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Celebrating African American Chemists: Seth Ablordeppey

Professor Seth Ablordeppey researches new drugs for central nervous system diseases such as schizophrenia and depression, as well as treatments for emerging infectious diseases. He is a professor of basic pharmaceutical sciences, and Eminent Scholar Chair and Fulbright Scholar of biomedical sciences, in the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Florida A&M University, where he has taught since 1993.  He has served as a research mentor to both undergraduate and graduate students, and coordinated and mentored high school students through the American Chemical Society’s Project SEED program.

Read on to learn more about his life, his research, and his work getting underrepresented minorities (URMs) interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.

Describe the current focus of your work.

Like other professors in academic institutions, I have a three-focused responsibility; to teach, to conduct research and to contribute to improving societal issues through my service to scientific communities here at Florida A&M University College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. My responsibility to teach is focused on imparting medicinal chemistry concepts to student pharmacists and B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. students in pharmaceutical sciences. Given that many students shy away from anything chemistry, I consider laying this foundation central to my students becoming good and clinically competent pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists in the forefront of clinical practice and drug development respectively.  In addition, I have the responsibility to mentor these students not only professionally, but also as a model of life after they are no longer in school. I consider mentoring a central focus of my responsibilities because for many of these students the faculty maybe their only real role models for life following graduation. What a great opportunity that is!

My primary research focus is in drug discovery and drug development for central nervous system ailments. Thus, my research group includes synthetic chemists, analytical chemists and those with expertise in pharmacological testing of our designed and synthesized compounds. In addition, we are interested in exploring African traditional medicines as sources of new scaffolds for developing drugs to treat diseases that disproportionately affect minorities such as emerging infections, cancers, diabetes, and several others. And even in this arena, we emphasize mentoring and equipping minority learners to become the future pharmaceutical scientists and increase diversity in the field. In fact, our college is reputed to be the largest producer of minority Ph.D.s in the pharmaceutical scientists in the Nation. It is notable that I have already served as the major advisor for 13 Ph.D. minority graduates in STEM fields.

Finally, my service responsibilities extend across many domains. Apart from the usual journal reviews and serving on institutional committees, I have consistently been serving as a grant reviewer for the National Institutes of Health since 1995 and continue to do so. One of the exciting experiences I have had through serving on over 120 review panels and site visits at majority and minority institutions, is how minority students get into the STEM fields. Almost always those I have met would tell you they were planning for some other popular professional career and then had an opportunity often to participate in some research activity and then become “hooked” into a chemical sciences field. Maybe there is a lesson to be learned there!

Even more importantly, imagine you are participating in a 100-meter race in the Olympics and to begin the race you are placed on a line 10 meters behind all the other runners in the race! Please, tell me if you think that is fair, especially if the individual is expected to be able to somehow catch up with the others and even win the race?

However, another lesson I have learned serving as a grant reviewer and participating as a site visit team member and leader, is that all majority institutions hire researchers and offer them great start-up funds, but few Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and minority-serving institutions offer any start-up funds. Interestingly, faculty in majority institutions expect faculty in minority institutions on review panels to present the same types of proposals! I am not sure what name this situation should be called but it’s the epitome of implicit bias in the research enterprise. Sadly, the same problem transfers to minority training where our graduates are not exposed to some of the cutting-edge research that might be necessary for them to compete in their chosen fields. I pray that we find a solution to these vexing problems.

How did you become interested in your field?

My interest in chemistry was inspired by my high school chemistry teacher who made the subject so attractive I decided to study it in college. In college other faculty continued to encourage me to study chemistry and they helped me to retain my desire to enter a career in the chemical sciences. However, it was my interest in African traditional medicines that led to my decision to pursue a study in the pharmaceutical sciences and drug development after my baccalaureate. I was particularly intrigued by the fact that a drug can independently develop in a plant which led to the desire to know more and to be a part of groups that investigate plants for drug development. I have not looked back ever since.

STEM continues to be an underrepresented field for African Americans, what changes need to take place in the chemistry field to change this?

Surveys we have carried out over the course of my career indicate that the way many underrepresented minorities (URMs) get exposed and become interested in the STEM field is through hands on research engagement in an academic or industrial laboratory. Thus, one change I will recommend for attracting URMs to the STEM fields is to expand Summer paid internships in STEM research labs and solicit minority students to participate in such programs. Research during regular semesters as opposed to the Summer, does not appear to be as effective because it competes with other didactic courses that the students must pass in addition to other jobs that the students take on to make ends meet. Additional advantages of paid summer research include:

  1. It demystifies and reassures the URM students that they are capable of engaging in the STEM field.
  2. It exposes them to career opportunities they are unaware of.

How do you think social media has played an important role in bringing awareness to African American chemist across the globe?

Prior to the rise of social media across the globe, the scientific work of any one individual was limited to the immediate environment in which one resided and occasionally one’s publications might be read somewhere else. Social media began to change that, especially in the political, economic and social science spaces. While science and in particular the STEM field, have not caught up completely yet, there are great strides being made and the chemical sciences are in the mix. In fact, the younger generation of minority scientists appear to be doing much better than our generation. Incidentally, the current COVID-19 pandemic has forced many of us into exploring social media to communicate our research in the chemical sciences, and I predict the impact of social media will continue to grow as many African Americans become comfortable with its use in communicating activities in our chemical spaces.

What’s one piece of advice you wished you’d received before starting your career in chem?

That while hard work is a prerequisite for success, it is not enough to bring about an optimum outcome. In addition to hard work, one needs to plan one’s future, mapping out how you plan to get there from where you are and editing the plan as you proceed, so as to ensure you accomplish your goals in every aspect of life.

Over the course my personal development, I can point out people who sometimes are not even minorities but have taken interest in my development and mentored or gave me opportunities that I wouldn’t have had any other way. I am reminded, for example, of Dr. Louis Williams, a professor at the University of Houston, who arranged for me to study for my Ph.D. when I wasn’t thinking about that at the time. Thus, along with one’s own planning efforts, ensure that you identify a mentor who values you and is willing to listen to your doubts and problems to provide guidance you might not otherwise have.

Where do you hope to see the field, as it pertains to African Americans in the next ten years?

I think that in as far as the current generation of African American chemical scientists continue to be exposed through social media especially, and efforts continue to be made by societies like the American Chemical Society to focus on diversity and inclusion in the chemical sciences, we can expect to see positive developments in solving at least the problems that hinder development and cause underrepresentation in the chemical sciences.

What chemist has inspired you most?

Among the many African American chemists that I am drawn to are Percy Julian for his brilliance, tenacity and persistence in research and St. Elmo Brady for paving the way to become the First African American to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry.

Against all odds and taking on challenging issues, Dr. Julian managed to persist in chemical research. He earned his Ph.D. and became the first to accomplish the 11-step synthesis of physostigmine, a drug which continues to be used in the clinic today and in research. His life story in chemical research is one all chemistry students will need to become familiar with, not only for its inspiration, but also for the teachable moments it provides.

Dr. Brady received his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and he has demonstrated how to travel the road our friends and neighbors have not traveled and how to invest in areas that provide opportunities for the next generation by establishing the first graduate program in chemistry at a HBCU and subsequently in three other universities.

What are you most proud of in your career?

As a university teacher for about 40 years now, I have been blessed to have taught over three thousand students in the chemical sciences including pharmacy, most of whom were students of color. In particular, I have served as the major advisor for 14 Ph.D. students with several more in the pipeline. With at least six of these graduates now in the professorate and imparting their chemical knowledge and abilities to more and more students and especially URMs in the chemical sciences fields. I can only say thank you to all the teachers, professors and others who have steered me and poured out themselves to make me the professional I have become. Kudos to you all! For me, the opportunity that comes with each year that I teach, is priceless and I am proud to have touched and influenced the lives of countless numbers of students who continue to inspire many more students, now and in the future!

Read Research from Seth Ablordeppey in ACS Publications Journals.

Laura Gagliardi Named the New Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Chemical Theory and Computation

Professor Laura Gagliardi

ACS Publications is pleased to introduce Professor Laura Gagliardi as the new Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Chemical Theory and Computation (JCTC). Professor Gagliardi is the Richard and Kathy Leventhal Professor in the Department of Chemistry, the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, and the James Franck Institute at the University of Chicago.

Professor Gagliardi is a theoretical and computational chemist known for her contributions to the development of electronic structure methods and their use for understanding complex chemical systems. She is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Peter Debye Award in Physical Chemistry of the American Chemical Society. Professor Gagliardi served as an Associate Editor for JCTC from 2016 to 2020.

“The Journal of Chemical Theory and Computation has an opportunity to play a role in forming and promoting the next generation of theorists and computational chemical scientists, and as Editor-in-Chief, I will make such community-building a priority,” says Professor Gagliardi. “I plan to lead JCTC to a future that expands both the diversity of our authors and the scope of the journal’s focus, building upon the success of the journal to date in creating a world-class home for outstanding researchers.”

I had the pleasure of connecting with Professor Gagliardi in this recent interview. Learn more about her background in theoretical and computational chemistry, her vision for the journal, and more below. 

What does it mean to you to be the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Chemical Theory and Computation?

It is an honor and a responsibility at the same time. The Journal of Chemical Theory and Computation (JCTC) is the leading journal in the field; it publishes state-of-the-art papers in theory and computation, ranging from electronic structure theory to dynamics and classical simulation. I hope that I can make a difference in shaping the field by identifying new directions for JCTC to expand to keep up with emerging developments, and also helping the next generation of theorists to advance their science. I moreover think it is important to address the issue of diversity in all possible respects, especially in terms of geographic diversity and use of the journal to both reach out to and amplify the voices of the entire theory and computation community, always with the goal of promoting the excellence of the science.

What are you currently working on?

I am primarily an electronic structure theorist by education and practice. Nowadays, my group works to develop electronic structures methods, often combining them with dynamical simulations to address societal needs related to clean energy. We study catalysis for decarbonization, photochemical processes, gas separations, and quantum systems in general, including quantum information.

What excites you about your current research?

We are working on several exciting projects right now. We are developing quantum embedding fragmentation methods for strongly correlated extended systems and we are making these theories and codes “quantum ready”, which is to say ready to be implemented on quantum computers. Such methods will allow us and the community to study large systems, e.g., excited states of vacancies and defects in materials, and magnetic communication in multimetallic systems. We are also using machine learning and artificial intelligence to more rapidly advance these methodologies. On the application side, we are investigating porous frameworks, like metal-organic frameworks and covalent organic frameworks for their applications in catalysis and separations. A common feature of these projects is that we are trying to combine the most fundamental theories with very applied chemistry and materials science in a synergistic way.

What element has been most central to your scientific career, and why?

I did a Ph.D. in theoretical chemistry because I was interested in understanding chemical systems at the most fundamental level, and I worked on accurate configuration interaction methods that are usually applicable only to very small systems. Then, over time, I became interested in chemical systems with increasing complexity, but I’ve wanted always to explore them with advanced rigorous methods, like those developed in my Ph.D. This desire to continue achieving the highest levels of accuracy has pushed me out of my comfort zone so that along the way we’ve had to develop novel methodologies that would allow us to study systems like metal-organic frameworks, catalysis, magnetic materials, etc. Another key to my personal development has been my collaborations with experimentalists. Theorists can end up developing super-sophisticated methods that suffer from never being deployed on other than toy systems. By contrast, when one collaborates with experimentalists, one faces real and complex problems and one must make one’s methodologies more practical and useful.

I think what has also helped me is that I delight in novelty and am unashamed of ignorance. I enjoy starting new projects where I know very little at the beginning. I try to be humble and willing to learn from scratch and I cultivate patience. While this can certainly be frustrating early on, the ultimate satiation of curiosity is incredibly rewarding. 

What initially attracted you to chemistry?

I started being excited by chemistry in high school. I studied Latin, Greek, Math, and Physics. I loved them all. Chemistry combined the fascinating aspects of all of these disciplines. It had the rigor of Latin, the philosophical subtlety of Greek and Physics, the logic of math. And at the same time, it explains how the real world works. If one thinks about the major challenge of our planet, namely global climate change, it is clear that chemistry will play a fundamental role in mitigation strategies. Similarly, one can reflect on the acute challenge that began in 2020, namely COVID-19, and see that also in this case chemistry has played a key role in confronting the pandemic.

Where do you think your field will be in 10 years’ time?

What I think is fascinating is that in chemistry one can “make things” (like new molecules, new reactions, new materials, etc.) and “understand things” by analytical means. The two aspects are not, by any means, mutually exclusive. I belong to the category of those who want to “understand things” and guide how to “make them” on a computer. I am a theoretical and computational chemist. I think the role of theoretical and computational chemistry has always been important because we have the opportunity to explain phenomena and to make predictions that drive more impactful experiments when a self-sustained loop can be created. As access to “big data” and artificial intelligence proves ever more important to chemistry, I think the future of theoretical and computational chemistry will also critically involve data science and quantum information. These will permit theoretical/computational chemistry to progress at an accelerated pace to help solve societal challenges.

What do you wish people outside your field knew about the work you’re doing?

I tried to explain to my nephew once, when he was four or five years old, that water is made of a lot of invisible molecules and water is what we see with our eyes because of the properties of these little molecules and the way they interact. More recently, I told to my 80-year old parents that I study some “sponges”, metal-organic frameworks, that can adsorb water vapor and that this can deliver drinkable water under otherwise arid conditions. So, in general, I would like people to understand that we study phenomena at a very fundamental and microscopic level to explain the behavior of the commonly perceived reality around us.

It can be difficult for the general public to appreciate chemistry, and especially theoretical chemistry and computation, because it is a technical field, and moreover, some associate chemistry only with dangerous concepts like pollution, explosions, etc. I find it disappointing that most of the time when I say that I am a chemist, people tell me how difficult they found chemistry in their studies. I wish we did a better job at conveying the excitement and importance of the field to younger generations and fascinating them with chemistry and STEM in general at an earlier age. I appreciate enormously the efforts of educators in general and ACS in particular with respect to efforts to involve younger generations in STEM.

What advice would you give to young scientists today?

While perhaps somewhat trite, most scientists, given all the up-front commitment involved, can certainly be said to be following their passion. If one is able to find one’s real passion in one’s work, one will typically be successful and have the energy to make progress every day towards making a difference. As scientists, chemists, educators, we face the incredible challenge of saving our planet and leaving it in a better condition than we found it and we can contribute towards this mission in a meaningful way. We also have the responsibility to make science more inclusive because this will drive better outcomes and be better for our society. At the same time, I tell my students and postdocs that to make a difference, we need to strive for excellence and personal improvement in all that we do. We want to find the right answers for the right reasons. We have to be committed to integrity and follow ethical practices. We have to collaborate, support, and respect one another. That’s the scientific future I envision.

Learn More About the Journal of Chemical Theory and Computation.

Accounts of Materials Research Launches AMR Materials Stories Video Interview Series

Accounts of Materials Research (AMR) is pleased to launch a new video interview series: AMR Materials Stories. In these short interviews, authors and Editors talk about aspects of their research. The interviews help foster greater communication among scientists and to promote public understanding of science.

In the first video, AMR Author Bram Neirinck catches up with Sarah J. Wolff, Co-Guest Editor of the upcoming Virtual Special Issue on Additive Manufacturing of Metals. They discuss powder bed-based additive manufacturing and how metal additive manufacturing changes the world. Find out more and read Bram’s Viewpoint article here.

The second video features J. Fraser Stoddart discussing the use of weak non-covalent interactions such as hydrogen bonding, π-π interactions and other supramolecular forces to design the next generations of materials. Read the Account by Penghao Li, Matthew R. Ryder, and J. Fraser Stoddart.

More interviews are on the way! Keep an eye out for further videos in this series.

Library Life: Interview with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Librarian Ye Li

Ye Li is the Librarian for Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Materials Sciences and Engineering at MIT Libraries. In her role, she supports researchers and students with finding, accessing, evaluating and disseminating research data and information, facilitating computational access and reuse of data and texts.

Tell me about your current role.

I am currently the Librarian for Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Materials Sciences and Engineering at MIT Libraries. As a subject specialist and a member of the Libraries’ Data Management Services team, I support researchers and students with finding, accessing, evaluating and disseminating research data and information, facilitating computational access and reuse of data and texts, as well as organizing, managing, and sharing research data according to FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and reusable) principles. I strive to partner with researchers and other stakeholders of open science to cultivate good practices for reproducible research and publishing.

What is your background?

My hometown is in the mountains of Southwest China and I spent my undergraduate years as a Chemistry major at Beijing Normal University. I came to the U.S. in 2004 and obtained my Ph.D. in Chemistry and M.A. in Library and Information Science from the University of Iowa in 2009. In the same year, I started my career as a Chemistry Librarian at the University of Michigan. From 2016 to 2018, I led scholarly communications initiatives at the Colorado School of Mines. In 2019, I joined MIT Libraries for my current position.

How do you help to address challenges faced by your institution’s students and faculty?

The challenges I help our faculty, students, and staff to address are around research data and information. On one hand, they are overwhelmed by the amount and pace of new information and need to accurately find, evaluate and access research information at the point of need; On the other hand, our researchers need to disseminate their own research output broadly and efficiently to enhance the impact. As a subject specialist in the library, I am usually at the forefront of directly interacting with our faculty, staff and students to learn the specific problems and barriers, deliver instructions and consultations, and build partnership in teaching and research projects.

To come up with the solutions or make collective progress, I work closely with my library colleagues who have expertise in other subjects, data management and sharing, scholarly communications and collections strategies, information delivery and library access, digital library services, etc. I also connect with publishers, information service providers, open research infrastructure providers, professional societies and organizations, funders and other stakeholders in the scholarly information ecosystem to develop systematic paths forward rather than a one-off solutions to problems. I strive to contribute to a better environment for research and learning and also to cultivate more open and reproducible research practices.

What are some trends that you are observing in the library world right now?

My observation is from the academic librarians’ perspective, which mostly reflects the scholarly communication landscape in higher education. The pandemic accelerated the exploration of remote learning and research, but also surfaced the necessity of in-person interactions in academic life. Here are some trends in academic libraries to consider as we address the evolving landscape and emerging needs.

  • Digital-first has become a principle for decision-making in providing access to scholarly information and services, but tangible collections will still be important to consider for some disciplines and areas.
  • We must explore the application of machine learning and artificial intelligence in information discovery and knowledge creation. We must likewise facilitate computational access and use of data and information for data-intensive research and learning.
  • We need to develop prioritizing strategies to balance the investment in traditional purchasing and subscriptions with the investment in open publishing, open infrastructure, and value-added services from publishers and information service providers.
  • Open Science and Open Scholarship should promote equity and inclusion across disciplines, and we should partner with other stakeholders to make that happen.
  • Interest is growing in the area of cultivating open and reproducible practices for research and publishing throughout the research lifecycle.

You were also the program chair of ACS’s Chemical Information (CINF) division in 2021. What was that like?

Co-chairing the Program Committee of ACS-CINF from 2020-2021 has been a challenging but very rewarding experience. Coordinating divisional symposium organizers and speakers for the biannual international conference, ACS meetings & exhibitions allowed me to work closely with CINF members, officers, and ACS staff. With the disruption from the pandemic, all the existing timelines, logistics, and mechanisms needed to be reworked in a short time frame and everyone needs to stay nimble due to the fluid situation. I really appreciated all the diligent work of CINF symposium organizers and speakers, their willingness to be flexible, and the active participation of CINF members.

Our hard work really paid off. We were able to offer engaging programs covering hot topics, especially machine learning, FAIR data sharing, open science, and ethics in scholarly communications. The attendance of the CINF sessions was comparable, sometimes exceeded, what we observed before the pandemic. Taking advantage of the virtual conference, we were able to invite speakers who usually did not travel to ACS meetings. Being the Program Chair of CINF allowed me to learn the necessity of harmonizing our CINF members’ diverse research focuses around chemical information, data, and cheminformatics as well as the different perspectives from chemical information professionals, cheminformaticians, librarians, and publishers. I started to develop some strategies around it together with other CINF officers and hope to further that collaborative effort during my term as CINF Chair-elect and Chair in the next couple of years.

A very important question: Who is your favorite scientist?

I admire all scientists who are passionately curious and who are perseverant because of such curiosity. If I have to name individuals, it would be between Marie Curie and Nikola Tesla. They had very different styles and approaches but both were extremely curious about nature and ideas.

What is a fun fact about MIT?

“Hacking is a long-standing tradition at MIT and a part of its culture.” This is written in the official Mind & Hand Book. Here are two “Hack Etiquettes” to highlight: “Be Subtle – Leave no evidence that you were ever there” and “Leave things as you found them – or better”. Check this Wikipedia article or the MIT Hacks website for fun and famous hacks over the years.

JACS Au Names First Early Career Advisory Board

A few months ago, JACS Au announced the appointment of its first Early Career Advisory Board (ECAB). This inaugural board features 25 young researchers who represent the breadth of the chemical sciences from across the globe. They will work with the journal’s Editor-in-Chief, Christopher Jones, and its Associate Editors to share their experiences and perspectives on emerging topics/issues within the chemical sciences.

Take a few minutes to learn more about the inaugural members of the JACS Au Early Career Advisory Board.

Takashi Toyao

Position: Assistant Professor
Institution: Institute for Catalysis, Hokkaido University
Hometown: Izumo, Japan

Describe your current area of research (or areas of interest).

Heterogeneous catalysis, in situ/operando spectroscopy, machine learning

What made you want to join the JACS Au Early Career Board and what do you hope to bring to the team?

I hope to increase the visibility of the journal.

Is there a specific article that JACS Au has published thus far that you’re excited about or have found interesting, and why?

The following papers have caught my attention because polymer utilization and recycling would be one of the most important topics towards a sustainable society and have got much attention both from academia and industry.

Conversion of Polyolefin Waste to Liquid Alkanes with Ru-Based Catalysts under Mild Conditions
JACS Au 2021, 1, 1, 8–12
DOI: 10.1021/jacsau.0c00041

Catalytic Hydrogenation of Polyurethanes to Base Chemicals: From Model Systems to Commercial and End-of-Life Polyurethane Materials
JACS Au 2021, 1, 4, 517–524
DOI: 10.1021/jacsau.1c00050

What are the major challenges facing Early Career Researchers and how do you think these challenges could be addressed?

There is too much pressure for quantity over quality, both in papers and in other areas. There need to be bigger and longer-term funding opportunities for young researchers. There are too many meetings that are not for research or education. There needs to be a streamlining of current processes and division of labor.

Patrick Fier

Position: Principal Scientist, Process Research and Development
Institution: Merck & Co., Inc.
Hometown: Bettendorf, Iowa, U.S.

Describe your current area of research (or areas of interest).

Pharmaceutical process chemistry; developing novel reactions and reagents.

What made you want to join the JACS Au Early Career Board and what do you hope to bring to the team?

I hope to provide unique perspectives from a non-academic viewpoint and expand the involvement and impact of industry-based scientists across the broader chemistry community.

What are the major challenges facing Early Career Researchers and how do you think these challenges could be addressed?

Making a name for themselves and discovering breakthroughs in an increasingly competitive and fast-paced field. It is essential to ensure that potential unconscious biases against young researchers do not result in harsher reviews during the peer review process, or which papers are cited, or in the selection of individuals for broader recognition or opportunities.

Morgane Vacher

Position: CNRS Researcher
Institution: CEISAM Laboratory (Université de Nantes, CNRS – France)
Hometown: Lyon, France

Describe your current area of research (or areas of interest)

I am a theoretical chemist, striving to understand better photochemistry, i.e. processes induced by light. To achieve this, we develop and use quantum chemical methods able to simulate how electrons and nuclei move on the fastest timescales (attoseconds, the intrinsic timescale of electrons) to longer timescales (femtoseconds-picoseconds, the intrinsic timescale of nuclei). Focusing on small molecules allows me to use very accurate methods.

What made you want to join the JACS Au Early Career Board and what do you hope to bring to the team?

Being nominated for the first JACS Au Early Career Board was an honor for me. I hope to give constructive input to the conventional Editorial Advisory Board of JACS Au about emerging trends in chemistry and publishing, representing early career researchers but also the theoretical chemistry community in general.

In your opinion, what are some of the current global challenges that have to be addressed by your area of research?

Theoretical chemistry aims to simulate more and more complex systems to resemble reality as close as possible: molecules in solutions, proteins, surfaces, etc. while retaining accuracy and precision. Theoretical chemistry also aims to bridge timescales: how do processes on the attosecond timescale (the intrinsic timescale of electrons) affect processes on the picosecond timescale, and further on the millisecond timescale? Such outstanding questions require the development of efficient methods.

Ryan Stowe

Position: Assistant Professor of Chemistry
Institution: University of Wisconsin – Madison
Hometown: Jackson, Michigan, U.S.

Describe your current area of research (or areas of interest).

My group works to understand how chemistry learning environments could and should engage all learners in authentic, meaningful scientific work. This program of research is highly interdisciplinary and draws from literature in science education, cognitive psychology, and discipline-based education research. Ongoing projects range from small-scale investigations focused on modeling student cognition to large-scale cross-sectional studies comparing transformed chemistry enactments that enroll thousands of students.

What made you want to join the JACS Au Early Career Board and what do you hope to bring to the team?

I am excited for the opportunity to represent early-career chemistry education scholars as part of the JACS Au Early Career Board. In particular, I look forward to considering the characteristics of the highest impact chemistry education scholarship with the JACS Au editorial team and Editorial Advisory Board.

In your opinion, what are some of the current global challenges that have to be addressed by your area of research?

In my opinion, global challenges in chemistry education research include:

  • Understanding how learning environment features (i.e., curricular materials, assessments, pedagogical moves, peer interactions) can message to students that figuring out why phenomena happen is the goal (not learning about disconnected skills and facts).
  • Understanding how chemistry learning environments can support diverse learners in weaving together aspects of their lived experience into causal accounts for phenomena.
  • Expanding our definition of “success” in chemistry classes from quickly recalling canon to more authentic and meaningful performances (i.e., designing molecular solutions to pressing problems, figuring out the molecular underpinnings for phenomena).
  • Understanding how faculty, staff, and student instructors may be productively supported in designing and enacting chemistry learning environments that foreground equitable engagement in “doing science.”

Davide Michieletto

Position: University Research Fellow
Institution: The Royal Society
Hometown: Treviso, near Venice, Italy

Describe your current area of research (or areas of interest).

In spite of their extreme length and confinement, our genomes are surprisingly well organized, functional and knot-free. This is achieved via sophisticated proteins that exert exquisite topological and mechanical control over the genome’s material properties. Inspired by this, my group aims to discover new DNA-based topological soft materials and complex fluids that can change properties in time. The group’s expertise is rooted in polymer and statistical physics and employs both simulations and experiments to answer our questions. We believe boundaries between disciplines were made to be broken, and we do our best to shatter them every day.

What made you want to join the JACS Au Early Career Board and what do you hope to bring to the team?

I am passionate about transparent, reproducible, fair, open science. Being part of the JACS Au ECAB will be an invaluable opportunity to promote these values and shape the scientific direction of a prestigious journal. While JACS is perhaps the best-known journal by the chemistry community, it is perceived as less appealing to the polymer physics and biophysics communities. I think these are exciting areas of new research and I hope I will be able to encourage and attract more submissions from people in these fields.

In your opinion, what are some of the current global challenges that have to be addressed by your area of research?

Sustainability is in my opinion the biggest open challenge in material science, and I feel that bio-inspired design and materials are perhaps our best way to tackle it. I have always been fascinated by how nature solves problems and one that has a special place in my heart is the way nature folds our DNA to package 2 meters of genetic information in each one of our cells and to divide the duplicated DNA into daughter cells without the need to break it down at each cell division.

With new technology and sophisticated modeling, we are only now understanding how these remarkable feats are achieved and I hope we will be able to take inspiration from them to design space-efficient materials with tunable and responsive material properties that can be reused and recycled with little energy cost.

Sunkyu Han

Position: Associate Professor
Institution: Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)
Hometown: Pisa and Pietrasanta, Italy

Describe your current area of research (or areas of interest).

  • Total synthesis of complex natural products
  • Natural products-inspired development of new synthetic methods
  • Natural products-inspired drug development

What made you want to join the JACS Au Early Career Board and what do you hope to bring to the team?

I hope that the newly launched JACS Au can cover the interests of scientists and engineers that were relatively left out (research fields, countries) in previous multi-disciplinary chemistry journals. I would like to contribute to making JACS Au more diverse, inclusive, and researcher-friendly. That is my primary mission as a JACS Au Early Career Board member.

Is there a specific article that JACS Au has published thus far that you’re excited about or have found interesting, and why?

This paper that discussed the synthesis, stereochemical analysis, and biological activity studies of ganglioside GM3 analogues containing monofluoromethylene-linked sialoside from the Sodeoka group drew my attention. The group established a strategy to introduce the monofluoromethylene linker in a stereoselective manner and showed its potential in future studies of ganglioside GM3.

What are the major challenges facing Early Career Researchers and how do you think these challenges could be addressed?

Under the tenure track system, there is little room for errors for early career researchers. Furthermore, early career researchers with fewer resources (manpower, equipment…) are expected to win the battle against other established researchers with more resources in the same arena. More emphasis on the qualitative aspect of research (impact, novelty, creativity…)  than the quantitative aspect of research (unnecessarily large number of examples, unnecessary mechanism studies, unnecessary data…) during the journal review process would help the early career researchers.

Yuan Qiao

Position: Assistant Professor
Institution: Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Hometown: Shijiazhuang, China

Describe your current area of research (or areas of interest)

My current research interests are about understanding the chemical underpinning of the gut microbiota-host interaction.

What made you want to join the JACS Au Early Career Board and what do you hope to bring to the team?

It is a great opportunity to get to know my peers in the field in the Early Career Board. I hope to bring diversity and share experience in chemical biology to the team.

Is there a specific article that JACS Au has published thus far that you’re excited about or have found interesting, and why?

This is a nice work on fluorescent trehalose substrate for rapid and specific detection of mycobacteria.

Toward Point-of-Care Detection of Mycobacterium tuberculosis: A Brighter Solvatochromic Probe Detects Mycobacteria within Minutes
JACS Au 2021, 1, 9, 1368–1379
DOI: 10.1021/jacsau.1c00173

In your opinion, what are some of the current global challenges that have to be addressed by your area of research?

The field of the microbiome has been greatly advanced due to DNA sequencing technologies, but there is still a great knowledge gap to be filled by chemists to address things at the molecular level.

Graham de Ruiter

Position: Assistant Professor
Institution: Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Schulich Faculty of Chemistry
Hometown: ‘s-Gravendeel, South Holland, Netherlands

Describe your current area of research (or areas of interest).

Some of my research interests include the application of coordination chemistry in catalysis and surface chemistry, the chemistry of transition metal complexes, organometallic chemistry, bioinorganic chemistry, small molecule activation, green chemistry, bio-inspired chemistry, and self-assembly.

In particular, the current research in my laboratory is directed towards driving sustainable catalysis through bespoke ligand design. To this end, we have developed a series of new PCNHCP pincer complexes of manganese, iron, and cobalt that show extraordinary activity in a wide variety of transformations. Our attention is focused on developing sustainable processes for aryl-aryl cross-coupling, alkene isomerization, acceptorless alcohol dehydrogenation, and small molecule activation.

What made you want to join the JACS Au Early Career Board and what do you hope to bring to the team?

As a chemist and faculty member, I find it important to contribute to the global network of the American Chemical Society. It is important to frame the future of our international community in these exciting new times and together with other early career researchers map new directions where we say important development can be made. One way is being part of the ECAB of JACS Au.

The high standards of the ACS and in particular JACS, made it an easy choice to accept this honor. I hope to represent Israel in this international community and to promote that chemistry (or science in general) is not limited by set boundaries, whether it be based on country, gender, or discipline (e.g, old distinctions between organic chemistry, or phys. chem. etc.), but rather that it is all-inclusive. In addition, I hope to promote JACS Au in my community and help this exciting new open-access journal to become the gold standard in open access publishing.

Is there a specific article that JACS Au has published thus far that you’re excited about or have found interesting, and why?

There have been several articles that really piqued my interest, in particular articles that use earth-abundant metals to drive sustainable catalysis are really interesting to me. Some beautiful work was published by Prof. Walter Leitner that demonstrated the hydrogenation of carbon monoxide to methanol.

We recently started to work on manganese complexes with our PC(NHC)P ligands, so it is really stimulating to see such exciting research by these talented chemists. A recent paper that describes the mild reduction of carboxylic acids to alcohols was also recently reported, which equally piqued my interest for the same reasons.

What are the major challenges facing Early Career Researchers and how do you think these challenges could be addressed?

I think there are many challenges for early career researchers. Whether it is establishing oneself as a valued member in the community, which helps with getting grants and getting papers accepted, or coping with the general lack of resources, as usually we are not as well equipped as the labs that we came from.

I think that when submitting manuscripts, it would be a good idea to indicate on the online submission page if you are an early career researcher so that editorial staff can pay particular attention to your submission. Based on my colleagues’ comments, sometimes I feel that submissions may be just brushed off as not relevant for a given journal. I think that there are many more issues, but I think it’s good to discuss these on separate occasions.

Yi-Feng Wang

Position: Professor
Institution: University of Science and Technology of China
Hometown: Hengshan, Hunan, China

Describe your current area of research (or areas of interest).

My lab at USTC focuses on the development of new synthetic methods based on the exploitation of new chemical reactivity of Lewis base-boryl radicals.

What made you want to join the JACS Au Early Career Board and what do you hope to bring to the team?

To share experiences and perspectives on emerging topics of organic chemistry and I hope to bring strong expertise in organic synthesis and radical chemistry to the journal.

In your opinion, what are some of the current global challenges that have to be addressed by your area of research?

How to design new radical species (non-metal involved) as a catalyst to enable fantastic transformations, in particular asymmetric synthesis.

Jessica Ray

Position: Assistant Professor
Institution: University of Washington, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering
Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.

Describe your current area of research (or areas of interest).

My research program bridges materials science and environmental engineering approaches to address pressing environmental concerns within the urban water sector. Specifically, we are developing novel materials to separate or degrade contaminants in waste streams and water sources. We use a lot of surface chemistry techniques to probe structure-function relationships, interfacial reactions, and physicochemical properties to characterize the materials we develop for their intended applications.

What made you want to join the JACS Au Early Career Board and what do you hope to bring to the team?

I was thrilled to receive an invitation to join the JACS Au Early Career Board. JACS is such a prestigious journal, and the articles published by JACS Au have been of such high quality. I am honored to be able to contribute to shaping the scope, future direction, and access of JACS Au. I hope to contribute my equity lens to increase the diversity of publication subject matter and author disciplines and backgrounds.

What are the major challenges facing Early Career Researchers and how do you think these challenges could be addressed?

One of the major challenges facing current Early Career Researchers is navigating the initial stages of their research during the pandemic. Starting a tenure-track position is already challenging. The uncertainty and rapidly changing conditions in academia are hard to manage while trying to stabilize your research program, teaching responsibilities, etc. To help Early Career Researchers handle their new roles, particularly during the pandemic, I believe it is crucial to develop mentorship networks with other faculty within and outside of your institution to provide advice and guidance.

Eva Blasco

Position: Junior Professor (with tenure-track to full Professor) since October 2020
Institution: Heidelberg University, Germany
Hometown: Teruel, Spain

Describe your current area of research (or areas of interest)

Our research group focuses on the design and synthesis of new polymer-based functional materials with application in 3D/4D printing. The additional dimension (time) refers to the ability of a 3D printed object to change its properties over time in a controlled fashion. One can imagine it as the addition of “life-like” behavior to the printed objects. This is an emerging research field with promising applications in many areas, ranging from optics and sensing to biomedicine and soft robotics.

What made you want to join the JACS Au Early Career Board and what do you hope to bring to the team?

I joined the JACS Au Early Career Board because I believe that this is a great opportunity to get more insights into the publishing world and to expand my network. In addition, I find it very attractive that JACS Au aims to publish works across all the chemistry disciplines and follows the JACS tradition of underlining work with a broad impact in the community. And very importantly, it is an open-access journal.

What are the major challenges facing Early Career Researchers and how do you think these challenges could be addressed?

One of the many challenges of early career researchers is publishing. Very often, we are being evaluated (new a faculty position, project grants, etc.) and the publication records have still a big influence. Thus, we all, and especially early career researchers, are under time pressure to publish our findings. I personally think that moving towards effective, fair, and transparent review processes is very important. In addition, I find it beneficial for early career researchers to receive support in different ways: e.g., enhancing their visibility by highlighting their research in special issues and features or engaging them on editorial boards.

Robert Chapman

Position: Lecturer in Chemistry
Institution: University of Newcastle, Australia,
Hometown: Sydney, Australia

Describe your current area of research (or areas of interest).

My group is interested in making polymer mimics of therapeutically active proteins. We do this by using high throughput polymer synthesis and screening to unpick how a polymer’s structure affects function and to learn how to fold polymers in order to control the presentation of biologically relevant epitopes in solution.

What made you want to join the JACS Au Early Career Board and what do you hope to bring to the team?

Open access is building momentum and I want to support the ACS’s agenda of ensuring that the top open access chemistry journals are owned by the societies, for the benefit of their members, and built on high-quality peer review and editorial supervision. This is what gives readers confidence in the quality of what is published. Already we’ve seen JACS Au’s commitment to publishing more broadly across the field of chemistry than perhaps JACS has traditionally been able to do, and I think this could be a great journal for the very best of polymer chemistry and physics to meet. I am keen to advocate for this from both within the journal and the polymer community.

Is there a specific article that JACS Au has published thus far that you’re excited about or have found interesting, and why? 

I am fascinated by the giant polymers that Xue-Hui Dong and coworkers showed in one of the first issues. They used the iterative exponential chain growth mechanism pioneered by Johnson and coworkers to prepare sequence-controlled oligomers (up to 16 units long) of a set of silsesquioxane monomers. The self-assembly behavior of the amphiphilic versions of these polymers was similar to the ’small monomer’ counterparts but they showed much greater stability. I’m looking forward to seeing whether this class of materials might enable improved control over the internal structure of polymeric nanoparticles.

What are the major challenges facing Early Career Researchers and how do you think these challenges could be addressed?

Finding exciting questions that are answerable with the limited resources and time available. To do this we need to read broadly, build collaborations, and grow networks where we are constantly bouncing ideas around. We need our funding agencies to reserve more of their budgets to ‘take the risk’ on groups of ECRs that bring together complementary skills to explore out-of-the-box ideas.

Yi-Tsu Chan

Position: Professor
Institution: Department of Chemistry, National Taiwan University
Hometown: Taipei, Taiwan

Describe your current area of research (or areas of interest).

My research interests include supramolecular coordination chemistry and polymer chemistry. Our research group is enthusiastic about developing a novel molecular self-assembly methodology for the rational construction of functional supramolecular architectures and polymeric materials.

What made you want to join the JACS Au Early Career Board and what do you hope to bring to the team?

  • Curiosity about how the prominent editorial team manages and develops a successful journal
  • To contribute to the society of supramolecular chemistry and polymer science
  • I would help identify emerging research topics based on my expertise, encourage talented young researchers to submit their best papers, and advertise JACS Au in our research community.

What are the major challenges facing Early Career Researchers and how do you think these challenges could be addressed?

  • Finding a research topic with scientific impacts. A thorough literature survey will help evaluate the importance of a research topic. Try to find a secret spot that has not been addressed before.
  • Lack of self-confidence. Do not let rejection destroy your confidence. It is important to be committed to your own work. Before submitting a manuscript, having comments from your senior colleagues would be helpful.
  • Discouraged by inappropriate evaluation. Pressure to publish and the publication metrics used to judge scientific achievements would discourage junior researchers from tackling grand scientific challenges. Do not get trapped by an unhealthy evaluation system before you can reconstruct it.

Caroline E. Paul

Position: Assistant Professor
Institution: Department of Biotechnology at Delft University of Technology
Hometown: Toronto, Canada, and Aix-en-Provence, France

Describe your current area of research (or areas of interest).

My current area of research is Biocatalysis, more specifically using the exquisite selectivity of enzymes to catalyze oxidation and reduction reactions using artificial cofactors for synthetic organic chemistry.

What made you want to join the JACS Au Early Career Board and what do you hope to bring to the team?

I am excited to join the JACS Au Early Career Board for the opportunity to experience the development of a new multidisciplinary journal that is fully open access and to gain a working knowledge of such a high standard journal that reaches across different fields. I hope to bring my insights and perspective of the diverse Biocatalysis field to the team, its exciting cross-disciplinary developments and promote JACS Au across generations.

Is there a specific article that JACS Au has published thus far that you’re excited about or have found interesting, and why? 

I came across the recently published article Rapid Screening of Diverse Biotransformations for Enzyme Evolution in JACS Au, which allows the screening of various biocatalytic reactions and new biocatalysts, always exciting in my field!

In your opinion, what are some of the current global challenges that have to be addressed by your area of research?

I believe some of the current global challenges that have to be addressed by Biocatalysis are developing greener chemical routes, using CO2 as feedstock, producing biofuels. Overall, some challenges can be tackled by:

  • Reducing chemical waste with more efficient and selective biocatalytic processes, increasing enzyme activity for higher space-time yields through bioinformatics and engineering.
  • Finding complementary synthetic chemical routes by expanding the biocatalyst portfolio through enzyme discovery and evolution, tapping into understanding enzyme mechanisms.

Another focus should be the use of enzymes to tackle the degradation of microplastics and polymers, but also the production of new biodegradable polymers.

Jin Suntivich

Position: Associate Professor, Materials Science, and Engineering
Institution: Cornell University
Hometown: Bangkok, Thailand

Describe your current area of research (or areas of interest)

Electrocatalysis, spectroscopy, and sustainability.

What made you want to join the JACS Au Early Career Board and what do you hope to bring to the team?

A chance to contribute to ACS journals with rich history such as JACS. Hope to raise awareness in interdisciplinary research at the intersection between science and engineering.

Is there a specific article that JACS Au has published thus far that you’re excited about or have found interesting, and why?

I enjoy reading the recent work by Rorrer, Beckham, and Roman-Leshkov on polyolefin hydrogenolysis.

In your opinion, what are some of the current global challenges that have to be addressed by your area of research?

I think finding ways to make materials more sustainably, for example, by utilizing low-value wastes will be an important problem in the future.

Daiana Capdevila

Position: Laboratory Head
Institution: Leloir Institute (FIL-IIBBA)
Hometown: Buenos Aires, Argentina

Describe your current area of research (or areas of interest).

The main goal pursued in my laboratory is to use a family of transcriptional repressors that regulate stress responses in bacteria as model systems for molecular evolution in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. We apply NMR approaches to study the atomic details of how allostery works in a family of transcriptional regulators responsive to different inorganic species that the human host harness to clear bacterial infections. We focus on transcriptional regulators that determine the homeostasis in bacteria of transition metal ions (metallostasis) and reactive sulfur species.

What made you want to join the JACS Au Early Career Board and what do you hope to bring to the team?

As an early career chemist from the global south, I want to get involved in re-thinking scientific publishing. I firmly believe that open access journals from scientific societies can be a valuable tool to remove the barriers in the way of science. I hope I can bring the voice and the ideas of a lot of great young scientists from developing countries on what we need to publish more open access cross-disciplinary research in chemistry.

In terms of research, I hope I can bring the perspective that a broader idea of what chemistry is will make our research more interesting and more impactful, without sacrificing the rigor and the exquisite detail that chemistry approaches and methods have.

Is there a specific article that JACS Au has published thus far that you’re excited about or have found interesting, and why?

My favorite article so far is Local Mutations Can Serve as a Game Changer for Global Protein Solvent Interaction by Ellen M. Adams, Simone Pezzotti, Jonas Ahlers, Maximilian Rüttermann, Maxim Levin, Adi Goldenzweig, Yoav Peleg, Sarel J. Fleishman, Irit Sagi, and Martina Havenith.

My laboratory is very interested in method development for monitoring the role of solvent in entropic contribution to ligand binding. Terahertz spectroscopy is a fantastic tool for monitoring solvent contribution at the protein surface. This work is a first step towards understanding how protein sequence can determine solvent entropy which I think is an exciting area of future research. It is a great example of how developing new methodologies can occur in parallel to answering interesting biological questions. To me, this paper captures the broad perspective of chemists that JACS Au aims to portray.

In your opinion, what are some of the current global challenges that have to be addressed by your area of research?

As a chemist working at the molecular level in infectious diseases funding new antibiotic strategies is one of the main challenges that come to mind.

As a structural biologist working in a developing country, I think that we need to figure out how to guarantee that everyone with motivation and good ideas can access state-of-the-art techniques that can make their research transformative and interesting for the global community. The more diverse the scientific community is the richer and more transformative our science becomes; humanity needs to tackle very complicated problems this century and we need everyone involved in finding those solutions.

As a physical chemist working on biological systems, I am particularly interested in making physical chemistry techniques (such as NMR and calorimetry) accessible and readily available for answering chemical biology and microbiology question. I believe that interdisciplinary research is the more effective way to address how organisms adapt to an ever-changing environment.

Yanhang Ma

Position: Assistant Professor
Institution: ShanghaiTech University
Hometown: Henan Province, China

Describe your current area of research (or areas of interest).

My research is focused on methodology developments of electron crystallography/microscopy and their applications in the structural analysis of nanomaterials.

What made you want to join the JACS Au Early Career Board and what do you hope to bring to the team?

I want to have more opportunities to communicate with young and active scientists. I also want to contribute to the scientific community by doing some service and giving suggestions.

What are the major challenges facing Early Career Researchers and how do you think these challenges could be addressed?

The major challenge for me is that I am usually occupied by many things, such as teaching, conferences, business traveling, and so on. I need to spend more time on the research.

Qilei Song

Position: Senior Lecturer
Institution: Imperial College London
Hometown: Bengbu, Anhui, China

Describe your current area of research (or areas of interest).

My current research interests are focused on the development of functional materials and membrane technology for energy and environmental applications.

What made you want to join the JACS Au Early Career Board and what do you hope to bring to the team?

I hope to bring an engineering perspective to the chemistry community.

Is there a specific article that JACS Au has published thus far that you’re excited about or have found interesting, and why?

I am interested in one paper by Holmes, Lively, and Realff,  Defining Targets for Adsorbent Material Performance to Enable Viable BECCS Processes. Techno-economic analysis is important and provides helpful guidelines for chemists and materials scientists to develop new materials.

In your opinion, what are some of the current global challenges that have to be addressed by your area of research?

My research helps to solve global challenges in renewable energy conversion and storage, water purification, and CO2 capture. Better materials and membranes will help solve these challenges.

Olalla Vázquez

Position: Professor of Chemical Biology
Institution: Philipps-Universität Marburg
Hometown: Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain

Describe your current area of research (or areas of interest).

Chemical Biology. We strive to understand biological processes at the molecular level to elucidate the fundamental problems at the interface of chemistry and biology. For this purpose, we focus on the design and development of innovative chemical tools for sensing biological processes and remotely manipulating molecular machines inside cells. Our work embraces the synthesis of low molecular weight drug-like molecules, peptides, and nucleic acids combined with the methodology to investigate physiological responses. Thus, our optochemical tools have been able of achieving conditional and selective biological modulation by taking full advantage of photosensitive molecules. Also, chemical epigenetics is at the core of our research.

What made you want to join the JACS Au Early Career Board and what do you hope to bring to the team?

It is a golden opportunity to learn and to understand publishing from the inside. I believe I can bring my enthusiasm for chemical biology and my multidisciplinary background.

In your opinion, what are some of the current global challenges that have to be addressed by your area of research?

The precise understanding of biology to be able to control it on demand.

Abhishake Mondal

Position: Assistant Professor
Institution: Solid State and Structural Chemistry Unit, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India
Hometown: Kolkata, India

Describe your current area of research (or areas of interest).

We are a young research group located at the Solid State and Structural Chemistry Unit in the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India, working in the field of Magnetic Materials and Switches. Molecular Magnetism constitutes a highly dynamic interdisciplinary field. With the fine blend of experimental physics and theoretical chemistry emerging from coordination chemistry fundamentals, we explore the frontiers of modern themes in the most prominent multifunctional molecular materials. The design and synthesis of Stimuli-responsive Switchable Magnetic Materials based on transition metals, particularly materials displaying magnetic, electric, and/or optical bistabilities such as spin crossover (SCO), single-molecule magnets (SMMs), single-chain magnets (SCMs), metal-to-metal electron transfer systems, valence-tautomeric systems, organic radicals-based magnetic systems, and their applications towards spintronics, MEMS, NEMS devices, etc. are the hot areas of research being studied in our group.

What made you want to join the JACS Au Early Career Board and what do you hope to bring to the team?

JACS Au is one of the best prestigious open-access journals covering the broad spectrum of research held in Chemical Sciences. The journal serves as a stage to bring people from various interests come together and explore the possibilities for collaborative research. We are a young research group working in Molecular Magnets and Switches based on Switchable systems. Our colleagues indulged in an essential area of research yielding high-impact research. The massive peer-reviewed articles with lesser available articles in JACS Au focusing on Molecular Magnetism motivated me to bring the highly interdisciplinary field to the prestigious platform of JACS Au.

Is there a specific article that JACS Au has published thus far that you’re excited about or have found interesting, and why?

The articles published in JACS Au are of utmost scientific curiosity to researchers, where a few recent articles published in 2020 and 2021 have attracted my interest owing to the similarity of the field.

What are the major challenges facing Early Career Researchers and how do you think these challenges could be addressed?

As a young research group, the following hurdles are faced by most of the groups despite being involved in high impact research:

  • Procuring the funding for the successful conduction of any project is a bottleneck
  • Limited access or unavailability of special sophisticated and dedicated equipment in the highly interdisciplinary field is also quite challenging
  • As a new group, publishing exciting results in high-impact journals is pretty challenging due to a lack of exposure and experience in the field. We would be working together with JACS Au to overcome the mentioned barrier in communicating interesting results to the targeted community.

2022 James J. Morgan Environmental Science & Technology Early Career Award Winners Announced

The James J. Morgan Environmental Science & Technology Early Career Award, named after the first Editor-in-Chief of Environmental Science & Technology, recognizes those early career researchers who are standing on our shoulders. These are the researchers who are seeing the farthest horizons and leading the fields in new directions through creative, new ideas consistent with Morgan’s early contributions to environmental chemistry.

This year, we received a significant number of nominations for the James J. Morgan Early Career Award from Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Please join us in congratulating the 2022 James J. Morgan Early Career Award winners:

  • Gang Liu, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark
  • Denise M. Mitrano, ETH Zürich, Switzerland
  • Peng Zhang, University of Birmingham, U.K.
  • Matthieu Riva, I’IRCELYON, France

Learn more about the winners, and what this means to them below.

Professor Gang Liu, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark

Tell us about yourself.

I am a Professor of Industrial Ecology at the University of Southern Denmark. I am Chinese but have been living and working in the Nordic circle since 2008, first in Norway and then in Denmark. With this background and combining the significant environmental challenges in China and the sustainability-oriented mindset embedded in the Scandinavian culture, research, and education, it is a dream job to be a professor on environmental sustainability at a research university.

What does this award mean to you?

It is my great honor to receive this James J. Morgan Early Career Award. It means a lot to me to be acknowledged by the most reputed journal in our field. I can still remember the cheerful moments during my Ph.D. when my work got published in Environmental Science & Technology and later awarded runner-up Best Paper. In the past years, my research group has always put it as our primary target journal. Furthermore, I feel particularly grateful to receive this award named after James J. Morgan, who is the founding Editor-in-Chief of this journal and a great scientist who had inspired so many researchers (including me) to be creative and try new pathways. Last but not least, this award gives me an opportunity to acknowledge my mentors, colleagues, and students who have helped me along the way.

What are you working on now?

My main field is industry ecology, which is an emerging multidisciplinary field that studies materials and energy stocks and flows through industrial systems and is often recognized as the science for circular economy and sustainability. In short, I have been developing and applying different systems approaches for addressing complex environmental problems such as climate change, resource and waste management, and urban sustainability and informing the societal circular, low carbon, and just transition. Empirical case studies in recent years include sustainable metal cycles, agrifood chains, urban systems, and low-carbon technologies.

What advances are you hoping to see in your field in the next decade?

There are many technological advances that I hope to see in my field in the next decade, including further methodology integration from various disciplines and more automated data generation (e.g., using big data) and analysis facing urgent and increasing sustainability challenges. However, most often, we already have the technologies, solutions, and understanding on addressing these challenges, be it climate or resource-related. Therefore, I would particularly like to see how such knowledge can be implemented in the real world and used to inform governmental and industry policy and actions in the next years.

Can you share some advice for other young investigators?

As young investigators, you should always aim high and dream big. You may sometimes feel lonely when walking on the forest trails (than on the crowded highways), but as James J. Morgan demonstrated, new pathways and ideas can lead to new directions that are necessary for addressing our complex environmental problems. As our global challenges get increasingly intertwined, I think systemic and multidisciplinary efforts are also increasingly needed. So be prepared to get out of the box and be open to theories, methods, and data from other disciplines for common sustainability purposes.

Where do you hope to see your career 10 years from now?

2030 is a year that many of our resource, climate, and sustainability-related targets are benchmarked, including the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. So, I hope in 10 years, together with other researchers working on sustainable systems, we can say our research has made an impact in this successful journey.

View articles published by Professor Gang Liu.

Professor Denise M. Mitrano, ETH Zurich, Switzerland

Tell us about yourself.

As an environmental analytical chemist, my research focuses on the distribution and impacts of anthropogenic materials in technical and environmental systems. I am particularly interested in developing analytical tools to systematically understand the mechanisms and processes driving the fate, transport, and biological interactions of particles, such as engineered nanomaterials and nano- and microplastics. In this context, my research group uses these results to assess the risks of anthropogenic materials across various ecosystems and scales. I have an interest in a “safer by design” approach for both nanomaterials and plastics, which is exemplified by working on the boundaries of environmental science, materials science, and policy to promote sustainability and environmental health and safety of new materials.

The thing I like most about being an analytical chemist is that other researchers are able to use our methods and take them even further to better investigate their own research objectives. In a way, this amplifies my contributions across the field of environmental sciences to provide others with the tools to answer their most interesting questions, in addition to carrying out our own research objectives. Being an expert in nanometrology has allowed me to collaborate across many different research fields with colleagues whose expertise is very different than mine, and so I’m constantly able to learn about new areas of science.

What does this award mean to you?

It is both exciting and humbling for my work to be recognized by receiving this years’ James J. Morgan Early Career Award and to have my name be listed amongst the other excellent up-and-coming researchers in the field of environmental sciences. I am very passionate about the work that we do in my lab but also inspired by the amazing students who work alongside me and thankful for my mentors and colleagues who have helped shape my career and outlook to date.

What are you working on now?

I have been very interested in applying the skills and process understanding I gained in studying engineered nanomaterials to different particulate materials of emerging concern, including plastics.  However, analytically, measuring plastics can be very different and more challenging than inorganic (nano)particles. Therefore, I developed a new approach to synthesize nano- and microplastics doped with a trace metal to more easily and quickly quantify them in complex matrices using techniques that are more standardized for metals analysis, including ICP-MS and single-particle ICP-MS.  By using the metal as a proxy for the plastics, we can spike them into a variety of laboratory and pilot-scale facilities, which has allowed us to investigate the fate and transport of plastics in environmental systems (waterways, porous media), wastewater, and drinking water treatment plants and to study biological uptake and interactions of nano- and microplastics. This approach has opened up a completely new avenue for those studying plastic pollution and has provided many new opportunities for collaboration with other research groups.

Can you share some advice for other young investigators?

Be brave and think outside the box! As a young scientist, you have the opportunity to focus on a new field and develop innovative methods that are not yet established. This may entail risks, but in the best-case scenario, you can become a pioneer in your own field.

Perhaps the two things which have helped my professional success the most are to keep an open mind and to ask many questions. This has opened the door for a lot of new ideas and collaborations which wouldn’t have come about if I were solely focused on my day-to-day work. Naturally, learning to balance the demands of organizing multiple projects on different topical subjects simultaneously took time, but in the end, I feel that I am gaining an increasingly holistic view of my field, which helps me to better identify key research gaps and develop better research objectives.

Where do you hope to see your career 10 years from now?

On a day-to-day basis, to me, science, especially analytical method development, is about problem-solving and the excitement when you have finally accomplished a difficult puzzle (sometimes after much trial and error!). But the implications of our work go beyond the laboratory. The natural environment is experiencing ever-increasing pressures from anthropogenic stressors. Understanding how human activities influence physical, chemical, and biological cycles is a central component of modern geosciences, and I find it very rewarding to contribute knowledge that can lead towards the protection of our waterways and soils. In the future, I hope to continue to bridge academic science with other stakeholders from policy, industry, and the public to make scientifically informed decisions about the materials we use and how this impacts the natural environment.

View articles published by Professor Denise M. Mitrano.

Dr. Matthieu Riva, Institut de Recherches sur la Catalyse et l'Environnement de Lyon (I'IRCELYON), France

Dr. Matthieu Riva received his doctoral degree from the University of Bordeaux in 2013. He obtained a postdoctoral fellowship from the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation to work with Professor Jason Surratt at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  In 2016, he joined Professor Mikael Ehn’s group at the University of Helsinki, Finland. After these postdoctoral research positions, in 2018, he joined the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) as a senior researcher at the Institute of Research on Catalysis and Environment at Lyon, France. His research interests include the chemical characterization of organic aerosol particles and low volatile material using advanced mass spectrometric techniques.

What does this award mean to you?

The James J. Morgan Environmental Science & Technology Early Career Award aims to recognize the early career researchers who are initiating and creating new ideas consistent with Morgan’s contributions in environmental chemistry. As a result, I am greatly honored to be awarded the James J. Morgan Early Career Award and to be associated with such an outstanding pioneer who inspired and inspires many (young) scientists. This award is also the recognition of the support and research excellence of my mentors, students, postdoctoral researchers, collaborators, and colleagues. So, I would like to thank all of them for inspiring me.

What are you working on now?

I am currently pursuing the analytical developments initiated in the last two years and using this newly developed technology to better characterize the chemical processes governing the formation and growth of newly formed particles.

What advances are you hoping to see in your field in the next decade?

The main advances that I would hope in my chosen research area would be to direct research efforts toward studying the impacts of Global Warming on the global ecosystem in link with atmospheric chemistry. For example, upon environmental stress or the development of pathogen/parasite-induced diseases, living ecosystems emit a wide variety of molecules as a defense mechanism or for signaling. As a result, the emission profile of volatile organic compounds of an impacted ecosystem can greatly change and will ultimately influence ozone levels and particle formation on both regional and global scales.

Can you share some advice for other young investigators?

I think curiosity and persistence are fundamental aspects of research. Being able to conduct research with passion while pursuing and trying to involve something different in the research would make the research experience more interesting. I would emphasize to the researchers that pursuing new ideas or concepts is always associated with the risk of failure, but from every experience, we learn something.

View articles published by Dr. Matthieu Riva.

Dr. Peng Zhang, University of Birmingham, U.K.

Dr. Zhang obtained his Ph.D. in Bioinorganic Chemistry from the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2013. He joined the University of Birmingham as a senior research fellow in 2018, following his position as an associate professor at the Institute of High Energy Physics (CAS) since 2015. His research interests span nanosafety, environmental toxicology, nanomaterials application in agriculture, and environmental remediation.

His specific research areas include:

  • developing advanced techniques (e.g., stable and radioactive isotope labeling, chemical labeling, etc.) to enhance the sensitivity for tracing the fate of nanomaterials in the environment and biota.
  • study transport and fate of nanomaterials in the human body and the link with their human safety.
  • explore nano-enabled technology to improve plant growth, increase use efficiency of agrochemicals, and reduce agriculture derived environmental pollution.

He is considered a leading researcher with a broad vision and innovative ideas in developing solutions for sustainable nanotechnology and nano-enabled agriculture.

Tell us about yourself.

I am fascinated by science and like to stay in the lab. Outside of the lab, I like basketball, movies, travel, and playing with my little daughter.

What does this award mean to you?

It’s a great honor to be selected as a recipient of the James J. Morgan Early Career Award. The award recognizes me as part of the wonderful and creative scientific community. It is a big motivation for me to keep going on the path of science.

What are you working on now?

The central objective of my research is to find sustainable solutions for the environment. A key focus is to find nanotechnology-based solutions to enable sustainable agriculture. The global agriculture and food security sector is facing a wide range of challenges, such as low crop yields, declining soil health and fertility, shrinking arable land, and low use efficiency of agrochemicals, mainly due to excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides. Using nanotechnology, we may increase the crop yield whilst reducing the agriculture-derived environmental contaminations, and we will have more chances to win the battle against food security.

Another work I am doing now is nanosafety, a continuation of my past research. Ensuring the safety of nanotechnology is an important prerequisite for its application in other areas, including agriculture. Specifically, we are evaluating the behavior and toxicology using a variety of models such as cell lines, higher plants, and animals such as Daphnia mangaand earthworm.

What advances are you hoping to see in your field in the next decade?

The ultimate goal of our research is to ensure the sustainability of society. What my research can contribute is to help to achieve one of the UN 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), i.e., zero hunger. More specifically, the goal is to end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. In the next decade, I hope to see more advances in this field to ensure we achieve this goal as time won’t wait for us. I believe more nano-enabled sustainable solutions can be developed, but I hope more of these solutions can be tested in the real world and put into realistic applications.

Can you share some advice for other young investigators?

Keep positive and patient. Failure is common on the path of science. The best solution is to keep a positive mindset and be patiently waiting and finding solutions. Time management is also important, so make sure you find a good time system to balance work and family.

View articles published by Dr. Peng Zhang.

Library Life: Interview with University of Rochester Librarian Sue Cardinal

Sue Cardinal is a STEM Librarian at Carlson Science & Engineering Library, specializing in chemistry, chemical engineering, and materials science. In her role, she provides extensive course-integrated instruction, manages the chemistry and chemical engineering collection, and is the library liaison to the Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Departments.

Tell me about your current role.

As a STEM Librarian at the River Campus Libraries of the University of Rochester, I’m a matchmaker between students and faculty and the information they desire. I listen, and then I share methods for finding, accessing, and organizing information. I view the information as voices from the past, translated into words and inked over old paper and, more recently, turned into a stream of electrons. Additionally, I predict the future by selecting subscriptions and purchasing books that I think will be used. I hedge my bets by teaching students about chemistry, chemical engineering, and materials science resources. I gently promote and highlight resources and services at departmental functions. At the library, I dream with my colleagues about new services, and we work together to make them happen. Recently, I’ve joined the Research Initiatives Department, where we are exploring topics and services related to the research impact of our University and scholars.

What is your background?

My brother introduced me to chemistry when he received a chemistry set. Mild jealousy turned into amazement and awe when he mixed all the chemicals together, and the explosion left a black mark on the basement ceiling. Weekly trips to the library were part of my normal routine because my mother was an avid reader. I loved mysteries, horses, and science fiction.

I earned my B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Iowa. After working in environmental labs in Syracuse, N.Y., I transitioned into libraries. First, I volunteered at the Fayetteville Public Library, and then I took an introductory class at Syracuse University. Soon I began working at Syracuse University’s H. Douglas Barclay Law Library while I obtained my Master of Library Science in 2000. I was hired at the University of Rochester shortly afterward and have been here ever since.

Inspired by my predecessor and mentor, Arleen Somerville, I became active in the ACS Chemical Information (CINF) Division in 2001, first as Secretary, then as Education Committee Co-Chair, then Teller, and Careers Committee Co-Chair. Most recently, I have been the CINF Program Planner. Currently, I am Chair-Elect, looking forward to leading the division in 2022.

I’ve also been active in the Special Library Association (SLA) in their Chemistry Division and have taught many iterations of “Chemistry for the Non-Chemist Librarian” with my long-time friend and CINF colleague Judith Currano. I am one of several co-authors of the References chapter in the ACS Guide to Scholarly Communication.

How do you help to address challenges faced by your institution’s students and faculty?

This is a broad and endless question, so I’m going to focus on three challenges that many students and faculty face.

Discovering high-quality information: I work with my colleagues so that we can subscribe to the best search tools, like SciFinder-n, Reaxys, Scopus, and Web of Science. Then I regularly advertise the tools, embed them into student and faculty workflows when possible, and give instruction on how to use them. Additionally, we subscribe to high-quality journals and obtain top-notch data and books. We also discuss how to evaluate the quality of information.

Navigating the changing publishing environment: I regularly learn from colleagues both inside of my library and beyond about how the publishing world is changing. We are especially focused on supporting Open Access for our researchers. We believe that their research impact will increase, and they will have more control over their scholarly products. Additionally, their research will be read by a diverse global audience.

Obtaining access to the most relevant resources in a timely fashion: Attending scholars’ research talks is one way that I learn about what is relevant to them. I also solicit recommendations from faculty about resources that our library needs. Interest in resources changes over time, so I need to adjust our portfolio of subscriptions to match. Additionally, I educate students and faculty about our interlibrary loan system, the role of preprints, and open educational resources.

What are some trends that you are observing in the library world right now?

The nature and format of information that students and faculty are interested in are changing from traditional research papers and books to digital multimedia like social media, blog posts, videos, images, datasets, slack chats, preprints, and virtual reality. Openly available global information is increasing. The library’s physical holdings have decreased in recent years while our online holdings have increased, though this varies by discipline. As a result, our role is changing. We provide access to online materials and guide faculty and students to what they need. Additionally, many brilliant librarians are determining processes and procedures for how to collect, search and manage data and digital multimedia.

Libraries try to use our financial might to enable access to information but unfortunately, and this is a long-term trend, our funds don’t go as far as they used to. Libraries are funneling those funds into making information freely available, so we don’t need to pay over and over for the same resources.

Within the library, librarian roles are shifting from discipline-based subject librarians to functional roles like “Data Librarian” or “Scholarly Communications Librarian.” Additionally, many libraries are working towards a more inclusive workplace and more diverse collections.

You’re also the chair-elect of ACS’s Chemical Information (CINF) division. What are your goals and objectives for the division in 2022?

As the ACS’s CINF Division Chair, I hope to continue the work of our past leaders, specifically working on the Strategic Plan from 2019. Sharing information is the lifeblood of science, and we have a critical role along with ACS Publications and CAS to influence the creation, organization, analysis, and dissemination of chemical information and data. We determined that networking is one key to the success of our division. I hope to implement rapid communication to our membership, including stronger social media posting and virtual social events so that we can educate ourselves and support each other in our careers.

A very important question: Who is your favorite scientist?

My favorites have changed over the years. Currently, I’m reading a book called “Braiding Sweetgrass.” The writer, Robin Wall Kimmerer, is a botanist and professor who blends her indigenous viewpoint with traditional scientific methodology. The first thing that struck me about her writing is the gratitude that pours out for all living things. I admire her vision of restoration and harmony between the earth, plants, animals, and humans. I’m inspired to look at my world more closely and give thanks for all the plants and animals that have given their lives and all the humans that have given their time so that I might be comfortable, well-fed, and well cared for.

What is a fun fact about the University of Rochester?

Susan B. Anthony lived in Rochester, NY and her grave is in the Mt Hope Cemetery that adjoins the University. People like to add their “I voted” stickers on her grave.

There’s also a dramatic story about how women were initially admitted to the University of Rochester in which Susan B. Anthony played a pivotal role. In the 1890s, she raised an impressive sum of money in pledges to secure a promise from the University that women would be granted access and made a last-minute donation of her life insurance policy to ensure that it would happen. The University was forced to make good on its promise, and women were admitted for the first time in 1900.

Library Life: Interview with Caltech Librarian Dr. Donna Wrublewski

Dr. Donna Wrublewski, Ph.D., MRSC, is the Head of the Research Services Department for the Caltech Library and the Librarian for the Division of Chemistry & Chemical Engineering (CCE).

Tell me about your current role.

I was originally hired in February 2013 to assume liaison librarian roles to the CCE and Biology & Biological Engineering (BBE) Divisions, taking over for the legendary Dana Roth. In March 2020, I was asked to take on the department head role on an interim basis. In November 2020, I applied for the position permanently, and after a competitive selection process, I received it. From March 2020 until last month, I was also the interim librarian for humanities.

In my department head role, I supervise five full-time librarians and two full-time library support staff. I coordinate activities within our department and between our department and other areas of the library and other organizations on campus where appropriate. I also serve as the de facto collections coordinator, working between three departments to evaluate and acquire materials for our library.

In my CCE Liaison role, I provide the usual services one would expect – reference, instruction, collection management, grant support, etc., and focusing on meeting the needs of the CCE Division.

What is your background?

My S.B. (Bachelor of Science) degree is from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Chemical Engineering. I also dual-minored in materials science and engineering and in writing. I have my M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in polymer science & engineering. I started my career as a librarian at the University of Florida in 2010, and came to Caltech in 2013, where I have remained since. Since 2016, I have also been an Associate Editor for the journal Science & Technology Libraries, and contribute an annual analysis for science librarians of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

How do you help to address challenges faced by your institution’s students and faculty?

I am usually the first port of call for my division’s members when anything related to collections or library reference comes up. Over the past 18 months or so, a lot of work has been devoted to evaluating and acquiring electronic resources in support of our teaching and research. I also answer reference questions about everything from chemistry to engineering to undergraduate humanities research projects.

All of our librarians get questions about grant support, so I do some work ensuring open access compliance and answering questions about publishing as well. With our campus moving towards largely in-person instruction this fall, I’ve been helping with outreach and public service staffing for on-campus patrons, answering questions on everything from physical space access to course reserves to our new library catalog.

What are some trends that you are observing in the library world right now?

It’s a bit hard to judge now because I think COVID has paused a lot of things that were going on before and has instigated a whole new set of processes and concerns. I think that digital access to print materials is going to continue to be a topic, so things like Hathitrust’s ETAS might be extended to non-emergency situations depending on copyright. Academic (and potentially research) budgets will continue to be squeezed as institutions will cut funding for things to make up for losses during COVID.

I suspect that with the long duration of COVID (18 months and counting), more relief may be needed, and collections may be scrutinized even further. “Subscribe to open” and “read and publish” deals are here to stay, and I think they will have to be looked at carefully due to budget situations. On a happier note, the number of instructors reaching out to the library for information literacy and library orientations seems to be on the rise, and with more changes to systems and access always on the horizon, I see this as a very good thing.

You’re also the chair of ACS’s Chemical Information (CINF) division this year. What was that like?

The main challenge during my term has been COVID, as I’m sure it was for everybody everywhere. The nature of the pandemic over the last year made it difficult to plan events because the safety guidelines were constantly changing. In addition to the obvious effect this has on ACS events, it also took considerable time out of volunteers’ schedules, leaving many with less time to devote to ACS and CINF this past year. Our main goal was to just keep moving, and to that effect, I think we were successful.

We are implementing Google Workspace as an internal organization workspace for our division, and we’ve updated our website (in large part thanks to Dr. Stuart Chalk, our treasurer and interim website administrator). We also had two very successful programs at the Spring and Fall ACS National Meetings, thanks to the excellent work of our Programming Committee, led by Dr. Ye Li. We’re hoping to launch more communication efforts with our division and also to take advantage of the rise in acceptance of virtual events to continue programming outside of ACS National Meetings. Our incoming 2022 Chairperson, Susan Cardinal, has some great ideas that the Executive Committee is pretty excited about supporting!

A very important question: Who is your favorite scientist?

I would say it’s a toss-up between Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking. When I was young, I really wanted to be an astrophysicist. I loved reading about space exploration, and my copies of Cosmos and A Brief History of Time are pretty dog-eared at this point. So, of course, my favorite fictional scientist would then be The Doctor from Doctor Who.

What is a fun fact about Caltech?

One of the undergrad houses here, Fleming, has a large cannon that gets fired off a few times a year. In 2006, MIT managed to steal said cannon and transport it to Cambridge. I remember being at an alumni event in Cambridge and hearing about it. It was pretty great. Caltech and MIT have had a great prank rivalry throughout the years, and I hope it continues!

JASMS Spotlights Emerging Investigators

Since January 2020, the coronavirus pandemic has dramatically changed the landscape in which we conduct our day-to-day lives, both personally and professionally. For many researchers, laboratories were completely shut down or had very limited access for months and, for some, have still not fully reopened or returned to normal. Disproportionately affected by these hardships have been academic researchers just starting their independent careers, whose momentum was stalled during the critical period of time as they were establishing and ramping up the trajectories of their research programs.

Despite these challenges, however, we are pleased to highlight in this issue of the Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry the work of 11 early career researchers, whose articles comprise the 2021 ASMS “Emerging Investigators” Focus section.

First published in 2015, the goal of the Emerging Investigators Focus is to showcase some of the exciting independent work that is being performed by early career researchers who have already demonstrated their potential to make important contributions to their respective areas of research and have the potential to become future leaders within the field.

I spoke with several Emerging Investigators featured in the Focus to learn more about their work.

Stacy Malaker

Tell us about yourself.

I am currently an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Yale University. By way of background, I am a first-generation college student from metro Detroit, and I attended the University of Michigan for undergrad. During that time, I worked in a peptide synthesis core facility; this is where I first became captivated by mass spectrometry. I solidified this commitment when I headed to graduate school at the University of Virginia to join Don Hunt’s laboratory. My thesis work focused on identifying MHC-associated glycopeptides, which gave me my first taste of the complex world of glycobiology. This led me to Carolyn Bertozzi’s laboratory at Stanford University, where I got introduced to densely O-glycosylated proteins called mucins. The rest is history!

Outside of science, I enjoy sports, traveling, spending time with loved ones, and watching the Bachelor.

What is your current area of research (or areas of interest)?

Broadly, my areas of research encompass mass spectrometry, glycoproteomics, glycobiology, chemical biology, and biochemistry. More specifically, mucin-domain glycoproteins comprise a class of proteins whose densely O-glycosylated mucin domains contribute to unique secondary structures, biochemical processes, and roles in human health. Despite this, very little is known about the site-specific molecular structures and biological activities of mucins, in part because they are extremely challenging to study. Thus, my laboratory is focused on establishing methods and technology to study mucins by mass spec. Additionally, we study the biological context of mucins, since these proteins play integral roles in numerous diseases, but their functions are poorly understood.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone just entering the field?

Learn how to sequence peptides! (As a Don Hunt/Jeff Shabanowitz trainee, I must preach their gospel.) The first thing I learned in graduate school was peptide sequencing by CAD and ETD. Search algorithms can only tell you so much information, so being able to dig into your data is incredibly useful. Personally, this has helped me discover novel post-translational modifications, contaminating proteins in my samples, and unwanted metal adducts.

Where do you hope to see your career 10 years from now?

Accepting the Nobel Prize in Stockholm! Jokes aside, it is hard to predict where the science will lead us 10 years from now. I just hope to be enjoying science as much as I do today. I am continually inspired by research and, especially, by my trainees. The icing on the cake would be discovering useful insight into mucin-driven diseases, ideally to help in developing diagnostic and therapeutic interventions.

Tao Huan

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Tao Huan. I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada. I was born in Jiashan, China. After completing my B.S. at Zhejiang University (Hangzhou, China) (2010), I pursued my Ph.D. training at the University of Alberta (Edmonton, Canada) (2010-2015) and post-doc training at the Scripps Research Institute (San Diego, California) (2015-2018). My current research lab at UBC has 5 Ph.D. students, one technician and several undergraduate students, and we have just celebrated our third-year anniversary. In my spare time, I am a motorcyclist and a volleyball player (setter).

What is your current area of research (or areas of interest)?

My current area of research is to synergistically develop analytical chemistry and bioinformatics for mass spectrometry-based metabolomics. Unlike traditional analytical method development that focuses mainly on analytical chemistry, the uniqueness of the synergistic development of analytical and bioinformatic methods allows for emphasis of the power of bioinformatics, which is the key to making omics data valuable. The synergistic development also allows to fill the knowledge gaps between analytical chemists and bioinformaticians. Furthermore, through collaborating with biological researchers, we bring metabolomics into the postgenomic era of biology and next-generation healthcare.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone just entering the field?

Unlike other traditional analytical technologies, mastering metabolomics requires knowledge of not only analytical chemistry, but also bioinformatics and a clear understanding of the biological question. Furthermore, metabolomics is an evolving research area in which new tools and strategies are developed every year. For people who are new to metabolomics, it is highly recommended to have an open mind, and keep learning and trying new analytical and bioinformatic techniques.

Where do you hope to see your career 10 years from now?

In 10 years from now, my lab will have developed a suite of analytical and bioinformatic tools that ensure the high sensitivity, accuracy, and precision of mass spectrometry-based metabolomics. Together with other metabolomics researchers around the world, we will turn metabolomics into a practical and easy-to-use research tool that is indispensable in a biologist’s toolkit, like western blot and PCR in current biological research. By then, as an analytical chemist, the research focus in my lab will be shifted to push the limit of mass spectrometry for high throughput metabolomics that is affordable by the general public.

Xinxing Zhang

Tell us about yourself.

I’m currently a Professor of Chemistry in the College of Chemistry at Nankai University of China. I earned my B.S. in chemistry at Fudan University of Shanghai in 2009 and completed my Ph.D. in physical chemistry studying cluster mass spectrometry and laser spectroscopy in the Department of Chemistry at Johns Hopkins University under the guidance of Professor Kit Bowen in 2015. From 2016 to 2018, I performed post-doctoral research under the direction of Professor J. L. Beauchamp in the Beckman Institute of Caltech, mainly studying the oxidation and antioxidation chemistry of lipids at the air-water interface. Since 2018, I started my independent career at Nankai University through China’s 1000 Talent Program.

What is your current area of research (or areas of interest)?

The current area of research of my group uses home-built apparatus to study the reaction dynamics of amphiphilic molecules at the air-water interface, as well as the laser spectroscopy and reactivity of clusters in the gas phase.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone just entering the field?

My one piece of advice would be “always think at the (sub)molecular level as if you are one of the molecules.”

Where do you hope to see your career 10 years from now?

I wish I could achieve more insights of the chemical dynamics at the air-water interfaces that play critical roles on both biophysical and environmental fronts by using or developing new mass spectrometric techniques.

Ian Webb

Tell us about yourself.

I grew up in Richmond, VA, attended undergraduate school at the College of William and Mary, graduate school at Purdue, and did a post-doc at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Currently, my wife and I live in the Indianapolis area with our son (6) and daughter (just over a year). I like sports and music and will play guitar (hasn’t happened much lately with the arrival of our daughter).

What is your current area of research (or areas of interest)?

I am interested in applying ion mobility/mass spectrometry to answering questions in protein structure and reactivity.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone just entering the field?

Find mentors, especially mentors that will read your proposals and give you helpful feedback.

Where do you hope to see your career 10 years from now?

I hope that the methods we are developing in our laboratory become adopted more broadly by the community. I would still like to be leading a dynamic and growing research group.

Ling Hao

Tell us about yourself.

I received my Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2017, mentored by Prof. Lingjun Li. Then post-doctoral training at the National Institutes of Health / National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, co-mentored by Dr. Richard Youle and Dr. Michael Ward. I joined George Washington University at Washington, D.C. in 2019 as an assistant professor of chemistry. I’m a curiosity-driven person. Discovering the unknown is intrinsically what excites me.

What is your current area of research (or areas of interest)?

Developing proteomics, metabolomics, and proximity labeling techniques to understand the molecular mechanisms of neurological disorders and discover molecular biomarkers for brain diseases.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone just entering the field?

Embrace failures in research and develop trouble-shooting skills. Share your failure stories and negative feelings with mentors, friends, or family.

Where do you hope to see your career 10 years from now?

Have an established and well-funded mid-size research group working on cutting-edge and multi-disciplinary research topics on analytical chemistry and neuroscience. My students would enjoy doing research and our already established techniques can be helpful to the scientific communities.

Kelly Hines

Tell us about yourself.

I’m an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at the University of Georgia. I started this position in Fall 2019 after completing a post-doc in Libin Xu’s group at the University of Washington in Seattle.

What is your current area of research (or areas of interest)?

We’re using liquid chromatography, ion mobility and mass spectrometry to explore the relationship between antibiotic resistance and membrane lipid composition in pathogenic bacteria. Staphylococcus aureus can make lipids using the host’s fatty acids, which are structurally different from Staph fatty acids. This makes the lipid composition in vivo much more complicated than in vitro experiments suggest. By combining multi-dimensional separations with mass spectrometry and isotope labeling, we can distinguish the lipids made entirely by the bacteria from those that were derived in part from the host. The goal is to determine how the use of exogenous fatty acids influences the susceptibility of Staph to antibiotics.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone just entering the field?

It’s become so easy to generate a TON of data with mass spectrometry and there are all sorts of software and tools out there to process it. Never discount the benefits of looking at your data with your own eyes though. You will learn so much from it.

Where do you hope to see your career 10 years from now?

The flexibility to pursue different interests and curiosities is one of best parts of academic research. It’s exciting to have so many possibilities. I never would have guessed ten years ago that I’d be growing bacteria and studying antibiotic resistance. I’m really curious to see what my lab will be using mass spectrometry for 10 years from now, but I hope it still involves lipids and ion mobility.

Jace W. Jones

Tell us about yourself.

I am an Assistant Professor and Associate Director of the Mass Spectrometry Center in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy. I received my B.S. degree (biology major, chemistry minor) from Whitworth University (Spokane, WA). I obtained my Ph.D. from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Washington under the mentorship of Dr. František Tureček. My graduate research focused on the use of gas-phase ion chemistry to investigate electron-based ion fragmentation and to structurally characterize glycolipids. After my Ph.D., I completed a post-doc position in the laboratory of Dr. David R. Goodlett (University of Washington School of Pharmacy) which further involved using gas-phase ion dissociation techniques to investigate glycolipid structure. I then spent several years in industry investigating the role of environmental contaminants on land resources and human health. After several years, I returned to academics to pursue a basic research career. During this time, I progressed from research scientist to research faculty under the mentorship of Dr. Maureen A. Kane (University of Maryland School of Pharmacy). In the Kane Lab, I focused on developing targeted quantitation assays for metabolomic applications and method development for discovery lipidomics. In the Fall of 2018, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to start my own lab as a tenure-track Assistant Professor.

What is your current area of research (or areas of interest)?

My lab is focused on developing mass spectrometry-based analytical platforms to probe the structure/function dynamics of lipids. The knowledge gained by comprehensively characterizing lipid structure and anchoring structure to quantitative abundance provides a unique opportunity to investigate how disruption in lipid metabolism impacts human health. We use a combination of chromatography, ion mobility, and mass spectrometry to characterize structure, and then anchor structure to quantitative abundance. By defining molecular structure and anchoring structure to quantitative abundance, we seek to gain insight into distressed biological pathways that form the basis of disease. Our method development which includes the use of discovery (untargeted) and quantitative workflows is paired with relevant biomedical applications. Our current applications include defining sphingolipid metabolism in hepatotoxicity, investigating how ether phospholipids contribute to brain injury and aging, and the role membrane lipids play in viral pathogenesis.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone just entering the field?

Mass spectrometry has become a ubiquitous analytical tool for investigating a wide range of scientific questions. That said, it is still a very exciting time to be involved in mass spectrometry both in terms of method development and applications. I would advise those entering the field to identify an application area that inspires them. If you are excited about the fundamental science question you are investigating it is going to be much easier to weather and push past the inevitable challenges research presents. Further, I would encourage those to not detach their fundamental knowledge of mass spectrometry from their chosen application. I do not believe mass spectrometry should be viewed as a black box; rather, the pairing of mass spec knowledge with a unique application allows you to inquisitively question how improvement in the mass spec process could more adequately address unanswered questions. Finally, a bit of advice from a mentor who inspired me to stay the course and pursue my desire for an academic research position even after I did not think it would happen (it took me 9 years from my Ph.D. to land a PI position): “keep chopping that wood, a tree doesn’t fall on one hit; rather, it is the persistent and consistent effort that will prove vital.”

Where do you hope to see your career 10 years from now?

I hope to see myself progressing through the tenure process by consistently contributing to the scientific community via quality publications, inspiring the next generation of scientists via thoughtful mentorship, educating pharmaceutical scientists in the fundamentals of analytical chemistry (especially mass spectrometry), and contributing to a more equitable society where science education is universally accessible. It is my hope that our scientific contributions can benefit human health and we (as a lab) constantly strive to connect our research to advancing science in an empathetic manner.

Qian Zhao

Tell us about yourself.

My training on mass spectrometry started in 2011 when I was a visiting Ph.D. student in Prof. Albert Heck’s group at the Utrecht University. At that time, my project was to identify binding targets of natural products. In Albert’s group, native mass spectrometry helped me reveal the binding stoichiometry of natural product-target complexes, while tandem mass spectrometry helped uncover the compound binding sites. I inevitably fell in love with these powerful technologies. As a result, I was determined to continue the journey in mass spectrometry and joined Prof. Alma Burlingame’s and Prof. Jack Taunton’s teams in University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) as a post-doctoral researcher. It was another eye-opening experience to me working in Al’s group. I got to see how advanced mass spectrometry technology greatly facilitate biology understandings. In 2017, I started my own research group in Hong Kong focusing on developing proteomics approaches and applying them to solve fundamental biology questions. I have also served as an editorial board member for Molecular & Cellular Proteomics, hoping to give back to the community that I love.

What is your current area of research (or areas of interest)?

My research group has two research orientations. We investigate protein-small molecule interactions with synthetic probes and proteomics. Meanwhile, we are interested in non-canonical translation events, including microproteins encoded by non-canonical open reading frames and non-canonical immunopeptides.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone just entering the field?

It would be beneficial to interact with scientists in the field of mass spectrometry. Our community is full of talented scientists who are willing to nurture younger generations. When I was trying to tackle difficult questions, I got helpful technical support and a lot of encouragement.

Where do you hope to see your career 10 years from now?

Hopefully I will have made some solid contributions to my research areas by then. By that time, some of our research findings will be put into translation in industry and clinic practice.

Explore the Full Focus Section.

JACS Au Meet the Editors: Christopher Jones and Wasiu Lawal

JACS Au is a global, open access, multidisciplinary journal and its diverse editorial team is an essential element of its strength. Editor-in-Chief Christopher W. Jones is supported by a team of six Associate Editors from around the world, each bringing a different research focus and skill set to the journal. But who are these editors? In this video series, JACS Au Associate Editors introduce themselves through candid conversation, speaking with their fellow editors as peers in a series of illuminating discussions.

In the final interview of the series, it is the turn of Editor-in-Chief Christopher Jones and JACS Au‘s Associate Managing Editor, Wasiu Lawal, to sit down and discuss their lives and work in chemistry, including:

  • The books that have had the biggest impact on their lives and careers
  • The advice they would give to young scientists
  • The unanticipated benefits of choosing the career of a chemist
  • What makes a compelling scientific paper, and more

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At JACS Au, we welcome manuscripts reporting significant research discoveries in all fields of chemistry and related sciences.

Find out more and submit your research to JACS Au.