Featured News

Outstanding chemistry students recognized for their achievements!

Featured Students

Congratulations to chemistry majors Grace Breiner, Tina Chai, Alyssa Montalbine, and Eric Wang! 

Featured Faculty

Congratulations to Ken Hsu and his graduate student, Myungsun Shin.


Escaping Flatland: Synthetic Innovation for the Future of Drug Discovery

Escaping Flatland: Synthetic Innovation for the Future of Drug Discovery

Professor Mike Hilinski | Department of Chemistry Kickoff Seminar


The majority of FDA-approved drugs are small organic molecules, generally defined as having a molecular weight below 900 g/mol. The speed and reliability with which one can synthesize complex bioactive small molecules is a major limiting factor in the race to discover new drugs. As a consequence of this, a historical overreliance on a small number of highly robust synthetic methods has limited the diversity of chemical structures generally pursued as drug leads. A long-term goal of our research program is to develop new synthetic methods that fill significant current gaps in the organic chemist’s toolbox, in order to work towards eliminating synthetic considerations as a barrier to the discovery of new therapeutics. Two major areas of research will be presented: (1) The development of new strategies and new modes of catalysis for the direct, site-selective functionalization of C–H bonds, and (2) The development of new methods for the synthesis and selective modification of nitrogen-containing heterocycles, which are present in the majority of FDA-approved small molecule drugs.

Friday, August 30, 2019
Graphene-based Materials for Applications in Heterogeneous Catalysis, Water Treatment and Solar Water Desalination

Graphene-based Materials for Applications in Heterogeneous Catalysis, Water Treatment and Solar Water Desalination

Dr. Samy El Shall | Virginia Commonwealth University

Hosted by Professor Eric Herbst

This talk will address the development of three classes of graphene-based materials as (1) support for metal nanoparticle catalysts in heterogeneous catalysis, (2) sorbent materials for the removal of heavy metal ions from polluted water, and (3) photothermal energy converter materials for efficient solar water desalination.

In heterogeneous catalysis, we will discuss the superior catalytic activity of Pd nanoparticles supported on reduced graphene oxide (RGO) nanosheets for carbon-carbon cross-coupling reactions. Second, the enhanced catalytic activity for the Fe-based nanoparticle catalysts supported on graphene in the Fischer-Tropsch Synthesis of liquid transportation fuels will be presented. Finally, the superior catalytic activity and selectivity of Pd nanoparticles supported on a sandwich-type nanocomposite consisting of Metal-Organic Frameworks (MOFs) wrapped with thin RGO nanosheets for the biomass-refining of liquids derived from lignocelluloisc sources will be presented.

For the removal of heavy metals from water, we will discuss the development of chemically modified graphene-based adsorbents containing highly efficient chelating groups such as diamine, imino and thiourea for the effective extraction of the toxic metal ions mercury (II), lead (II) and arsenic (V) from wastewater.

For photothermal energy conversion, we will discuss the development of a new generation of highly efficient, flexible, low weight, highly porous and cost effective Plasmonic Graphene Polyurethane (PGPU) nanocomposite materials for solar steam generation through the efficient evaporation of water surface pools. The PGPU nanocomposites contain metallic nanoparticles that exhibit very strong solar absorption. The polyurethane (PU) foam provides a hydrophilic surface with abundant microporous structure, excellent thermal insulation properties, and facile and scalable synthesis. The high solar thermal evaporation efficiency, excellent stability and long-time durability make the PGPU nanocomposites excellent candidates for solar-steam-generation applications and seawater desalination.

Friday, September 6, 2019


Dr. Rachel Letteri | University of Virginia

Hosted by Professor Rebecca Pompano



Friday, September 13, 2019

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