2018 JPC-PHYS Award Winners Announced

The Journal of Physical Chemistry (JPC) and the Physical Chemistry Division of the American Chemical Society (PHYS) are pleased to announce that Professor Etienne Garand, Professor Jahan Dawlaty, and Professor Renee Frontiera are the recipients of the 2018 JPC-PHYS Awards.

Co-sponsored by JPC and the Physical Chemistry Division of ACS, the Lectureship Awards honor the contributions of investigators who have made major impacts on the field of physical chemistry in the research areas associated with each JPC section.

2018 JPC-PHYS Award Winners and Their Stories

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Meet Etienne Garand

Etienne Garand received his B.Sc. and M.Sc. in chemistry from the Université de Sherbrooke in Québec, Canada.  He completed his Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley (2010), where he studied reactive intermediates and radicals using anion photoelectron spectroscopy under the supervision of Daniel M. Neumark.  He performed his postdoctoral work at Yale University (2010-2012) with Mark A. Johnson, where he learned that ions behave better at colder temperatures.  He has been a faculty member in the chemistry department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison since 2012.  His independent research work focuses on the use and development of cryogenic mass spectrometry and laser spectroscopy to elucidate the molecular interactions driving catalysis, solvation effects and excitation transfer.  His work has been recognized by a DOE Early Career award, an NSF CAREER award, a Sloan Fellowship, an ASMS Research award, and a Flygare award.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about a current research project that you are working on?

We recently started working on developing a molecular-level picture of the solvation of flexible molecules, such as a peptide in an aqueous environment.  For this work, we use a cryogenic ion trap to controllably form solvated clusters around an ion of interest with a known number of solvent molecules.  We probe these clusters using infrared predissociation spectroscopy to reveal the intramolecular and intermolecular interactions present, which all-together give rise to the final solvation structures.  We have already observed instances of significant structural change with changing cluster size, providing a direct look at how solvation can affect structures.

Q: What changes would you like to see in the next five years in your field of study? 

For us, we are working on two major improvements in experimental capabilities. The first one will make it possible to study molecular clusters with significantly larger sizes and complexities, allowing us to get closer to the condensed phase systems while still able to extract molecular-level information from the experimental spectra.  The other capability will simplify and speed up the data acquisition such that the MS-IR approach can become part of a standard analytical chemistry toolkit.

Garand’s publications in The Journal of Physical Chemistry A:

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Meet Jahan Dawlaty

Jahan Dawlaty received his B.A. in chemistry from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. Then he joined Cornell University in Ithaca, New York for graduate studies in physical chemistry. There he worked with Profs. John Marohn and Farhan Rana on a range of topics including excited state dynamics of carriers in epitaxial graphene. After receiving his Ph.D. in 2008, he joined the group of Prof. Graham Fleming at UC Berkeley as a postdoctoral researcher. He developed and used nonlinear spectroscopic methods for measurements of properties of excitons in condensed phases, in particular in photosynthetic complexes. Jahan joined the University of Southern California as an assistant professor of chemistry in 2012. His research focuses on proton dynamics in electronically excited states and spectroscopy of electrochemical interfaces. He has received the NSF CAREER, the AFOSR Young Investigator, and the Cottrell Scholar awards.

Q: What is the most memorable achievement that you’ve made so far?

One of our important achievements was an explanation of a set of surface spectroscopy experiments that revealed the origin of interfacial solvation. Surprisingly, there were no satisfactory solvation models to explain our observations. We created our own model of interfacial solvation that explained the experiments and still serves us as a first-order understanding. We use this model, in particular, deviations from it, to reveal some of the intricacies of interfacial chemistry. Both the experimental and theoretical work for this project was done by my group which was especially exciting for me.

Our second important achievement was an explanation of the origin of excited state basicity. We got interested in this phenomenon as a fundamental molecular property. While we anticipated that it would be of interest to catalysis, we were not sure about the feasibility of its incorporation in catalysts. We were excited to see that it attracted the interest of one of our synthetic colleagues working on catalysis problems and spawned a collaboration. It is rewarding to see that an idea that is born and nurtured in a physical chemistry lab as a fundamental science project is followed up by other chemists to exploit their utility.

Dawlaty’s most recent publications in ACS Journals

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Meet Renee R. Frontiera

Renee R. Frontiera is a McKnight Land-Grant assistant professor of Chemistry at the University of Minnesota. Her research group uses Raman spectroscopic techniques to examine chemical composition and chemical reaction dynamics on nanometer length scales and ultrafast time scales. She received her Ph. D. in 2009 from the University of California – Berkeley, under the advisement of Richard A. Mathies. Her postdoctoral research at Northwestern University was under the supervision of Richard P. Van Duyne. Her research group at the University of Minnesota was founded in 2013, and she is the recent recipient of an NSF CAREER award, a DOE Career award, and an NIH Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA).

Q: Can you tell us a bit about a current research project that you are working on?

One project that we’re working on is trying to invent a new technique for label-free imaging on nanometer length scales. With typical microscopes, once you try to zoom in past a certain limit, features will always be blurry due to the wavelike properties of light. This happens around 250 nm, but there is lots of interesting science happening at length scales below that limit, particularly when thinking about systems like biological cell membranes, solar cells, or batteries! Previous researchers have found a way to beat this diffraction limit using fluorescent tags, in a class of techniques known as super-resolution microscopy. We’re inspired by that work and trying to do something similar with Raman microscopy, which provides intrinsic chemical specificity and does not require any labeling of the samples of interest.

Q: What is the most memorable achievement that you’ve made so far?

We’ve proven that our approach to super-resolution Raman imaging is physically sound, and should really provide a unique way for far-field label-free sub-diffraction imaging. Our work was published in ACS Photonics, 2016, 3, 79-86. We’re rapidly building off of these results to see just what sort of resolution limits can be achieved!

Q: What’s the #1 piece of advice that you would give researchers wanting to work in your field of study?

Be excited and eager to work outside of your comfort zone as that’s where great science can happen, but make sure to talk to and work with experts in those areas. When we first started work in live cell imaging, which is a new area of research for me and something I was not trained in as a grad student or postdoc, it was invaluable to be able to walk down the hall and talk to experts in this type of science. We learned lots from them, and hopefully, we’ll be able to use our expertise in optics and microscopy to repay the favor!

Check out Frontiera’s publications in ACS Journals

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