Fall 2018

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CHEMISTRY Winter 2018



Department Chair Jeffrey Johnson A. Ronald Gallant Disinguished Professor jsj25@email.unc.edu Associate Chair for Research Ralph House, Ph.D. rlhouse@email.unc.edu Associate Chair for Business Administration Laura Yurco 919-962-2173 laura_yurco@unc.edu Associate Director of Development Amberly Anne Nardo 919-843-5285 amberly.nardo@unc.edu Newsletter Editor, Designer, and Photographer Lars E. Sahl sahl@email.unc.edu At the Department of Chemistry, we feel strongly that diversity is crucial to our pursuit of academic excellence, and we are deeply committed to creating a diverse and inclusive community. We support UNC’s policy, which “affirms the University’s commitment to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment that is free from discrimination on the basis of age, color, creed, disability, gender, gender expression, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or veteran status.” CONTACT US Department of Chemistry University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Campus Box 3290 Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3290 chemistry@unc.edu 919-843-7100

Our first four Clare Booth Luce Fellows on page 12

WINTER 2018 3 4 6 7 8 10 11 12 13 14 14 15 16 18 20 22 26

TABLE OF CONTENT From the Chair 200 Years of Chemistry - Our Bicentennial New Faculty Letter from the Dean of the College of A&S Teaching Innovation at Carolina Chemistry Letter from the Dean for Natural Sciences Faculty Awards Seokhyoung Kim - Graduate Student Excellence The Executive Team Clare Booth Luce Fellows Redinbo Outstanding Mentor Ribometrix Keeps Growing The Ramsey Research Laboratory Undergrauate Excellence Laboratory of the Future 908 Devices - A Chemistry Spin-Off SAY YES!!

FRONT COVER The Chemistry team right before the annual campus Jingle Bell Jog. BACK COVER Fall scenery on campus



From the Chair


Jeffrey Johnson

A. Ronald Gallant Distinguished Professor; Department Chair

UNC’s first professor of chemistry and mineralogy, Denison Olmsted, arrived on campus in 1818. That event marked the beginning of a two-century story of the department that was commemorated during a two-day celebration that took place the weekend of April 20th and 21st, 2018 in Chapel Hill. You will find more detail of the program inside this issue. Suffice it to say, the event was a wonderful opportunity to welcome alumni and friends back to the department and I invite you to read our synopsis on what has been a true highlight of the year. I have had a lot of fun! In September, I gave the first of what I hope will be an annual “State of the Department” presentation to faculty, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and staff. The event provided the opportunity the update the department on progress in our strategic plan and to publicly recognize our graduate student award winners. When Kevin Guskiewicz assumed the role of Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in January, 2016 - the same time I became chair! - all of the departments in the College were asked to create a strategic plan. The Department of Chemistry used this charge to define our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, and to delineate our values and priorities going forward. It was an extensive and fruitful exercise. I do not want to subject you to every aspect of that process, but I would like to briefly bring into focus on one of our priorities. We teach an amazing and diverse cohort of undergraduate and graduate students. A major long-term goal is for our faculty to better reflect the diversity of students that we instruct. Our three new faculty colleagues that entered the department on July 1, Jeffrey Dick, Abigail Knight, and Sidney Wilkerson-Hill, embrace our values of inclusion and diversity, that will continue to make Carolina Chemistry a welcoming environment where students can thrive. Also, our NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates, REU, grant was renewed this year. The program has supported research opportunities for students from underrepresented groups and resulted in several “alumni” matriculating at UNC for their graduate studies. We know this work constitutes multi-year project, but are excited about what our collective efforts and commitment can mean for our academic community.



CHEMISTRY 200 On April the 20th and 21st, Carolina Chemistry celebrated its Bicentennnial. We filled the Alumni Hall for a wonderful dinner and lunch, and in between, our visiting guests met with students and faculty, visited our new buildings and labs, and met friends from the past. If you were there, you know what a great time we had. If you were not, the images below may show some familiar faces.

New Faculty We are excited to welcome three new members of our faculty! Jeffrey Dick, Sidney Wilkerson-Hill, and Abigail Knight began their appointments on July 1, 2018 and bring their research strengths to challenges in Analytical, Organic, Polymer, and Biological chemistry. Jeffrey E. Dick was born in Muncie, Idiana, in June 1990. After receiving his B.S. from Ball State University, Jeffrey attend-

ed the University of Texas at Austin, where, in 2017, he earned a Ph.D. in electrochemistry, under the mentorship of Allen J. Bard. After Ph.D. studies, Jeffrey studied cell biology as a NIH CORE Postdoctoral Scholar at UT Austin. As an Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Jeffrey has built a research group that is passionate about fundamentally understanding the reactivity of single atoms and clusters as well as how life works at the single cell level.

Abby Knight grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia before attending the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill as an un-

dergraduate student. Here she completed a major in Chemistry with minors in Mathematics and Biology, and pursued bioorganic chemistry research in the lab of Marcey Waters, developing ligands for RNA and DNA structures. Abby then pursued her Ph.D. as a student in the chemical biology program at the University of California, Berkeley in the lab of Matthew Francis. During graduate school Abby developed a combinatorial screening platform for identifying peptoid ligands with the ability to selectively bind metal ions of interest in various applications. Abby’s postdoctoral work at the University of California, Santa Barbara with Craig Hawker focused on developing polymeric materials with unique architectures and both biological and materials applications. In the summer of 2018 Abby returned to UNC to join the Chemistry Department as an assistant professor with research developing materials with the functionality of biological molecules and physical properties of synthetic polymers.

Sidney Wilkerson-Hill was raised in Kinston, North Carolina and conducted undergraduate studies at North Carolina State University. There, he obtained a B.S. in Polymer and Color Chemistry through the College of Textiles, a B.S. in Chemistry through the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa, in 2010.

In 2015, Sidney received his Ph.D. under the supervision of Prof. Richmond Sarpong from the University of California, Berkeley, where his researched focused on using transition metal-catalyzed cycloisomerization reactions to access natural product scaffolds. As a UNCF-Merck postdoctoral fellow with Prof. Huw Davies at Emory University, his research focused on developing cycloaddition reactions using N-sulfonyltriazoles and rhodium tetracarboxylate catalysts for C–H functionalization reactions. Sidney is also actively involved in diversity initiatives such as the Berkeley Science Network, California Alliance, and NOBCChE programs to address disparities facing minorities pursuing careers in the physical sciences.



From the Dean I am honored to be dean of a college that boasts a chemistry department that counts its age in centuries. Last spring, we celebrated Carolina chemistry’s 200th-year mark not merely by lauding our past accomplishments but looking toward the future. Carolina Chemistry’s pathway to excellence started with a vision decades ago: Bring talented faculty here early in their careers, provide them with legendary mentors, a collaborative atmosphere and the resources they need to flourish, and they will go on to accomplish great things. This led to a culture of collaboration that has made Carolina distinctly different, with chemists working alongside engineers, computer scientists, applied mathematicians and physicians to solve real-world problems to the benefit of the state, nation and world. This model has served as the catalyst for our new department of applied physical sciences and has informed the vision for our new Institute for Convergent Science. Chemistry’s ethos is a winning formula that we are working to apply to other disciplines. Collaboration and our common goal of being a university “of the public, for the public” is what sets Carolina apart from its peers. Of course, our chemistry faculty do more than conduct research. They are excellent teachers in the classroom and mentors to the students who will become the next generation of innovators. Chemistry was one of the departments at Carolina that benefited from an AAU grant in recent years to transform large lecture gateway courses in STEM disciplines. We have reinvented the student experience by using what are known as “high-structure active learning” techniques. As we reimagine our General Education curriculum for future generations of undergraduates, we are using these proven-effective techniques.

Kevin M. Guskiewicz, Dean of the College of the Arts & Sciences

Congratulations, once again, to the Department of Chemistry on its 200th anniversary and for being one of the outstanding strengths of Carolina.



Teaching Innovators Published earlier this year in the journal Science, the largest-ever observational study of undergraduate STEM education monitored nearly 550 faculty as they taught more than 700 courses at 25 institutions across the United States and Canada. This analysis of more than 2,000 college classes in science, technology, engineering and math has imparted a lesson that might resonate with many students who sat through them: Enough with the lectures, already! Teaching successful STEM courses now involves a number of different methods, all designed to engage students actively in the learning process. Here at Carolina Chemistry, we are proud to have six very innovative teaching professors, all deeply involved in moving away from the plain lecture model. A few of these great initiatives are described below. Dr. Brian Hogan, Teaching Associate Professor, has spent the last three years reinventing CHEM 431, Macromolecular Structure and Function. Dr. Hogan restructured the course from a traditional lecture to a more inclusive, high structure format where students no longer use textbooks, but rather they are led through the semester honing their skills reading primary literature. This teaching method, known as C.R.E.A.T.E., Consider, Read, Elucidate the hypothesis, Think of the next Experiment, introduces and reinforces important research-related skills. One former student, now a Ph.D. candidate in chemistry at the University of Chicago, wrote Dr. Hogan and stated, “I am currently on my first rotation and aside from my project, I am a part of a team that has been tasked with writing a large literature review on over fifty papers. The reading and organization skills I’ve gained from 431 have proved to be tremendously helpful in navigating the language and structure of these papers in biological and medicinal chemistry. Writing summaries for these readings and pulling out info is much easier since


I have already had exposure to, and experience with using a systematic approach to reading this type of literature.” Dr. Danielle Zurcher and Dr. Joshua Beaver, Teaching Assistant Professors, have been working to extend the department’s initiative to standardize large-enrollment introductory courses with 200-400 students per section, to include the second-year organic chemistry series, CHEM 261 & 262. Standardizing chemistry courses involves coordinating multiple sections, 3 - 4 sections per semester, with different instructors to cover the course topics at roughly the same rate. Students across all sections take common exams and are graded according to the same expectations, giving all students taking the course have a common experience. Danielle and Joshua are building on the documented success of having the General Chemistry sequence, CHEM 101 & 102, successfully standardized for the past three years. This semester, Carribeth Bliem, Teaching Assistant Professor, co-led a presentation to development officers from the University Development Office to demonstrate the active-learning pedagogy in UNC’s first, and to date only, active-learning classroom. Her demonstration enabled staff from Development to experience the advantages of a flexible-use classroom that has moveable furniture, display screens on all walls, and other technology that supports the instructors’ efforts to encourage collaboration among students and engage them with course content on a deeper level. Now that the Development Office has seen a classroom “in action,” they are poised to raise funds dedicated to refurbishing existing classrooms in order to support these instructional efforts. With increasing numbers of chemistry majors each year, the undergraduate advisors Dr. Domenic Tiani, Teaching Associate


Professor, and Dr. Todd Austell, Teaching Professor, are providing our majors with a variety of opportunities. One popular event is the Fall Chemistry Major, a career and opportunity fair, where chemistry majors are able to interact with recruiters from a dozen companies. The students also learn about opportunities in the department, including undergraduate research, and chemistry courses abroad. With the increased interest in chemistry at Carolina, Dr. Danielle Zurcher is being added as an advisor.

Dr. Cheryl Moy, Teaching Assistant Professor, in collaboration with students in the Computer Science Department, is developing a game to help organic chemistry students study the reactions they learn over the course of the semester in a fun and engaging way. “Chemistry against Humanity” is a 4 x 4 card grid in which each of the 16 cards is either a reactant, reagent, or product. Players drag and drop three cards down to a submission space to make a reaction. If the reaction is valid, the player will earn points and new cards populate the empty

Dr. Thomas Freeman, Teaching Assistant Professor, is in his second year as head of the Chancellor Science Scholars. This undergraduate scholarship program, modeled after the nationally recognized Meyerhoff Scholars at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, aims to promote diversity and inclusion in STEM fields, particularly in Ph.D. and M.D. - Ph.D. programs and research One of the classrooms designed for active learning careers. Scholars receive a $10,000 annual scholarship to pursue a STEM B.S. degree and agree to participate in space. Dr. Moy designed the game and in collaboration with required programming, including involvement in undergraduDr. Diane Pozefsky, Research Professor, Comp 585, Serious ate research, attending the Summer EXCELerator immersion Games, students developed the code to digitize the game. The program prior to their first year on campus, and engaging in game was demonstrated late Spring 2018 in Dr. Moy’s Chem leadership development and mentorship activities. CSS utilizes 262 sections and the live leaderboard during play added fun a cohort approach to foster collaboration among scholars, competition as students compete for the highest score. Sturather than competition between them. The program weldents were excited about the prospects of the game to help comed its sixth cohort this year, the largest and most diverse them study. Collaborations like this project benefits students group in program history. and faculty across multiple departments.



Letter from the Senior Associate Dean Of Natural Sciences O

ne of my happy jobs as Senior Associate Dean is to brag about our science programs to stakeholders, donors, and

administrators, and this is easy for me to do when I have a department like Chemistry in the division. The prizes, fellowships, and awards Chemistry receives demonstrate the excellence in teaching and research that the department brings to the sciences at Carolina, and I am grateful for all those contributions. In return, I feel that it is my job to advocate for the resources that Chemistry needs to remain a top-ranked program in the nation, and even to grow in standing.


he department faces many challenges, including aging teaching facilities, retirement of prominent and productive

faculty, enrollment growth in a difficult budget environment, and under-resourced research cores. I am happy to say that because of hard work by chair Jeff Johnson, associate chair Ralph House, and many others to keep me informed and armed with strong strategic plans, and through the support and efforts of Dean Kevin Guskiewicz and Senior Associate Dean Kate Henz, we have been able to begin addressing some of these challenges in the past year.


lsewhere in this newsletter you can read about funding and plans for planned (but very limited) renovation in More-

head Labs. This project will be an experiment to bring a new kind of teaching lab to Chemistry, in support of new modes of instruction like CUREs. This will help bring attention to teaching facilities, and give me new opportunities and tools to advocate for more extensive renovations. To address retirements, the college has been able to allocate a healthy number of new

Distinguished Professor Christopher Clemens with research cores, and authorized matching funds for new equipment proposals. These increases in funding for Chemistry represent a collective vote of confidence in the Chemistry Department and its leadership, and they follow a principle of protecting and growing our strongest programs.


or over two centuries the Chemistry Department has been a leader in the sciences at Carolina and though there is much

more to do, I am gratified to see striking progress in support of the program. I am hopeful that this confidence will be a signal to the many friends of Chemistry who also support the program. Like them, I am confident that investments in the Chemistry Department will be repaid many times over by its academic and research achievements.

faculty lines, including a senior position, and I have been impressed by the candidates that have been brought to campus. We have also been able to stabilize the instructional budget by adding new permanent allocations and paying off some historical overspends. We have also authorized a new Teaching Assistant Professor position to help with growing course loads. Finally, we have added some permanent subsidies to help


J. Christopher Clemens

Senior Associate Dean for Natural Science Jaroslav Folda Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy


Hicks Recognized

Assistant Professor Leslie Hicks, was not only selected to receive this year’s Robert J. Cotter New Investigator Award, given in recognition of her significant achievements in proteomics, broadly defined. Recently, she also learned that the Analytical research and development division at Eli Lilly, picked her to be the recipient of their Young Investigator Award in Analytical Chemistry. This is an unsolicited and unrestricted grant, given to an outstanding young faculty member pursuing analytical chemistry. The grant is for $50,000, which is renewable for a second year. -Congratulations to Leslie!

Dempsey Awarded

Associate Professor Jillian Dempsey continues to garner high caliber awards. This year, she is the recipient of the prestigious ACS Harry Gray Award for Creative Work in Inorganic Chemistry by a Young Investigator. This award is granted granted to an individual who has less than 10 years of experience since their terminal degree, and has demonstrated innovative research in inorganic chemistry broadly defined, which also may include interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary work.

Johnson in AAAS

Our Department Chair, A. Ronald Gallant Distinguished Professor of Chemistry Jeffrey Johnson, has been named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, AAAS, the world’s largest general scientific society. Jeff was recognized for diverse contributions of broad impact to synthetic organic chemistry. He and his team have developed a broad suite of reactions and catalysts, a chemical “toolbox,” that exhibits exciting potential in drug discovery and development. -Congratulations, Jeff!



Seokhyoung Kim Graduate Student Excellence S

eokhyoung Kim grew up in Seoul, South Korea, and entered Pohang University of Science and Technology, POSTECH, in 2005 for undergraduate studies in Chemistry. Shortly after his first year, he took a temporary leave to finish his mandatory military service in the Republic of Korea Army for two years, after which he started his undergraduate research in polymers. In the fall of 2010, Seokhyoung travelled to San Francisco, CA, to spend a year at the University of California at Berkeley as an undergraduate exchange student. There, he joined Professor Rachel Segalman’s group, and performed research on the de-


eokhyoung took a gap year in 2013 to attend Ewha Womans University, one of the most prestigious universities in Korea, as a research associate. Here, under the guidance of Prof. Dong-Ha Kim, he switched his research focus to plasmon-enhanced dye-sensitized solar cells, and perovskite solar cells. After a year there, Seokhyoung received a significant scholarship from the Kwanjeong Foundation, which allowed him to return to America, to join to the Department of Chemistry at UNC and Professor Jim Cahoon’s research group.


The Cahoon Research Group

velopment of ordered-heterojunction solar cell architectures, using rod-coil block copolymers. The time in the Segalman group was a tremendous experience, and the research experience at Berkeley inspired Seokhyoung to further pursue his independent research at the graduate level.


fter graduating with his B.S. in Chemistry, 2012, having developed a deep interest for polymer science, Seokhyoung joined to the Department of Polymer Science and Engineering at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. However, his love for soft polymeric materials did not last. Instead, Seokhyoung became very curious about hard semiconductor materials.


eokhyoung’s prior educational and research experiences in different schools and labs, helped him understand where his true research interests lay, and to find his postgraduate institution. He chose the Department of Chemistry at UNC due to its excellence in research, faculty, diversity, history, openness, and cooperative environment. Finding a home in the Cahoon group, Seokhyoung began his research in designing morphologies in epitaxial silicon nanowires and developing novel nanophotonic properties in nanowire superlattices.


eokhyoung feels that Carolina Chemistry was the ideal home for his graduate research, and loves the quality of people − faculty, postdocs, staff and students − the excellent resources, and facilities, including Chapel Hill Analytical and Nanofabrication Laboratory, CHANL. The open culture here provides him with a learning environment where he feels supported in pursuing investigations into a variety of materials and analytical systems.



rofessor Cahoon has high praise for Seokhyoung, commenting that he “Has made tremendous progress both in understanding how to chemically synthesize complex nanowire structures and in understanding the complex photonic properties of these materials.” Furthermore, he says that Seokhyoung’s research “Combining theoretical modeling and experimental measurement, has shown the unprecedented ways in which these structures can trap, filter, and conduct light at sizes below the wavelength of light.” Finally, Professor Cahoon feel that Seokhyoung “has a bright scientific career ahead of




Our Department Chair would not be able to shoulder his responsibilities as successfully as he does, did he not have the professional and enthusiastic help of his Associate Chairs, Laura Yurco, and Ralph House. Together, the three of them form the executive team, in charge of keeping the complex machinery of our department running smoothly. Laura Yurco currently serves as Associate Chair for Business Administration in the Chemistry department at UNC-Chapel Hill where she uses her financial background and leadership skills on strategic planning, empowering employees, and continuous process improvement. Laura’s ultimate goal is finding ways to reduce administrative burden to allow greater focus on teaching and research.

Seokhyoung Kim



s one of the results of how much Seokhyoung loves it here at Carolina, he was, in November this year, awarded a Graduate Student Award from the Materials Research Society, for discovering a unique light coupling mechanism in nanowire superlattice systems.


oving forward, Seokhyoung feels that everything he has learned here at Carolina Chemistry, will translate into his postdoctoral research in the forthcoming year. He is grateful for the tremendous support from the Cahoon group, the Department of Chemistry, and the University, and he looks forward to the future success in the department’s effort to promote excellence in research, and create positive influences in society.

Ralph House currently serves as Associate Chair for Research in the Chemistry department at UNC-Chapel Hill where he uses his broad scientific background and leadership skill set to focus on team building, research translation, scientific entrepreneurship, and promoting collaboration between multidisciplinary researchers across academia, national labs, industry and non-profit research organizations.



Clare Boothe Luce 2018 Fellows From left to right, graduate students Tiffany Crawford from the Glish lab, Rachel Johnson, Li lab, Breanne Hatfield, Weeks lab, and Jill Williamson with the Leibfarth lab, are the first fellows awarded from the department’s “Clare Boothe Luce” grant. The $300,000 grant for which Associate Professor Jillian Dempsey is the principal investigator and director, supports three new graduate fellowships for women in chemistry at UNC-Chapel Hill. The fourth fellowship is provided by UNC. The fellowships will be used to support and nurture women graduate students who are aspiring to tenure-track academic positions.

Since its first grants in 1989, the Clare Boothe Luce Program has become one of the single most significant sources of private support for women in science, mathematics and engineering. Clare Boothe Luce, the widow of Henry R. Luce, was a playwright, journalist, U.S. Ambassador to Italy and the first woman elected to Congress from Connecticut. In her bequest establishing this program, she sought “to encourage women to enter, study, graduate and teach” in science, mathematics and engineering. Thus far, the program has supported over 2,300 women.

Outstanding Mentor Congratulations to Kenan Distinguished Professor Matthew Redinbo, who has been selected as one of the University’s three Outstanding Mentors for 2018. This prestigious award recognizes a faculty member who has engaged in exceptional mentoring of postdoctoral scholars, as evidenced by, among other things, advocacy for postdoctoral scholars, creating a supportive environment for research, showing respect for the postdoctoral scholars’ goals, and assist them in fulfilling those goals.

Well deserved, Professor Redinbo!




s described in our previous issue, Ribometrix is a UNC and Carolina Chemistry spinout company based, in part, on the research work of Dr. Kevin Weeks. Ribometrix is focused on creating new medicines by finding small molecules that bind to RNA. The idea is revolutionary in that the vast majority of small-molecule drugs developed by scientists to date work by targeting proteins. Many therapeutically important proteins do not contain sites that can be readily bound by drugs. This problem can be circumvented if protein production is reduced or blocked entirely by targeting the RNA that encodes the protein.


ibometrix was founded by Weeks and his former student Dr. Katie Warner. The company was initially supported by federal innovation grants and by funding from the state of North Carolina. Last year, the pair obtained $7.5 million in seed funding that allowed them build out a team to prove that their idea and drug discovery platform will work. During the past year, Ribometrix, which is located in Durham, developed a suite of new technologies and expanded to roughly 15 people including experienced senior leadership. Four current employees at

Ribometrix were formerly students at UNC or were associated with the UNC Chemistry Department. This November, the company successfully raised a much bigger round of funding, $30 million, which will allow Ribometrix to transition from a company that creates enabling technologies to a comprehensive drug discovery company. The number of Ribometrix employees, pictured above, will double in the next year.


ibometrix is focused on neurodegeneration and cancer therapies and now has multiple therapeutic pipelines. The company is also working to develop partnerships with larger, more established pharmaceutical companies with the goal of developing drugs against other disease classes. “The most fulfilling thing has been watching how basic research can be developed with the potential to solve major problems in human health,” said Dr. Warner, and Dr. Weeks noted that, “If we can get our approach to work once, then drug discoverers will believe we can do so multiple times. That is when we will have the opportunity to categorically change the landscape of drug discovery.”



The Ramsey Rese J. Michael, Mike, Ramsey is the Minnie N. Goldby Distinguished

forts included counting single molecules in solution, non-linear

Professor of Chemistry, a faculty member of the Department

spectroscopy for elemental isotopic analysis, and the use of

of Applied Physical Sciences, and the joint UNC-Chapel Hill &

photorefractive elements in laser resonators to augment their

NCSU Department of Biomedical Engineering. He joined Car-

performance. In the late 1980s he became interested in micro-

olina Chemistry in 2004 as an internationally known analytical

machining fluidic circuits to perform chemical and biochemi-

chemist, most notably for his efforts in microfluidics. Ramsey

cal experiments. His first efforts were to implement capillary

is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a Fel-

electrophoresis, CE, experiments on these microfabricated

low of the Optical Society of America, the American Chemical

structures and demonstrated speed advantages of >100x over

Society, and the American Institute for Medical and Biological

conventional instruments while maintaining separative perfor-

Engineering, and has garnered a list of awards too numerous

mance, thus more information per unit time. Ramsey’s foray

to list here. He has focused much of his career on developing technological solutions to important chemical and biological measurement problems and translating his solutions into commercial products that other laboratories can utilize for their research to advance scientific understanding. Mike started his career at Oak Ridge National Laboratory,

“It is the generation of patent portfolios around our technologies that enable their translation as products to society and I view it as a return to the tax payers who support our research...”

ORNL, as a Eugene P. Wigner postdoctoral fellow developing laser-based chemical measurement tools and was then steadi-

into microfluidics led to what became early seminal patents in

ly promoted through the scientific ranks to reach the highest

the field and were the basis for his first company, Caliper Life

level of Corporate Research Fellow. His ORNL group’s early ef-

Sciences; acquired by PerkinElmer in 2011. The products based



earch Laboratory upon these Ramsey patents are extensively used in the life sci-

nately been largely relegated to the laboratory making remote

ences and biotechnology sector.

measurements difficult. There has been a desire to shrink mass spectrometry tools for many decades, with little success

After the move to Carolina Chemistry Mike’s research group

breaking the 30-pound size level. Members of the Ramsey

focused on micro- and nano-fabrication of devices to gather

group invented a new form of MS high pressure mass spec-

chemical and biochemical information, with a strong emphasis

trometry, HPMS, that operates at vacuum pressures that are a

on bioanalysis; leaving the laser-based efforts with colleagues

thousand to a million times higher than conventional MS. High

who stayed behind at ORNL. His group has been divided into

pressure operation is possible due the microscale mass ana-

four subgroups with each focused on a different problem;

lyzer components. Operation at high pressures allows signifi-

microfluidic separations technology, microfluidic-based di-

cant reduction in the vacuum pumping system to enable the

agnostic devices, nanofluidics for characterizing DNA, and

world’s first handheld MS tools. This technology has been spun

microscale mass spectrometry, MS. “After the move to UNC I

out into another company, 908 Devices Inc., to solve important

decided that I should focus my efforts on challenging problems,

field measurement problems for the military, law enforcement,

solutions to which in the form of new technologies can address

first responder, et cetera, as reported elsewhere in this news-

societal needs, matching my interests in translating laboratory


successes to commercial products,” says Mike. Another portion of the Ramsey group has continued efforts For example, MS is arguably the most powerful chemical anal-

on improving the microchip CE devices first demonstrated by

ysis tool available. It has high sensitivity for detecting trace

his group in the early 1990s. Electrospray ionization, a meth-

levels of materials and is chemical information rich, allowing

od for moving solution phase molecules into the gas phase for

the identification of the materials of interest. MS has unfortu-

MS analysis, has been efficiently incorporated into their CE

Continued on page 25



Kristen Gardner - Undergraduate Excellence Kristen Gardner is a senior Chemistry, B.S., major, and Chancellor’s Science Scholar who has been fascinated with chemistry since high school because it is logical, involves problem-solving, and, as she puts it, is “a beautiful science that helps explain how the universe works.” During her first year, the Chancellor’s Science Scholars program, CSS, helped change her perspective on how she could pursue chemistry research as a profession. In her words, “I am passionate about research because it allows me to apply fundamental concepts to solve problems in science, and I am fascinated by organic chemistry because it requires combining fundamentals with my intuition of how molecules interact with each other to synthesize a completely new compound.” Kristen is currently applying to Ph.D. programs in chemistry, where she hopes to develop methodology to create new synthetic tools for natural product synthesis that will advance the field of organic chemistry.

applies this methodology to a system of palladium pincer complexes to help understand the effect of cations in solution on olefin isomerization reactions, and is “a good mix of inorganic synthesis and organometallic catalysis.”

At the start of her sophomore year, Kristen began working in the Associate Professor Alexander Miller’s research group at Carolina Chemistry. Research in the Miller lab focuses on organometallic chemistry relevant to catalysis and energy transformations. The previous semester she took Professor Miller’s inorganic chemistry class, CHEM 251, and not only did Kristen enjoy learning about organometallic catalysis, but she also wanted to obtain skills important in synthetic chemistry. According to Kristen, “over 85% of chemicals produced by industry involve catalysts and because of this, an important goal of chemists is to create better and more efficient catalysts.” The Miller Lab specializes in using simple cations to tune the activity and selectivity of organometallic catalysts. Kristen’s project

Asked for his comment, Professor Miller says the following, “Kristen approaches research with a burst of enthusiasm and a positive outlook, and this attitude is infectious. Beyond the lab, Kristen has made a remarkable impact on undergraduate science at Carolina, from her leadership and mentorship within the Chancellor’s Science Scholars program to her founding of a UNC chapter of NOBCCHe.” NOBCCHe is the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers.


Kristen counts her time in the Miller Group as both a positive and rewarding experience. When she started in the lab, she was given her own complex to synthesize, and from the very beginning, she has always had her own project. Additionally, she has been “really fortunate to have such a supportive and encouraging mentor” in Dr. Miller. “I have a fantastic mentor who has been patient with me and extremely encouraging during my time in the lab. Professor Miller is extremely encouraging when it comes to everything—my research project, program and scholarship applications, my STEM outreach efforts with the UNC Chapter of NOBCChE, et cetera” says Kristen.

In October this year, Kristen received a travel award to attend

Continued on page 22


From the Chair Continued from page 3 University environments are exciting in part because they are continually in a state of flux. Undergraduate and graduate students arrive on campus, and before we know it, they are setting flight into the world to make their mark. The arc of a faculty member is longer, but we still marvel at where the time went. Last month we came together as a department to commemorate the careers, at the onset of their retirements, of three remarkable colleagues: Tom Meyer, Royce Murray, and Ed Samulski. The statistics associated with their chemical accomplishments are truly staggering: over 100,000 total citations, a “collective” h-index of nearly 300, and innumerable national and international awards. These numbers tell only a fraction of the story. The impact of their scholarship is remarkable, spanning energy science to electrochemistry to polymer science, but perhaps even more impressive is the development and cultivation of young scientists in their laboratories who have gone on to do amazing things. It is also true that the Department of Chemistry would be a much different place, dramatically for the worse, in the absence of the leadership that this trio exhibited over the span of their careers. The service that they have given to the university, as department chairs, deans, vice chancellors, and in their advocacy for the dramatically improved facilities that we now in enjoy surely will be hallmarks of their time in the department. I learn something every time I talk to any of them and wish them the very best in their next adventures. Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention two “macro” events that have made the national press and impact the Carolina Chemistry community. As you probably know at this point, in August the Confederate monument was toppled from its pedestal in McCorkle Place. Forty-one department chairs in the College of Arts and Sciences, including me, wrote a letter to Chancellor Folt strongly opposing the return of the Confederate monument to McCorkle Place or any prominent location on campus. We concluded that “The values that the statue represents

are inherently opposed to the principles of light and liberty that guide the educational mission of UNC Chapel Hill.” The Board of Governors has asked Chancellor Folt to provide a plan for the monument by November 15. The complexities around this issue are virtually limitless, but it is clear that the toppling of the statue and the BOG request has catalyzed many important conversations on campus that are continuing at this writing. Second, while Chapel Hill was largely, although not completely, spared the damages of Hurricanes Florence and Michael, many of our students and their families have been impacted. The devastation on the eastern part of the state has been terrible. For example, our colleagues in Chemistry at UNC Wilmington suffered great destruction and it may be years before they are able to rebound to pre-Florence conditions. At this writing, we in Chapel Hill are trying to identify ways that we can assist in their recovery and UNC Chapel Hill as a whole has been proactive in providing resources to help assist students who have been impacted by the hurricane. On a more personal note, I would like to share the news that I have agreed to extend my term as department chair for an additional year, until June 30, 2020. There is much to be done. I would like to thank everyone who has supported the department and supported me since I was asked to take this position in autumn 2015. It has been a challenging, yet rewarding experience, and I look forward to what we can accomplish in the upcoming months.



Laboratory of Coming to Carolina Chemistry... Over the past 20 years, Morehead Labs has seen tremendous progress in instructional innovation. Since the building first opened in 1986, thousands of students have walked through its doors and benefited from the best Carolina Chemistry has to offer in undergraduate laboratory education. Today, more than 5,000 students from across the university are enrolled in undergraduate chemistry lab courses annually.

The Lab of the Future represents our vision for next generation undergraduate chemistry research pedagogy at UNC Chapel Hill... Lab courses are being created and redesigned to foster collaboration among our students. Coursebased Undergraduate Research Experiences, CUREs, are a new platform that enable students to design experiments and learn skills to tackle cutting-edge research questions. This is real research, not step-by-step procedures in lab manuals that have been performed by thousands of students before. Besides answering novel questions, a CURE has four other characteristics: 1, there are chances for students to fail and try again; 2, students take ownership of their project; 3, there is meaningful collaboration with peers; and 4, students communicate their findings outside the classroom.


Effective twenty-first century teaching requires updated facilities. Through $1M support from the College of Arts & Sciences, the Lab of the Future is being designed to align with the learning and teaching environment of today’s chemistry labs. Key features include: • Collaboration stations that accommodate student groups • Maximized sight lines throughout the space • Ventilation stations for each student pair designed to accommodate a digital notebook • Windows between the classroom and the corridor to maximize natural light and make chemistry more accessible, not something that is hidden away • 90” multimedia display for instructor use • 70” multimedia displays around the perimeter for student collaboration • Removable digital tablet control panel in wall with docking station • Flexible exhaust capabilities for future instrumentation The Lab of the Future represents our vision for next generation undergraduate chemistry research pedagogy at UNC Chapel Hill. Plans are still in early stages, but the path forward is one we cannot walk alone. The support of our alumni and friends will be critical to success and we look forward to working together to maintain UNC Chemistry’s national leadership in undergraduate chemistry education.


the Future

Architectural renderings, envisioning the laboratory of the future.




“Mass Spec for the Masses,” with technology developed at Carolina Chemistry Dr. J. Michael Ramsey, the scientific founder of 908 Devices Inc., the Goldby Distinguished Professor here at Carolina Chemistry, has a long history in pioneering the technologies that currently power Boston-based 908 Devices’ commercial products. He began to explore microfluidic structures for capillary electrophoresis in the ‘90s, which launched the miniaturization theme of his research group at UNC. His team focuses extensively on utilizing micro- and nanofabrication strategies to create devices that gather chemical and biochemical information.

Prior to the founding of 908 Devices, Mike was the Science Founder of Caliper Technologies, later renamed Caliper Life Sciences and acquired by PerkinElmer in 2011. The technologies and products the company commercialized were based on his foundational work in microfluidics. During 2011, a common interest and Mike’s groundbreaking work on the miniaturization of mass spectrometry connected him with Dr. Kevin J. Knopp, now CEO at 908 Devices, and Dr. Christopher D. Brown, now CTO at 908 Devices, and soon after 908 Devices was born.

Shifting the Core Lab Paradigm

“Interest in small, portable mass spectrometers has been around for well over three decades. Some might find it surprising that even though my basic training is not in mass spectrometry, my team was the first to figure out that if you cannot make the pumps smaller, you need to operate at higher pressures. Making that leap is a paradigm shift in mass spectrometry. I am not sure that we as a community understand yet how powerful it is,” says Mike.

J. Michael Ramsey,

Goldby Distinguished Professor at Carolina Chemistry

MX908™ leverages high-pressure mass spectrometry to deliver dramatically enhanced sensitivity and broader threat category coverage.

Dr. Scott Miller, Dr. Kevin Knopp, Dr. Michael Ramsey, Dr. Chris Brown, Michael Jobin, Steve Araiza, and Andy Bartfay; the leadership and founder team at 908 devices. Traditionally, mass spectrometers are operated in a core lab and users submit samples; this holds true in both forensics and biopharma labs. Then the waiting begins, sometimes weeks or months for answers. The aim of 908 Devices is to create products that give users immediate at-hand answers to particular questions. Think of a response team on the scene of a suspected chemical attack and the pressing need for immediate confirmation. Or, the needs of research biologists to monitor chemical interactions in cancer cells at the workbench for better biopharmaceutical drug development. The company’s tools are designed to disrupt common, but antiquated, workflows for better and more immediate outcomes.

the point of need at the push of a button. The devices are now deployed globally and protect communities across the United States. The second-generation tool, MX908TM, took on an even broader range of applications and is now on the forefront helping responders battle the recent opioid crisis.

A Novel Approach to Biologic Discovery The technology that powers 908 Devices’ ZipChipTM separations platform is also based on microfluidics technology invented in the 1980s and innovated by Mike and his team, here at Carolina Chemistry.

Mass Spec for the Masses Within the past decade we have seen the successful miniaturization of traditionally lab-bound spectrometry devices, such as Raman, Fourier-Transfer Infrared, FTIR, and Ion Mobility, IMS. And now, thanks to Mike’s development of High-Pressure Mass Spectrometry TM, HPMS, we can add Mass Spectrometry to that list. These advanced technologies for chemical detection and identification have been packaged in handheld form factors weighing less than 5 pounds making them rugged and easy to carry and use.

The First 908 908 Devices’ flagship product, called M908TM, rolled off the shelves in March 2014. Designed as the first handheld tool using HPMS, the 4-pound devices enabled military teams, first responders and civilian users like firefighters to identify and detect chemical weapons and toxic industrial compounds at

The ZipChipTM platform uses cutting-edge microfluidic technology to integrate capillary electrophoresis, CE, and electrospray ionization, ESI, onto each chip.

Continued on page 23



Kristen Gardner - Undergraduate Excellence Continued from page 16 the 2018 Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science, SACNAS, National Diversity in STEM conference in San Antonio, Texas. As she describes it, “Going to this conference was absolutely amazing and what I loved most was being surrounded by so many diverse scientists. At SACNAS, I got to hear research talks about diabetes, hummingbirds, and the synthesis of small molecule nucleases for miniature genome editors.” At the conference, Kristen presented the palladium chemistry that she has been working on in the Miller Group and received an Outstanding Presentation award in inorganic chemistry. Furthermore, she got to network with graduate students and other undergraduate researchers from across the US. Kristen also attended a Graduate School and Career Expo there, where she was able to gain information about applying, and about student experiences in various graduate programs. She even spoke with the president of the American Chemical Society! But what she loved most about the conference was

“that everyone at the conference was an advocate for diversity in STEM. We all came from different backgrounds and cultures and SACNAS emphasizes culture so much. There was a Native American Pow-wow. The first day of the conference was on National Coming Out Day, and we celebrated the LGBTQ community. We got to hear from the first Hispanic woman in space.” Kristen was truly inspired by the people she met at the conference. She hopes to not only become a research chemist, but also to have an impact on future scientists and make the importance of diversity known in STEM. “We were reminded that science is HUMAN and that WHO we are affects the science that we do. That our stories matter. And this only scratches the surface of the beauty and appreciation of diversity in sciences. I was given an amazing opportunity to not only witness amazing science but meet the future diverse leaders of the STEM field.”

Miles for Wellness

This year over 60 faculty, staff, and Chemistry students participated in the State Employees Miles for Wellness challenge 18: The Trail of Amusing Museums, as a part of the statewide Move More initiative. It was an eight week challenge that had a delayed start after Hurricane Florence blew through the area but this did not delay the competitive spirits. This cross collaborative participation allowed us not only to focus on our physical health but also expand our competitive spirits outside of science. Overall the teams stepped over 30 million steps or 17,000 miles. We celebrate our health and the cameraderie this endeavor brought about.



The Ramsey Research Laboratory Continued from page 17 chips. With the addition of some novel surface modification

A fourth segment of the Ramsey group is developing next gen-

techniques, these microdevices enable the first integrated and

eration nucleic acid and protein assay tools for biological re-

rapid strategy for comprehensive characterization of biothera-

search and clinical diagnostics. These assay tools allow nucleic

peutic materials. These approximately 150,000 Dalton geneti-

acids and proteins to be quantified digitally using massively par-

cally engineered molecules are the most exciting drugs being

allel arrays, 10,000s to millions, of polymerase chain reactions,

developed today and they present an extremely challenging

PCR. A single nucleic acid molecule or single protein molecule

chemical analysis problem that has to be addressed to deliver

in any one reaction can be detected, allowing the molecules to

a safe product to the consumer. These miniature high-perfor-

be counted. The technology also allows many molecules in a

mance separations devices match up well with compact MS

reaction well to be quantified using the well-known technique

solutions and have also become a commercial product through

of quantitative PCR. Thus, the group members achieve great

908 Devices.

detection limits with huge linear dynamic range, >108. The system also has the ability to monitor many different molecules

The Ramsey group has also been working on an unmet need

simultaneously, multiplexing of 10s to 1000s. The group mem-

in the determination of genetic variation. Namely, the ability to

bers believe that such a system will be useful in personalized

access long range genetic variations such as structural vari-

and next generation medical care by allowing the rapid charac-

ants, SVs, that involve contiguous segments of the genome

terization of many biomarkers in point-of-care settings. Mike is

that range from 50 bases to megabases in length. Next gen-

currently working on making this his fourth spin-out company!

eration sequencing, NGS, has a very short view of the genome,

Mike is a strong believer in the generation of intellectual prop-

approximately 100 bases, so it is blind to these long-range vari-

erty as well as peer-reviewed publications. He and his group

ations. The researchers in the Ramsey group have been devel-

members are inventors on over 120 issued patents with over

oping nanofluidic devices that characterize single large DNA

20 pending patents. “It is the generation of patent portfolios

molecules, 10,000 bases to whole chromosomes, that provide

around our technologies that enable their translation as prod-

the long-range view needed to observe SVs. SVs are thought

ucts to society and I view it as a return to the tax payers who

to make up a greater fraction of human genetic variation than

support our research,” he says.

short range variants such as single nucleotide polymorphisms, SNPs, and the former are believed to be relevant to human

The Ramsey laboratory has been supported by nine different

diversity and disease susceptibility. Ramsey’s third company,

NIH institutes, DARPA, DTRA, DOE, NASA, and others, while at

Genturi Inc., is working to advance this UNC developed technol-

Carolina Chemistry.

ogy to enable rapid and low-cost access to long-range genetic variation.





The “Say Yes” fund in Chemistry allows the Department Chair to say “YES” to special and often urgent requests from faculty and students for small amounts of support, which contribute greatly to their research and education. Even your smallest gift will make a tremendous difference in the Chair’s ability to support our outstanding faculty and students. Please follow the link below to help our Chair say “YES!” Your continued support is greatly appreciated. Thank you!



Give to Chemistry! 908devices Continued from page 21

Demands for speed, accuracy, and throughput in mass-spectrometry based biomolecular analysis are currently challenged by the diversity of analyte types, concentration dynamic range, and sample matrix complexity. With the ZipChipTM separations platform, researchers can easily and rapidly perform complex sample analysis in biological R&D by simply connecting the device to an existing mass spectrometry instrument. This enhancement is accelerating the pace and productivity of the biopharmaceutical and biotech development process, from the discovery and development of biotherapeutics all the way through to production and product QA/QC.

A Democratized Future

My name is Amberly Nardo, class of 2014, and I am thrilled to be working with Chemistry on behalf of the College of Arts and Sciences Foundation, to help the department accomplish its goals. In my role, I work with fellow UNC alumni and friends of the University to raise private funding that allows the department to make strategic improvements as well as provide direct student support. With many exciting projects on the horizon, private philanthropy has and will continue to play a critical role in the department’s ability to maintain its stature of excellence.

Since the doors of 908 Devices opened in 2012, a lot has transpired. The HPMS-based MX908TM and M908TM field forensic platforms have been well received by law enforcement, first responders and military personnel around the world. HPMS technology continues to perform well under rigorous testing and is being further developed for additional field forensic applications. The company is also exploring the combination of HPMS and microfluidics for a new wave of life science applications. 908 Devices has also been honored with several awards for innovation in technology development and product design. “We have a solid foundation in Mike’s work from UNC,” said Dr. Kevin J. Knopp, President and CEO of 908 Devices. “The innovation coming out of Mike’s lab continues to give us an edge to create radically different solutions for our point-of-need mission: designing simple tools for end users.”

For gift options, including multi-year pledges, stock donations or planned gifts, please do not hesitate to contact me. I hope to meet many of you in the year ahead. Sincerely,

Amberly Nardo Assistant Director of Development The Arts and Sciences Foundation 919-843-5285 amberly.nardo@unc.edu



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