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Ed O'Brien receives NSF Career Award

Ed O'Brien receives NSF Career Award

Ed O'Brien, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, has been selected to receive a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award. CAREER is a Foundation-wide activity that "offers the National Science Foundation's most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations."

Research in the O'Brien addresses fundamental questions regarding molecular and cellular processes in chemistry and biology.

Scott Phillips receives Benkovic Early Career Professorship

Scott Phillips receives Benkovic Early Career Professorship

Scott Phillips, an associate professor of chemistry at Penn State University and holder of the Lou Martarano Career Development Professorship, has been honored with the inaugural Stephen and Patricia Benkovic Early Career Professorship. Stephen J. Benkovic, an Evan Pugh Professor of Chemistry and Holder of the Eberly Family Chair in Chemistry at Penn State University, and Patricia Benkovic, a research associate in chemistry at Penn State, established the professorship to support outstanding early career faculty in the Penn State Eberly College of Science. The professorship offers early recognition for outstanding accomplishments and provides financial support to promising young faculty members to encourage establishing a commitment to teaching and explore new areas of research.

Phillips focuses his research on organic and environmental chemistry, the design and synthesis of molecules with unique functions, analytical and bioanalytical chemistry, and materials chemistry. In one project, Phillips is developing materials that respond to external signals by changing shape, function, and/or surface properties. Phillips also is working on a project in which he uses organic chemistry to create diagnostic devices that provide all the functions typically obtained with laboratory instruments, but that use only organic reactions. These systems may be useful in applications that require portable and inexpensive devices for detecting disease or pollution; for example, in the developing world and in hospital emergency rooms. A second program in this area focuses on reaction networks that are self-perpetuating, the simplest of which is an autocatalytic reaction, in which a molecule makes more of itself. Phillips plans to expand autocatalytic behavior into more complex reaction networks, with a goal of developing systems that provide useful functions and byproducts.

Phillips's previous awards include being named an Emerging Investigator by the journals Analytical Methods and Polymer Chemistry in 2015, and the journal Chemical Communications in 2014. He was awarded the Arthur F. Findeis Award for Achievement by a Young Analytical Scientist in 2015, the Eli Lilly and Company Young Investigator Award in Analytical Chemistry in 2013, an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship in 2012, and a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation (NSF), also in 2012. He was honored with three 3M Non-Tenured Faculty Awards in 2010, 2011, and 2012, and he received a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Young Faculty Award from the United States Department of Defense in 2010. In that same year, he won an Outstanding Professor in Chemistry award from the honor society Alpha Chi Sigma. In 2009, Phillips won a Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award and a research award from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In that same year, he also won a Beckman Young Investigator Award, a Thieme Chemistry Journal Award, and a Penn State Eberly College of Science Dean's Climate and Diversity Award. In 2008, he won a New Faculty Award from The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation.

Prior to joining the Penn State faculty in 2008, Phillips worked from 2004 to 2008 as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University, where he developed new materials and detection platforms for use in drug development. He also synthesized chemical compounds with anticancer properties from marine organisms. Phillips earned a doctoral degree in chemistry at the University of California at Berkeley in 2004. He earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry at the California State University in San Bernardino in 1999.


[ S. J. S. ]

Ray Schaak selected to receive ACS Inorganic Nanoscience Award

Ray Schaak selected to receive ACS Inorganic Nanoscience Award

Ray Schaak has been selected as the 2016 winner of the ACS Inorganic Nanoscience Award. The award is given annually to one chemist under the age of 45.  The award recognizes sustained excellence, dedication, and perseverance in research and service in the area of inorganic nanoscience.

Prof. Christine Keating: Simple physical mechanism for assembly and disassembly of structures inside cells is identified

Prof. Christine Keating: Simple physical mechanism for assembly and disassembly of structures inside cells is identified

For the first time, scientists have demonstrated a simple charge-based mechanism for regulating the formation and dissolution of liquid-like structures that lack outer membranes inside cells. The research provides a first step in deciphering how these poorly-understood structures function in the cell and how they may have evolved. The research, conducted by Penn State University scientists, will appear December 21, 2015, as an advance online publication of the journal, Nature Chemistry.

"Cells contain many of these liquid-like structures that are in some ways conceptually similar to droplets of oil in water," said Christine Keating, professor of chemistry at Penn State University. "The structures, which we call liquid organelles, often appear and disappear inside cells. We were able to replicate this process in a biologically-reasonable way in the lab by controlling the electrostatic charge of the molecules that form our  synthetic liquid organelles. We used tools that the cell itself might use, giving us the first clues about how the process may occur in nature."

"The assumption is that these liquid organelles compartmentalize molecules like RNAs and proteins in order to speed up reactions inside cells," said William Aumiller, a graduate student at Penn State at the time the research was conducted. "This field is very new and there are likely many different mechanisms by which liquid organelles form in cells, so exploring fundamental questions like 'what are the minimum requirements to make these structures come and go as they do in the cell' is very important."

The researchers created synthetic liquid organelles by combining, in a solution, negatively charged RNA molecules with positively-charged short peptides -- chains of amino acids similar to, but smaller than, proteins. Because the two molecules have opposite charges, the News Christine Keating 12-2015 page 2 of 2
RNAs and peptides are attracted to one another and self-assemble into droplets that simulate liquid organelles.

The researchers then adjusted the charge of the peptide molecules in the synthetic liquid organelles by using common enzymes -- proteins that catalyze specific reactions in a cell. They used one type of enzyme, called a kinase, to add phosphate groups -- negatively-charged chemical components -- to the peptides to neutralize their positive charge. Neutralizing the peptides in this manner caused the synthetic liquid organelles to break apart. The scientists then reversed this process and the synthetic liquid organelles reformed by adding another type of enzyme, called a phosphatase, which removed the phosphate group from the peptides, reestablishing their positive charge.

"All sorts of reactions in cells are controlled by modifying proteins with kinases and phosphatases," said Keating. "As chemists, we were thinking about the most basic mechanisms that could be involved in the formation of these liquid organelles, and it's reasonable to think that this is one mechanism that cells might use. Now, we can use our new system to study these liquid-like structures and how they may have evolved."

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation (grant MCB-1244180).

[ Sam Sholtis ]

CONTACTS
Christine Keating: keating@chem.psu.edu, (+1) 814-863-7832
Barbara Kennedy (PIO): science@psu.edu, (+1) 814-863-4682

Larry Johns receives Wheeler P. Davey Award

Larry Johns the supervisor of the Chemistry Maintenance Shop, is the 2015 recipient of the Wheeler P. Davey Staff Award for Excellence in Scientific and Technical Support.  Larry will receive his award at the chemistry department awards reception on Wednesday, December 2 on the Verne A. Willaman Gateway to the Sciences.

Tom Mallouk elected to the National Academy of Sciences

Tom Mallouk elected to the National Academy of Sciences

Tom Mallouk, Evan Pugh Professor of Chemistry, Physics, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology has been elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences. To read the full article go to http://science.psu.edu/news-and-events/2015-news/Mallouk5-2015

Chemistry graduate students participate in outreach activity

Recently some of our chemistry graduate students participated in the Restek-funded after school science program provided by the College of Science students/faculty called "Think Outside the Beaker".  For more information on the program and our students involved please visit the links below:

WJAC article

WTAJ News Clip

CDT Article

Collegian Article

Phil Bevilacqua's work on RNA folding in vivo in Nature

Phil Bevilacqua's work on RNA folding in vivo in Nature

Phil Bevilacqua, Professor of Chemistry recently had his research work on RNA folding in vivo featured in a news article in Nature. To read the news article visit Nature's web site at: http://www.nature.com/news/a-cellular-puzzle-the-weird-and-wonderful-architecture-of-rna-1.18014.

Squire Booker named Howard Hughes Medical Investigator

Squire Booker named Howard Hughes Medical Investigator

Squire J. Booker, professor of chemistry and of biochemistry and molecular biology at Penn State University, has been named an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), a science philanthropy whose mission is to advance biomedical research and science education for the benefit of humanity. As one of 26 new HHMI investigators chosen from 894 applicants, Booker joins a group of scientists, including 17 Nobel laureates, widely recognized for their creativity and research accomplishment. The HHMI chooses investigators based on a "people, not projects" philosophy allowing its investigators the freedom to explore creative approaches to difficult biomedical problems. Booker will receive flexible support designed to enable him to move his research forward in creative new directions.

Booker’s main research interests include deciphering the molecular details by which enzymes -- a special class of proteins -- catalyze reactions in the cell. He then uses the insight gained to manipulate these reactions for various objectives, ranging from the production of biofuels to the development of antibacterial agents. His laboratory garnered international attention for elucidating a pathway by which disease-causing bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureusevade entire classes of commonly used antibiotics. These results were published in two papers in the journal Science, a paper in Nature Chemical Biology, and two papers in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. He is particularly well known for his research on enzymes employing extremely reactive molecules, known as free radicals, to catalyze their reactions.

In 2014, Booker was been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world's largest general scientific society and the publisher of the journal Science. In 2011, Booker was honored with an Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award. The award, which consists of a monetary prize and an unrestricted research grant, is given by the American Chemical Society "to recognize and encourage excellence in organic chemistry." In 2004, Booker was recognized as one of 57 of the country's most promising scientists and engineers by President George W. Bush with the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. He received the award at the White House in recognition of his research on enzyme reactions, including his work on an enzyme involved in the synthesis of unusual fatty acids, which is needed by the bacteria responsible for most cases of tuberculosis. In 2002, he received a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award, the agency's most prestigious award for new faculty members.

Booker has mentored 15 graduate students, over 35 undergraduate students, and two high-school students. He is known for encouraging students in underrepresented groups to consider science-based careers. Booker has published about 70 scientific papers in journals such as Science, the Journal of the American Chemical Society, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and he has served as guest editor for Current Opinion in Chemical Biology, Biochimica Biophysica Acta, and the Journal of Biological Chemistry. He is past-chair of the Minority Affairs Committee of the American Association of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and is co-organizer of the society's 2016 annual meeting.

Booker earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry at Austin College in 1987, where he was a Minnie Stevens Piper Scholar, and a doctoral degree in biochemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1994. That same year he was awarded a National Science Foundation–NATO Fellowship for postdoctoral studies at Université Rene Décartes in Paris, France. Later, in 1996, he was awarded a National Institutes of Health Postdoctoral Fellowship for studies at the Institute for Enzyme Research at the University of Wisconsin. He joined the Penn State faculty in 1999.

HHMI was founded in 1953 by aviator and industrialist Howard R. Hughes. Through its philanthropy, HHMI empowers exceptional scientists and students to pursue fundamental questions about living systems.

 

[ SJS ]

Ben Lear receives Priestley Prize

Ben Lear receives Priestley Prize

Ben Lear, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, has been selected to receive the 2014 Priestley Prize for Outstanding Teaching in Chemistry.

The prize will be formally given at the Chemistry Department commencement reception in May.

The Priestley Prize for Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching in Chemistry is awarded annually to a faculty member in the Chemistry Department for excellence in undergraduate chemistry instruction.

The Priestley Prize was established in 2002 to recognize the best undergraduate teachers in the Chemistry Department as measured by the increase in learning and enthusiasm for the subject by the students in chemistry courses.

John Badding receives Faculty Scholar Medal

John Badding receives Faculty Scholar Medal

John Badding, Professor of Chemistry, has been selected to receive the 2015 Penn State Faculty Scholar Medal in Physical Science. Established in 1980, the award recognizes scholarly or creative excellence represented by a single contribution or a series of contributions around a coherent theme. A committee of faculty peers reviews nominations and recommends candidates to Penn State's president.

The theme of the research in the Badding research lab is the use of pressure to synthesize or probe solid state materials.  They are interested in materials that have unusual micro or nano structure or chemical/physical behavior and often apply them to problems of significant technological interest.

Dan Sykes promoted to Senior Lecturer II

Dan Sykes promoted to Senior Lecturer II

Dan Sykes has been promoted to the rank of Senior Lecturer II.

Dan joined the Penn State faculty in 2001. He earned his Ph. D. in 1990 from the University of Alberta.

Journal of Biological Chemistry podcast with Dr. Stephen Benkovic

Recently the Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC) did an interview with Dr. Stephen Benkovic (Chemistry Department), Andrew Patterson (Veterinary Department) and Hong Zhao (post doc, Benkovic group) regarding their JBC paper of the week on purinosomes.

If you are interested in listening to a podcast of the interview please visit http://www.jbc.org/site/podcast/.

Barbara Garrison and Nick Winograd receive Theodore E. Madey Award

Barbara Garrison and Nick Winograd have jointly been awarded the Theodore E. Madey Award by American Vacuum Society for their collaborative work on ion-surface interactions.  This biennial Award is named after Professor Theodore E. Madey, who had a distinguished history of scholarship and service to AVS, and who enjoyed a rich and fruitful relationship with the surface science community in Poland.

Chris Li receives Air Products Graduate Fellowship

Chris Li, a graduate student in Dr. Tom Mallouk's research group, has been chosen to receive an Air Products Graduate Fellowship.  This is a one year fellowship that includes a summer internship at Air Products.

Eric Popczun receives Rustum and Della Roy Innovation Award

Eric Popczun, a graduate student in Dr. Ray Schaak's research group, has been awarded the Rustum and Della Roy Innovation in Materials Research Award.

Scott Phillips receives Arthur Findeis Award

Scott Phillips receives Arthur Findeis Award

Scott Phillips, Associate Professor of Chemistry, has been selected to receive the 2015 Arthur Findeis Award, sponsored by the Analytical Division of the American Chemical Society.  The purpose of the award is to recognize and encourage outstanding contributions to the fields of analytical chemistry by a young analytical scientist.

Mark Maroncelli named Distinguished Professor

Mark Maroncelli named Distinguished Professor

Mark Maroncelli has been named Distinguished Professor of Chemistry by President Barron.  To find out more about Mark and his research please visit his faculty page at: http://maroncelliweb.chem.psu.edu/.

Michael Green named AAAS Fellow

Michael Green named AAAS Fellow

Michael Green, Associate Professor of Chemistry, was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  The American Association for the Advancement of Science is the world's largest general scientific society and the publisher of the journal Science.  Election as an AAAS Fellow is an honor bestowed upon members by their peers.

Christine Keating named AAAS Fellow

Christine Keating named AAAS Fellow

Christine Keating, Professor of Chemistry, was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  The American Association for the Advancement of Science is the world's largest general scientific society and the publisher of the journal Science.  Election as an AAAS Fellow is an honor bestowed upon members by their peers.

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