piece of advice I ever received, and I apply it every time that I design experiments with my group members, or when I write a paper!

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?
This is partially connected to my answer for the question above. I love publishing scientific research in the form of a communication, as it forces you to distil out essential and important information from what can be described in more details in supplementary information. Beside the format, ChemComm allows me to quickly and effectively disseminate important proof-of-concept experiments that can be transformative for the chemical community. For us, the findings of a short peptide that shows potential for selective recognition of an individual G-quadruplex were novel and essential to be disseminated quickly. Therefore, I had no hesitation to select ChemComm as a platform to present our first paper. Furthermore, I published with Chem Comm during my post-doc and I was impressed by the quick turnaround of the editors and the smooth submission portal, so it was a very easy decision for us!

Marco obtained his MSci degree in Organic Chemistry from University of Pavia in 2007 and moved to Padua University for his Ph.D in Molecular Sciences under the supervision of Prof. Manlio Palumbo and Prof. Mauro Freccero. Marco obtained his PhD in 2011 and moved to the UK to join Cambridge University. At Cambridge, he worked in the group of Prof. Sir. Shankar Balasubramanian, where he started a scientific transition from synthetic organic chemistry to molecular and cell biology. This scientific approach across boundaries is embedded in his research group that works at the interface between chemistry and biology. In December 2017 Marco was awarded a BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship, which enabled him to move to Imperial College Chemistry to start his research group.

 

 

 

 

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ChemComm Milestones – Sílvia Osuna

We’re celebrating researchers who published their first independent article with ChemComm. Professor Sílvia Osuna published her first article in 2017: Computational tools for the evaluation of laboratory-engineered biocatalysts. We wanted to find out more about Sílvia and her research – Read more below.

What are the main areas of research in your lab and how has your research progressed since publishing your first article?
The main research areas in my lab are the application and development of computational tools for evaluating laboratory-engineered enzymes, with the final goal of rationally designing new enzymes. The Feature article published in Chem. Commun. in 2017 focused on providing an overview of the available computational strategies that can be used to evaluate laboratory-engineered enzymes. Since then, we have computationally evaluated a variety of enzymes mostly through extensive Molecular Dynamics simulations (monoamine oxidase, tryptophan synthase, and alcohol dehydrogenases, among others) to unveil the role exerted by distal active site mutations on the enzyme conformational landscape. Most importantly, we have also developed new computational tools for predicting active site and distal mutations for enhanced activity (Shortest Path Map tool), which we are currently applying for altering the conformational dynamics of different enzymes. The key role exerted by remote mutations on the active sites of enzymes suggests that allostery (i.e. regulation of enzyme function by distal positions) might be an intrinsic characteristic of enzymes, which we are exploiting for enzyme evolution. Therefore, our research is now more focused on applying the developed tools to rationally design new enzyme variants rather than evaluating and explaining the enhanced activities of previously reported laboratory-engineered enzymes.

What do you hope your lab can achieve in the coming year?
I hope in the coming year we can further validate our computational tools for predicting distal active site mutations. Due to the broad sequence space of enzymes, the computational prediction of such distal mutations has been proven to be extremely challenging. However, our new tools developed open the door to new protocols based on the introduction of active site and also distal mutations. This is totally unprecedented in the computational enzyme design field, and I hope in the coming year we can further demonstrate that our developed computational tools can be successfully applied for enzyme design.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.
I received a PhD in 2010 from the University of Girona (UdG) at the Institut de Química Computacional (IQC) under the supervision of Prof. Miquel Solà and Prof. Marcel Swart. I worked on the computational study of the chemical reactivity of carbon-based compounds, such as (metallo)fullerenes and carbon nanotubes. In October 2010 I moved to the group of Prof. Houk at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) thanks to the IOF Marie Curie fellowship. At that time, I started to work in the computational design of enzymes of medical and pharmaceutical interest. In December 2013, I rejoined the Institute of Computational Chemistry and Catalysis (IQCC) at the University of Girona with a postdoctoral Juan de la Cierva position. I was also awarded a Career Integration Grant (CIG) project for developing a computational protocol for designing new enzymes, and also an I+D MINECO Project together with Prof. Swart. In 2015, I obtained a European Research Council – Starting grant project (ERC-StG) to apply network models for the computational design of efficient enzymes (NetMoDEzyme), and also a 5-year Ramón y Cajal position from the Spanish government. In 2018, I was promoted to the current permanent ICREA position I currently hold. My group is now funded by the ERC-StG project, an I+D MINECO project, and a Human Frontier Science Program project.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
My grandmother used to tell me a Catalan saying “De pressa i bé, mai s’avingué”, which I believe the English equivalent would be “Slow and steady wins the race”. There are of course exceptions to the saying, but I believe it is a generally good advice that also applies in scientific contexts.

Why did you choose to publish your first article in ChemComm?
I received an invitation to submit a Feature article to ChemComm a few months after being awarded the ERC-StG project. I decided this was an excellent idea as I had already done an extensive bibliographic search for writing the ERC project. Most importantly, I like ChemComm, its published Feature articles, and its broad readership. I was also really happy to see that our published Feature article was included in the most downloaded articles of 2017 in physical and environmental chemistry. When I received a second invitation to contribute with a second Feature article in 2018, I didn’t hesitate to accept the invitation.

Sílvia received her PhD in 2010 from the University of Girona (UdG) at the Institut de Química Computacional (IQC) under the supervision of Prof. Miquel Solà and Prof. Marcel Swart. In 2010, she moved to the group of Prof. Houk at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). In 2012, she rejoined the Institute of Computational Chemistry and Catalysis (IQCC) at the University of Girona with a postdoctoral Juan de la Cierva position, which was followed by a Ramon y Cajal contract, and her current permanent ICREA research professor position. Sílvia’s research lies at the interface between computational chemistry and biology. Her research focuses on the study of biochemical processes mainly related to enzyme catalysis.

Read more from our ChemComm1st authors in ChemComm Milestones – First Independent Authors

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ChemComm Milestones – Han Xiao

We’re celebrating researchers who published their first independent article with ChemComm. Dr Han Xiao published his first article in 2018: A noncanonical amino acid-based relay system for site-specific protein labeling. We wanted to find out more about Han and his research – Read more below.


What are the main areas of research in your lab and how has your research progressed since publishing your first article?
Understanding complex biological systems and developing novel therapeutic approaches requires explorations at the interface of chemistry and biology. The focus of our research is the development of various chemical tools that allow us to precisely probe and manipulate biological systems. We are interested in (1) adding new building blocks with novel chemical, biological, and physical properties into different biological systems; (2) enhancing the performance of chemical biological tools for a variety of applications; (3) using these tools to better understand and ultimately control various biological processes; and (4) exploring the therapeutic utilities of these tools in the context of cancer, autoimmune, and metabolic diseases. My program has a strong translational focus, seeking to initiate new clinical opportunities, and contribute to advances in chemical biology, glycobiology, and cancer immunology.
Our article demonstrates the first application of autonomous cells with the endogenous ability to biosynthesize different noncanonical amino acids and incorporate them into proteins. Noncanonical amino acid, p-amino-phenylalanine, was biosynthesized in E. coli, followed by site-specific incorporation into a specific protein residue. The resulting protein was ready for functionalization using an oxidative conjugation reaction. We are continuing cells utilizing a 21st amino acid and further examine their utility in protein evolution and therapy development.

What do you hope your lab can achieve in the coming year?
Although I have been building my independent research profile at Rice, I am actively exploring new research directions by collaborating with researchers in different fields. I hope we can tell you more of these exciting works in the coming year.

Describe your journey to becoming independent researcher.
My academic training and research experience have provided me with a broad background in multiple disciplines, which is critical for me to build up my independent research program. As an undergraduate, I supported Dr. Liu-Zhu Gong’s group (USTC) by developing flexible routes to synthesize chiral amines in alkaloid nature products. As a graduate student, I joined Dr. Peter G. Schultz’s lab at the Scripps Research Institute (TSRI). My graduate work was mainly focused on expanding the technique of genetically incorporating noncanonical amino acids in both prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms and applying this technique for better cancer therapeutics. To further my goal of becoming a professional scientist, I started my post-doctoral research career in Prof. Carolyn R. Bertozzi’s laboratory at Stanford University, whose lab has extensive experience in studying cancer-associated glycosylation. I learned a lot from my previous advisors about how to carry out projects as well as run a lab. The different training experiences from these labs laid the foundation for the interdisciplinary program I would like to build up at Rice University.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
The best advice was given to me by my parents: Prepare for the Future.

Why did you choose to publish your first article in ChemComm?
ChemComm is a renowned journal with a large readership from all chemistry disciplines as well as interdisciplinary fields. I am very happy to publish our first work in ChemComm.

Biography
Han Xiao is an Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biosciences at Rice University. Han obtained his undergraduate degree from the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) where he graduated with a B.S. in chemistry and an honors degree in physical science. He conducted undergraduate research in Prof. Liu-Zhu Gong’s group, focusing on organic methodology and synthesis of natural products. After graduating from USTC in 2010, Han joined the Ph.D. program at the Scripps Research Institute (TSRI). His thesis work with Prof. Peter G. Schultz focused on expanding the technique of genetically incorporating unnatural amino acids in both prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms and applying this technique for better cancer therapeutics. In 2015, Han joined the laboratory of Prof. Carolyn R. Bertozzi as a Good Ventures Postdoctoral Fellow of the Life Science Research Foundation at Stanford University. In his postdoctoral work, he was engaged in the development of novel cancer immune therapy targeting the cell-surface glycans axis of immune modulation. In July 2017, Han started his independent research at Rice University. Find him on Twitter: @Han_Xiao2016

 

 

 

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ChemComm Milestones – Hiroshi Yamagishi

Hiroshi Yamagishi recently published his first independent research article with ChemComm. We wanted to celebrate this exciting milestone by finding out more about Hiroshi and his research. Check out his #ChemComm1st article: Facile light-initiated radical generation from 4-substituted pyridine under ambient conditions

We asked Hiroshi a few questions about his experience in the lab and working with ChemComm. Read more below.

What are the main areas of research in your lab and what motivated you to take this direction?

After receiving the PhD for the synthesis and fundamental structural investigation of supramolecular porous fibers and crystals, I was motivated to expand this research topic in regard to their functionality. Our group in University of Tsukuba is now focusing on the synthesis of molecular porous aggregates and investigating their host–guest chemistry and optical functions.

Can you set this article in a wider context?
The host porous crystal, Pyopen, is an attracting and counterintuitive compound. Although the constituent organic molecules are bound together via labile van der Waals-like forces (C–H···N bonds), the porous framework exhibits high thermal stability. Distinct from the conventional MOFs, COFs, or HOFs, the stability of Pyopen is based on the packing mode or the interdigitation of the molecules. We expect that the difference in the bonding regime should result in novel outcomes, and we are now investigating a series of chemical and physical characters of such molecular porous crystals sustained by van der Waals crystals. This article highlights one of the intriguing optical and chemical features of the van der Waals crystals.

What do you hope your lab can achieve in the coming year?

One of the fundamental yet challenging topics in the field of van der Waals porous crystal is to establish a molecular design strategy. Distinct from the MOFs, COFs, or HOFs, the prediction or designing of van der Waals porous crystal is yet to be established due to the extremely low bonding energy and the low directionality of van der Waals force. This topic is what I am now trying to overcome in the coming year.

Describe your journey to becoming independent researcher.

In the course of the PhD, I fortunately received an offer as a researcher from a chemical company and was really willing to join after I got the PhD. However, when I visited the UK as a guest researcher for half a year before joining the company, I occasionally met with a colleague in the University of Tsukuba there, who also visited UK for Sabbatical and proposed to me a position in University of Tsukuba. Through this experience, I understood from the heart the meaning of the sentence: “Nobody knows the future”.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

An advice from a colleague of mine was indeed impressive and encouraging to me. In the course of a discussion about a research result, he said “I hate the word ‘failure’. You did not fail, but revealed a novel fact that the reaction proceeded in a different way from what you expected”.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?

ChemComm is a renowned journal that covers the diverse chemical sciences. Chemical Science is also attractive to me, but I prefer the communication format for publishing our results with urgency. Therefore, I chose ChemComm.

I am an Assistant Professor in Department of Materials Science, University of Tsukuba since 2018. I was educated at the University of Tokyo, gaining a PhD in 2018 for the development of intricate nanoporous organic and metal¬–organic architectures with distinct structural flexibility. I am currently focusing on optical resonators based on supramolecular aggregates with a view to realizing flexible lasers, displays, optical circuits and sensors. Compounds of interest covers organic linear and dendritic polymers, organic and metal–organic crystals, and organic liquid.

 

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ChemComm Milestones – Malte Fischer

Malte Fischer recently published his first article as a corresponding author with ChemComm. We wanted to celebrate this exciting milestone by finding out more about Malte and his research. Check out his #ChemComm1st article: B(C6F5)3- and HB(C6F5)2-mediated transformations of isothiocyanates.

We asked Malte a few questions about his experience in the lab and working with ChemComm. Read more below.

What are your main areas of research and what motivated you to take this direction?

I would like to summarize the research I am doing and I am interested in, simply under the term “synthetic chemistry”. Specifically, I mean research within the interfaces of organic chemistry, main group chemistry and organometallic chemistry. I am enthusiastic about the progress – especially in recent years – in synthesis, method development and in the search for applications for new molecules. I am convinced that there will always be a need for effective synthesis routes to access unusual and new molecules and I very much hope that I can contribute to this.

Can you set this article in a wider context?

The article is settled in main group chemistry. During my PhD I became more and more interested in this exciting field of research. Based on the reported results I will continue the research in this field.

What do you hope you and your research can achieve in the coming year?

Despite this difficult time, I am simply looking forward to going back to the laboratory at some point to continue having fun in doing research.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.

I think the moment when I was able to synthesize and characterize my first molecule unknown in literature (happened during my bachelor thesis) inspired me so much that since then I have had the goal of doing independent research and realizing my own ideas. I am definitely still in the beginning of becoming an independent researcher and I am currently working on laying the foundation for it – and this work has given me a lot of pleasure so far.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

The best advice was given to me by my parents and I try to live by it as much as possible: Pursue what interests you most and captivates you – the rest will come naturally.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?

ChemComm simply stands for publications of the highest quality and with a large readership from all chemistry sub-disciplines. I am immensely pleased to have become a small part of this journal with my first publication as the corresponding author.

Malte’s Bio:

The publication ‘B(C6F5)3- and HB(C6F5)2-Mediated Transformations of Isothiocyanates’ originates from the phase as a research scientist within the group of Prof. Beckhaus in Oldenburg.

05/2019 – 02/2020      Research Scientist/ PostDoc – Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg, Germany. Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Rüdiger Beckhaus

10/2015 – 05/2019      PhD in Chemistry. Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg, Germany. Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Rüdiger Beckhaus

10/2013 – 10/2015      Master of Science in Chemistry

10/2010 – 10/2013      Bachelor of Science in Chemistry

Find Malte on Twitter: @FiMalte

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ChemComm Milestones – Rob Woodward

Rob Woodward recently published his first independent research article with ChemComm. We wanted to celebrate this exciting milestone by finding out more about Rob and his research. Check out his #ChemComm1st article: ‘The design of hypercrosslinked polymers from benzyl ether self-condensing compounds and external crosslinkers’

We asked Rob a few questions about his experience in the lab and publishing with ChemComm. Read more below.

What are the main areas of research in your lab and what motivated you to take this direction?

Our primary research focus is the design and production of new porous organic polymers and carbons for a variety of separation and storage applications. These include solid-state extraction to remove pollutants from water, fractionation of complex mixtures, gas separation and storage, energy storage, and even catalysis. In order to approach such a wide variety of applications, we utilise a class of densely crosslinked porous polymers, known as hypercrosslinked polymers. The key feature of these networks is their simple and robust synthesis, allowing a vast array of aromatic compounds to be used as monomeric building blocks.

Our motivation is to try to use hypercrosslinked polymers to establish a platform for targeted adsorbent design. This would enable the engineering of networks customised to tackle specific problems. For example, if certain chemical functionalities or textural properties are known to be beneficial for a given application, we can envision a sort of ‘plug-and-play’ approach, in which various building blocks are used to produce adsorbents with the desired properties. Hypercrosslinked polymers are generally low-cost and have excellent chemical and thermal stabilities, issues that plague many classes of porous materials. Coupled with tailored design, these features may make hypercrosslinked polymers suitable for a broad range of applications, while remaining technically competitive with leading adsorbents.

Can you set this article in a wider context?

The article represents a new approach to the formation of hypercrosslinked polymers, in which conventional aliphatic crosslinkers are replaced with these benzyl ether aromatic compounds. The synthetic process remains the same, but the textural properties of the resulting polymer can be vastly improved, simply by changing a reagent. These compounds also showed unexpected benefits for hypercrosslinking reactions, allowing better control over the porous properties of networks and for reductions in the amount of catalyst required during synthesis, something currently considered a significant setback for hypercrosslinked polymers.

In a wider context, this work opens new routes to hypercrosslinked polymers where conventional approaches may fail or give poor results, presenting synthetic chemists more options with respect to designing new and improved adsorbents.

What do you hope your lab can achieve in the coming year?

Although I have been building my independent research profile while at Imperial College, I was just very recently appointed to an Assistant Professor position in The University of Vienna’s Faculty of Chemistry. This is really the beginning of my independent academic career with regards to establishing my own lab and research group. So, in all honesty, this year will look like a success to me if we can get the laboratory up and running, begin to build a strong research foundation, and establish a network in Vienna to try to begin some local collaborative work. We do have some exciting work due to come out soon which we hope to build from in the short term, but I won’t say too much about that just yet…

Describe your journey to becoming independent researcher.

I was awarded both my MChem (2008) and PhD (2013) from The University of Liverpool, which is also my hometown. My PhD focused on the synthesis of responsive polymeric surfactants and colloidal systems. I then took up a short post-doctoral position in Prof. Andy Cooper’s group, where I first worked with porous polymeric materials. In 2014, I moved to London for a position in Imperial College London’s Department of Chemical Engineering in the Polymer and Composite Engineering group. There I started to explore other types of porous polymers, as well as investigating their application to several problems, such as energy storage, biomass treatment, and gas separation and storage. I was lucky to have great supervisors who were supportive of me establishing my own independent work. In 2017, I was awarded the Sir William Wakeham prize by Imperial for my research, which gave me the belief that I could pursue a career in academia. Finally, I was offered the role in Vienna just a few weeks ago! So, I am very excited to get that underway and to continue to explore my chosen research avenues.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

Tough question! Well, my dad always tells me that sometimes you must be a bit cheeky to get what you want – but I’m not sure how well that would go down with a review panel! I have had many great mentors in my academic life too, all of whom have given me advice that I will take forward. However, my PhD supervisor, Dr. Jonathan Weaver, not only taught me to face my demons head on but also assured me that I was able to. He taught me not to take life too seriously and that fostering happiness in all facets of your life was the key to success. Jon passed away at only 32 years old, before we could finish the PhD together, so his advice and guidance has become very special to me.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?

I definitely envisioned the article as a Communication, a short proof of concept for this new approach to making hypercrosslinked polymers. I chose ChemComm as I know it has a great reputation and a broad readership, making it an ideal platform for me to report my work to researchers around the globe. Furthermore, this is the third article I have published in ChemComm (the first as an independent researcher) and the entire process has always been very smooth and transparent, so I was very happy to return.

Rob obtained his PhD from The University of Liverpool (UK) in 2013, before completing a short post-doctoral position in Prof. Andy Cooper’s group. In 2014 he moved to Imperial College London’s Department of Chemical Engineering, where he joined the Polymer and Composite Engineering group and began to build his independent research profile in the design and application of porous polymers. This year Rob was appointed as an Assistant Professor at the University of Vienna’s Institute of Materials Chemistry, marking the beginning of his independent academic career. Find him on Twitter: @robbiewoody

 

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