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Communiqué: The Department of Chemistry's 2014 Mid-Year Update

Welcome to the Department of Chemistry's electronic newsletter, Communiqué, with updates on recent happenings in the department.

Chemistry Alumni & Friends Breakfast, Tuesday, Aug. 12

If you are attending the fall 2014 American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting in San Francisco, please join us for the University of Minnesota Chemistry Alumni & Friends Breakfast:

7:30-9:30 a.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 12
Moscone Center, South Building, Esplanade Ballroom 306
Tickets: $5.

Purchase tickets online when you register for the meeting at The event number is SE-16. If you are already registered, you can add a ticket online.

Celebration: Sept. 12 & Sept. 13, 2014

Join us as we honor the legacy of legendary chemistry professor Izaak M. Kolthoff, Sept. 12-13, 2014. Professor Kolthoff's (1894-1993) work in establishing the field of analytical chemistry as a scientific discipline has received the prestigious honor of being named a 2014 American Chemical Society National Historic Chemical Landmark. This news coincides with recognition of the centennial of Smith Hall, the classic chemistry building on the University of Minnesota's Northrop Mall, named after Lee Irvin Smith. The public dedication ceremony for the Landmark Designation and Smith Hall Centennial is planned for 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 12. On Saturday, Sept. 13, we will honor Kolthoff's scientific legacy with a symposium, featuring National Academy of Sciences members Professor Allen Bard from the University of Texas at Austin; Professor Harry Gray from the California Institute of Technology; Professor Laura Kiessling from the University of Wisconsin-Madison; Professor Judith Klinman from the University of California, Berkeley; and Professor Richard Zare from Stanford University. For additional information, visit

Supporting the Department of Chemistry

The Department of Chemistry is one of the oldest and most prestigious departments at the University of Minnesota thanks to our world-renowned faculty, talented students, and collaborative and groundbreaking research with a global impact. Each year, our amazing faculty members teach more than 11,000 students and provide them with exceptional educational experiences, as we continue training the next generations of scientists, engineers, academics, and world leaders.

To have an impact on tomorrow, we must invest today. Financial support for the Department of Chemistry is instrumental to our students, faculty, research and the academic program. Gifts to the department help our faculty, students and graduates continue to make research breakthroughs to meet and solve the most challenging global problems. Please check out our giving page and consider making a gift today.

What's new in the Department of Chemistry

We've had some notable changes in the Department of Chemistry over the past six months. We are pleased to welcome Erin Carlson to our department as an associate professor with tenure. She is a native of Minnesota, and joins us from Indiana University where she was an assistant professor. Her research program centers on the development and application of advanced chemical biology and systems biology technologies to define the mechanisms of bacterial pathogenesis and identify potential therapeutic agents.

Earlier this spring, the university's Board of Regents approved the promotions of David Blank, Michael Bowser and Christy Haynes to professors, and Christopher Douglas and Valerie Pierre to associate professors with tenure.

This year, we created the department's first video, highlighting our scientists and innovative research aimed at solving some of society's most important energy, human health, and environmental problems. This video received a Maroon Award from the University of Minnesota's Communicators Forum. Additional videos are planned. Watch the video.

Our Joint Safety Team, which is led by graduate students and post-doctorates, continues to make great strides on improving the culture of safety in our department. This innovative safety program received the inaugural Council of Chemical Research Safety Award.

A new Diversity Committee focuses on enhancing the culture of openness, acceptance, and support for all students, post-doctorates, faculty and staff. This past year, Professor Lee Penn, who chairs the committee, received a Breaking the Silence Award from the University of Minnesota's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Ally Programs Office. Kadir Hussein, undergraduate student representative, was honored with the President's Student Leadership & Service Award for his exceptional leadership and service to the University of Minnesota and surrounding community.

Check out these stories and other Department of Chemistry news on our website. View all news articles.

May 27, 2014
Board of Regents approves promotions
The Board of Regents has approved the promotions of David Blank, Michael Bowser and Christy Haynes to professors, and Christopher Douglas and Valerie Pierre to associate professors with tenure. Read More

April 23, 2014

Innovative safety program receives national award
The innovative safety program developed by the Department of Chemistry and Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science has received the inaugural Council of Chemical Research Safety Award. Read More

Student honors, awards, and accolades

Our undergraduate and graduate students received a number of honors and awards in 2013-14, testifying to the quality of education, teaching, and research in the Department of Chemistry. Recently, a committee of eight graduate students was selected to organize a symposium at the ACS National Meeting & Exposition in August 2015. You can read more about our department, college and national fellowship award honorees, our top student researchers, other scholarship and award recipients, and our 2013-14 bachelor, master, and doctorate degree recipients on our website. In addition, photos from our undergraduate and graduate graduation receptions are available on our Facebook page. View all award articles for students, faculty, and staff.

May 1, 2014

Seven graduate students receive dissertation fellowships
Seven of the Department of Chemistry's top doctorate students—Christopher Huber, Katherine Hurley, William Isley III, Maral Mousavi, Mayank Puri, Pragya Verma, and Tao Wang—have received 2014-15 Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship program awards. Read More

June 11, 2014

Graduate students win bid to plan ACS symposium
A committee of eight graduate students has been selected to organize a symposium at the 250th ACS National Meeting and Exposition in August 2015 in Boston. Read More

Faculty & Staff awards

Our faculty and staff members received a record number of prestigious awards in 2013-14. These include: Christopher Douglas—George Taylor Career Development Award for exceptional teaching; Joe Franek—President's Award for Outstanding Service; Laura Gagliardi—Distinguished McKnight University Professor; Christy Haynes—College of Science & Engineering's George W. Taylor Award for Distinguished Research; Marc Hillmyer—award for Outstanding Contributions to Graduate and Professional Education; Thomas Hoye— 2014 Minnesota Award from the Minnesota Section of the American Chemical Society; John Lipscomb—American Chemical Society Repligen Award in Chemistry and Biological Processes; Aaron Massari—George W. Taylor/College of Science & Engineering Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching; William "Will" Pomerantz—National Science Foundation CAREER Award; Ilja Siepmann—named an American Physical Society Fellow; and Jane Wissinger—2014 Horace T. Morse-University of Minnesota Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education. After more than 41 years of service to the University of Minnesota, Theodore "Ted" Tolaas, stockroom services director, retired. We will miss him. Read his story.

View all award articles for students, faculty, and staff.

April 11, 2014

Gagliardi named Distinguished McKnight University Professor
Professor Laura Gagliardi has received the University of Minnesota's 2014 Distinguished McKnight University Professorship. Read More

April 23, 2014

Franek honored with President's Award for Outstanding Service
Joe Franek, lecture demonstration director, has received the President's Award for Outstanding Service, honored for going well beyond his regular duties and demonstrating unusual commitment to the university community. Read More


Our scientists continue as pioneer researchers in a number of areas, ranging from building biobased copolymers from sugar to illuminating the dark state of alpha synuclein—a protein that is involved in the progression of Parkinson's disease. Some of this year's research highlights include the oxidation of ethane to ethanol in a metal-organic framework—a step toward greater energy efficiency; the employment of quantum mechanical calculations to model the bonding properties of californium in a borate ligand environment; the revelation that molecules at the interface of a polymer film become disordered as the interior becomes more ordered; remarkable thermal stability of a new oxoiron (IV) complex; the establishment of benzyne derivatives formed by the hexadehydro-Diels-Alder reaction; and the possible design of innovative therapeutic approaches to heart failure. This research has been published in prestigious science journals.

Just recently, we received a $12 million grant from the Department of Energy to continue our theoretical and experimental energy research. Read more about our research.

June 23, 2014

New $12 million grant focuses on energy research
The Department of Chemistry has been awarded a $12 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to lead an Energy Frontier Research Center aimed at accelerating scientific breakthroughs in energy research. Read More

May 30, 2014

Researchers build biobased copolymers from sugar
Researchers in the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Chemical Engineering & Materials Science have laid the groundwork for producing polymers from sugar-derived building blocks. Read More


Outreach to young people, engaging them in chemistry through hands-on experiments, demonstrations, and interaction with professors and graduate students is a priority for the Department of Chemistry. We offer a range of outreach activities such as demonstrations at area schools, special workshops, chemistry camps for middle school girls, and the popular Energy and U shows that literally exploded with 10,000 students coming to campus in 2013-14. This year, professors also conducted chemical biology seminars for retirees participating in the Osher Life-Long Learning Institute.Read more about our outreach efforts. Photos of this year's outreach activities are available on our Facebook page.

June 5, 2014

Chemical biology life-long learning course draws interest
Approximately 40 life-long learners attended a chemical biology short course organized by professors Will Pomerantz and Ben Hackel. Read More

January 17, 2014

Energy and U: 'They were so excited about energy and science'
Explosions, flames, rock music and screaming gummy bears—they’re all part of a unique and fun outreach program—Energy and U—that aims to interest elementary school students in science. Read More


We have many ways for you to keep in touch with what's happening in the Department of Chemistry. Check out our website home page. Join our Facebook group. Follow us on Twitter. Or join the chemistry group on LinkedIn. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.

Volunteer opportunities

There are many ways for Department of Chemistry alumni to stay involved and help with programs that benefit students, ranging from becoming a mentor to supporting outreach efforts. We have additional information on our volunteer page.