Past Seminars & Events

Professor Benjamin A. Garcia

Professor Benjamin A. Garcia
Head of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics
Washington University
Abstract

Novel approaches for characterization of RNA by mass spectrometry

Chemical modifications of protein and RNA strongly influence structure and function. Recent advances in mass spectrometry (MS) methods have identified over 100 of these modifications across many RNA species, and over 500 on proteins. MS has advantages over other techniques, as it can assign multiple modifications simultaneously in an unbiased manner, but still many challenges remain. Here I will describe our latest efforts in developing MS based approaches for RNA analysis of mononucleosides and oligonucleotides, including improved chromatography and mass spectrometry based fragmentation and quantification. Additionally, we will describe how these approaches have been used to identify novel modifications on RNA molecules such as glycosylation.

Benjamin A. Garcia

Benjamin A. Garcia obtained his BS in Chemistry at UC Davis in 2000, where he worked as an undergraduate researcher in Prof. Carlito Lebrilla’s laboratory. He received his PhD in Chemistry in 2005 at the University of Virginia under Prof. Donald Hunt and then was an NIH NRSA Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Illinois under Prof. Neil Kelleher from 2005-2008. From there Ben was appointed as an Assistant Professor in the Molecular Biology Department at Princeton University from 2008-2012, until his recruitment as the Presidential Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in 2012, promoted to full Professor in 2016, and named the John McCrea Dickson M.D. Presidential Professor in 2017. Ben moved in the summer of 2021 to the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis to become the Raymond H. Wittcoff Distinguished Professor and Head of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics. The Garcia lab has been developing and applying novel proteomic approaches and bioinformatics for interrogating protein modifications, especially those involved in epigenetic mechanisms such as histones during human disease, publishing over 400 publications. He is presently an Associate Editor of the Analytical Chemistry, and Mass Spectrometry Reviews journals; and serves on the editorial boards for the Molecular Omics, the Journal of Proteome Research and the Molecular and Cellular Proteomics journals. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the U.S. Human Proteome Organization (HUPO), the HUPO Governing Council/ Executive Committee and the Executive Committee of the American Chemical Society (ACS) Analytical Chemistry Division. Ben has been recognized with many honors and awards for his mass spectrometry research including the American Society for Mass Spectrometry (ASMS) Research Award, a National Science Foundation CAREER award, an NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, the PITTCON Achievement Award, the Ken Standing Award, the ACS Arthur F. Findeis Award, The Protein Society Young Investigator Award, the ASMS Biemann Medal, the HUPO Discovery in Proteomic Sciences Award, the Eastern Analytical Symposium (EAS) Outstanding Achievement in Mass Spectrometry Award and was named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Join us for a reception at the Coffman Union Campus Club after the seminar, from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m.!

Hosted by Professor Varun Gadkari

Learn More about the Endowed I.M. Kolthoff Lectureship in Chemistry

Professor Benjamin A. Garcia

Professor Benjamin A. Garcia
Head of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics
Washington University
Abstract

An unlikely career in science and academia

Science is not performed in a vacuum, and scientists do not make strides without other who have helped them along the way. Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to have had many mentors who have been instrumental in my scientific journey. Now with a career in academia, I have worked hard to improve academia for scientists at all levels, especially those that have been historically marginalized. I will discuss my career path through the lens of all the people that have supported, encouraged and inspired me throughout the years.

Benjamin A. Garcia

Benjamin A. Garcia obtained his BS in Chemistry at UC Davis in 2000, where he worked as an undergraduate researcher in Prof. Carlito Lebrilla’s laboratory. He received his PhD in Chemistry in 2005 at the University of Virginia under Prof. Donald Hunt and then was an NIH NRSA Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Illinois under Prof. Neil Kelleher from 2005-2008. From there Ben was appointed as an Assistant Professor in the Molecular Biology Department at Princeton University from 2008-2012, until his recruitment as the Presidential Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in 2012, promoted to full Professor in 2016, and named the John McCrea Dickson M.D. Presidential Professor in 2017. Ben moved in the summer of 2021 to the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis to become the Raymond H. Wittcoff Distinguished Professor and Head of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics. The Garcia lab has been developing and applying novel proteomic approaches and bioinformatics for interrogating protein modifications, especially those involved in epigenetic mechanisms such as histones during human disease, publishing over 400 publications. He is presently an Associate Editor of the Analytical Chemistry, and Mass Spectrometry Reviews journals; and serves on the editorial boards for the Molecular Omics, the Journal of Proteome Research and the Molecular and Cellular Proteomics journals. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the U.S. Human Proteome Organization (HUPO), the HUPO Governing Council/ Executive Committee and the Executive Committee of the American Chemical Society (ACS) Analytical Chemistry Division. Ben has been recognized with many honors and awards for his mass spectrometry research including the American Society for Mass Spectrometry (ASMS) Research Award, a National Science Foundation CAREER award, an NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, the PITTCON Achievement Award, the Ken Standing Award, the ACS Arthur F. Findeis Award, The Protein Society Young Investigator Award, the ASMS Biemann Medal, the HUPO Discovery in Proteomic Sciences Award, the Eastern Analytical Symposium (EAS) Outstanding Achievement in Mass Spectrometry Award and was named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Join us for a reception at the Coffman Union Campus Club after the seminar, from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m.!

Hosted by Professor Varun Gadkari

Learn More about the Endowed I.M. Kolthoff Lectureship in Chemistry

Professor Benjamin A. Garcia

Professor Benjamin A. Garcia
Head of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics
Washington University
Abstract

Quantitative mass spectrometry for understanding epigenetic mechanisms in human disease

Histones are small proteins that package DNA into chromosomes, and a large number of studies have showed that several post-translational modification (PTM) sites on the histones are associated with both gene activation and silencing. Along with DNA and small non-coding RNA, histone PTMs make up epigenetic mechanisms that control gene expression patterns outside of DNA sequence mutations. Dysregulation of these chromatin networks underlie several human diseases such as cancer. Here I will give an update on technology advancements that have allowed for high-throughput quantitative mass spectrometry analyses of histone PTMs and chromatin structure, and how we are applying these methods to understand epigenetic reprogramming found in malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors (MPNSTs). MPNST is an aggressive sarcoma with recurrent loss of function alterations in polycomb-repressive complex 2 (PRC2), a histone-modifying complex involved in transcriptional silencing.

Benjamin A. Garcia

Benjamin A. Garcia obtained his BS in Chemistry at UC Davis in 2000, where he worked as an undergraduate researcher in Prof. Carlito Lebrilla’s laboratory. He received his PhD in Chemistry in 2005 at the University of Virginia under Prof. Donald Hunt and then was an NIH NRSA Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Illinois under Prof. Neil Kelleher from 2005-2008. From there Ben was appointed as an Assistant Professor in the Molecular Biology Department at Princeton University from 2008-2012, until his recruitment as the Presidential Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in 2012, promoted to full Professor in 2016, and named the John McCrea Dickson M.D. Presidential Professor in 2017. Ben moved in the summer of 2021 to the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis to become the Raymond H. Wittcoff Distinguished Professor and Head of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics. The Garcia lab has been developing and applying novel proteomic approaches and bioinformatics for interrogating protein modifications, especially those involved in epigenetic mechanisms such as histones during human disease, publishing over 400 publications. He is presently an Associate Editor of the Analytical Chemistry, and Mass Spectrometry Reviews journals; and serves on the editorial boards for the Molecular Omics, the Journal of Proteome Research and the Molecular and Cellular Proteomics journals. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the U.S. Human Proteome Organization (HUPO), the HUPO Governing Council/ Executive Committee and the Executive Committee of the American Chemical Society (ACS) Analytical Chemistry Division. Ben has been recognized with many honors and awards for his mass spectrometry research including the American Society for Mass Spectrometry (ASMS) Research Award, a National Science Foundation CAREER award, an NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, the PITTCON Achievement Award, the Ken Standing Award, the ACS Arthur F. Findeis Award, The Protein Society Young Investigator Award, the ASMS Biemann Medal, the HUPO Discovery in Proteomic Sciences Award, the Eastern Analytical Symposium (EAS) Outstanding Achievement in Mass Spectrometry Award and was named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Hosted by Professor Varun Gadkari

Learn More about the Endowed I.M. Kolthoff Lectureship in Chemistry

Professor Sidney Malik Wilkerson-Hill

Professor Sidney Malik Wilkerson-Hill
Department of Chemistry
UNC Chapel Hill
Abstract

Orphaned Cyclopropanes

The goal of the Hill group is to develop new reactions to obtain pyrethroids, small molecules used to combat vectors for malaria (e.g., Anopheles gambiae). We are particularly interested in identifying new small molecule pyrethroids with enhanced photostability, reduced off target toxicological properties to beneficial pollinators, and reduced insect resistance profiles. To accomplish these goals, my research group is developing new routes to orphaned cyclopropanes, a structural motif found in all pyrethroids, by using 1) biomimicry and frustrated Lewis acid-base pairs (FLP’s), 2) reagent-based approaches toward natural product families; and 3) chemotype-centric approaches using sulfones as non-stabilized carbene equivalents. These methods to obtain orphaned cyclopropanes also enable the discovery of new cyclopropane-containing medicines, since they permit rational structure activity relationship studies at the 1,1-dialkyl position - a traditionally understudied portion of chemical space.

Sidney Malik Wilkerson-Hill

Sidney is currently an assistant professor in the Chemistry Department at UNC Chapel Hill where his research focuses on methods to obtain orphaned cyclopropanes. Sidney Hill was born in Kinston, North Carolina and began his undergraduate studies at North Carolina State University in 2006. He obtained a B.S. in Polymer and Color Chemistry through the College of Textiles, a B.S. in Chemistry through the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences in 2010. In 2015, Sidney received his Ph.D. under the supervision of Prof. Richmond Sarpong from the University of California, Berkeley where his researched focused on using transition metal- catalyzed cycloisomerization reactions to access natural product scaffolds. Then, he was a UNCF-Merck postdoctoral fellow with Prof. Huw Davies at Emory University in Atlanta, GA where his research focused on developing novel reactions using N-sulfonyltriazoles and rhodium tetracarboxylate catalysts for C–H functionalization reactions. During his graduate studies, Sidney was also involved in diversity initiatives such as the Berkeley Science Network, and California Alliance programs to address disparities facing minorities pursuing careers in the physical sciences. Since starting at UNC, he has received the ACS Herman Frasch Foundation grant, NSF CAREER Award, Eli Lilly ACC Grantee Award, FMC Young Investigator Award, the ACS Organic Letters Lectureship, and the Thieme Journal Award.

Hosted by Professor Christopher Douglas

Professor Alison Wendlandt

Professor Alison Wendlandt
Department of Chemistry
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Abstract

Selective catalytic isomerization reactions

Selective isomerization reactions are valuable tools for the positional and spatial interconversion of functional groups. Catalytic isomerizations are frequently governed by thermodynamic control, enabling predictable access to product distributions defined by the stability of starting and product isomers, but limiting opportunities for tunable control. Here, we describe a mechanistic framework to achieve kinetically controlled, contra-thermodynamic isomerization reactions in diverse synthetic contexts. Our work explores how the strategic application of these reactions in a late stage setting can facilitate the construction of complex organic molecules.

Alison Wendlandt

Professor Alison Wendlandt is an Associate Professor of Chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Alison is originally from Colorado, and received her B.S. from the University of Chicago and her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin - Madison under the guidance of Shannon Stahl. Alison was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University in the Jacobsen research group, until beginning her independent career at MIT in 2018. The Wendlandt group is interested in the development and mechanistic elucidation of new selective catalytic reactions.

Professor Blair Brettmann

Professor Blair Brettmann
Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Materials Science and Engineering
Georgia Institute of Technology
Abstract

Design for sustainability: pairing materials science with consumer behavior

Over U.S. consumers spent 4.5 trillion dollars on goods while generating 292 million tons of municipal solid waste in 2018 – and trends in both spending and waste generation are increasing. Displacing plastic-based materials with bio-sourced, re-processable or other more sustainable materials may be consistent with green chemistry and engineering design principles but does not truly improve the circular economy if the bio-sourced or re-processable materials travel straight to landfill. Thus, the challenge of designing products for enhanced sustainability must include a focus on both the materials chemistry aspects as well as the choices consumers make at the end of the product lifetime. To address the materials chemistry challenges, we look to expand available plastics with desirable mechanical properties that are recyclable by designing composites with covalent adaptable networks, including ones that incorporate particles. The interplay of the bond exchange rate kinetics and the network relaxation both greatly influence the reprocessability kinetics, showing that in such systems both the physical and chemical dials can be used to tune the system. However, these new materials will only enhance overall product sustainability if consumers return them for recycling. Thus, we develop a circular economy framework that includes a consumer gate – enabling inclusion of the value provided by the consumer’s decision to recycle into an overall model of the cost of manufacturing the product. By tackling the challenge of sustainable consumer goods from both the materials design and end-of-life perspectives, we can increase the impact of polymer research for sustainability.

Blair Brettmann

Blair Brettmann is an Associate Professor in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering at Georgia Tech. She received her B.S. in Chemical Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin and her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at MIT. Following her Ph.D., Dr. Brettmann was a Senior Research Engineer at Saint-Gobain and a postdoctoral researcher in the Institute for Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago. She was the recipient of the NSF CAREER Award in 2021, the ACS PMSE Young Investigator award in 2020 and an IUPAC Young Observer in 2019. Her research focuses on linking molecular to micron scale phenomena to processing and multicomponent complex mixtures to enable rapid and science-driven formulation and product development.

Dr. Hannah S. Kenagy

Hannah S. Kenagy
Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Abstract

Impacts of peroxy radical chemistry on atmospheric organic aerosol production

Atmospheric aerosol particles impact climate by altering the Earth’s radiative balance and can be detrimental to human health when inhaled. Organic aerosol constitutes a large, and often dominant, fraction of the tropospheric aerosol mass, and much of that organic aerosol is secondary, produced from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are sufficiently oxidized in the atmosphere to be condensable. The amount and properties of secondary organic aerosol (SOA), which ultimately govern its air quality and climate impacts, are controlled by the complex kinetics, product distributions, and branching ratios along reaction pathways of organic oxidation. Here, I focus on a key branching point in the oxidation of VOCs that controls the production of SOA, namely the fate of organic peroxy radicals (RO2). First, I will discuss the contribution of organic nitrates (RONO2), a product of the reaction between RO2 and NO radicals, to urban organic aerosol using airborne field measurements over the Korean Peninsula in conjunction with simulations from an atmospheric chemical transport model. Second, I will describe new methods for model-informed experimental design that allow laboratory experiments of SOA production to access atmospheric distributions of RO2 fate for the first time.

Hannah S. Kenagy

Dr. Hannah S. Kenagy (she/her) is an atmospheric chemist currently working as an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT. Kenagy first became interested in atmospheric chemistry during her undergraduate work at the University of Chicago and the University of Edinburgh before completing a PhD in Chemistry as an NSF Graduate Research Fellow at UC Berkeley. Kenagy’s research utilizes an integrated combination of measurement and modeling techniques to better understand chemical pathways in the atmosphere that contribute to the atmospheric oxidation capacity and the production and fate of air pollutants globally. Kenagy’s PhD work used a combination of airborne field measurements and modeling to better understand the urban chemistry of nitrogen oxides, pollutants emitted during combustion which impact the production of ozone and aerosol particles. In her postdoctoral work, Kenagy is integrating modeling and laboratory studies to disentangle the effects of multigeneration oxidation on the formation of atmospheric organic aerosols. Kenagy also enjoys mentoring students and fostering in them an excitement for atmospheric chemistry, as well as doing outreach to make science accessible to all.

Hosted by Professor Michael Bowser

Professor Eugene Y-X Chen

Professor Eugene Y-X Chen
Department of Chemistry
Colorado State University
Abstract

Sustainable Mono-Material Product Design with Circular and Biodegradable polymers

The traditional multi-material product design of plastic products, which typically employs multiple, often non- biodegradable or non-recyclable materials of different chemical speciation or composition, significantly complicates both mechanical, chemical, or other emerging recycling processes. In this seminar, I will discuss the emerging mono-material product design based on circular and/ or biodegradable polymers made of a single monomer, delivering tailorable properties characteristic of all common types of polymers via either molecular engineering of monomer structures or macromolecular engineering of polymer topologies and stereomicrostructures, but without changing their chemical makeup or composition.

Eugene Y-X Chen

Professor Eugene Chen received his undergraduate education in China and Ph.D. degree from The University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 1995. After a postdoctoral stint at Northwestern University, he joined The Dow Chemical Company, where he was promoted from Sr. Research Chemist to Project Leader. Two and a half years later he moved to Colorado State University in August 2000, where currently he is a University Distinguished Professor, the John K. Stille Endowed Chair Professor in Chemistry, and the Millennial Professor of Polymer Science and Sustainability. His current research is centered on polymer science, sustainable chemistry, and molecular catalysis. Selected honors and awards include: Excellence in Commercialization Award by the Colorado Cleantech Industry Association; the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award in 2015 by the US Government’s Environmental Protection Agency; and the Arthur Cope Mid-Career Scholar Award in 2019 by the American Chemical Society.

Hosted by Maggie Kumler and Violet Haas

Professor Sossina M. Haile

Professor Sossina M. Haile
Department of Materials Science & Engineering
Northwestern University
Abstract

Superprotonic Solid Acid Compounds for Sustainable Energy Technologies 

Superprotonic solid acid electrolytes, materials with chemical and physical properties intermediate between conventional acids (e.g., H3PO4) and conventional salts (e.g., Cs3PO4), have emerged as attractive candidates for fuel cell and other electrochemical applications. Key characteristics of these materials, which include CsHSO4, Cs3H(SeO4)2, CsH2PO4, and Cs2(HSO4)(H2PO4), are tetrahedral oxyanion groups linked by hydrogen bonds and a polymorphic structural transition to a disordered state at moderate temperatures. In the high temperature state, rapid oxyanion reorientation and dynamic disorder of the hydrogen bond network facilitate high proton conductivity. The transition to the structurally disordered phase is accompanied by a jump in conductivity by 3-5 orders of magnitude, and the activation energy for proton transport drops to a value of ~ 0.35 eV. Of materials displaying such behavior, CsH2PO4 is of particular technological significance is due to its chemical stability against both oxidation and reduction in device- relevant environments. We present here an overview of the proton transport characteristics of CsH2PO4 and the current status of electrochemical technologies in which it has been deployed. Material limitations translate into device limitations, motivating our efforts to develop and discover new superprotonic conductors. We show that dramatic changes in phase behavior and proton conductivity of the base phosphate can be induced by only minor changes in chemistry, suggesting routes for tuning behavior to achieve desired outcomes.

Sossina M. Haile

Sossina M. Haile is the Walter P. Murphy Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Northwestern University, a position she assumed in 2015 after serving 18 years on the faculty at the California Institute of Technology. She earned her Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and as part of her training spent two years at the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart, Germany. Haile’s research broadly encompasses materials, especially oxides, for sustainable electrochemical energy technologies. Amongst her many awards, in 2008 Haile received an American Competitiveness and Innovation Fellowship from the U.S. National Science Foundation in recognition of “her timely and transformative research in the energy field and her dedication to inclusive mentoring, education and outreach across many levels.” In 2010 she was the recipient of the Chemical Pioneer Award (American Institute of Chemists), in 2012 the International Ceramics Prize (World Academy of Ceramics), and in 2020 the Turnbull Lectureship (Materials Research Society). She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Materials Research Society, the American Ceramics Society, the African Academy of Sciences, and the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences, and serves on the editorial boards of MRS Energy and Sustainability and Joule. 

Hosted by Professor Andreas Stein 

Learn more about the Margaret C. Etter Memorial Lecture in Materials Chemistry

Professor Boone M. Prentice

Professor Boone M. Prentice
Department of Chemistry
University of Florida
Abstract

Revealing Molecular Pathology at High Chemical and Spatial Resolutions Using Mass Spectrometry

Imaging mass spectrometry is a powerful analytical technique for analyzing the spatial lipidome. This technology enables the visualization of molecular pathology directly in tissues by combining the specificity of mass spectrometry with the spatial fidelity of microscopic imaging. This label-free methodology has proven exceptionally useful in research areas such as cancer diagnosis, diabetes, and infectious disease. However, state- of-the-art experiments stress the limits of current analytical technologies, necessitating improvements in molecular specificity and sensitivity in order to answer increasingly complicated biological and clinical hypotheses. Especially when studying lipids, many isobaric (i.e., same nominal mass) and isomeric (i.e., same exact mass) compounds exist that complicate spectral analysis, with each structure having a potentially unique cellular function. The Prentice Lab develops instrumentation and novel gas- phase reactions to provide unparalleled levels of chemical resolution. These gas- phase transformations are fast, efficient, and specific, making them ideally suited for implementation into imaging mass spectrometry workflows. For example, these workflows have enabled the identification of multiple sn- positional phosphatidylcholine isomers, the separation of isobaric phosphatidylserines and sulfatides, and the identification of fatty acid double bond isomers using a variety of charge transfer and covalent ion/ion reactions as well as ion/electron and ion/ photon reactions. Working with biologists and clinicians, we then leverage these novel imaging technologies to understand the molecular events associated with important problems in human health, including infectious disease, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases.

Boone M. Prentice

Boone Prentice is Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Florida. He received his B.S. in Chemistry from Longwood University (Farmville, VA), and completed his Ph.D. in Chemistry at Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN) under the mentorship of Prof. Scott McLuckey studying gas- phase ion/ ion reactions and ion trap instrumentation. He then completed his postdoctoral work in the Department of Biochemistry at Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN) as an NIH NRSA fellow under the guidance of Prof. Richard Caprioli before joining the faculty at UF in 2018. He was awarded an NIH Focused Technology Research and Development R01 grant in 2020 and a JDRF Innovation Award in 2023 to support his research developing gas-phase reactions and imaging mass spectrometry technologies to study the molecular pathology of diabetes, infectious disease, neurodegeneration, and neuropharmacology. He was also awarded the 2022 Young Investigator Award from Eli Lilly and Company, which is an unsolicited award given annually by Eli Lilly’s Analytical Chemistry Academic Contacts Committee to recognize a “rising star” in analytical chemistry, and was highlighted as a 2023 Emerging Investigator by the Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry and as a 2023 Young Investigator in (Bio-) Analytical Chemistry by Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry.