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Faculty Updates

The faculty in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the College of Charleston wish you all a Happy New Year! The department continues to thrive in our new space at 202 Coming Street in the School of Science and Math Building (SSMB). At the moment, however, we are a little more cramped than usual, as we share space with the Biology Department during the renovation of the Rita Hollings Science Center. Nonetheless, the SSMB building has allowed our research programs to flourish and has helped attract many talented new faculty members to our program. Sadly, in recent years we have lost two beloved chemistry professors, Dr. Frank Kinard and Dr. Gary Asleson, both to cancer. We celebrated the retirements of Dr. Marion Doig, Dr. Charles Beam, and Dr. Henry Donato. We also said goodbye to Dr. Justin Wyatt, who left us to pursue a new career in academic publishing. To better acquaint you with the new faculty members we have added over the past five years, we are providing a brief biography below. 

Dr. Jay Forsythe-Bioanalytical Chemistry (PhD Vanderbilt, Post-doc Georgia Tech) studies origins of life questions, such as the early emergence of polymers with structure and function (RNA, DNA, protein, etc.). This step is known as “chemical evolution,” and would have taken place before Darwinian evolution. Although Darwin never addressed chemical evolution in his book On the Origin of Species, he did write the following in a letter to a friend some years later: “…if (and oh what a big if) we could conceive in some warm little pond with all sort of ammonia and phosphoric salts, –light (sic), heat, electricity present, that a protein compound was chemically formed, ready to undergo still more complex changes…” Dr. Forsythe’s research focuses on precisely this:  How did peptides (and, eventually, proteins) form on the prebiotic Earth, before the first living objects? Using simple chemistry and a “warm little pond” of water, Dr. Forsythe and his students look to make mixtures of peptide-like molecules and to characterize them using a combination of analytical techniques.

Dr. Michael Giuliano-Bioorganic Chemistry (PhD Wisconsin, Post-doc Yale) started in Fall 2015.  He is teaching organic chemistry and initiating a research program in bioorganic chemistry. He hopes to determine the NMR structures of three families of neuropeptides: the endogenous opioids, the orexins, and the galanins. These are small, non-hormonal signaling peptides and little is known about how they interface with their biological targets in the synapses where these peptides function. 

Dr. Kate Mullaugh-Mullaugh Lab 2016Environmental Chemistry (PhD Delaware, Post-doc University of North Carolina at Wilmington) came to us from Elon University in Fall 2014. She is developing course modules in environmental sustainability and contributing to the general chemistry and analytical chemistry programs. The Mullaugh lab researches the environmental implications of the increased use of nanotechnology. Because of their small size and unique properties, the behavior of nanomaterials in natural waters can be difficult to anticipate. To better address this uncertainty the Mullaugh lab is developing novel analytical strategies and laboratory experiments in order to understand the various changes nanoparticles may undergo in the environment.

Dr. Tim Barker-Organic Chemistry Barker Lab 2016(PhD UC Irvine, Post-doc Scripps Research Institute) joined the faculty in Fall 2013. He explores synthetic methodologies and is currently teaching Chem 371, Advanced Synthesis and Characterization, using a “drug discovery” theme.  Dr. Barker develops new transition metal-catalyzed organic reactions.  His lab is particularly interested in C-N bond-forming reactions. They are working on several reactions to produce alkyl isocyanates, both regioselectively and enantioselectively.

Dr. Neal Tonks-Organic Chemistry (PhD Georgia Tech) joined the faculty officially in Fall 2012 after a long career in industry. He previously served as Vice President of Production of Dorlastan fibers at the Bayer Corporation. As a member of the faculty, he has helped establish new connections to area industry, working with students on projects in collaboration with Kemira and Innovative Resource Management. He launched a new Industrial Chemistry course, in which students collaborate on authentic industrial research questions. He is also reworking the Chem 101 curriculum to place more emphasis on the societal impact of chemistry.

Dr. Jennifer Fox-Biochemistry (PhD UNC, Post-doc Utah) joined the faculty in Fall 2012.  Her research explores the function and mechanism of enzymes important for biological processes and for human health.  She has recently published research results pertaining to the function of two proteins, Cox15 and Pet117, in the assembly of the mitochondrial electron transport chain.  Biochemistry majors involved in this research and the other ongoing projects in the Fox Lab have learned how to make new DNA plasmids using PCR, culture microorganisms, knock out genes, purify organelles and target proteins, and analyze enzyme activity using spectrophotometry and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry.

Boucher Polymer Physics Cover 2016Our senior faculty members have also been busy. This past summer, Dr. Dave Boucher and Dr. Marcello Forconi were each officially awarded tenure and promoted to the position of Associate Professor.  Dr. Boucher’s work with students was recently featured on the cover of Journal of Polymer Science (Part B). Dr. Forconi just left for a semester of sabbatical in Italy to devote study to mechanistic aspects of enzyme catalysis. Dr. Wendy Cory has been analyzing pharmaceuticals that have been on the international space station in a new collaboration supported by funding from NASA.  She has also been leading the transformation of our Chem 112 lab (Gen Chem II) curriculum to be a classroom undergraduate research experience (CURE) and serving as Associate Chair.  Dr. Pam Riggs-Gelasco became Department Chair in 2012 and continues her research in bioinorganic chemistry by utilizing national synchrotron x-ray facilities to probe the structure of active sites in metalloproteins.  Dr. Amy Rogers has been working to transform the Chem 102 course and she is working with students to determine the structure-function relationship of NO synthase. Dr. Kristin Krantzman just returned from sabbatical at North Carolina State, Atoms First 3rd ed coverwhere she explored new areas of computational chemistry with a biological emphasis. She worked with Yaroslova Yingling and her research group in the Department of Materials Science Engineering to simulate the adsorption of small polypeptides on graphene and graphene oxide surfaces.  Dr. Rich Lavrich has been leading the first semester general chemistry lab program and working with the general education program in addition to continuing his research with students in microwave spectroscopy.  Dr. Jason Overby is preparing for the release of the Third Edition of one of the top selling general chemistry texts, Atoms First (Burdge and Overby), as well as collaborating on computational studies. Dr. Brooke Van Horn is awaiting news on a patent application for her collaborative work with Clemson as well as publishing her work on the synthesis of biodegradable polymers for use as imaging agents. Dr. Jim Deavor continues his work in administration as the School of Science and Math’s Associate Dean and just assisted the South Carolina Section of the American Chemical Society in hosting a successful SERMACS meeting in Columbia. Dr. Rick Heldrich, who served for several years as department chair, has enjoyed returning to teaching and research full time. He will officially retire from the College at the end of 2017 after 35 years of service. 

Dr. Marion Doig continues to teach as a Professor Emeritus after his retirement in 2015. Dr. Clyde Metz is likewise still teaching computational chemistry while also working on crystallographic studies of organic molecules. Dr. Charles Beam, who retired in 2013, donated his library of student-generated heterocyclic compounds, generated over 30 years, to the South Carolina Center for Therapeutic Discovery and Development at MUSC.  He published his 100th paper in 2015. Dr. Rich Himes was recently named Chief Scientific Officer in the launch of Neuroene Therapeutics after procuring a successful Small Business Technology Transfer Grant for the development of epilepsy drugs with investigators at MUSC. Dr. Gamil Guirgis, another retiree from the Bayer Corporation, works with undergraduates in his research lab, studying the structure and conformation of silicon containing small molecules. He publishes multiple papers every year with undergraduate authors.