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Chemistry News

Yen Nguyen: An inside look into an international students' role model

For her other major role as the president of the International Career Council (ICC), she is responsible for helping international students at Iowa State to find approaches and solutions regarding internships, co-ops and full time positions.

Chemists follow molecules down 'nanowells,' track catalytic reactions in nanoconfinement

Wenyu Huang and his research group created, studied and described the multi-layered spheres used to investigate catalytic reactions in nanoconfinement.

A Research Agenda for a New Era in Separations Science

Jared Anderson, was named to be on a NAS Committee on a Research Agenda for a new Era in Separations Science.  Anderon is one of 10 committee members that will create a report to provide guidance to research sponsors, as well as to the research communities in academia and industry. The report’s recommendations will focus on science needs and priorities rather than specific funding or organizational aspects.

Katherine Woo and Shannon Lee receive NASA fellowship grants

Congratulations to Katherine Woo and Shannon Lee, graduate students in chemistry, who received NASA fellowship grants from the NASA Iowa Space Grant Consortium (ISGC) for their research into thermoelectric materials, which can convert a heat gradient into electricity.

Katherine Woo and Shannon Lee, both graduate students in chemistry, synthesize solid state materials useful for thermoelectrics in the lab group of Kirill Kovnir, an associate professor of chemistry.

“Katherine and Shannon are hard-working students who are interested in learning new ideas and creating new compounds,” Kovnir said. “With their dedication and creativity, it is a pleasure to have such students in the group. They also excel in attracting younger generations into the science of chemistry via outreach activities.”

The thermoelectric materials Woo and Lee work with operate much like batteries. In a battery, the flow of charge across a chemical gradient creates electricity. In a thermoelectric material, the flow of charge across a thermal gradient creates electricity. Thermoelectrics are especially useful for powering devices on space missions where batteries may run out and spacecraft or extraterrestrial rover may be too far from the sun to use solar energy. In these scenarios heat generated by the decay of a radioactive isotope can be harnessed by thermoelectric generators to create electricity.

The main obstacle for using thermoelectric materials, especially on Earth where other electricity sources are prevalent, is their efficiency. Thermoelectric materials are currently not as efficient as other electricity sources. In addition to being efficient, thermoelectric materials must be stable, nonhazardous and reasonably low cost.

Woo and Lee synthesize, test and tweak materials searching for optimal thermoelectric properties. They may synthesize a material, test its properties, then add another element into the material or change the crystal structure of the material and test for how the properties changed.

“By changing the structure, you can actually affect the properties,” Lee said.

As gains in efficiency of materials are made, thermoelectrics become more practical for more uses. One way thermoelectrics can be used with existing technology is to pair them with current machines which produce heat as a way to harness some of the lost heat.

“I love chemistry that has a foreseeable application,” Woo said. “Anything that has waste heat: big machines in factories, cars, even computers, we can take this heat and actually turn it to electricity.”

Receiving the NASA grant was inspiring to both Woo and Lee.

“It’s motivational,” Woo said. “It reaffirms that the research I do has future applications.”

Getting under graphite’s skin: A recently discovered method of layering metals with the 2D material may lead to brand new properties

Pat Thiel and Ann Lii-Rosales, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory, have discovered a new process to sheathe metal under a single layer of graphite which may lead to new and better-controlled properties for these types of materials.

Preparing for research in the exascale

A bigger, faster computer is coming. But will researchers be able to make use of it?

Exascale computers are predicted to be here sometime in the 2020s. These computers will be at least 50 times faster than the most powerful computers of today, greatly enhancing the computing power available — if the software can keep up. Theresa Windus, a professor of chemistry, paves the way in preparing computational chemistry software for exascale speeds.

Windus was one of twelve invited speakers at The International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage and Analysis this past November (also known as Supercomputing ’17 or SC ’17) in Denver, Colorado. The conference is the largest supercomputing meeting in the world, bringing together 11,000 scientists both nationally and internationally who are either involved in computer science or have an interest in how high-performance computing can be used for their particular scientific field.

“It was a great privilege,” Windus said.

She talked at the meeting on the challenges of preparing for exascale computing and the possible solutions her teams have come up with.

She works on two projects preparing for exascale computing: GAMESS, led by Mark Gordon at Iowa State, and NWChemEx, led by Thomas Dunning Jr. at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Both projects are software platforms for modeling chemistry and both will need updating to run on the new, faster exascale computer systems.

“The kind of science that this can really enable is huge,” Windus said. “We could model a much more realistic system.”

Because of the scale of what can be done with an exascale computer, more of the surrounding environment, which often affects the chemistry, can be taken into account in the simulations. In addition, simulations can be run allowing for the many different ways and configurations in which a reaction might happen, better predicting if a reaction will happen, how quickly it would happen and what the end products of the reaction would be.

Three focus areas for the new software, Windus said, are performance, portability and productivity. The software algorithms need to be able to perform across the entire exascale machine. It also has to be portable across different exascale machines, which will likely have different architectures from each other. It also needs to be productive for any researcher to use, even graduate students who may have only a basic understanding of coding technique.

It’s a tall order with a moving target. What exascale will look like is only anticipated and not yet known. But Windus brings expertise in high performance computing research, an area she has worked on since her graduate work at Iowa State in 1993. She was also a team lead from 2001-2006 for the NWChem project, now twenty years old and undergoing a complete rehaul in preparation for exascale.

“I like the challenge of trying to figure out how to make all these different pieces work together and hopefully come up with a beautiful, creative, performing product in the end,” Windus said.

Klaus Ruedenberg wins the 2018 Schrödinger Medal of the World Association of Theoretical and Computational Chemists

Congratulations to Dr. Klaus Ruedenberg for winning the prestigious 2018 Schrödinger medal of the World Association of Theoretical and Computational Chemists.  The WATOC Schrödinger medal is awarded each year to one outstanding theoretical and computational chemist.

Safety is a top priority in the Department of Chemistry

Safety is a Top Priority in the Department of Chemistry

With more than 70 new teaching assistants (TAs) to supervise hundreds of students each year, the Department of Chemistry works to cultivate a culture of safety from the start. That’s why the department holds a safety orientation for TAs at the beginning of each year as part of overall TA training. Recently, chemistry reached out to EH&S (Environmental Health and Safety) to provide the training in Gilman and tailor it specifically to the chemistry department.

“Safety in our teaching laboratories is and has always been of the highest priority,” said Joe Burnett, senior lecturer in chemistry and leader of the TA training. “It seemed to us that our TAs would benefit from safety instruction in the space that they would be teaching.”

Vincenzo Venditti Receives Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust Grant

The Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust of Muscatine, Iowa, has committed $643,896 to Iowa State University to support two early-career researchers seeking to find solutions to such health-related issues as drug-resistant infections and traumatic brain injury in troops. In addition, the Carver Trust has committed $500,000 to establish a prestigious postdoctoral fellowship program in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The fellowship program will provide opportunities for the postdoctoral researchers who will be the next generation of biomedical scientists, as well as further Iowa State’s research in areas that will lead to breakthroughs in human health.

Addition of Tin Boosts Nanoparticle’s Photoluminescence

Emily Smith and Javier Vela, researchers at Ames Laboratory, have developed germanium nanoparticles with improved photoluminescence, making them potentially better materials for solar cells and imaging probes. The research team found that by adding tin to the nanoparticle’s germanium core, its lattice structure better matched the lattice structure of the cadmium-sulfide coating which allows the particles to absorb more light.

Robbyn Anand is studying electric fields, microfluidics to improve dialysis technology

Iowa State University's Robbyn Anand is studying how a hybrid of electrochemical and microfluidic technologies could be used to improve the dialysis equipment that cleans salt, waste and water from blood. That technology could enable a wearable, artificial kidney. And that could benefit her brother, who depends on today's big and heavy dialysis equipment.

Chem Stores Semester Break Hours

Chem Stores Semester Break Hours

During the semester break Chem Stores will be closed Friday, December 22 at 4:00 pm until Tuesday, January  2 at 7:30 am.  With the exception, we will be open Wednesday, December 27 from 9:00 am – 3:00 pm.

Customer Appreciation Day

Chem Stores Customer Appreciation Day

Customer Appreciation will be held on Wednesday, December 20 from 8:30-2:00. Join us for snacks and refreshments.

Congratulations to Katherine Woo and Shannon Lee

Congratulations to Katherine Woo and Shannon Lee, from Kirill Kovnir's group, on receiving a NASA fellowship from the NASA Iowa Space Grant Consortium (ISGC).

Theresa Windus Theresa Windus, has been named as an AAAS Fellow in this year’s class.

Theresa Windus is being recognized for “leadership in the development of advanced high-performance computing algorithms, and for development of a broad understanding of the chemistry of heavy elements.”

Windus’ work in computational science has helped researchers in chemistry, biochemistry, materials and engineering use high-performance computers to advance their work.

She is internationally recognized for developing software that allows scientists to effectively use the world’s largest supercomputers.


AAAS Fellows

This year’s class of AAAS Fellows includes 396 members who are being recognized by their scientific peers. They will be formally announced this week in the journal Science and recognized in February at the AAAS annual meeting in Austin, Texas.

The tradition of AAAS Fellows goes back to 1874.

AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society and includes nearly 250 affiliated societies and science academies that serve 10 million people. AAAS also publishes Science and other scientific journals.  Forr AAAS story see: