Lab Visits Archives - ACS Axial | ACS Publications

Announcing the Winner of the “Show Us Your Lab” Contest

Last month, ACS Axial held a contest asking readers to send in photos of their labs, classrooms, offices or wherever they do their best work. Today I am proud to announce the winner: Dr. Greg D. Smith of the Conservation Science Lab at Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields. The 3,000 square foot state-of-the-art analytical and research laboratory is used for the study of artists’ materials.

Dr. Smith wrote in to tell me about the beautiful and unique lab at his workplace:

“Unlike the normal whitewashed, sterile chemistry labs, the art analysis lab at Newfields is decorated in a rich, inviting Arts & Crafts period style, complete with quartered oak cabinetry, hammered copper fittings, and a periodic table carved out of mahogany. The lab is also decorated with prints, tapestry, paintings, ceramics, and sculpture donated by contemporary artists working in the Craftsman tradition, all of which are used to train students in art analysis and technical art history.”

Check out a panoramic image of the lab:

Take a closer look at the lab’s periodic table:

The table is carved from mahogany, with a frame made of ebonized quarter sawn oak. The table was constructed by one of the lab’s master carpenters, Jim Bayes, with other craftsman efforts from paintings conservator Linda Witkowski. Note, the lab was opened in 2010, so the table doesn’t reference the elements added in recent years.

Dr. Smith appears as an author on two papers in Analytical Chemistry:

Pigment Identification by Spectroscopic Means: Evidence Consistent with the Attribution of the Painting Young Woman Seated at a Virginal to Vermeer
Anal. Chem., 2005, 77 (5), pp 1261–1267
DOI: 10.1021/ac048481i

The Gutenberg Bibles: Analysis of the Illuminations and Inks Using Raman Spectroscopy
Anal. Chem., 2005, 77 (11), pp 3611–3622
DOI: 10.1021/ac050346y

He’s also an author on the chapter “What’s Wrong with this Picture? The Technical Analysis of a Known Forgery,” in the ASC Symposium Series E-Book, “Collaborative Endeavors in the Chemical Analysis of Art and Cultural Heritage Materials.”

Congratulations to Dr. Smith and the staff at the Conservation Science Lab at Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields on their beautiful lab space.

In the Lab 360° with Robin D. Rogers

Robin D. Rogers is the Editor-in-Chief of Crystal Growth & Design and the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Green Chemistry and Green Chemicals at McGil University. He is know for his research into ionic liquid systems. Recently Rogers offered ACS Axial readers a 360º look inside his lab, including a look at some of his more specialized equipment.

IMPORTANT NOTE TO ACS AXIAL READERS! This is a 360º video, which means you can use your cursor or smartphone to navigate around inside the lab—and look at whatever you want—just as if you were there in person. This functionality is supported in Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Opera browsers. If you’re viewing this on a mobile device, try watching the video through the YouTube app to get the full effect.

With this functionality in mind, please check out this In the Lab 360° video:

Get more great videos from the American Chemical Society.

Take a 360° Lab Tour With JACS’ Taeghwan Hyeon

Taeghwan Hyeon is a Professor of Chemical & Biological Engineering at Seoul National University, Korea. He is also Director of the Center for Nanoparticle Research at the Institute for Basic Science. In addition, Professor Hyeon is an Associate Editor for the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS).

We met with Hyeon for a brief video interview inside one of his labs.

IMPORTANT NOTE TO ACS AXIAL READERS! This is a 360º video, which means you can use your cursor or smartphone to navigate around inside the lab—and look at whatever you want—just as if you were there in person. This functionality is supported in Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Opera browsers. If you’re viewing this on a mobile device, try watching the video through the YouTube app to get the full effect.

With this functionality in mind, please check out this In the Lab 360° video:

Watch more great videos from ACS.

In the Lab with Courtney Aldrich

Courtney AldrichCourtney Aldrich is a chemist, an associate professor in the Medicinal Chemistry Department at the University of Minnesota’s College of Pharmacy, and the Editor-in-Chief of a newly launched journal, ACS Infectious Diseases. As a result, he has little time for outside hobbies. But the one hobby he allows himself still involves his professional interests.

In his office, Aldrich keeps a 500-liter saltwater aquarium filled with exotic fish. (His favorite specimen: a porcupine pufferfish.) Saltwater aquariums are notoriously hard to maintain. When a fish gets sick with a bacterial or parasitic infection, he applies his knowledge of infectious diseases and treats them with an appropriate anti-protoazoal agent or antibiotic. “There’s a lot of water chemistry involved, which reinforces my general chemistry. I must ensure optimal parameters including dissolved oxygen, ammonia, nitrate, pH, ORP, salinity, and temperature,” Aldrich says.

Aldrich also has a new, custom-built lab at the university’s newest research building, the Microbiology Research Facility. The lab’s primary focus is designing new antibiotics for tuberculosis. Its research will save lives: tuberculosis has overtaken HIV as the leading cause of death by infectious disease.

The lab is home to two postdocs and six graduate students. Current projects are aimed at developing antibiotics that block mycobacteria’s ability to obtain iron, an essential micronutrient; the metabolism of biotin, which is required for bacterial persistence in vivo; and the biosynthesis of mycolic acid, a hallmark mycobacterial lipid that is up to 80 carbons in length and provides a permeability barrier that shields the bacteria from environmental stress and provides intrinsic resistance to many antibiotics.

The Microbiology Research Facility clusters other principal investigators with similar research interests in close proximity. Although Aldrich’s lab is the only chemistry lab in the building, he is surrounded by other scientists studying infectious diseases.

“I am incredibly excited about this opportunity to be immersed in microbiology,” says Courtney Aldrich.

3 Most Recent Articles by the Courtney Aldrich Research Group

  1. Targeting Mycobacterium tuberculosis Biotin Protein Ligase (MtBPL) with Nucleoside-Based Bisubstrate Adenylation Inhibitors
    J. Med. Chem., 2015, 58 (18), pp 7349–7369
    DOI: 10.1021/acs.jmedchem.5b00719
  2. Investigation and Conformational Analysis of Fluorinated Nucleoside Antibiotics Targeting Siderophore Biosynthesis
    J. Org. Chem., 2015, 80 (10), pp 4835–4850
    DOI: 10.1021/acs.joc.5b00550
  3. Functional Characterization of a Dehydratase Domain from the Pikromycin Polyketide Synthase
    J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2015, 137 (22), pp 7003–7006
    DOI: 10.1021/jacs.5b02325

In the Lab with Gunda Georg


For Gunda Georg, seeking cures for cancer, researching new contraceptives, and developing more effective medicines is all in a day’s work. ACS Axial caught up with Georg, the co-Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry and head of the Medicinal Chemistry Department at the University of Minnesota, to learn more about her research.

Georg has been at the University of Minnesota since 2007. In that time, one of her discoveries has been a cancer therapy called Minnelide. The drug targets tumor cells and within them inhibits the heat shock protein (HSP) 70, which is involved in protein folding and helps protect cells. HSP 70 is abundant in pancreatic cancer cells, and its presence makes the malignant cells difficult to kill. In mouse models, Minnelide down-regulates HSP 70 expression. That makes cancer cells vulnerable. Georg and her colleagues hope the drug can do the same in humans. Minnelide began Phase 1 of clinical trials for gastrointestinal cancers in the fall of 2013 and about 70 patients have already obtained the drug.

Georg’s research, however, is not restricted to cancer. Her lab is also researching non-hormonal male and female contraception in partnership with the Contraceptive Discovery and Development Branch, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Her team is also researching epilepsy and liver disease.

Georg also heads the university’s Institute for Therapeutics Discovery & Development (ITDD). ITDD fosters drug discovery and development and improves drug efficacy through multidisciplinary cooperation. More than 40 staff, faculty, postdocs, graduate students work together in the state-of-the-art facility. The ITDD has five core labs: medicinal chemistry, high throughput screening, lead and probe discovery, pharmacology, and chemical process development. It is also available as a resource to other universities, research institutions, and the private sector.

When she is not wearing her of her many research hats, Georg enjoys going to the movies and the opera. She also enjoys biking during the months of the year when snow doesn’t cover the Twin Cities—and skiing when it does.

Read more about Gunda Georg’s work in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

In the Lab with Stephen Hecht


The rate of adult smokers has dropped by more than half from 1965 to 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But smoking and the cancers it causes are hardly a thing of the past.

“Most people don’t realize that there are still more than 40 million smokers in the U.S. and that lung cancer kills about three people per minute in the world,” says Stephen Hecht, editor-in-chief of Chemical Research in Toxicology and a former associate editor of the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. He researches how tobacco ingredients cause cancer in humans—and how to prevent it.

Hecht is the Winston R. and Maxine H. Wallin Land Grant Professor of Cancer Prevention at the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Cancer Center and Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology; he is also a member of the graduate faculty in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry, and was program leader of the Carcinogenesis and Chemoprevention Program of the Masonic Cancer Center from 1998-2014. His lab is located in the university’s new 280,000-square-foot Cancer & Cardiovascular Research Building.

Hecht’s group has published over 800 papers on everything from basic discovery to human clinical studies. Hecht’s lab is recognized as one of the best in the world at studying how tobacco-specific nitrosamines—known as a cause of cancer—turn healthy cells into cancerous ones in humans and animals. His team has elucidated the structures of multiple DNA adducts, the harmful covalent bonds between genetic material and carcinogen that can be the start of a cancerous cell. One recent paper produced from this work won an ACS Editor’s Choice award.

Studying diverse populations is important to Hecht. “Our data provide a partial explanation of why African Americans have a higher risk for lung cancer than whites, while Japanese Americans have a lower risk,” he said.

Looking at other possible points of exposure to carcinogens is another key interest. For example, one study found elevated levels of acrolein and crotonaldehyde metabolites in non-smoking women who do wok cooking. He is also undertaking large quantitative studies—using mass spectrometry—of toxicants and carcinogens in the urine of tobacco product users and people regularly exposed to secondhand smoke.

Perhaps most exciting is the lab’s research into cancer-preventing compounds, which they have found in cruciferous vegetables like watercress, cauliflower, and broccoli. These studies have involved both animals and human clinical trials.

Hecht’s team also provides policy advice, supplying further evidence to support regulation of existing tobacco products and evaluating the carcinogenic potential of new products. The lab also collaborates with specialists in other fields, including genetics, biochemistry, and psychology, to identify who is susceptible to tobacco-induced carcinogens and why.

When he’s not in the lab, Hecht enjoys playing tennis and watching major league baseball. But he cheers for the Boston Red Sox, not his hometown Minnesota Twins (perhaps a holdover from his days as a graduate student at MIT).

“I’m proud of what our team has accomplished,” says Hecht. “It’s a good feeling knowing that our research could be saving lives.”

3 Recent Articles in which the Stephen Hecht Research Group Participated

  1. DNA Adduct Formation from Metabolic 5′-Hydroxylation of the Tobacco-Specific Carcinogen N′-Nitrosonornicotine in Human Enzyme Systems and in Rats
    Chem. Res. Toxicol., 2016, 29 (3), pp 380–389
    DOI: 10.1021/acs.chemrestox.5b00520
  2. Exposure and Metabolic Activation Biomarkers of Carcinogenic Tobacco-Specific Nitrosamines
    Acc. Chem. Res., 2016, 49 (1), pp 106–114
    DOI: 10.1021/acs.accounts.5b00472
  3. Analysis of O6-[4-(3-Pyridyl)-4-oxobut-1-yl]-2′-deoxyguanosine and Other DNA Adducts in Rats Treated with Enantiomeric or Racemic N′-Nitrosonornicotine
    Chem. Res. Toxicol., 2016, 29 (1), pp 87–95
    DOI: 10.1021/acs.chemrestox.5b00425

In the Lab with Timothy Lodge

Timothy LodgeAt the highest levels of research, it can be easy to become nearsighted, focusing only on your own narrow specialty. Thankfully, that’s not the case with Timothy Lodge. Lodge is a Regents Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at the University of Minnesota. He’s the Editor-in-Chief of Macromolecules (a position he’s held since 2001) and the founding Editor-in-Chief of ACS Macro Letters.

Lodge prides himself on the collaborative, interdisciplinary nature of his lab. While most polymer chemistry labs focus on either synthesis or properties, Lodge and his colleagues tackle both. They combine synthesis of model polymers, especially block copolymers, with advanced physical characterization tools.

“Our set of experimental tools is almost unmatched in breadth,” Lodge says. “It routinely includes scattering tools like light, neutron, and x-rays; microscopy tools such as TEM, SEM, and cryoTEM; rheology; and NMR.”

The lab’s scope attracts students and collaborators from far and wide. Students come from Ph.D. programs in chemistry, chemical engineering, and materials science; many are co-advised by professors with other areas of expertise. Because the lab’s work is at the intersection of fundamental science and technological applications, research is funded both by government agencies such as NSF and companies.

This openness has led to interesting discoveries. For example, Lodge and his colleagues recently revealed a new understanding of methylcellulose (MC), a commercial product used in food, pharmaceutical products, and building materials. It has been used for more than 100 years, but its gelation and phase separation properties were never understood—until now. “Our team showed for the first time that MC actually self-assembles into 15 nanometer diameter fibers on heating, a completely unanticipated result,” Lodge says. “This discovery will enable a suite of new applications for MC and related sustainable polymers.”

Other accomplishments include the development of “ion gels,” soft solids with many of the properties of the constituent ionic liquid. Researchers have used these gels as the so-called gate dielectric in organic transistors and shown that they outperform all other candidate materials. They’ve also made luminescent gels for display applications, and thermoreversible and photoreversible gels that can be processed in the liquid state and solidified on demand.

Timothy Lodge’s interests outside work are similarly broad. You’re as likely to find him hiking outdoors as taking in a classical music performance. He’s an avid football fan—though not the kind you might think. Lodge was born in England, and follows Premier League teams Manchester City and Manchester United.

He’s well respected by his students. Cecilia Hall is a third-year graduate student in Lodge’s lab, studying block polymers in ionic liquid.

“Dr. Lodge doesn’t micromanage, but he’s accessible when I have questions,” she says. “He’s helping me develop into a scientist.”

5 Recent Papers from the Lab of Timothy Lodge

  • Thermodynamics of Aqueous Methylcellulose Solutions
    Macromolecules, 2015, 48 (19), pp 7205–7215
    DOI: 10.1021/acs.macromol.5b01544
  • Fibrillar Structure in Aqueous Methylcellulose Solutions and Gels
    Macromolecules, 2013, 46 (24), pp 9760–9771
    DOI: 10.1021/ma4021642
  • Thermally Reversible Ion Gels with Photohealing Properties Based on Triblock Copolymer Self-Assembly
    Macromolecules, 2015, 48 (16), pp 5928–5933
    DOI: 10.1021/acs.macromol.5b01366
  • Solution Processable, Electrochromic Ion Gels for Sub-1 V, Flexible Displays on Plastic
    Chem. Mater., 2015, 27 (4), pp 1420–1425
    DOI: 10.1021/acs.chemmater.5b00026
  • High Capacitance, Photo-Patternable Ion Gel Gate Insulators Compatible with Vapor Deposition of Metal Gate Electrodes
    ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces, 2014, 6 (21), pp 19275–19281
    DOI: 10.1021/am505298q

Learn more about Timothy Lodge’s work in Macromolecules and ACS Macro Letters.

Take a 360° Lab Tour With The Journal of Physical Chemistry’s John T. Fourkas

John T. Fourkas is the Millard Alexander Professor and Associate Chair in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Maryland in College Park. Fourkas is also the Senior Editor for The Journal of Physical Chemistry A, B, and Ca position he’s held since 2002.

We recently caught up with Fourkas for a brief video interview inside a laser laboratory where his group works on using ultrafast nonlinear optics to study, image, and sculpt matter at the nano scale.

IMPORTANT NOTE TO ACS AXIAL READERS! This is a 360-degree video, which means you can use your cursor or smartphone to navigate around inside the lab—and look at whatever you want—just as if you were there in person. So when Fourkas starts walking around inside his lab, that’s your cue to use your cursor or smartphone to follow him. This functionality is supported in Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Opera browsers. If you’re viewing this on a mobile device, try watching this video through the YouTube app to get the full effect.

With this functionality in mind, please check out this In the Lab 360° video.

Learn more about John T. Fourkas’ work and check out all the latest updates in The Journal of Physical Chemistry AB, and C.

In the Lab with William Tolman

inorganicWhen William Tolman, Editor-in-Chief of Inorganic Chemistry, isn’t in the lab, he’s taking long weekend rides around Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. An avid cyclist, Tolman rides his bike to and from his lab at the University of Minnesota’s Kolthoff Hall almost every day. That’s quite a feat, considering temperatures in the Twin Cities are below freezing more than 76 days a year, on average.Kolthoff Hall sits next to the bridge that connects the Minneapolis campus’ east and west banks. Similarly, Tolman’s lab works at the nexus between bioinorganic chemistry and polymerization catalysis.

“These are two areas that are not commonly combined in a single research group. I think the synergy between these areas provides a novel learning environment for the students and postdoctoral associates,” the Distinguished McKnight University Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemistry says.

The lab’s bioinorganic focus is to study the fundamental structure, physical properties, and mechanisms of how proteins and metal ions in metalloprotein complexes interact to yield novel reactivity patterns. Metalloproteins are proteins that form composites with metal ion cofactors to carry out biological functions. Chemists can better understand this process by studying model complexes designed to replicate key aspects of the metalloenzyme active sites. Tolman’s group is looking specifically at oxygen activation—the detailed process by which the O-O bond is broken—and oxidation catalysis—how C-H bonds on organic substrates are attacked—by copper complexes.

Tolman and his colleagues have made headway in these studies recently using a copper (III)-hydroxo complex model of active oxidants in catalytic oxidation reactions (1–3). “Through detailed thermodynamic and kinetic studies, we are beginning to figure out what underlies the high rates of hydrogen atom abstraction from carbon-hydrogen bonds by these complexes,” Tolman says.

The lab’s polymerization focus involves developing new ways to prepare raw materials from biological sources and build plastics from renewable resources. The lab collaborates with the Center for Sustainable Polymers, an NSF Center for Chemical Innovation. Their goal is to make polymers that are safe for the environment and human health and also have commercial viability.

They have developed new understanding of how cyclic esters are converted into polymers using aluminum-alkoxide complexes as catalysts (6). This work involved synergistic experimental and theoretical research with fellow University of Minnesota chemistry professors Christopher J. Cramer and Marc A. Hillmyer. Tolman and Hillmyer’s groups also have developed biologically derived, renewable materials that have the properties of thermoplastic elastomers—versatile plastics with viscosity and pliability—and pressure-sensitive adhesives (5). They have also discovered new ways of producing useful olefins from biologically derived carboxylic acids (4).

Tolman has been Editor-in-Chief of Inorganic Chemistry since 2012. This role is yet another way he bridges gaps in his field.

5 Recent Articles by the Research Group of William Tolman

  1. Perturbing the Copper(III)–Hydroxide Unit through Ligand Structural Variation
    J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2016, 138 (1), pp 356–368
    DOI: 10.1021/jacs.5b10985
  2. Hydrogen Atom Abstraction from Hydrocarbons by a Copper(III)-Hydroxide Complex
    J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2015, 137 (3), pp 1322–1329
    DOI: 10.1021/ja512014z
  3. [CuO]+ and [CuOH]2+ Complexes: Intermediates in Oxidation Catalysis?
    Acc. Chem. Res., 2015, 48 (7), pp 2126–2131
    DOI: 10.1021/acs.accounts.5b00169
  4. Aliphatic Polyester Block Polymers: Renewable, Degradable, and Sustainable
    Acc. Chem. Res., 2014, 47 (8), pp 2390–2396
    DOI: 10.1021/ar500121d
  5. Mechanistic Studies of ε-Caprolactone Polymerization by (salen)AlOR Complexes and a Predictive Model for Cyclic Ester Polymerizations
    ACS Catal., 2016, 6 (2), pp 1215–1224
    DOI: 10.1021/acscatal.5b02607

Spend a Day with Bioconjugate Chemistry EIC Vincent Rotello

Have you ever asked yourself “What does an ACS Publications Editor-in-Chief do each day?” Well, you’re not alone. We traveled to the town of Amherst, located in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts to check out the day in the life of Vincent Rotello, Editor-in-Chief of Bioconjugate Chemistry. See what a not-so-typical day is like for Prof. Rotello as he takes you from the classroom to the lab.

Learn more about Vincent Rotello and Bioconjugate Chemistry and submit your research.