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Professor Julie Kovacs

Professor Julie A. Kovacs
Department of Chemistry
University of Washington
Host: Professor Lawrence Que Jr.

Professor Julie Kovacs' research program is aimed at determining how cysteinates influence function in non-heme iron enzymes. Non-heme iron enzymes promote important biological reactions, including tumor suppression, the biosynthesis of antibiotics, scavenge reactive oxygen species, and detoxification of heavy metals. However, the mechanisms by which these reactions are carried out are not well understood.

Researchers in Kovacs' lab hope to elucidate the mechanism of oxygen-oxygen bond formation by creating synthetically tunable small molecule analogues to investigate the most prominent theories: the radical coupling (RC) mechanism wherein a MnIV-oxyl radical attacks a bridging oxo; and the nucleophilic attack (AB) mechanism, wherein a hydroxyl group attached to the OEC’s calcium atom attacks a MnV-oxo. They aim to spectroscopically characterize the intermediates formed in these reactions through a variety of methods, including X-ray crystallography, NMR, EPR, mass spectroscopy, X-ray absorption spectroscopies, resonance Raman spectroscopy, and cyclic voltammetry. The insights gained from studying these small molecule analogues will allow better study of the OEC itself, as well as provide information for creation of more effective artificial water oxidizing systems.

Professor Kovacs

Julie Kovacs has been a bioinorganic and inorganic professor a the University of Washington since 1988. She earned her bachelor's degree from Michigan State University, and her doctorate from Harvard University. She also was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley.

Danielle Schultz, Ph.D.

Danielle Schultz, Ph.D.
Host: Professor Courtney Roberts

Danielle Schultz, Ph.D., is an associate principal scientist in Discovery Process Chemistry at Merck, where she has worked for more than six years. She earned her doctorate from the University of Michigan, and her Bachelor of Science from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. She also was a National Institutes of Health post-doctoral fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Professor John Anderson

Professor John Anderson
Department of Chemistry
University of Chicago
Host: Professor Ian Tonks

At the heart of Professor Anderson's research lies the interplay between natural and synthetic systems. Researchers aim to use well-defined synthetic complexes and materials with two main goals: using isolable complexes as models for biological systems, notably as tools to understand some of the fundamental properties that govern enzymatic transformations; and using principles employed by biological systems to develop challenging reactivity or properties in complexes or materials. Other aims include the careful control of spin-state, bi-functional activation of substrates, and the utilization of redox active scaffolds to mediate reactivity and coupling.

Professor Caroline Saouma

Professor Caroline Saouma
Department of Chemistry
University of Utah
Host: Professor Connie Lu

Professor Saouma's research program is focused on developing a fundamental understanding of transition-metal mediated small molecule activation, as it pertains to energy conversion and green synthetic applications. Using motifs found in Nature, researchers in her lab design and develop transition metal complexes that will allow them to test ideas on how to selectively achieve complex multi-e–/multi-H+ chemical transformations at low over-potentials. Topics of current interest include (i) activation of O2 for fuel cell and synthetic applications, and (ii) electrocatalytic CO2fixation and CO2 reduction to methanol. Detailed reactivity and mechanistic studies will be combined with a wealth of data from spectroscopic and structural techniques to provide insights to these transformations, which will allow for the rational design of functional catalysts. 

Professor Rebekka Klausen

Professor Rebekka Klausen
Department of Chemistry
Johns Hopkins University
Host: Professor Marc Hillmyer
Rebekka Klausen Abstract

Atomistic Control of Complex Polysilanes and Organic Polymers

Research in the Klausen Group applies the principles of target-oriented organic synthesis to polymeric materials. Examples include the cyclosilane building blocks, bifunctional inorganic monomers resembling fragments of the silicon lattice. Different cyclosilanes template distinct polymeric architectures, such that catalytic polymerization afforded controlled access to cyclic and linear polysilanes. Advances in building block design also provided fundamental organic polymers inaccessible from traditional feedstocks. BN 2-Vinylnaphthalene (BN2VN) is a masked polar monomer, with an aromatic core that imparts styrene-like reactivity. Postpolymerization functionalization converted the boron-based side chain to a hydroxyl group, resulting in the first syntheses of highly stereoregular polyvinyl alcohol and styrene-vinyl alcohol and methacrylate-vinyl alcohol copolymers. Achieving atomistic control of polymer structure ultimately provides materials with tailored properties.

Professor Klausen

The unifying theme of research in the Klausen research group is the application of rational organic synthesis to advance the frontiers of materials science. Through the atomic-level control provided by bottom-up synthesis, we precisely determine and control materials properties. In particular, researchers focus on carbon and silicon-based materials. Crystalline silicon, the preeminent solid state semiconductor, powers defining modern technologies like integrated circuits and solar cells. Inspired by the structure and properties of Group IV and III-V electronic materials, like silicon, graphene, and h-BN, they explore the synthetic chemistry and materials properties of carbon and silicon molecules, polymers, and other nanomaterials.

Professor Klausen joined the faculty at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) in July 2013. Prior to JHU, she earned her doctorate at Harvard University, and completed post-doctoral work at Columbia University.

Professor Danielle Dube

Professor Danielle Dube
Department of Chemistry
Bowdoin College
Host: Professor Erin Carlson

Recent efforts in Professor Dube's laboratory have focused on the pathogenic bacterium Helicobacter pylori, which is the leading cause of duodenal ulcers and stomach cancer worldwide.  Researchers are taking a metabolic labeling-based approach to study H. pylori sugar-coated proteins and to target H. pylori based on its unique sugars. They are pursuing a series of parallel projects that seek to: 

  • structurally characterize H. pylori’s distinctive sugars;
  • explore the role of these sugars in causing disease;
  • identify the genes responsible for their biosynthesis;
  • validate H. pylori’s sugars as potential drug targets;
  • create inhibitors of bacterial glycan biosynthesis; and
  • develop targeted antibiotics that, like smart-bombs or guided missiles, seek out and react with H. pylori’s sugars, leading to selective destruction of H. pylori cells without destroying beneficial bacteria 

Professor Heather Allen

Professor Heather Allen
Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry
Ohio State University
Host: Professor Renee Frontiera

Professor Allen received her bachelor's degree in chemistry from Saddleback, and her doctorate in physical chemistry from the University of California, Irvine. She continued her post-doctoral studies at the University of Oregon. She began her professorial career at Ohio State in 2000, and has since been recognized for many research accomplishments: Research Innovation Award from Research Corp., National Science Foundation CAREER Award, Beckman Young Investigator Award, Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow Award, Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Ohio State Distinguished Scholar Award, and the Alexander von Humboldt Research Award from Germany. In addition, Professor Allen has been recognized for several mentoring awards over the years including the Ohio State Office of Minority Affairs Mentor Award, an Empowered Woman Award from the City of Columbus, and the American Chemical Society National Award for Encouraging Women into Careers in the Chemical Sciences.


Professor Allen's research specialization is in molecular organization, ion pairing, and hydration at aqueous interfaces. Aqueous surfaces are of particular interest with emphasis on understanding surface structure. Investigations of molecular organization and orientation, and chemical reaction mechanisms at gas - liquid, gas - solid, and liquid - solid interfaces are of interest. Cell membranes, atmospheric aerosols, cloud microdroplets, and geochemical systems are interfacial systems that can be studied using vibrational spectroscopic methods, and the Allen research group utilizes and designs optical spectroscopic instruments to this end. To understand the molecular-level details of an interface, state-of-the-art nonlinear optical technologies that utilize ultra-fast femto and picosecond laser pulses are necessary. Surface vibrational sum frequency generation spectroscopy, broadband and scanning technologies, are used by Professor Allen's researchers to elucidate interfacial chemistry. 

Professor Teri Odom

Professor Teri Odom
Department of Chemistry
Northwestern University
Host: Professor Christy Haynes

Professor Teri Odom's group focuses on “making precious metals more precious” by controlling the size and shape of noble metals at the nanoscale. Her group's strategies include the development of new nanofabrication tools to create three-dimensional architectures with structural function that can span three-orders of magnitude simultaneously. We are also pursuing simple and scalable approaches to synthesize anisotropic particles. To understand the details of how light interacts with these structures, they use modeling to calculate the optical properties of single particles as well as the collective effects of assemblies of nanoparticles. Applications of these unique materials include nanomedicine, photovoltaics, sensing, and imaging.

Professor Odom

Professor Odom is the Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor of Chemistry, chair of the Department of Chemistry, and professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Northwestern University. She is editor-in-chief or Nano Letters. She earned her bachelor's degree in chemistry from Stanford University, her doctorate in chemical physics from Harvard University, and was a post-doctoral researcher at Harvard.

Albert J. Moscowitz Memorial Lectureship

The Albert J. Moscowitz Memorial Lectureship in Chemistry was established by friends and colleagues of Professor Albert J. Moscowitz (1929-1996) to honor his many contributions to molecular spectroscopy. He was known for his research on the interpretation of optical rotation and circular dichroism spectra in terms of the structures of chiral molecules. In collaboration with colleagues in the medical sciences, he developed important applications of his methods to biomedical systems. Throughout his career, Moscowitz held numerous visiting professorships at other universities, and served on the editorial boards of the leading journals in chemical physics. His work was honored by election as Foreign Member of the Danish Royal Academy of Sciences and Letters, and as a Fellow of the American Physical Society.

Past Albert J. Moscowitz lecturers include Bruce Berne, Columbia University (2000), R. Stephen Berry, University of Chicago (1998), Jean-Luc Bredas, University of Arizona (2002), Mike Duncan, University of Georgia (2010), Crim F. Fleming, University of Wisconsin (2006), C. Daniel Frisbie, University of Minnesota (1999), Mike Frisch, Gaussian (2008), Anthony Legon, University of Bristol (2013), Marsha Lester, University of Pennsylvania (2011), Frank Neese, Max-Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion (2014), Stuart Rice, University of Chicago (2000), Peter Rossky, University of Chicago (2006), Giacinto Scoles, University of Princeton (2004), Benjamin Schwartz, University of California, Los Angeles (2007), Hirata So, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (2011), Walter Thiel, Max Plank Institute, Muelhiem (2002), Zhen-Gang Wang, CalTech (2014), Georg Kresse, University of Vienna (2016), Emily A. Carter, Princeton University (2017), Martin Moskovits, University of California, Santa Barbara (2018), and Veronique Van Speybroeck, Ghent University (2019).

Professor Aaron Leconte

Professor Aaron Leconte
W.M. Keck Science Department
Claremont McKenna College
Host: Professor William Pomerantz
Seminar Abstract

Using biochemistry and evolution to improve Taq DNA polymerase and Firefly Luciferase

My research group seeks to leverage biochemical characterization and protein engineering to better understand and optimize protein function. We are currently actively working on two systems, both of which will be discussed.

We are interested in developing Taq DNA polymerase mutants that are able to synthesize nuclease-resistant forms of modified DNA, which has applications in clinical diagnostics and aptamer technologies. We have focused on using commercially available substrates and attempting to develop robust, accessible, accurate M-DNA synthesis and reverse transcription reactions. Our best mutant M-DNA polymerases are able to synthesize long M-DNAs in less than 10 minutes; the M-DNA can be reverse transcribed and amplified using entirely commercial reagents in less than an hour.  

We are also developing luciferases for use in multi-component imaging, in collaboration with Professor Jennifer Prescher (University of California-Irvine). We have used bioinformatics to rapidly identify mutant luciferases with improved function in substrate resolved multi-component imaging applications, and we are currently developing deep mutational scanning approaches to luciferase biochemistry. 

The work that will be described has been performed entirely by undergraduates at The Claremont Colleges, and some of it has been integrated into course-based undergraduate research experiences. I will highlight the unique opportunities and challenges in this area as well.


Professor Leconte's research interests include protein engineering, biotechnology, biomolecular evolution, DNA polymerases, and bioluminescent imaging. His research group is interested in using biochemistry to understand the molecular basis of the evolution of new function in proteins. In doing so, researchers hope to better understand evolution and how to apply it more effectively to the creation of useful protein-based medicines and materials.

Professor Leconte

Professor Leconte earned his bachelor's degree from Carleton College and his doctorate from the Scripps Research Institute. He was a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard University.

Professor Evangelista Francesco

Professor Francesco Evangelista
Department of Chemistry
Emory University
Host: Professor Laura Gagliardi

Professor Evangelista's theoretical chemistry research focus is the development of new electronic structure methods to address chemical phenomena that are not well understood. Having a predilection for rigorous theoretical approaches that follow from first principles, his research group is particularly fond of many-body methods (e.g. coupled cluster theory), but doesn't shy away from density functional theory.

Evangelista earned his doctorate in chemistry from the University of Georgia, his master's in physical chemistry from the University of Pisa, and his undergraduate degree from the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa. He also was an Alexander von Humboldt Junior Fellow in Mainz, Germany, and a post-doctoral associate at Yale University. He has been a professor at Emory University since 2013.