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Professor Bevilacqua's classroom methods featured on

Professor Bevilacqua's classroom methods featured on

Professor Philip Bevilacqua is the focus of a featured story on Bevilacqua strives to engage his honors chemistry students through various means, including an approach he describes as a "partially flipped" classroom. Read story.

Phil Stemple wins the George Gilbert Pond Award for Excellence in Support of Undergraduate Education

Phil Stemple wins the George Gilbert Pond Award for Excellence in Support of Undergraduate Education

Phil Stemple has been selected to receive this year's George Gilbert Pond Award for Excellence in Support of Undergraduate Education.  Phil will receive the award at the November 30 holiday awards reception.

Phil has been with the department for ten years as our lecture prep specialist.  In addition to providing demonstration support for our large lecture courses and for special outreach events, Phil has put a huge amount of creativity, time, and energy into developing new demonstrations, improving existing ones, and training faculty and TA's to carry out demonstrations effectively and safely.  Phil's efforts have provided the secret sauce that not only helps make our lecture classes informative and fun, but also promotes a climate of excellence in instruction in our department. Thank you Phil for all that you do for Chemistry at Penn State!

Whitmore Lab’s New Multi-Purpose Room (MPR) in Action

As part of the recent $34M renovation of Whitmore Lab a new Multi-Purpose Room (MPR) was added to the first floor. The MPR is ~1300 square feet in size.  It has a flexible design which enables it to function as a space for lab lectures, projects, and prep work.  The desks in this room have wheels, are height adjustable, and they have the same resin tops as lab benches.  As a result, the MPR can quickly be changed between a variety of formats.  A $300k broadcast system makes it possibly to deliver lab lectures and equipment demonstrations to any of the ten teaching labs on the first floor of Whitmore, and in principle, to anywhere in the world.

In one of the photos below, Dr. Kyle Schmid delivers a Chem 111 lab lecture in the MPR which was broadcast live to nine other labs (10/5/16).  Within 15 minutes of the completion of Kyle’s lecture, the MPR was reconfigured, and John DeCaro was at work on his Honor’s thesis project (photo below).

We expect the MPR to support a wide variety of lab activities in the years to come.

2016 Chemistry Department Newsletter

In this issue: A Letter from the Department Head, New Faculty Spotlights, Whitmore Laboratory Undergoes Major Renovations, Two Chemistry Faculty Members Receive 2016 Faculty Scholars Medals, 50 Years at Penn State: Steve and Pat Benkovic and Harry and Noreen Allcock, Collaboration Leads to Great Achievement: Amie Boal and Squire Booker, Peter Craig Breen Memorial Award Given for First Time, Interview with a Chemistry Student: Erica Frankel, From the Ground Up: Founding the Chemistry GSA, Freedman Group Makes Outreach Activities a Priority, 2015-2016 Awards, 2015-2016 Donors, Alumni News

Bevilacqua among researchers awarded New Initiatives grant from Charles E. Kaufman Foundation

Paul Babitzke, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology; Sarah Assmann, Waller Professor of Biology; and Philip Bevilacqua, professor of chemistry, have received a $300,000 New Initiatives grant from the Foundation to study RNA and the processes it regulates. Full story at

Whitmore Laboratory Undergoes Major Renovation

Chemistry undergraduate students walked into a brand new building this fall, even though it was built in 1953.

Whitmore Laboratory had been undergoing a complete renovation over the last few years, with the final product ready to use for classes this August.

Reasons for the renovation included the sheer age of the building and the shape and functionality of the labs.

The goal of the renovation was to enable the building to function for at least the next 40 years. The focus was on flexibility. This will allow for the building to remain relevant even as procedural and technological changes take place in the future. Contractors incorporated movable desks and flexible utility arrangements, for example.

Other features include air conditioning; new air handlers; a lab exhaust system; and new windows, heat, and ventilation, including a ventilated chemical storage room. Aside from the safety updates, aesthetic updates were also incorporated throughout the building (e.g. paint, flooring, layout, etc.). Renovations occurred in parts of all four floors (see pictures).

The second floor underwent a major redesign of all of the rooms the students use throughout the year.  There are now two dedicated spaces for the organic chemistry lab courses: one large room that houses CHEM 203 and 213W and  two adjoining rooms that accommodate CHEM 213M and 431W.  The CHEM 203/213W space's layout now consists of eight "bays" which accommodate up to 128 students at one time (16 students in each section).  Each bay has been designed to give each instructor complete view of all 16 students residing at one time - a significant improvement from the prior layout.

Thanks to the efficient organization of the stockroom staff, all community items are now located in the lab as opposed to in the stockroom, thus lessening the amount of foot traffic in and out of the lab.  The new CHEM 213M/431W spaces include a large lab room that can house a total of 32 students and has been outfitted to resemble a graduate-level lab.  The adjoining room contains four rotovaps, additional hoods for research students, and a microwave synthesizer.  The second floor also includes a newly designed Instrument Room with an adjoining working area that all organic chemistry lab students are required to use.

The department’s undergraduate faculty and staff offices are located in Whitmore Laboratory and also underwent a complete renovation. The new undergraduate program office received upgrades including a welcoming reception area for visiting students, a private testing area for student make-up exams, and brand-new staff offices. In addition to the updated labs, the undergraduate faculty members also benefited from new offices and conference rooms.

Over 2,000 undergraduate students occupy Whitmore Laboratory each week, primarily for laboratory instruction.

Larry Johns, the department’s Building Manager, looks forward to the safety and flexibility aspects that the renovated building will provide. His primary role in the project was to coordinate communication among all involved parties, especially important when renovating an occupied building.

Barton Malow Company was the primary contractor involved in the project.

Chem 111 Students in General Chemistry Lab

Chem 213W Students in Organic Chemistry Lab

Chemistry Teaching Assistants tutoring during office hours

New Faculty Spotlights

Joseph Cotruvo, Jr.

Joseph Cotruvo, Jr. joined the department as an Assistant Professor of Chemistry in July 2016.  His group is interested in using chemical biology and biochemistry to investigate nutrient dynamics in living cells, in particular the biology of transition metals.  Transition metals are used by half of all proteins and catalyze some of the most difficult and important reactions in biology.  The Cotruvo lab aims to develop new tools to image metal ions in cells and – using these tools in combination with biochemical, biophysical, and cell biology techniques – to discover new cellular pathways, study them, and ultimately manipulate them for the benefit of society.  For example, his group is interested in how pathogenic bacteria acquire the nutrients, such as transition metals, that they need to survive and proliferate in the host.  Being able to directly visualize metals in both the host organism and the pathogen will enable a better understanding of the host and pathogen factors affecting metal dynamics over the course of infection.  These results will illuminate new targets for therapeutic intervention in an array of microbial infections.  Prior to joining the Penn State faculty, Cotruvo was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley with Prof. Christopher Chang, and he earned his Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2012 under the guidance of Prof. JoAnne Stubbe.  He graduated summa cum laude with an A.B. in Chemistry from Princeton University in 2006.  His honors include a Jane Coffin Childs Postdoctoral Fellowship and a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship.  At Penn State, he will be the Louis Martarano Early Career Professor.

Aaron Garner

Aaron Garner joined the department in August 2016 as a Lecturer. He received B.S. degrees in Chemistry, Biological Sciences, and Botany from North Carolina State University and a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University. As a graduate student, Aaron worked with Prof. Daniel Kahne and studied the oxidative assembly pathway of the outer membrane portion of the Gram negative lipopolysaccharide translocon LptD/E and determined the X-ray crystal structure of the E. coli LptD/E complex. Passionate about undergraduate education, Aaron has served for the past two years as a preceptor (teaching faculty) in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard University where he primarily taught Life Sciences 1a, an introductory course for STEM majors that integrates principles from general chemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology, and cell biology.

Joseph Houck

Joseph Houck joined the department in August 2016 as a Lecturer. He is a Central PA native; raised on a dairy farm in Seven Stars.  He attended Juniata College where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry with a secondary emphasis in Education.   After graduation, he worked for Dr. Timothy Macdonald at the University of Virginia on the design, synthesis, and evaluation of sphingosine kinase inhibitors for their use as a targeted cancer therapy.  He received his Ph.D. in Chemistry in 2013.  For the past three years, Joe has been a Lecturer at the University of Maryland, College Park.  He has taught general and organic chemistry lectures and labs.  In 2015, he was awarded the Dean's Outstanding Lecturer Award and received a fellowship for course redesign to increase student engagement by implementing the use of electronic laboratory notebooks.  Since working with Science in Motion in college, Joe has maintained an interest in science outreach by bringing hands-on science activities to local elementary schools, Boys and Girls Clubs, and other public events.  Joe is looking forward to moving "home" and enjoys spending time with his family including his wife, Emma, and 8-month-old son, Lewis.

Gerald Knizia

Gerald Knizia joined the department in 2015 as an Assistant Professor of Chemistry. His research interests focus on theoretical chemistry. In synthetic chemistry, progress is often hampered by the difficulty of performing meaningful theoretical calculations. Knizia aims to rectify this situation by researching simpler and better computational methods for finding, characterizing, and understanding reaction mechanisms. In pursuit of this goal, the main focus is the development of a practical, real-world technique for predicting reaction mechanisms ex nihilo, based on modern machine learning algorithms combined with tailored quantum mechanical methods. Other efforts include the continued development of both quantitative and interpretive electronic structure methods, at both the density functional and wave function level; these novel methods are distributed in the widely used Molpro quantum chemistry package, of which Knizia is one of the main authors. Before joining the faculty at Penn State, Knizia held appointments as a junior group leader at the University of Stuttgart, and as postdoctoral scholar at Princeton University and Cornell University. He earned his doctorate in chemistry at the University of Stuttgart in 2010, after completing a master’s degree in physics at Dresden University of Technology in 2006.

Ed O'Brien

Ed O’Brien joined the department in January 2014 as an Assistant Professor of Chemistry. His research interests focus on addressing questions of fundamental biological importance at the molecular and cellular length scales by developing and applying theoretical and computational tools rooted in the fields of chemistry, physics and computer science in close connection with experimental data. He is currently using these methods to understand protein behavior during and shortly after their synthesis by the ribosome. This is a critical period in the life of a protein because the manner in which it is synthesized can have a profound effect on cellular health. One overarching goal of his research program is to understand, model and predict the influence of translation and co-translational processes on nascent proteome behavior, which will impact fields such as biomedicine and biotechnology. Since starting at Penn State, Ed has been awarded two prestigious grants, including a National Science Foundation CAREER Award and an HFSP grant that had a 2% success rate; he has published several papers in high-impact journals including in the Journal of the American Chemical Society; and he has organized serveral international symposia and conferences. Because his research is multi-disciplinary Ed has put together a team scientists composed of chemists, physicists and bioinformaticians. Before joining the faculty at Penn State, O’Brien was a postdoctoral scholar at University of Cambridge. He earned a Ph.D. at the University of Maryland College Park in 2008. O’Brien’s awards and honors include an NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship, NSF EAPSI Graduate Fellowship, NIH GPP Graduate Fellowship, EPSRC (UK) grant, Royal Society (UK) University Research Fellowship, and BBSRC (UK) David Phillip’s Fellowship.

Lauren Zarzar

Lauren Zarzar joined the department in August 2016 as an Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Chemistry. She earned a B.A. in Chemistry and a B.S. in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. in Chemistry from Harvard University. As a graduate student, she worked in the group of Prof. Joanna Aizenberg studying the design, fabrication, and functional mechanisms of responsive hydrogel micro-actuators. She then served as a postdoctoral associate in Timothy Swager’s group in the Department of Chemistry at MIT exploring complex emulsions that reconfigure in response to chemical and environmental stimuli. Her research interests include the development of strategies to integrate materials with enhanced chemical and spatial control on nano to micrometer length scales and the design of dynamic materials systems displaying responsive or adaptive behavior.

Xin Zhang

Xin Zhang joined the department in August 2015 as an Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. His research interests focus on biological chemistry and chemical biology. Proper folding and appropriate function of the cellular proteome is essential for life. However, this process is constantly challenged by stresses that dynamically alter the cellular folding environment. The Zhang lab aims to 1) develop chemical tools to monitor cellular stresses that influence protein folding in real time; 2) decipher how the energy landscapes associated with proper protein folding and function are regulated by the cellular folding environment; and 3) examine how this regulation leads to significant biological consequences. The success of this research program not only discerns the origin and consequence of the biological regulation of protein folding and function in a fashion that has not been considered to date, but also potentiates diagnosis and therapeutic strategies to human diseases that are rooted in defective protein folding and function. Before joining the faculty at Penn State, Zhang was a postdoctoral scholar at the Scripps Research Institute. He earned a Ph.D. at the California Institute of Technology in 2010, an M.S. at the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2004, and completed an undergraduate degree at the University of Science and Technology of China in 2001. Zhang’s awards and honors include a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award at the Scientific Interface, a Helen Hay Whitney Postdoctoral Fellowship, an ACS Nobel Laureate Signature Award for Graduate Education in Chemistry, and a Caltech Herbert Newby McCoy Award in Chemistry.

From the Department Head

From the Department Head

Dear Alumni and Friends:

Greetings from the Penn State Department of Chemistry.  We hope this new electronic edition of the Newsletter finds you enjoying life and reflecting fondly on your time at Penn State.  I’m delighted to bring you news of the exciting developments from the past year in the Department.

Having just finished my first year as Department Head, I want to take the opportunity again to thank Barbara Garrison for the outstanding contributions she made as Head from 2009 to 2015.  Under Barbara’s leadership, we rose in the National Research Council (NRC) rankings to our current place among the top 15 chemistry graduate programs in the country.  We also continue to provide a superb learning environment, which includes award-winning instruction and hands-on research experience for our undergraduates.  Our ascent in the NRC rankings was in no small measure due to the success Barbara and her predecessor, Ayusman Sen, had in hiring excellent young faculty and in attracting the best students to our programs.  Barbara is now enjoying the opportunity to devote more time to her research in theoretical chemistry, and she continues to serve as Associate Head for Space and Facilities in the Department.

I want to thank all the Chemistry alumni who joined us for our reception at the ACS National Meeting in Philadelphia on August 21.  It was wonderful to see so many old friends and to have them re-connect with one another.  We hope to continue to do this at future meetings, so please check your email for announcements, and mark mass mailings from us as “not spam!”  There is no greater pleasure for us than to hear from our former students, unless of course it is to have them visit in person.  And when you do visit, you will see much that is familiar and much that has changed for the better.  Chemistry continues to be a top department among its peers, but it is now only one of many strong departments in the College.  Indeed, in the same NRC ranking mentioned above, the Eberly College of Science ranked 7th in the nation among such Colleges! The walls between our departments are lower than ever, and we leverage the power of the Materials Research Institute, the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, and the Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment to engage in collaborative research across disciplines.  The consolidation of facilities for materials characterization, nanofabrication, and computation in the new Millennium Science Complex, together with the central facilities of the Huck Institutes, have greatly amplified our resources for fundamental research.  Chemistry faculty are also key players in the translation of basic science research to the private sector through the new Invent Penn State initiative.

This year marks an important milestone for the Department as we celebrate the remarkable careers of Harry Allcock and Steve Benkovic, who have now been with the Department for 50 years and are still going strong.  Steve, who was awarded the National Medal of Science in 2010, came to Penn State as an Assistant Professor in 1965, and Harry, who is now a member of the National Academy of Engineering, joined us one year later.  What are the secrets to their success and staying power?  They have never lost their sense of excitement about scientific discovery, nor the joy of mentoring bright students and postdocs and then launching them on their own productive careers.  And the height of their accomplishments is in no small measure due to Noreen Allcock and Pat Benkovic, who have managed their laboratories for the past half-century, and whom we are delighted to see every day in the Department.  We were pleased that so many former Benkovic group members and friends were able to attend the 50th anniversary celebration held in Steve and Pat’s honor this August, and we’re looking forward to welcoming the Allcock group back for their special celebration next Spring.

Several of our most talented and valuable staff members have also celebrated round-number milestones in the past year.  Eric Younken and Jim Miller, both in the electronics shop, have been with the Department for 30 and 20 years, respectively, solving every imaginable instrument repair problem, wiring and re-wiring the Department and building many a new gadget for research or teaching.  Ken Brown has worked in our instructional laboratories for 15 years, where he estimates he has helped over 40,000 students and 1,000 teaching assistants.  Mike Joyce has worked with general chemistry faculty and students in our very busy undergraduate program office for ten years, and Dana Hosko has been with us as a research staff assistant for five years.  Notably, all of the staff we are honoring for their long service this year have received at least one staff award during their careers at Penn State.

Along with honoring our longest-serving faculty and staff, we are very pleased to welcome a number of new faculty to the Department.  Joining an outstanding group of Assistant Professors - Miriam Freedman (2010), Amie Boal (2013), Ed O’Brien (2014), Gerald Knizia (2015), and Xin Zhang (2015)  - are our newly minted faculty Joey Cotruvo, Aaron Garner, Joe Houck, and Lauren Zarzar.   Joey Cotruvo arrived at Penn State in August after completing his postdoctoral work at UC Berkeley and brings a new dimension to our growing concentration in Chemical Biology.  Aaron Garner, who was formerly a Preceptor (teaching faculty member) at Harvard, joins us as a lecturer to contribute to our instructional programs in general chemistry, organic, and biological chemistry.  We were able to lure Joe Houck home to central Pennsylvania after an outstanding three years as a lecturer at the University of Maryland, during which time he won the Dean’s Outstanding Lecturer Award.  Joe will lead the development of our World Campus courses while contributing to residential instruction in general and organic chemistry.  Lauren Zarzar, who was a postdoc in Chemistry at MIT, joins us as a new joint hire with the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.  She plans to initiate a new research program in self-assembled and dynamic nanomaterials that will bridge the two disciplines.  Finally, we will welcome Alexey Silakov, whose specialties are EPR spectroscopy and bio-inorganic chemistry, as an Assistant Professor in January 2017.  This year we will continue to look for new faculty who can help us continue our tradition of excellence in organic and bio-organic chemistry, materials, analytical/physical, and theoretical chemistry.  We are also actively searching for a new director of the NMR laboratory.

This year we also extend our best wishes to faculty and staff who are retiring or moving on to new positions.  Will Castleman is retiring after 34 years at Penn State, and an 80th birthday celebration is being organized by Will’s friends and former students at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) on April 20-21, 2017.  A member of NAS since 1998, Will’s recent research has focused on molecular clusters and “artificial atoms:” clusters of metal atoms that mimic the electronic structure and bonding of individual atoms in the periodic table.  Will received this year’s Cozzarrelli Prize – the award for the best paper in the physical sciences in PNAS – for his paper on the discovery of clusters that mimic rare earth elements. Will and Heide Castleman are moving to Washington, DC to be near their family, and we wish them all the best in the next chapter of their life together.  We are also saying goodbye to Karl Mueller, who after splitting his time between Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Penn State for the past four years will be moving full-time to PNNL, where he serves as Interim Chief Science Officer in the Environmental Sciences Laboratory.  We bid a fond farewell to Alex Radosevich, who is moving to MIT to join their Chemistry Department, and to Emmanuel Hatzakis, who is leaving his position as NMR Director to take a tenure-track position in the Department of Food Science at Ohio State.   Sabrina Glasgow has retired after 34 years with the department as a research staff assistant, and Mary King, Diana Nolten, and Jaclyn Stimely have moved on to other positions in the University and elsewhere.  We are proud of all their accomplishments and trust that they will continue to spread Penn State pride wherever they go.

Our faculty and students have continued to collect awards and honors in recognition of their groundbreaking research and innovative teaching.  Recent research awards include Squire Booker’s selection as a member of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI); NSF CAREER awards to Miriam Freedman, Ed O’Brien, and Alex Radosevich; Faculty Scholar Medals to John Badding, Squire Booker, and Mauricio Terrones;  and the ACS Inorganic Nanoscience Award to Ray Schaak.  We congratulate Ben Lear and Bratoljub Milosavljevic on their receipt of the Priestley Prize for Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching.  I am also very pleased to report that David Boehr, Ben Lear, and Alex Radosevich were promoted to Associate Professor with tenure, and Bratoljub Milosavljevic was promoted to Senior Lecturer.  What a year for our faculty!  In addition to the many graduate students who have received Departmental awards for continuing research and teaching, we are also very pleased that Nicole Famularo (Keating group) won a prestigious NSF Graduate Fellowship, and Alicia Altemose, Julie Fenton, Jared Mondschein, Katheryn Penrod, and Hanna Rose all received honorable mentions.  Finally, I want to express my pride in our graduate students who have organized the Chemistry Graduate Student Association (Chem GSA) as an official club at Penn State.  The Chem GSA, co-advised by faculty member Scott Showalter and graduate program manager Hilary Dellapenta, works to foster the professional development of our M.S. and Ph.D. students by organizing seminars, professional and educational outreach activities, and special events such as Sponsors Days that bring students together with potential employers.  Their energy and enthusiasm is palpable, and they are doing a job that faculty were doing, only better! Why didn’t we think of this before?

My first year as Head has given me a much deeper appreciation of how the professionalism and hard work of our staff enable the success of our students and faculty in executing the academic mission of the Department.  We are truly fortunate to have such a dedicated group who have outlasted many a department head and who work so well together.  This year a big shout-out goes to Larry Johns, our building manager and the head of the Chemistry maintenance shop, who received the Wheeler P. Davey Award for Excellence in Scientific and Technical Support.  Larry and his team adroitly manage laboratory renovations and special projects, including oversight of this year’s massive renovation of Whitmore laboratory, which stayed remarkably on schedule and was completed in August.  As chair of the Department’s Safety Leadership Team, Larry has also been instrumental in establishing and maintaining a new culture of safety in the Chemistry Department.  Future employers will have Larry and the team of graduate students who have worked so hard on this to thank for the fact that Penn State graduates now arrive on the job well trained in laboratory safety.  We also gratefully acknowledge support from Dow Chemical for sponsoring new safety initiatives in Chemistry at Penn State.  For these accomplishments and more, Larry also received the 2015 Overall Staff Excellence Award for the Eberly College of Science.

As I begin my 24th year at Penn State and my second as Department Head, I feel truly fortunate to be part of this team and to see it continue on its upward trajectory.  I hope that you will enjoy catching up with us through the Newsletter, and that you will have an opportunity to visit and share in the excitement of the Department in the not-too-distant future.  Please stay in touch – we would love to hear from you!

From the Ground Up: Founding the Chemistry Graduate Student Association

From the Ground Up: Founding the Chemistry Graduate Student Association

The experimental method begins with observation.  As scientists, this type of thinking is ingrained in us.  So when two graduate students, Inanllely Gonzalez and Susan Butch, observed opportunities for improvement within the department, they set out to test the hypothesis that they could make a positive change in the lives of Chemistry graduate students.  In early 2015, with the help and support of Dr. Ray Schaak, former Graduate Program Manager Jaclyn Stimely, and former Department Head Dr. Barbara Garrison, the Chemistry Graduate Student Association (GSA) was established.  The inaugural executive board completed by Sean McCarthy, Juan Callejas, Patrick Corrigan, and Roderico Acevedo came together to define and accomplish the GSA’s core missions:


1) To provide opportunities for professional development and outreach. The GSA launched a professional development seminar series tailored specifically to the needs of Chemistry graduate students. In addition, they have partnered with local outreach organizations to engage and inspire a future generation of chemists.

2) To foster a sense of community within the department. The GSA encourages graduate students to get to know each other and expand their network through events such as picnics, coffee hours, and intramural sports games.

3) To facilitate the recruitment and retention of Chemistry graduate students. The GSA, in collaboration with the graduate office, instituted a first-year mentoring program to help incoming students navigate the challenges faced during their transition to graduate school.  The GSA also assists in planning events and recruiting volunteers for the annual open house recruitment event.


Today, the GSA executive board includes Inanllely Gonzalez, Patrick Corrigan, Kate Lebold, Erica Frankel, Michael Coco, Jimmy Morse, and Jamie Bingaman, as well as advisers Dr. Scott Showalter and Graduate Program Manager Hilary Dellapenta.  The executive board, together with support from Department Head Dr. Tom Mallouk and over 100 additional active members, continues to carry out the GSA’s core missions by initiating events and programs to benefit Chemistry graduate students.

Freedman Group Makes Outreach Activities a Priority

Freedman Group Makes Outreach Activities a Priority

The Freedman Group, under the direction of Dr. Miriam Freedman, studies the effects of aerosol particles on the environment. In the last year, the Freedman Group has made it a priority to participate in a wide range of outreach activities.

Two of the main outreach activities done every year by the group, with this year being no exception, are Exploration-U Bellefonte and Exploration-U State College.  This year, they continued the tradition of making liquid nitrogen ice cream, always a hit with the kids because they get to eat ice cream in addition to learning how cirrus clouds form in the atmosphere.

In order to expand their outreach circle this year, the Freedman group developed a curriculum for a session of “Think Outside the Beaker.”  This program brought middle school students from Bellefonte, PA to Penn State for a five week after school program focused on science topics.  For their session, the group decided to focus on weather and atmospheric chemistry, specifically by having the students learn about precipitation and make their own anemometers.  The students also enjoyed learning about cloud formation.

Other outreach activities included participation in a PA Cyber Charter School Night (where the group explained the process that leads to precipitation and built anemometers) and two general science outreach programs (the M.A.T.H.H. Program and Higher Achievement Program).

The M.A.T.H.H. program is an outreach activity at the Schlow Library and Discovery Space in State College. This program is designed to teach some scientific principles to kids aged 5-12.  Here, they focused on making batteries with pennies, and the kids enjoyed making different circuits to light up a lightbulb or spin a propeller.

The Higher Achievement program invites sophomores and juniors in high school to come to Penn State. The group spent an hour teaching them about the gas laws and demonstrated the famous Coke and Mentos experiment.

The Freedman Group also had a booth in the Olympic Village during the Pennsylvania Special Olympics at Penn State where athletes had the opportunity to make their own polymer “goo!”

The group is looking ahead to more outreach events in the future!

Interview with a Chemistry Graduate Student: Erica Frankel

Interview with a Chemistry Graduate Student: Erica Frankel

Erica Frankel is a 5th year graduate student, co-advised by Phil Bevilacqua and Chris Keating, who is busy investigating fundamental questions that span the earliest chemistry on Earth to the most modern mechanisms in molecular biology.  RNA has been found to carry out a broad range of functions in cells, from translating genetic information into proteins to regulating the activity of genes, etc. Her research has the implication for differentiating why RNA has evolved as it has from a prebiotic molecule to an indispensible component of all organisms.  Erica took some time out of her day to talk about one of her passions outside the lab (besides hanging out with her not-so-fitness progressive dog, Homer): being a fitness instructor at Fitology in State College, PA.

Why don't you start off by giving a quick introduction to Fitology and what you do there?

Fitology is a local fitness studio located in State College, where their slogan is “Inspired group fitness. Powered by science”.  Simply put, it is a research lab within a group fitness facility. I am fortunate enough to both participate in and teach group fitness classes there.  Currently, I teach different variations of indoor cycling, and have just passed initial training to teach a weightlifting class known as BodyPump.

How did you get into attending Fitology?

I have been attending since August 2013, at which point it had only been open for about eight months.  There was already a large following and the members were devoted to the studio.  It was a short matter of time before I caught the fitness bug and became a huge fan and regular participant.

What makes it stand out from the typical gym?

There are several factors that make Fitology unique among other gyms or studios. For one, the only thing occurring in the studio at any given time is group fitness. This means there is no cardio equipment or free weights. Simplistic in its design, there are two rooms, one for floor cardio, mixed interval, and strength classes and a second for indoor cycling classes. Another factor that makes Fitology special is the heavy focus on research. Like the name refers to, “Fitology” is literally the study of being fit.

So who is the PI for Fitology?

Dr. Jinger Gottschall is a partner of the studio as well as an associate professor of Kinesiology at Penn State and completes many studies at Fitology to continually improve upon the formats that Les Mills provides.  These studies include looking both at the importance of group fitness to keeping participants motivated and engaged in their workouts, but also the effectiveness of some exercises over others. This is super cool to me as a graduate student in Chemistry because I can really appreciate the science and work behind every workout I do at the studio, knowing that it has been tested and improved upon over many iterations, just like how we do experiments in the laboratory.

Then I'm sure other graduate students are drawn to the program as well?

Absolutely! Just to give a few examples, we have an instructor that is a Distinguished Professor of English, one who just recently defended his Ph.D. thesis in Bioinformatics and Genomics, a German Studies Ph.D., and the list goes on. So I figured if they can be successful at teaching in the studio and in their studies, so can I!

What have been some of the highlights of being an instructor?

I thought it would be a great opportunity to work on my own ability to motivate others. I wanted to know that I had an impact on other people’s lives. In the laboratory, we often have projects that may be indirectly related to helping solve world problems, like clean energy or fighting disease, but it is so far removed that you really don’t have a chance to see the effects long term. In the studio, I get to directly see participants get stronger, fitter, and more confident from the classes they take. There is a sense of fulfillment that I feel, knowing I have had a beneficial impact on those people. Not to mention now I get to drag all my friends to the studio to get them out of the lab.

Speaking of lab, has your experience working in lab and being a scientist made you a better fitness instructor?

YES! The importance of controls! When I am teaching an indoor cycling class, I like to be very methodical. This includes making sure the participants are executing each position on the bike with the correct form. First I like to lay out how we position our body, and then go into explaining how the body should feel in said position, and then move in to explaining what muscles they are working. If participants understand the what, how, and why of each position, they can exhibit accuracy and precision each time we move back to that position. Without those controls, the members wouldn’t benefit from the exercise.

How about the other way around... has being an instructor proven to help you unlock the secrets of RNA?

Being a fitness instructor has also made me much more confident in terms of public speaking. When instructing, you have to learn to breathe, talk, exercise, and smile at the same time. I also have to focus on making eye contact with the participants to make them know I am engaged in their experience and in tune with how they are feeling. This really leaves little room to be nervous, especially when you realize that this workout is for them, and they are not worried about how you act. You are only enhancing their experience. The same goes to public speaking. I am only there to improve the audience’s ability to take in and understand my presentation. The more confidently and controlled I speak, the better the experience. This is not to say that my heart doesn’t pound before presentations, but I am able to breath, smile and even enjoy the experience. So maybe it hasn’t helped me unlock the secrets of RNA, but it has certainly helped me communicate just how phenomenal RNA is!

Finally, I know that you love going on adventures with your dog Homer, whether jogging or hiking.  Do you have any plans for adapting Fitology for our canine friends?

It’s funny you mention this. Many members and instructors at Fitology have pups that are inherently active because of their owners. But just like humans are not automatically fit and may not be able to run 10 miles in one shot, or scale the boulders of Rothrock State Park, neither are dogs. I know some members who have asked for Dr. Gottschall to develop a training plan for their dogs so that they will be able to frolic with the same agility as their fit mamas and papas. So until LesMills International comes out with a canine BodyPump class, I think that’s going to have to do.


Erica teaches RPM on Wednesday mornings at 5:30AM at Fitology, located at 542 Westerly Pkwy, State College. She can be reached at  If you are interested in learning more about Fitology or Les Mills group fitness, please visit:

Two Chemistry Faculty Members Receive 2016 Faculty Scholar Medals

Two of the four recipients of the University’s 2016 Faculty Scholar Medals for Outstanding Achievement are faculty in the Department of Chemistry.

The awards are given each year to one faculty member in recognition of scholarly or creative excellence represented by a single contribution or a series of contributions around a coherent theme.

Squire Booker (Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology) won in the area of life and health sciences, and Mauricio Terrones (Professor of Physics, Chemistry, and Materials Science and Engineering) in the area of physical sciences.

Booker’s lab has developed innovative techniques to work with iron-sulfur radical S-adenosylmethionine enzymes within an oxygen-free atmostphere. They have solved a series of structures capturing intermediates in the reaction pathway, characterizing them spectroscopically and solving their co-crystal structures. These findings have broad reaching consequences for understanding antibiotic resistance and the biosynthesis of organic compounds.

Other notable work from the Booker lab has included potential applications in renewable energy, through research on cyclopropyl fatty acid synthase.  Booker’s publications have appeared in Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and the Journal of American Chemistry, to name just a few.

Booker was also recently 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.

Terrones’ nominations cited his ability to meld disciplines of condensed matter physics, materials science, chemistry, and biology and his leadership in creating Penn State’s Center for 2-Dimensional and Layered Materials. According to researchers at Harvard, MIT, Columbia, and Cambridge, the center has made Penn State a forefront player in the field.

Terrones has contributed broadly to the field of low-dimensional materials. He is well-known for his recent work on the synthesis of monolayers of transition metal dichalcogenides and the discovery of photoluminescence in these systems, which is a consequence of the direct band gap of the monolayers.

He has published 142 papers in the past five years.

Past winners of the Faculty Scholar Medal from the Department of Chemistry include John Badding (2015), Ray Schaak (2012), Phil Bevilacqua (2010), Marty Bollinger (2009), Ayusman Sen (2003), Xumu Zhang (2001), Wolfgang Ernst (1998), Andrew Ewing (1994), James Anderson (1992), Barbara Garrison (1990), and Nicholas Winograd (1985).


Squire Booker

Mauricio Terrones

Peter Craig Breen Memorial Award Given for First Time

The Peter Craig Breen Memorial Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Chemistry Research was established in 2015 by Kevin J. Breen and Renee Romberger Breen in memory of their son, Peter. The purpose of this award is to recognize undergraduate students enrolled in the Eberly College of Science at The Pennsylvania State University who are majoring in or planning to major in Chemistry and who have demonstrated excellence in academics and research focused in chemistry.

The inaugural recipient of the award was Ailiena Maggiolo, a rising senior working in the laboratory of Amie Boal, an Assistant Professor in Chemistry/BMB.  Ailiena has worked in the Boal group for the past two years on several different projects involving x-ray structure determination of biological catalysts that use transition metal ions as part of their catalytic cycle.  Her efforts to date have helped us understand more about enzymatic halogenation reactions, a chemically challenging transformation of interest for its potential to make certain synthetic chemistry applications more environmentally-friendly.  She has also worked on a DNA biosynthesis enzyme that is an important antibiotic drug target, helping to discover novel chemistry associated with versions of the catalyst found exclusively in certain types of bacteria that cause infections in humans and animals.  Ailiena’s work has already appeared in prominent scientific journals with more to come prior to completion of her B.S. degree in Spring 2017.  In her nomination letter, Professor Boal stated, “Ailiena’s persistence in setting up a research opportunity in my lab is notable – when I took too long to respond to an initial inquiry via email, she waited outside my office.  I’m very grateful that she went to such lengths.  Ailiena has proved to be a remarkably ambitious and productive trainee and she has helped initiate several new research directions in my lab.”  Ailiena intends to pursue a Ph.D. degree in Chemistry after graduation.

The award was given for the first time at the chemistry graduation reception on May 7th, in honor and memory of Peter Craig Breen, who was a chemistry major at Penn State from 2010 through 2014.  Peter was a gifted student who excelled in high school and was selected as a National Merit finalist. Peter chose during his senior year to attend Penn State. He saw many opportunities to continue to learn and grow at the university and was following a family legacy of Penn Staters, which includes both of his parents, Renee and Kevin, as well as an uncle, aunts, and his brother, Scott.

Peter enrolled at Penn State in 2010 as a Braddock Scholar and a Schreyer’s Scholar in The Eberly College of Science with a major in chemistry. He immediately pursued a computational chemistry research position involving the study of RNA in Phil Bevilacqua’s lab. Working in the Bevilacqua lab quickly became an important and enjoyable part of his studies, while the lab and the group became an extended campus home and family for Peter.

Not only was he heavily involved in research during his studies, but Peter was also dedicated to assisting his fellow students and peers. He found fulfillment in helping others, and sought out opportunities to do so throughout his undergraduate career. Peter worked under the direction of Joe Keiser as both a tutor in the chemistry resource room and a teaching assistant in chemistry courses. Other interests of Peter’s included travel and pursuing exposure to chemistry beyond the academic setting, fulfilled during his time as an intern in industry at the University in Freiburg, Germany for a summer.

Peter had planned to continue pursuing his passion for research in bioinformatics, and was accepted into three Ph.D. programs before his passing in 2014. Penn State conferred a B.S. degree in Chemistry with honors posthumously to his family in May 2014.

Peter’s friends and family felt that it would be fitting to establish a research award in his name so that his passion for scientific discovery would continue on after him. The award is intended to honor undergraduate students who are dedicated to excellence in research and who are driven by a spirit similar to Peter’s.

Collaboration Leads to Great Achievement: Amie Boal and Squire Booker

Collaboration Leads to Great Achievement: Amie Boal and Squire Booker

Understanding the sequence of chemical events that an enzyme employs to convert one molecule to another can provide crucial insight for drug design and the development of new synthetic strategies for clinically important natural products. However, teasing out the intricate details of these complex reaction pathways can be difficult. Protein X-ray crystallography is a powerful tool for providing detailed insight into these chemical reactions, especially if pictures can be obtained of proteins in the act of catalyzing their reactions. A fruitful collaboration between the labs of Professors Squire J. Booker and Amie Boal demonstrates the complementarity of mechanistic biochemical investigation and X-ray crystallography to provide unprecedented details of the mechanisms of some of Nature’s most compelling enzymatic reactions.

The collaboration began in 2010 while Amie was a post-doc in Amy Rosenzweig’s lab at Northwestern University. Data from biochemical studies in the Booker Lab suggested a novel mechanism for RlmN and Cfr, radical S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) methylases responsible for the methylation of RNA. Bacteria that contain Cfr are resistant to many clinically relevant antibiotics, making it an intriguing target for the development of new therapeutic compounds. The evidence for a unique chemical mechanism was substantial, but according to Booker Lab alum Tyler Grove (Ph.D., 2013), they wanted additional confirmation of the mechanism they were about to propose. “Dr. Booker and myself were sitting in his office and commiserating over my failed attempt to solve the RlmN+SAM structure.  We were in the process of writing the first RlmN/Cfr paper and really wanted/needed to know if we were right or wrong about what we believed was happening, which, at the time, was a pretty wild idea about how RlmN and Cfr were functioning.  So, Dr. Booker called Amy Rosenzweig (a crystallographer at Northwestern) and asked if she had someone who could help us out.  Amy said ‘No problem, I have an excellent post-doc in my lab who does not mind difficult problems.  Her name is Amie Boal.’ Grove explained.” Within a few months, Amie had solved the first structure of RlmN using protein purified in the Booker Lab. The structure confirmed the presence of a unique methylcysteine residue, an essential component of the proposed mechanism. The initial mechanistic characterization and the RlmN structure were published as two separate papers in Science in 2011, solidifying a place at the forefront of research on radical SAM enzymes.

When Amie came to Penn State to start her independent career in 2012, the collaboration continued, with the added benefit of adjacent lab space. The initial structure provided helpful insight into the starting steps of the mechanism, but it lacked the RNA substrate, crucial to a complete understanding of these enzymes. Protein-RNA complexes are notoriously difficult to crystallize due to their large size, heterogeneity, and highly charged nature. Using a protein variant that the Booker Lab showed was able to catalyze the first few steps but not the entire reaction, the Booker/Boal team was able to crystallize and solve two structures of RlmN cross-linked to a tRNA substrate. The first structure determined was a cross-link pulled directly from E. coli cells used to overexpress the protein, a long-shot experiment that paid off and revealed the surprising presence of the tRNA substrate. The cross-link was recapitulated using purified protein and tRNA in order to improve the resolution and clarify the finer details. Having all members of the team in the same building made it simple to share ideas, resources, and information on a day-to-day basis. In April of this year, these elaborate and elegant structures were published in Science, adding even more information to the RlmN story.

This work is only possible through the careful cooperation and hard work of these Penn State researchers. “Personally speaking, I don’t know if I have ever met a more dedicated and tireless scientist,” Grove said of Boal. The work is elevated to a whole new level, and students benefit from learning different techniques from two talented scientists. The highly collaborative environment of Penn State enables the sharing of resources and knowledge between the Booker and Boal labs to understand these complex enzymes and the strategies nature employs to catalyze essential biochemical transformations.

50 Years at Penn State: Steve and Pat Benkovic and Harry and Noreen Allcock

50 Years at Penn State: Steve and Pat Benkovic and Harry and Noreen Allcock

There is a certain level of drive and dedication that one needs to be a successful professor at a research university like Penn State. To do so for over fifty years is a remarkable accomplishment. Two of our faculty members have recently hit this 50-year mark. Steve Benkovic and Harry Allcock have both made enormous contributions to chemistry, as well as other fields, during their time at Penn State. They have not only led their scientific fields for five decades, but they have also trained an army of students and postdocs who have gone on to contribute in their own ways to science and technology.

Benkovic obtained his B.S. degree in Chemistry and his B.A. degree in English Literature from Lehigh University and went on to receive his Ph.D. degree from Cornell University in Organic Chemistry. After serving as a postdoctoral research associate at the University of California, Santa Barbara, he joined the Chemistry Department at Penn State University in 1965 and is now Evan Pugh Professor and Eberly Chair of Chemistry. He has since been the recipient of many awards, including the Pfizer Enzyme Award, The Gowland Hopkins Award, the Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award, the Nakanishi Prize, the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life Science, the National Medal of Honor, the National Academy of Science Award in Chemical Sciences, and the National Medal of Science, among others. Additionally, he has been elected to be a member of the Institute of Medicine, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society.  He is also a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Allcock received his B.S. and Ph.D. degrees at the University of London and went on to serve as a postdoctoralfellow at Purdue University and the National Research Council of Canada. He then was a senior scientist at American Cyanamid Co. in Stamford, CT, before beginning his position at Penn State University, where he now also serves as  Evan Pugh Professor of Chemistry. He is also affiliated with the departments of Chemical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering. In addition to being elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2014, Allcock has received many awards throughout his academic career, including the American Chemical Society National Award in Polymer Chemistry, the American Institute of Chemists Chemical Pioneer Award, the American Chemical Society National Award in Materials Chemistry, and the American Chemical Society National Award in Applied Polymer Science, as well as others such as three ACS Polymer Division awards.  More than 640 research publications have been published by the Allcock group, and he is the author or co-author of six books on polymers and materials.

In the time they have spent at Penn State University, Benkovic and Allcock have both made immensely impactful scientific contributions. Benkovic’s main research focus is the understanding of how enzymes catalyze chemical reactions on a molecular level. To address this general theme, his lab is currently pursuing three main projects. One of these projects involves structure-function studies on dihydrofolate reductases coupled with theoretical insight, which has led to a better understanding of how these enzymes achieve transition state stabilization through the combined effects of many residues dispersed throughout the enzyme. Also of interest to Benkovic is the assembly and collective effort of the eight proteins that make up the holoenzyme and primosome in the T4 replisome DNA replication system. Utilizing techniques such as fluorescence energy transfer, chemical crosslinking, and single molecule and ensemble kinetics coupled with structural techniques such as crystallography and electron microscopy, Benkovic’s work has helped establish the workings of the T4 replisome multi-protein assembly to reveal that the assembly is highly dynamic and that while some proteins help to make up the assembly core, others are specifically geared towards catalysis for construction of the DNA. In a more in vivo effort to study protein assembly, Benkovic is also studying the multi-enzyme effort towards synthesis of a purine from a sugar pyrophosphate. Techniques such as confocal fluorescence microscopy are allowing for the observation of how the involved proteins function together within cells.

Allcock’s research endeavors are based around the development of novel functionalized polymers with the goal of providing materials for use in biomedical, aerospace, energy, photonic, and solar applications. Allcock discovered a new method of synthesizing polymers by macromolecular substitution. This led to a new class of polymers known as polyphosphazenes, which possess a backbone of alternating phosphorous and nitrogen atoms with two organic, inorganic, or organometallic side groups attached to the phosphorous atoms. The research in Allcock’s lab is aimed at the development of novel methods for the synthesis of these and other polymers that contain both organic and inorganic units, as well as understanding the reasons for the new property combinations that are generated. Depending on their chemical composition, phosphazene high polymers can be tailored to have various chemical and physical properties that make them useful for the applications mentioned above. New polymers are studied by NMR, IR, gel permeation chromatography, X-ray diffraction, surface and mechanical techniques, thermal analysis, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, and biocompatibility assays, and attempts are then made to understand how changes in polymer structure result in different property combinations. This approach provides an experiment-based method for predicting the properties and prospective uses of polymers not yet synthesized.

When asked about the motivation that has led to the successes of his career at Penn State, Benkovic, who considers every day a new adventure, states that “it’s very easy if you love what you’re doing.”  If “you’re doing it enthusiastically, it’s not really a job.  It’s the joy of discovering things, and I think that’s infectious.”  Allcock adds that playing into the success of his research at Penn State is the continuous line of questions that arise.  “Every discovery we make leads to a number of different questions. Following up [with] those questions leads to [the discovery of] more polymers with different and often unexpected combinations of properties and so on.”  While Benkovic and Allcock’s research endeavors have both been very impactful, the success of their careers are also exemplified in the students that they have trained and prepared for their own successful futures. “The real legacy that we leave is the students and post-docs who have been trained,” notes Benkovic.  Benkovic has graduated many students who have gone on to hold prominent positions, which include 70 university positions worldwide and a number of vice president positions and research group leader positions in pharmaceutical companies.  In Allcock’s time at Penn State University, more than 100 Ph.D. graduates, 30 postoctoral fellows, 15 M.S graduates, and 30 undergraduate students have passed through his lab with over 70 holding industrial research and management positions, 26 holding academic positions, and 6 holding legal, medical, and government positions in a variety of countries.  He states that “a large part of what [his lab] has accomplished is due to their efforts.”

Both Benkovic and Allcock also dedicate a large part of their successes to the support of their wives.  Benkovic calls his wife, Pat, “indispensable.”  Not only does she continue to advise and teach students who pass through the lab, but she also handles the finances. According to Benkovic, the lab is extremely well-organized “because of her touch.”  Similarly, Noreen Allcock has performed “an enormous amount of work handling research proposals, budgets, [and] doing the accounting that’s necessary in a large research group….  A large part of the success of our group has been due to her participation,” states her husband.

When asked what advice he would provide to the younger scientific generation, Allcock advises to “try to get as broad an experience as possible because [he believes] that, after a certain point in one’s career, breadth of perspective is at least as important as specialized knowledge.”  Benkovic notes that currently, research funding is difficult to obtain.  He states, however, that “if you love what you’re doing, it will work out….  Don’t worry about the present situation:  it will change.  Basic research will always be important.”  The successful stories of both Benkovic and Allcock serve as an example and an inspiration to other faculty and younger scientists, demonstrating how curiosity and determination can lead to a truly wonderful career with lasting impact in science and the broader community.

Whitmore Renovation Photos

Below are some photos of the recently renovated Whitmore Labs:








Chemistry Wins Departmental Safety Competition at 2016 Safety Olympics

Chemistry Wins Departmental Safety Competition at 2016 Safety Olympics

Congratulations to the Chemistry Safety Olympics teams from the Badding, Cremer, Keating, and Sen groups who together led Chemistry to win the Departmental Safety Award at the 2nd annual Safety Olympics held at the Millennium Science Complex on September 8th, 2016.  Our teams out-competed other groups of three teams from Materials Science and Engineering, Physics, and Electrical Engineering at the Olympics, winning the overall competition by excelling in five events:

Scavenger Hunt - finding safety errors in a laboratory during a lab inspection
Speed sorting - sorting chemicals into their hazard classifications for safe storage (acids, bases, flammables, oxidizers)
Safety Taboo - like the game Taboo but about safety topics
Safety Trivia - answering serious questions about safety that are contained in EH&S training videos
Speed Gowning - putting on the suits used in the cleanroom as fast a possible

In recognition of the safety expertise of our four teams, the Department received a handsome trophy that was made possible with funds from PPG.  This trophy is on display in 101 Chemistry so we can fully exercise our bragging rights.  We can keep it only for one year unless of course we win again next year!

Tae-Hee Lee's August ACS Presentation covered by C&EN Magazine

Tae-Hee Lee's August ACS Presentation covered by C&EN Magazine

It takes a lot of packaging to squeeze DNA into the nucleus of a cell. The DNA in our chromosomes is packaged into nucleosomes, which consist of about 150 DNA base pairs wrapped around eight-protein spools called histones.

Kyra Murrell selected for 2016 SciFinder Future Leaders Program

Kyra Murrell selected for 2016 SciFinder Future Leaders Program

Kyra Murrell has been selected to participate in the 2016 SciFinder Future Leaders Program this August. Kyra is one of 26 Ph.D. students and postdoctoral researchers from the U.S. and around the world who will attend the program. It includes a week of professional development and networking opportunities in Columbus, Ohio, followed by attendance of the 252nd ACS National Meeting & Exposition. Kyra is giving an oral presentation on her current research at the ACS meeting.

Spring 2016 Chemistry Undergraduate Commencement Reception Scholarship Award Recipients

Steven Spirk received the L. Peter Gold Scholarship Award presented by Dr. Joe Keiser

Stephen Spirk, Joe Keiser

After receiving his doctorate from Harvard, Peter Gold joined the faculty at Penn State in 1965.  Over the next 35 years, he taught hundreds of students physical chemistry.  Sadly, Dr. Gold passed away in 2002.  Former students, friends and family established a scholarship in his memory.  Because he acted as liaison to chemistry faculty at other Penn State campuses for many years, this scholarship is presented annually to an outstanding chemistry student from these campuses. 

Ailiena Maggiolo received the Peter Craig Breen Scholarship Award presented by Dr. Amie Boal

Ailiena Maggiolo, Amie Boal

Peter Breen enrolled at Penn State in 2010 as a Braddock Scholar and Schreyer’s Scholar in the Eberly College of Science, majoring in chemistry.  During his first semester, he took honors chemistry and decided that he wanted to do research in a chemistry laboratory.  What began as a freshman research project led to computational chemistry research in RNA and bioinformatics that continued in the Bevilacqua Lab throughout Peter’s time as an undergraduate student.

Planning to continue his research in bioinformatics, Peter was accepted into three Ph.D. programs before he died in March 2014.  Penn State conferred a B.S. degree in Chemistry with honors (posthumously) to Peter in May 2014. 

To honor the life of Peter Craig Breen, this memorial award was established in 2015 by family and friends with the hope that his smile and kind, gentle spirit will live on as part of the Penn State family.  




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