Archive for the ‘First Independent Author’ Category

ChemComm Milestones – Stefano Cinti

A warm congratulations to Stefano Cinti for publishing his first independent research article in ChemComm. Be sure to read Stefano’s #ChemComm1st article ‘Merging office/filter paper-based tools for pre-concentring and detecting heavy metals in drinking water‘ in our collection, ChemComm Milestones – First Independent Articles.

We recently caught up with Stefano to find out about his experience as a first-time author. Read about it in our interview below. 

What are the main areas of research in your lab and what motivated you to take this direction?
The main areas are biosensors, smart materials and sustainability. I think the combination of printing technologies and nanomaterials is capable of providing people with very useful analytical tools for improving life’s quality.

Can you set this article in a wider context?
This article represents a general and simple approach for improving decentralized analysis and to strengthen the concept of citizen science.

What do you hope your lab can achieve in the coming year?
I hope my lab, the uninanobiosensors lab, would be able to generate smart solutions for everyone needs monitoring something, in all contexts.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.
I was fortunate to work in the laboratory of Prof. Palleschi and Prof. Moscone at University of Rome “Tor Vergata”. They gave me all the fundamentals on biosensors and analytical chemistry, always supported me and allowed to spend time abroad. This gave me a wider, international perspective.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
I think the best advice has been given by observing my labmates at UCSD in the group of Joe Wang. I was a visiting PhD student, and it was clear that to make excellent research you just need your creativity and to work hard.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?
It is a high-quality platform to highlight my research, and also I like the style of the journal.

Stefano Cinti is Assistant Professor at the Department of Pharmacy, University of Naples “Federico II”. He obtained a PhD in Chemical Sciences in the group headed by Prof. Giuseppe Palleschi at University of “Tor Vergata”. He leads the uninanobiosensors Lab (uninanobiosensors.com) and his research includes the development of Electrochemical (bio)sensors, Paper-Based devices, Nanomotors and Nanomaterials. He spent periods abroad in Finland, UK, USA, Germany and Spain. He published more than 45 papers on peer-reviewed journals, with H-index of 27, >2000 citations. In 2018 and 2019 he has been named Best Young Researcher in Bio-Analytical Chemistry and Analytical Chemistry, respectively (by Italian Chemical Society), and in 2020 he has been inserted in World’s Top 2% Scientists. He is in the board of the Chemical Cultural Diffusion group and of the Young Group of Italian Chemical Society. He is the Chair of AMYC-BIOMED, a multi-disciplinary conference for young chemists in the biomedical sciences. He is active in communicating science to non-specialized audience through TV shows, radio and magazine. Find Stefano on Twitter: @S_Cinti87

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ChemComm Milestones – Ashlee Howarth

We are delighted to introduce Ashlee Howarth, our latest #ChemComm1st author. Ashlee’s first independent research article was published in ChemComm in May. Her Communication ‘Synthetic approaches for accessing rare-earth analogues of UiO-66‘ has now been added to our growing collection, ChemComm Milestones – First Independent Articles. Find out more about Ashlee in our interview with her below.

Our ChemComm Milestones interview with Ashlee Howarth

What are the main areas of research in your lab and what motivated you to take this direction?
In my research lab at Concordia, we are interested in the design and synthesis of new rare-earth metal–organic frameworks comprised of multinuclear cluster nodes. We take inspiration from the field of zirconium-based MOFs – materials that I worked with extensively during my postdoctoral studies – where the vast majority of Zr-MOFs contain hexanuclear cluster nodes as building blocks. We are interested in using rare-earth metals to construct MOFs because of the possibility to generate several multinuclear rare-earth clusters (e.g., tetranuclear, hexanuclear, nonanuclear, etc) with varying geometry and connectivity. The diversity of cluster building blocks that are accessible, allows us to synthesize structures that are not as easily attainable (or not attainable at all) using other metals. We are still in the early stages of this research, but our long-term goals are to study these materials for the adsorption, catalytic breakdown, and chemical sensing of hazardous analytes.

Can you set this article in a wider context?
UiO-66 is a zirconium-based MOF that was first reported by researchers from the University of Oslo in 2008 (https://doi.org/10.1021/ja8057953). Since this initial report, there have been over 4,000 publications on the topic of UiO-66. This is because it is a highly robust MOF, built from hexanuclear zirconium clusters bridged by simple terephthalic acid linkers, and has been shown to be potentially useful for applications ranging from gas capture to catalysis to drug delivery. In this article, we report on the synthesis and characterization of eight rare-earth analogues of UiO-66, specifically the Y(III), Eu(III), Gd(III), Tb(III), Ho(III), Er(III), Tm(III), and Yb(III) analogue. We hope to see these rare-earth analogues of UiO-66 become extensively studied over the next decade, just like the Zr-based prototype.

What do you hope your lab can achieve in the coming year?
In the upcoming year, I hope that we can continue to build foundational knowledge with regards to the tips and tricks for synthesizing rare-earth cluster-based MOFs. This includes expanding on knowledge of de novo as well as post-synthetic modification techniques, purification and activation strategies, and methods for characterizing the chemical and physical properties of these new materials.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.
My journey to becoming an independent researcher began when I completed an Honours specialization project as an undergraduate student in the Corrigan lab at the University of Western Ontario. This was when I first learned about research, the possibility of graduate school, and the steps required to become an independent researcher in academia. From there my love for research, and specifically inorganic materials chemistry, continued to grow as a PhD student in the Wolf lab at the University of British Columbia. I was first introduced to MOFs during my postdoctoral studies in the Farha and Hupp groups at Northwestern University, and it was during my 3 years as a postdoc that I grew to love these materials. I was (and continue to be) fascinated by the fundamental aspects of MOF chemistry, discovering new building blocks, making new network structures, and growing crystals. I also love that MOFs have many potential practical applications due to their high porosities, surface areas, and tunable properties. As such, when finishing my postdoctoral studies I knew I wanted to continue working with MOFs – but I wanted to branch out from working with Zr-MOFs and start exploring the use of rare-earth elements. It’s been quite challenging working on a subclass of MOFs that are entirely new to me, but it’s also been very rewarding, and my students and I learn something new every day.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
It’s quite hard to choose just one piece of advice, since I have been given lots of great advice from my mentors over the years. One piece of advice that has always stuck with me, which came from my undergraduate supervisor John F. Corrigan, is to always be yourself. It sounds simple enough, but I was giving a practice presentation for my honours thesis defense and I had made pink PowerPoint slides. One of the other students in the group suggested I change the colour since pink might not be the most obvious choice for a professional scientific presentation. John told me to leave the colour if I liked it, and to always be myself. I’ve carried that advice with me throughout my scientific career and it has helped to give me confidence in myself as a scientist – even at times when I don’t always feel like I belong.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?
ChemComm is a great journal with an excellent reputation in chemistry. I always wanted to publish in ChemComm when I was a graduate student but never had the opportunity. When my student, Pedro Donnarumma, was able to find the synthetic conditions necessary to make the first ever rare-earth analogues of UiO-66, I thought that ChemComm would be the perfect venue to disseminate the results quickly and have high visibility within the MOF and materials chemistry communities. I’m very proud to say that my first publication as an independent researcher is in ChemComm and I’m especially proud of the students Pedro Donnarumma (lead author, MSc graduate), Sahara Frojmovic (undergraduate Honours student), Paola Marino (MSc Student), and Hudson Bicalho (PhD candidate) who worked so hard to make it possible! The work also wouldn’t be possible without our awesome collaborator and expert crystallographer Dr. Hatem Titi.

Ashlee J. Howarth was born and raised in London, Ontario. She obtained her undergraduate degree from the University of Western Ontario in 2009, and then went on to do her PhD in inorganic materials chemistry at the University of British Columbia under the supervision of Michael O. Wolf. Before joining the faculty at Concordia, she completed an NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship at Northwestern University with Joseph T. Hupp and Omar K. Farha. In 2018, Ashlee was recognized by Forbes Magazine as a “30 under 30” in Science for her contributions to research in the field of wastewater treatment, and the detoxification of chemical warfare agents. In 2019, she won the UBC Chemistry Young Alumnus Award, which recognizes a young alumnus whose accomplishments are of such excellence that they provide inspiration and leadership to students and other young alumni. At Concordia, Ashlee is the Concordia University Research Chair in Metal–Organic Frameworks, and the Howarth group is focused on the design and synthesis of rare-earth metal–organic frameworks targeting applications in wastewater remediation, catalysis, and chemical sensing.

 

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ChemComm Milestones – Robert Godin

ChemComm Milestones – Robert Godin

Robert Godin reached an exciting milestone this year when he chose to publish his first independent article in ChemComm. You can read Robert’s #ChemComm1st article ‘Experimental determination of charge carrier dynamics in carbon nitride heterojunctions‘ in our growing collection, ChemComm Milestones – First Independent Authors. We are also pleased to confirm that Robert’s significant research now features in our 2021 Emerging Investigators collection too.

To find out more about Robert’s experiences as a first-time author, watch the video interview below.

ChemComm Milestones interview with Robert Godin:

Explore more #ChemComm1st content on our Twitter: @ChemCommun

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ChemComm Milestones – Erli Lu

We were really excited to speak to Erli Lu about his #ChemComm1st article ‘A monomeric methyllithium complex: synthesis and structure‘. This recently published Communication is available to read in our full collection ChemComm Milestones – First Independent Articles. It’s also Open Access.

Find out about Erli and his research in our interview below.

What are the main areas of research in your lab and what motivated you to take this direction?
The main research area of my lab is group-1 and group-2 metal coordination chemistry, for example, lithium, sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium. Since my PhD, I have studied coordination chemistry of some of the most obscure metals, such as rare-earth and actinide metals. Compared to them, group-1 and 2 metal coordination chemistry are thought to be ‘well-established’. But actually, if looking closely, there are many knowledge gaps in this area. To fill these gaps, I set our research targets towards these ‘familiar strangers’.

Can you set this article in a wider context?
This article is our first step to unveil the unknown face of some of the most common chemical reagents, in this case, organolithium reagents. Organolithium, for example, butyllithium, is arguably the most important organometallic reagents, and the parent of organometallic chemistry. The vital roles of organolithium in numerous organic reactions depend on their aggregates—they exist as oligomers but are postulated to react via the monomers. Chemists want to isolate the monomers, to understand the reaction mechanisms, but this is a formidable task: the monomers are super-reactive and very easy to decompose. In this article, we isolated the first monomer of the archetypical organolithium reagent: methyllithium.

What do you hope your lab can achieve in the coming year?
More exciting complexes, of course! And more papers, for sure! We hope to change an existing prejudice held by chemists that the group-1 and 2 chemistry are not as versatile as d-block and f-block metals, just because they have been studied for over a century.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.
I decided to pursue a research career since my 2nd PhD year—when I made my first important discovery (the first scandium terminal imide) in Yaofeng’s group at SIOC. This work was published in ChemComm in 2010 and has inspired, influenced and encouraged me since then. The training of a coordination chemist is similar to a Jedi Knight for me: it’s nearly impossible to succeed without a local guru’s help and guidance. I was lucky to meet my two ‘Jedi Masters’: Prof. Yaofeng Chen and Prof. Steve Liddle, who helped me to grow into an independent researcher.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
‘Grit teeth and carry on’—It is very often (maybe too often) easy to feel frustrated, if not desperate, in a research career. But persistence will be rewarded eventually.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?
I have published 4 Communications in ChemComm, including some of my most important results. From my experience, the two biggest advantages of ChemComm against competitor journals are the rapid reviewing procedure and the professional editorial teams. The handling editors of ChemComm are active academics and do the research themselves—this is very important to ensure a fair and reasonable scientific judgement about a manuscript. Another reason to publish in ChemComm is supporting our local Chemical Society—though it is a less popular practice nowadays than before.

Erli Lu was born in Hefei, China, in 1984. His university degree (BEng) was awarded in 2006 by Tianjin Polytechnic University (China) in Polymer Material Science and Engineering. He joined Shanghai Institute of Organic Chemistry (SIOC), Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2006, studying rare-earth metal coordination chemistry in the Yaofeng Chen group and was awarded the PhD in 2012. In the same year, he moved to the UK as a postdoc researcher with an EU Marie Curie International Incoming Fellowship to join the Steve Liddle group at the University of Nottingham, investigating actinide coordination chemistry. He had stayed in the Liddle group at Nottingham and Manchester from 06.2012-09.2019, before starting his independent career at Newcastle University, as a Newcastle University Academic Track (NUAcT) Fellow. Erli’s group at Newcastle investigates new aspects of group-1 & 2 metal coordination chemistry, including new highly reactive organolithium complexes, low-valent group-1/2 complexes, and their applications in catalysis and energy storage. Find Erli on Twitter: @erli_lu

 

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ChemComm Milestones – Pei-Xi Wang

Congratulations to Pei-Xi Wang who has published his #ChemComm1st article ‘Lyotropic Liquid Crystalline Phases of Anisotropic Nanoparticles of Organic-Inorganic Metal Halide Perovskites: Photoluminescence from Self-Assembled Ordered Microstructures of Semiconductors‘ within the last month. We recently spoke to Pei-Xi about his experiences as a first-time independent author. Find out more in our interview below.

What are the main areas of research in your lab and what motivated you to take this direction?
Motivated by the charming microscopic orderliness of liquid crystalline phases, which provides a relatively simple and controllable bottom-up biomimetic approach to various fascinating hierarchical structures existing in plants and animals, we decided to focus on the development of novel lyotropic liquid crystals as well as the fabrication of functional composite nanomaterials based on them. Currently, we are trying to build a general synthesis method that can transform different types of organic-inorganic metal halide perovskites into colloidal liquid crystalline mesogens, and to further use these semiconducting soft anisotropic materials in optoelectronic devices.

Can you set this article in a wider context?
The functionalization of many types of conventional colloidal liquid crystalline mesogens, such as vanadium pentoxide nanoribbons, polypeptides, and cellulose nanocrystals is usually difficult, i.e., it is hard to endow them with specific energy band gaps or other desired physical properties by chemical modification. In this article, the feasibility of synthesizing mesogenic nanoparticles of organic-inorganic metal halide perovskites has been proven, as metal halide perovskites are a class of materials with excellent structural and compositional diversity, it would be possible to systematically develop a large family of colloidal lyotropic liquid crystals with semiconductivity, luminescence, ferroelectricity, magnetism, chirality, or other preferred features.

What do you hope your lab can achieve in the coming year?
Since late March, my first two graduate students, Ting-Ting Zhou and Cai-Yun Zhao have started to work in the lab. In the coming year, I hope they can find their real research interests either in the field of lyotropic liquid crystalline materials, where I would be able to support them with the experience and knowledge I have gathered during my Ph.D. and postdoctoral studies, or in any other fields attracting them or fortunately initiated by themselves, where they can enjoy the exciting process of making new discoveries every day.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.
From 2007 to 2009, when I was a student in Henan Experimental High School, I learned a lot of classical and modern physics for the Chinese Physics Olympiad, during which time I was strongly attracted by the conciseness of physical principles such as the Maxwell equations. However, I did not have a clear understanding of scientific research until the completion of my first project under the supervision of Prof. Mark J. MacLachlan (I would also like to acknowledge Dr. Vitor M. Zamarion for his kind help with that project). There was a moment when I accidentally realized that the circular dichroism signal of a chiral nematic mesoporous silica film filled with a Prussian blue analogue should be the product of the absorption and CD spectra of the unfilled film, which was for the first time I noticed that there might be some interesting mathematical relationships behind the seemingly tedious experimental data. From then on, I learned how to build a comprehensive view of the materials and physical phenomena involved in my studies, and started to enjoy the hunt for undiscovered phenomena in the jungle of my experiments.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
It would be a Chinese saying “吾生也有涯, 而知也无涯, 以有涯随无涯, 殆已”, which means “my lifespan is limited, while knowledge is infinite, spending my limited time on pursuing unlimited knowledge is harmful”.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?
In the past several years, I have been inspired by many classical research articles published in ChemComm, therefore I believe that ChemComm is a great journal for rapidly reporting new chemical discoveries with clear scientific significance and authenticity.

Dr. Pei-Xi Wang was born in China in September 1992. He received his B.Sc. in chemistry from Jilin University in July 2014. He then moved to Vancouver in August 2014 to pursue a Ph.D. and completed his doctorate in chemistry at the University of British Columbia in October 2018, where under the supervision of Prof. Mark J. MacLachlan, he studied the structures and transformation of chiral nematic liquid crystalline tactoidal microphases of cellulose nanocrystals by scanning electron microscopy. Afterwards, he worked as a postdoctoral researcher in the MacLachlan group at UBC (2019/01-2019/12) and in the Edward H. Sargent group at the University of Toronto (2020/01-2020/11). Pei-Xi started his independent research as an associate professor in early December 2020 at the Suzhou Institute of Nano-Tech and Nano-Bionics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, where he focuses on the development of colloidal lyotropic liquid crystals of semiconducting organic-inorganic metal halide perovskites.

 

Read Pei-Xi’s #ChemComm1st article and others in our growing collection, ChemComm Milestones – First Independent Article. Follow us on Twitter for all of the latest #ChemCommMilestones news.

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ChemComm Milestones – Bartosz Lewandowski

Bartosz Lewandowski’s ChemComm1st article ‘Chiral recognition of amino-acid esters by a glucose-derived macrocyclic receptor‘ is available now. We wanted to find out more about Bartosz and what it was like to reach this ChemComm Milestone in our interview below.

Read our with Bartosz interview here.

What are the main areas of research in your lab and what motivated you to take this direction?
The main topic which we are investigating is the use of monosaccharides as building blocks to create supramolecular receptors and assemblies. We want to take advantage of the intrinsic features of these biomolecules (e.g. water solubility, biocompatibility, modularity) and create new types of supramolecular systems and devices for controlled and selective encapsulation, transport and chemical transformations of molecular entities.

I was “hooked on sugars” during my Ph.D. studies in the group of Prof. Sławomir Jarosz where I explored the chemistry of sucrose. This was a great learning experience for me as I got to know the challenges associated with sugar chemistry, but was also able to appreciate the great potential of these biomolecules. And I felt that there are many exciting things that can be done with sugars, particularly in the context of supramolecular chemistry, which is exactly what we are working on right now.

Can you set this article in a wider context?
The ability to separate or detect enantiomers of bioactive molecules is of high importance since they very often have vastly different chemical and biological properties. Achieving this goal in aqueous media is particularly relevant if one wants to develop analytical tools for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes. Within our manuscript we demonstrated the efficacy of a simple glucose-based macrocycle for differentiation of amino-acid enantiomers in aqueous environments. Thus our results open up exciting opportunities for the development of molecular tools for chirality sensing and enantiomer separation of bioactive molecules.

What do you hope your lab can achieve in the coming year?
Firstly, I hope that we can build on the results we just published and develop further carbohydrate-based chiral receptors. We plan to utilize the modularity of monosaccharides and their potential for functional fine-tuning to create supramolecular receptors with additional attractive features (e.g. increased chemoselectivity, fluorescence). My other ambition for this and following years is to explore other research pathways with carbohydrate-based macrocycles and use them as building blocks to create novel functional supramolecular assemblies and perhaps even molecular machines.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.
I think the moment when I started to seriously consider becoming an academic researcher was when I joined the group of Prof. David Leigh for my post-doc. Designing and creating molecular machines is a tremendous scientific challenge. But for me it also contained an element of pure joy and excitement coming from assembling small molecular fragments piece-by-piece into a device that can perform complex tasks. And the satisfaction when the final goal was achieved rewarded all the difficulties and frustration that came along the way. And that’s when I thought “Yes, this is what I want to do in life.” That thought was then reinforced when I joined the group of Prof. Helma Wennemers. Working on highly multidisciplinary cutting-edge research and being immediately entrusted with supervision and guidance for junior co-workers (both students and Ph.D. students) allowed me to greatly mature as a scientist. It also inspired me to create my own research plan for the future. And at the end of 2015 I successfully applied for the position of a Senior Scientist in the Wennemers Group at the Laboratory of Organic Chemistry, ETH Zürich. This is a unique position which gives me the opportunity to build my independent research line while remaining an integral part of Prof. Wennemers’ team where we pursue exciting research projects.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
I’ve been very fortunate to have worked with many incredibly supportive people and I’ve received a lot of great advice from them. The two pieces that stuck with me the most over the years are:
“If you keep doing excellent work, good things will eventually come your way.” and “You should never talk yourself out of an experiment.”

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?
First of all because it’s one of the leading chemistry journals in the world with a broad impact on the scientific community. It’s also among my favourite journals to read when I screen recent literature. Finally, I was very keen on publishing my first independent work in ChemComm as this is where the most significant results of my PhD were published.

Bartosz Lewandowski was born in Kętrzyn, Poland in 1981. He obtained his M.Sc. degree in Chemical Technology from the Warsaw University of Technology in 2004. He carried out his Ph.D. research on synthesis and complexing properties of sucrose-based macrocycles in the Institute of Organic Chemistry, Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, in the group of Prof. Sławomir Jarosz. He successfully defended the Ph.D. thesis in 2009 and in the same year became the FNP (Foundation for Polish Science) Post-Doctoral Fellow in the group of Prof. David Leigh at the University of Edinburgh. There he worked on the design, synthesis and operation of molecular machines. In 2013 he joined the group of Prof. Helma Wennemers at the ETH Zürich as a Marie Curie Post-Doctoral Fellow, working on oligoproline-based macrocycles and supramolecular assemblies for molecular recognition and catalysis. In 2016 he was appointed as a Senior Scientist in the Wennemers Group. His research focuses on using monosaccharides to create supramolecular receptors and assemblies for selective binding, transport and chemical transformations of guest molecules.

Read Bartosz’s ChemComm1st article and others in our collection ChemComm Milestones – First Independent Article. Follow @ChemCommun for all of the latest journal and #ChemCommMilestones news.

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ChemComm Milestones – Ellen Robertson

We are pleased to let you know that Ellen Robertson has reached a ChemComm Milestone with her #ChemComm1st article: ‘Synthesis and characterization of plasmonic peptoid nanosheets‘.

Find out about Ellen and her research below.

What are the main areas of research in your lab and what motivated you to take this direction?
I’m a physical chemist by training and my research specifically focuses on colloid and interfacial science. In my lab, we are working to develop new classes of surface enhanced Raman scattering sensors based on the co-assembly of two-dimensional peptoid scaffolds and nanoparticles at fluid surfaces. Our goal is to use these sensors to detect environmental pollutants that are prevalent in Upstate New York. I’ve always been interested in using chemistry to solve environmental problems. In college, I worked on a service-learning project in my introductory chemistry course in which we collected soil and water samples from the community and tested them for lead. I realized from this example how chemistry can be used for the good of the environment and its inhabitants, and it is my aim as a chemist to do this kind of good.

Can you set this article in a wider context?
The research presented in this article clearly demonstrates how the power of interfacial self-assembly can be implemented to fabricate new nanomaterials with interesting properties. I believe the method described in the paper for forming plasmonic peptoid nanosheets can likely be extended to creating two-dimensional arrays of magnetic, semiconducting, antibacterial, and catalytic nanoparticles. This generalizable strategy has the potential for creating a new class of two-dimensional nanomaterials that have a wide range of optical, electronic, and magnetic properties.

What do you hope your lab can achieve in the coming year?
In the upcoming year, my lab hopes to test the limits of our peptoid-directed assembly mechanism for forming new two-dimensional nanomaterials. We are planning to see if we can fine-tune the properties of these nanosheets by varying the nanoparticle concentration, size, surface chemistry, and material used in the synthesis.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.
My journey to becoming an independent researcher was the result of my love of chemistry and some timely opportunities that I was able to pursue. I started my research path as an undergraduate at Kalamazoo College. I worked in Jeff Bartz’s lab studying the gas phase dissociation of NOx compounds. Jeff encouraged me to pursue summer research opportunities, and I was grateful to have the opportunity to work for one summer at Dartmouth College making cobalt nanoparticles in Barney Grubb’s lab, and one summer at the University of Oregon studying interfacial assembly in Geraldine Richmond’s lab. I loved the Richmond lab research so much, I returned as a graduate student to complete my Ph.D. research, which focused on understanding the assembly of polyelectrolytes at the oil-water interface using vibrational sum frequency spectroscopy (VSFS) and interfacial tension measurements. While in graduate school, I worked on collaborative project between Geri’s lab and Ron Zuckermann’s lab at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab in which I characterized peptoid monolayers using VSFS. The aim of these studies was to assign spectroscopic signatures to peptoid monolayers that were capable of forming peptoid nanosheets via monolayer compression and collapse. Working on this collaboration was a great experience and prompted me to apply for and accept a postdoctoral position in Ron’s lab. I spent two years working in Ron’s lab using interfacial tension and rheology to determine the factors that affect the ability of different peptoid sequences to form monolayers capable of collapse into nanosheets. Following my postdoctoral appointment, I returned to Kalamazoo College as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry. It was here that I realized my love of working with undergraduates in the research lab, and so I sought out a position at a primarily undergraduate institution. Now an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Union College, my independent research combines elements of my graduate research (self-assembly at the oil-water interface) with my post-doctoral research (using peptoids to create new materials).

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Some of the best advice that I have ever been given is to embrace a growth mindset. With a growth mindset, we can always envision new ways to improve, both professionally and personally. Failure no longer becomes an obstacle, but an opportunity to learn something new and grow.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?
I chose to publish in ChemComm because this journal is well known for publishing novel research that is of immediate and broad interest to those in the field of chemistry. I was so excited when my lab discovered the plasmonic peptoid nanosheets described in our recent ChemComm publication. I realized that the synthesis of these novel materials through peptoid monolayer collapse at the oil-water interface opened the door for creating a brand-new class of two-dimensional nanomaterials. I wanted to share this discovery with a broad audience of chemists that could see the utility in these new materials and the method used to prepare them. I am grateful for the opportunity that ChemComm has given me to share my science story.

Back: Ellen Robertson, Chris Avanessian, Anna Mahony, Elizabeth Whitney
Front: Misty Zaczyk, Mindle Shavy Paneth, Jana Davis

Professor Ellen J. Robertson received her Ph.D. in physical chemistry at the University of Oregon where she studied the assembly of polyelectrolytes at the oil-water interface using vibrational sum frequency spectroscopy. Ellen then held a post-doctoral appointment at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab where she studied the assembly mechanism of peptoid nanosheets at the air-water interface. After serving as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Kalamazoo College for two years, Ellen was hired as an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Union College, a small private liberal arts institution in Upstate New York. Here, she has established her research program, the overall goal of which is to develop peptoid-based surface enhanced Raman scattering sensors for detecting pollutants that are persistent in Upstate New York. Her work has been funded by The Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region’s Bender Scientific Fund. Ellen is dedicated to undergraduate education in chemistry, both in the classroom and in the research lab. At Union, Ellen teaches courses in general and physical chemistry and works with undergraduates in her research lab. She also co-advises Union College’s American Chemical Society Student Chapter. Outside of chemistry, Ellen is an avid tennis player, competing both at the local and national level. 

You can find all of our #ChemComm1st articles in ChemComm Milestones – First Independent Articles. Follow @ChemCommun for all of the latest ChemComm Milestones updates.

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ChemComm Milestones – Bogdan Barz

We are delighted to bring our latest ChemComm Milestones interview. This time, we would like to highlight Bogdan Barz’s #ChemComm1st article: Compact fibril-like structure of amyloid β-peptide (1–42) monomers.

Read our interview with Bogdan below.

What are the main areas of research in your lab and what motivated you to take this direction?
The focus of my group is on modeling intrinsically disordered proteins, their aggregation into highly
stable fibrils and their interaction with inhibitory peptides. One of the main aims is to quantify
protein-protein interaction and establish a direct connection to experiments. Therefore, a strong
collaboration with experimental groups is of high value. The motivation behind the research path
my group pursues is highly related to the work I did during my Ph.D., where I encountered free
energy calculation methods for the first time, but also to my later work on modeling amyloid
proteins and their self assembly. As an independent researcher I plan to combine these two topics
and make sure that my research is well anchored in experimental observations.

Can you set this article in a wider context?
The amyloid beta protein is a key protein in the onset of Alzheimer’s disease but its precise role is
not understood yet. Therefore, one should study all aspects and stages of aggregation into toxic
oligomers and fibrils in order to have a comprehensive understanding of its complex role in
Alzheimer’s disease. The monomers are the smallest species along the assembly process and
their structural diversity is a hot topic of research. Experimentally, it is difficult to study them due to
the fast aggregation into fibrils, especially for the amyloid β-protein 1-42 (Aβ42). Computationally,
there are many studies directed at monomers, generally with diverging conclusions, but there are
high hopes in the modern force fields specifically tailored for intrinsically disordered proteins. What
makes our study special is the finding that the structural features of the monomer model resemble
those of peptides from fibrillar structures, which is an important piece of the big puzzle. This study
explains to some degree the strong propensity of the Aβ42 monomers to aggregate into a specific
type of fibrils.

What do you hope your lab can achieve in the coming year?
Studying the structural flexibility of the Aβ42 monomer is only the first step of this project. We are
currently working on elucidating the interaction of the monomer with amyloid fibrils in a quest to
understand the relevant factors that contribute to the secondary nucleation of the amyloid beta
protein. My first Ph.D. student, Soumav Nath, is an excellent experimentalist and has already
performed many experiments planned for this project under the supervision of Prof. Alexander K.
Büll from the Technical University of Denmark. Soumav has also learned to perform molecular
dynamics simulations and is now responsible for a large part of the computational work. For the
rest of the year we will finalize the computational part of the project, corroborate the results with the
experiments and publish several related manuscripts. The funding for my group will end this fall,
but we are hoping for a more permanent status in the future.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
I always remember Dr. Nicolae Aldea’s advice that in science, as in other areas, working with
people is the most difficult task and treating co-workers with respect is what makes a great
research team.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?
I find ChemComm a great journal for the diversity of topics and scientific methods used in its
published papers, but also for its fast publication process. This is my second time publishing in
ChemComm and, based on my previous experience, I can confirm that the journal has great
visibility and the published work has good chances to be cited in further studies.

Dr. Bogdan Barz is a junior group leader at the Heinrich-Heine-Universität in Düsseldorf, Germany. He received his B.S. in Physics and his M.Sc in Applied Mathematics, Mechanics and Astronomy at Babe -Bolyay University in Cluj-Napoca, Romania where he ș focused on topics in magnetohydrodynamics under the supervision of Conf. Dr. Marcu Alexandru. During his masters studies he also worked as a research scientist at the National Institute for Research and Development of Isotopic and Molecular Technologies Cluj-Napoca, Romania in the field of X-ray
spectroscopy under the guidance of Dr. Nicolae Aldea. Afterwards, he started his graduate studies at the University of Missouri, Columbia, USA in the group of Prof. Ioan Kosztin where he received his Ph.D. in Physics working on various topics in computational biophysics. He then pursued a postdoctoral position at Drexel University in Philadelphia, USA in the group of Prof. Brigita Urbanc
where he applied computational methods to study protein aggregation. This position was followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at the Research Centre Jülich, Germany in the group of Prof. Birgit Strodel where Dr. Barz used various computational techniques to describe the self-assembly process of amyloid proteins. Currently, his group, funded by a grant from the German Research Foundation, works in close collaborations with experimental researchers and combines enhanced sampling techniques with free energy methods to quantify protein-protein interaction.

 

Read more #ChemComm1st articles in our growing collection ChemComm Milestones – First Independent Articles. Follow us on Twitter for more #ChemCommMilestones news.

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ChemComm Milestones – Cédric Colomban

This week, we bring you our ChemComm Milestones interview with Cédric Colomban who recently published his #ChemComm1st article. Read ‘A tris(benzyltriazolemethyl)amine-based cage as a CuAAC ligand tolerant to exogeneous bulky nucleophiles‘ in our First Independent Article collection.

Here’s our interview with Cédric:

What are the main areas of research in your lab and what motivated you to take this direction?
My lab, the Bioinspired Confined Catalysis group (BCC), was established in 2020 and is interested in caged bioinorganic complexes for efficient and selective catalytic transformations in confined spaces. Since my Msc’s studies I am amazed by the fascinating reactivity of the nature’s catalysts that are enzymes (and in particular metalloproteins). My research interests have always been inspired by these systems with (i) artificial models reproducing their active sites (PhD on bioinspired catalysts), and (ii) receptors inspired by their tridimensional architectures (postdocs on supramolecular cages). In this line, the BCC group merges these approaches to develop bioinorganic confined catalysts.

Can you set this article in a wider context?
Due to its broad range of applications (chemical biology, material science, interlocked structures), the Cu-catalyzed azide-alkyne cycloaddition reaction (CuAAC) is the most popular transformation of the “click chemistry” toolbox. Many efforts have been devoted to assisting ligands that improve the reaction efficiency and, among them, the tris(benzyltriazolemethyl)amine TBTA has been the most widely used CuI-coordinating structure. However, the recent emergence of CuAAC biorthogonal chemistry has revealed the ongoing need for catalysts that remain active in complex mixtures, such as living systems, where they have to face the competition of bulky CuI-chelators (mainly reduced gluthathione GSH). In this context, the challenge is to develop CuAAC-ligands tolerant to exogeneous bulky nucleophiles such as biothiols.
In this work, we get inspiration from the enzyme hydrophobic pockets, to reach an efficient protection of the TBTA-Cu(I) active core. The canonical ligand was equipped with a bowl-shaped cap to yield the first TBTA-based organic cage. We demonstrate that our shielded ligand remarkably protect the Cu-center from it deactivation by GSH, without suffering from product inhibition effect, opening the way to efficient CuAAC transformations in complex media.

What do you hope your lab can achieve in the coming year?
Findings and funding! First of all, like every research team, I am hoping to return to easier working conditions and to be allowed to attend conferences. This will help the students to keep growing as researchers, and to develop research-networks. Various exciting findings have been recently made in the BCC group regarding Cu and Fe-catalysis and we hope that theses preliminary results will became groundbreaking discoveries. In particular, I am hoping to continue our pioneering research in the field of Bioinspired Confined Catalysis, thanks to funded projects.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.
After finishing my Msc in bio-organic and bio-inorganic chemistry at the University Grenoble-Alpes, I completed my Ph.D. studies (University of Lyon, France) on bioinspired homogeneous catalysis using porphyrin-like diiron complexes (A. Sorokin group, IRCELYON). After this experience with “open” models, I chose to pursue my research in the field of supramolecular cages and host-guest interactions, and undertook my 1st postdoc on self-assembled cages at the University of Girona, Spain (M. Costas and X. Ribas group, IQCC). Having explored the field of multicharged metallacages, I then decided to focus on purely organic receptors and I completed a 2nd postdoc in the A. Martinez group (Ecole centrale of Marseille, iSm2, France). Finally, in 2020, I was ranked 1st at the highly competitive French-CNRS recruitment contest and become independent researcher at the institute of molecular sciences of Marseille, iSm2, France (BCC group).

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
When I was a PhD student I once asked my supervisor (Alexander Sorokin) if I could try one particular experiment, and his answer was: “Cédric, if we are doing this job, it is to try everything we want!”. Behind these worlds the idea was: important discoveries often arise from unusual experiments, and researchers should pursue their weird ideas without being afraid of failure. As a mentor I am now applying this advice by encouraging students’ creativity.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?
Being a leading journal in general chemistry, and having short format articles, ChemComm has always been part of my favorite journals as a reader. As an author, ChemComm present the advantage of fast publication time and high impact. The journal was therefore perfectly suited to this work that aims at delivering one key message: CuAAC transformations in complex media could be achieved thanks to caged-ligands.

Cédric was born in Briançon, France, in 1986, and obtain a Msc in bio-organic and bio-inorganic chemistry from the University Grenoble-Alpes. He completed his Ph.D. studies (University of Lyon, France) on bioinspired catalysis in 2014, at the IRCELYON institute, under the guidance of Drs. A. Sorokin and P. Afanasiev. He undertook his 1st postdoc with Profs. M. Costas and X. Ribas at the University of Girona, Spain (2015-17), on self-assembled cages and dynamic host-guest interactions. After a second postdoc (2018-19) on organic cages in the group of Prof. A. Martinez (Ecole centrale of Marseille, iSm2, France); he obtains, in 2020, a position of CNRS researcher and started the Bioinpired Confined Catalysis group at the institute of molecular sciences of Marseille, France (iSm2). His group focuses on the preparation and applications of caged bioinorganic complexes. Twitter : @Dr_Colomban_Ced

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ChemComm Milestones – Sheng-Heng Chung

Sheng-Heng Chung published his #ChemComm1st article this year. We were excited to hear that Sheng-Heng had chosen our journal for the home of his first independent research article. You can read his urgent research here: Lean-electrolyte lithium–sulfur electrochemical cells with high-loading carbon nanotube/nanofiber–polysulfide cathodes.


Find out more about Sheng-Heng in our interview below.

What are the main areas of research in your lab and what motivated you to take this direction?
We are a newly-established young research group from September 2019. Our group mainly focuses on the electrochemical conversion and storage technology, such as rechargeable batteries, supercapacitors, and fuel cells. In the department of Materials Sciences and Engineering, our team further works on the scientific studies, in terms of the new energy materials and their electrochemistry, and the engineering designs, in terms of the device components and their fabrication processes. The motivation in conducting this research aims to build up an integrated electrochemical conversion and storage system featuring high energy/power density and long operation life.

Can you set this article in a wider context?
Focusing on the future energy-storage technology, our group is now systemically studying the battery electrochemistry and performance development to develop the lithium-sulfur battery with high energy density. The overall goal of this research article is to propose a new concept in designing a lean-electrolyte lithium-sulfur battery featuring a high amount of the active material, which is necessary to realize a high-energy-density lithium-sulfur battery. Moreover, we apply the designed lean-electrolyte lithium-sulfur battery as a testing platform to demonstrate the importance to investigate the discharge/charge efficiency and low-rate performance for a long cycle life to ensure the stabilization of the conversion-type active material with solid and liquid states in the sulfur cathode. With a more reliable lithium-sulfur battery cathode, we will overcome the scientific/technical challenges by realizing high sulfur loading/content with limited excess lithium in a lean electrolyte cell.

What do you hope your lab can achieve in the coming year?
The publication of our group’s first research article in a high-ranking journal, ChemComm, in 2021 is an exciting achievement for a one-year-old research group. Since our group is still at an early stage, our team aims to establish a solid foundation in our electrochemistry and energy materials research. Our group also welcomes the cooperation and extension of our present researches to support the research and design community.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.
The time during my undergraduate and Masters at National Cheng Kung University (with Professor Hsing-I Hsiang) and from National Tsing Hua University (with Professor Jau-Ho Jean) in Taiwan gave me wonderful friendships with many laboratory equipments. My experience at the University of Texas at Austin (with Professor Arumugam Manthiram) educated me in conducting research experiments and proposals. I had the opportunity to mentor several graduate and undergraduate students in the lab during this time. These two experiences inspire me to become an independent researcher to deal with research facilities and share knowledge to future scientists.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Treat every day as the last day.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?
Our group starts from ChemComm because it is a high-impact and renowned journal in our research field in Chemistry and Materials Science. ChemComm provides authors with the fast publication time and good support from the RSC system.

Sheng-Heng Chung obtained his B.S. (2006) in Resources Engineering and in Materials Science and Engineering from National Cheng Kung University and M.S. (2008) in Materials Science and Engineering from National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan. He joined the Materials Science and Engineering PhD program (2015) and worked as a research associate (2019) with Professor Arumugam Manthiram at the University of Texas at Austin. He is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at National Cheng Kung University. His current research is focused on electrochemical conversion and storage technology.

 

Read Sheng-Heng’s article and others in ChemComm Milestones – First Independent Articles. Follow us on Twitter for more #ChemCommMilestones and #ChemComm1st content.

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