Grace Han Receives Young Investigator Award

Grace HanGrace Han, Landsman Assistant Professor of Chemistry, has received a young investigator research program award from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR). The award will support her research on the optically-controlled catalyst recycling for 3 years.

Catalysis is one of the core processes in chemical industry and essential for achieving many products critical to the Department of Defense’s mission – from medicines to counter threats, to radiation-resistant polymeric coatings, and advanced fuels for aircraft. Catalysts are the key components that serve to improve reaction rates and product yields, and these costly compounds are generally disposed after one use. Various concepts for catalyst recycling, particularly using fluorous biphasic systems, have been developed to achieve cost-effective and sustainable synthetic procedures. However, the heating and cooling steps employed in the recycling process are only compatible with a limited scope of reactions and solvents.

To address this challenge, the Han group is developing a new class of biphasic catalysts that are optically activated, or precipitated, at a constant temperature by the incorporation of a photoswitch unit in the catalyst structure. Photoswitches are novel organic molecules that respond to light by changing their shape and physical properties including polarity. The significant shape and polarity change of the photoswitch unit will drastically change the solubility of catalysts in an organic solvent, which regulates the activity and recovery of catalysts. This new method of catalyst recycling is anticipated to reduce the costs as well as environmental impact of the conventional use of catalysts in various industries.

Lachman & Brandeis participating in multi-site Center for AI-technology to support aging in place

Margie LachmanThe National Institute on Aging has funded a new Center, the Massachusetts AI and Technology Center for Connected Care in Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease (MassAITC) for $20 million over 5 years. Based at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, it also includes investigators from Brigham and Women’s and Massachusetts General Hospitals, Northeastern University, and Brandeis University. Margie E. Lachman, the Minnie and Harold Fierman Professor of Psychology, is the PI of the Center’s Aging Pilot Core. This Pilot core will fund several pilot grants each year. Lachman is also director of the Lifespan Lab and the Boston Roybal Center at Brandeis.

The MassAITC focuses on  the development, validation, and translation of AI and technologies to bridge the information gap between patients, caregivers, and clinicians to support successful aging at home. The Pilot program will focus on testing technology solutions that address key risk factors facing older adults such as obesity, high blood pressure, sleep disorders, depression, loneliness, anxiety, falls, and a sedentary lifestyle. Technology-based interventions are a promising way to improve quality of life, enhance individual choices, reduce caregiver stress, and cut healthcare costs in older adults.

Additionally, Lachman recently received the Distinguished Mentorship in Gerontology Award from the Gerontological Society of America. This award is given to an individual who has fostered excellence in, and had a major impact on, the field by virtue of their mentoring, and whose inspiration is sought by students and colleagues.

Chemistry alum receives the Volvo Environmental Prize 2021

Photo: Yale School of Public Health

Paul Anastas, MA’87, PhD’90, aka the “Father of Green Chemistry,” has received the Volvo Environmental Prize for 2021. This award is given annually to those who have made “outstanding innovations or scientific discoveries, which in broad terms fall within the environmental field.” In Volvo’s press release, the prize jury stated that the research of Paul Anastas “is revolutionizing the chemical industry, a key contribution to meeting the sustainability challenge”.

Over the course of his career, Anastas has worked as a staff chemist at the Environmental Protection Agency, served as an advisor in the Obama White House and co-authored the book 12 Principles of Green Chemistry This book is used by high school, college and graduate students around the world. He is currently the director of Yale University’s Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering.

He received the 2012 Alumni Achievement Award from Brandeis.

Anastas did his graduate work in synthetic organic chemistry in the lab of the late Robert Stevenson, Professor Emeritus. He earned his B.S. in chemistry from the University of Massachusetts Boston and his M.A. and Ph.D. in chemistry from Brandeis University.

Drew Weissman ’81, MA ’81 Receives the Lasker Award

Drew WeissmanKatalin Karikó and Drew Weissman ’81, MA ’81 have received the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award. Weissman is a professor of medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Karikó is a senior vice president at BioNTech RNA Pharmaceuticals. The Lasker award is in recognition of their research into messenger RNA and the resulting therapeutic technology. It was their work that was so crucial in the rapid development of the COVID-19 vaccines. It should be noted that many winners of the Lasker award go on to receive the Nobel Prize.

Weissman and Kariko also received the Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Basic Medical Research award earlier this year.

The Washington Post profiled Weissman and his work in a recent article, “A scientific hunch. Then silence. Until the world needed a lifesaving vaccine.”

View Lasker acceptance remarks from Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman.

 

 

Brandeis Alumnus Receives Breakthrough Prize

Drew WeissmanBrandeis alumnus, Drew Weissman, ’81, MA ’81, P’15 along with Katalin Karikó have been awarded the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences.  Weissman and Karikó received the Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Basic Medical Research from Brandeis earlier this year.

While the Breakthrough Prize is considered the world’s largest science prize at $3 million, it is one of the many awards that Weissman and Kariko have been receiving as a result of their decades of research into mRNA therapies. It is this research that has led to the innovative COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.

After earning his BA and MA degrees from Brandeis, Weissman went on to receive his PhD in Immunology from Boston University in 1987. He did a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institutes of Health under Anthony Fauci. He is now a professor at University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.

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Gieseking Receives NSF CAREER Award

Figure from Rebecca GiesekingRebecca Gieseking, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, has received an NSF CAREER award from the Chemical Theory, Models and Computational Methods program. This award will enable her research group to develop computational models that provide chemical understanding of how light interacts with metal nanoclusters.

Harnessing solar energy is crucial to reduce humanity’s dependence on fossil fuels and alleviate the environmental impact of our ever-increasing demand for energy. Noble metal nanoclusters containing tens to hundreds of metal atoms have the potential to revolutionize solar energy technologies by harnessing light to produce chemical fuels. These nanoclusters strongly absorb light because they support plasmons, which are collective oscillations of the electrons. Understanding, controlling, and manipulating the plasmon properties is key to improving the efficiency of solar energy storage.

Rebecca has shown that efficient computational models can accurately model the light absorption of metal nanocluster, and her group is now extending these models to understand the decay processes after metal nanoclusters absorb light. They are using these models to understand how these decay processes change as a function of nanocluster size, shape, and composition to design metal nanoclusters with controllable decay time scales for efficient solar energy storage.

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