Chemistry Professors Receive Numerous Grants

Jennifer Swift, YuYe Tong, Richard Weiss, Jong-in Hahm, and Timothy Warren are among the chemistry professors who have received grants within the last year. 

June 2, 2015—Georgetown’s Department of Chemistry is home to 17 active research groups and approximately 100 undergraduate chemistry and biochemistry majors, as well as Ph.D. students, postdoctoral researchers, and research scientists. Since last summer, numerous chemistry faculty members have received grants to support research in a variety of areas.

Associate Professor Jennifer Swift and her co-principal investigators, Department Chair YuYe Tong and Professor Richard Weiss, jointly submitted a proposal last year to the National Science Foundation (NSF) with Associate Professors Edward Van Keuren and Paola Barbara from the Department of Physics. The proposal, “Acquisition of an Integrated Raman Microscopy Instrument,” outlined Georgetown’s needs for a Raman spectroscope/microscope for teaching and research. Raman spectroscopy is a technique that involves shining a monochromatic light source (such as a laser) on a sample to detect scattered light (known as “Raman scattering”). The results provide information about molecular vibrations that can be used for sample identification and quantitation. In June 2014, the NSF’s Chemistry Division awarded the project $196,444. With 30 percent matching funds provided by Georgetown College, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the Office of the Provost, the chemistry department, the physics department, and the Soft Matter Institute, this grant enabled the department of chemistry to purchase a state-of-the-art Raman microscope with four lasers.  

Associate Professor Jong-in Hahm received $405,000 in July 2014 from the Macromolecular, Supramolecular, and Nanochemistry Program of the NSF’s Chemistry Division to support her project, “Understanding nanoscale characteristics of protein self-assembly on polymeric surfaces with multiscale chemical heterogeneity." Hahm’s research for the project seeks to advance the understanding of the phenomenon of protein adsorption onto polymer surfaces. The process of protein adsorption onto solid surfaces impacts essential everyday applications in food processing/packaging, health devices, diagnostic tools, and medical products. Hahm’s research aims to narrow the nanoscale-macroscale gap and promote our understanding of nanoscale protein adsorption through combined experimental and theoretical approaches. The grant is projected to last through July 2017.

YuYe Tong also received a grant in July 2014 from the Macromolecular, Supramolecular, and Nanochemistry Program of the NSF’s Chemistry Division. The $490,00 award supports a research partnership between Tong and Dr. Thomas Allison at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Their project, “On Heavier Chalcogen (Se and Te) Interfacial Chemistry and Charge Transfer in Monolayer-Protected Metal Nanoparticles,” focuses on gaining a better understanding of the structural parameters that govern the properties of metal nanoparticles—metal particles of very small (nanometer scale) dimensions. The goal is to harness the novel properties of nanoparticles for practical applications (such as electronic or optical devices, biomedical diagnosis, and drug delivery). The project also provides interdisciplinary research opportunities to students, training them to use state-of-the-art instruments for studying nanoparticles. Tong and Allison hope to attract more women and underrepresented students to STEM fields—something Tong already focuses on through Georgetown's partnership with the Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools in Southeast Washington, DC. There, he helps develop new chemistry curricula for students from underrepresented groups and low-income families. Tong and Allison’s award is estimated to last until August 2017.

Vorisek Professor Timothy Warren received renewed funding in August 2014 from the NSF’s Chemistry of Life Sciences program for his project, “Nitric Oxide Signaling Chemistry at Non-Heme Sites.” The continuous grant, estimated to last until August 2017, supports Warren’s efforts to outline the bioinorganic chemistry of nitric oxide at models of copper and zinc enzymes. Nitric oxide, a gas generated in biological systems, serves as a molecular messenger to regulate blood pressure, enhance blood flow, participate in heart and lung health, and help nerves communicate. Warren’s study focuses on the discrete molecular pathways by which these species form and interconvert to gain a deeper understanding of nitric oxide's role as a messaging molecule. The project offers opportunities to graduate, undergraduate, and high school students, and also includes outreach to younger students.

YuYe Tong received funding in March 2015 for another project from the United States Army Research Office (ARO), which serves as the Army’s premier extramural basic research agency in the engineering, physical, information and life sciences. The project, “Parsing the New Chemistry of Methanol and Formic Acid Oxidation Reactions on Pt-based Electrocatalysts by in situ Spectroelectrochemistry and Density Functional Theory,” will receive $450,000 over the next three years. This funding, as well as additional support from the NSF and the Department of Energy (Basic Energy Sciences), further supports Tong’s research projects in clean energy generation and storage.

Additional work by Jong-in Hahm was recognized in May 2015 by the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) New Directions Grants Program, which supports projects that differ from the lead principal investigator’s previous research. Hahm’s submission, "Micro/Nanoscopic Investigation of ZnO towards the Development of Next-Generation Separation Platforms” was recommended for funding by the ACS Petroleum Research Fund Advisory Board for $110,000 over two years.

—Melissa Nyman

Related information

Additional recognitions for the department of chemistry include:

Carina Minard, a fourth-year graduate student from Professor Kaveh Jorabchi's group, was selected to attend the 2015 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau, Germany, as a member of the U.S. delegation. The NSF sponsors the highly competitive award, and annual meetings of Nobel Laureates in chemistry, physiology or medicine and in physics have been held since 1951. This is the second time over the last two years that a doctoral student from department has been selected for this honor; Katy Sherlach, from Professor Paul Roepe’s lab, was selected in 2013.

Alumnus Peng Zhang (G’13) was the recipient of this year’s Harold N. Glassman Dissertation Award from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. (Eligible dissertations were those written by students whose Ph.D. was awarded between July 2013 and May 2014.) A former member of Georgetown’s Wolf Group, Zhang was recognized for his dissertation, “Synthesis of Organofluorine Compounds and Chirality Sensing with Tropos Ligands.” He received the award at the graduate commencement ceremony on May 15.

 For more updates and announcements, visit the department’s news site