Category Archives: Newsletter Article

The American Chemical Society UMD Student Affiliates Reach Out to the Community

logoStudents from the department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, advised by Dr. Efrain Rodriguez and Dr. Philip DeShong, have been involved with Northwestern High School for over a year. They have a weekly after-school chemistry-tutoring program.

“I had a strong interest in restarting the ACS student chapter since I wanted our undergraduates to be part of a national society that promotes professionalism in the chemical sciences.” said Rodriguez. “While Alpha Chi Sigma, our other chemistry club, is a great social networking group, I thought the ACS club would allow students to bring in other aspects of being part of student group. Those aspects include activities such as inviting research scientists from local universities and national labs to give seminars, to have community outreach events, and to attend the national meetings of the ACS.“

Some of our most successful undergraduates have been part of ACS. Michael Mandler (Chemistry B.S. 2015) and now on his way to Harvard Chemistry with a NSF Pre-doctoral Fellowship,, was the first ACS president.

Currently, the president is Christopher Ma, an energetic and enthusiastic student. Under his leadership, the group raised over $3,000 from UMD Launch this past semester to take the chapter to the ACS national meeting in Boston. A delegation of 5 students, will be attending the meeting and promoting UMD Chemistry and Biochemistry.
For more information, please go to

An Interview with Brian Crawford ’76, President of Publications for American Chemical Society, 2015 Alumnus of the Year

BrianCrawfordandJayanthBanavarAlumniAwardPresentationDuring the Spring Semester, Brian Crawford was awarded Alumni of the Year for all of his many contributions to the University, and to the Chemistry and Biochemistry department. One of these contributions was realized this year with the first time awarding of the Brian Crawford ’76 Scholarship to Lok-Man Yeung (Biochemistry B. S. 2015).

After a very full day of meeting with students, mentoring, and sharing his experience, Brian Crawford shared his thoughts about his time at the University of Maryland and how the Chemistry department shaped his life and career.

How has your day been?
“I feel like I’m home again. The reception I have gotten from faculty and students have been marvelous.  It was quite an honor to be the luncheon today and to be recognized me as an alum.  It feels great.  Had to wander around the halls a little bit, the same halls I wandered years ago.”

How did you feel when you found out you were going to be named alumni of the year
I was thrilled.  It was something I never imagined. I really appreciate it because I am committed to the University, the Department.”

What brought you to Maryland, were you local?
“I was local; I grew up in Howard County. I moved on campus and become a resident assistant and I had the ability to steep myself in the culture.  I would say that, in the 1970, it was the bombing of Cambodia that caused student protest movements to take off across the country and the University of Maryland was no exception.  Campus life, then, was characterized by those on campus who were very active in student protest movement. I wanted to be an engaged student, but I also was interested in being involved with any activism that remained by the time I enrolled here.  The Vietnam War was winding down by the time I got here in 1972 but I was [still involved] on campus.”

What made you choose Chemistry?
“A high school teacher that was inspirational, Ivan Sutton. The students said chemistry was the toughest subject and a killer course and I thought was up to the challenge. The course was tough, but he really made chemistry come alive for me.

When I came to UMD, the first chemistry professor I had direct contact with was Al Boyd.  He was my advisor as an undergraduate.  I wanted to be a pre-med student, but Al Boyd was my general chemistry professor and he was also the person assigned to be my advisor for choice of courses for my major.  He was such a tough guy. He scared the living daylights out of me! Initially, I thought maybe I wasn’t up for chemistry at the University level, but he challenged me, and my way of thinking. He was the motivational force when I got here.  Also, I was fortunate enough to have a very vibrant organic chemistry teacher named Richard Goldsby.  He was here only briefly in the 70s.  He left for a research post in California shortly after I started doing undergraduate research with him.  What made me chose chemistry as a major was the challenge of it for a pre-med curriculum. What made me choose chemistry as a career was [my university experience orienting] me towards research.”

When you were in Chemistry in what did you want to specialize?
“Initially I was intrigued by organic chemistry, what grabbed me then, once I started working with Goldsby, was the idea of original research vs. a laboratory demonstration; to be a part of a real experiment.  In high school I was lucky enough to take part in some extracurricular activities for intriguing lab exercises.  What I learned here at the University was the lab exercises were well formulated, but going into an original research experience made me know how to frame a scientific problem, how to perform query when the answer wasn’t already known.  I was actually looking for answers.”

How did your undergraduate experience prepare you for professional life?
“It sounds cliché, but it taught me how to think, to be open to making choices in life, and to not necessarily be goal oriented.  A goal can be part of what motivates one in life, but the open choices based on circumstances [can lead to good things]. For example, I could have gone to medical school, but because of my experience here I was presented with a choice of going to graduate school and that career choice was made possible because of what alternatives I had been shown.”

I would say, as I grow older in my career as a publisher, I manage other people and I can observe how others need that flexibility in a supervisor and manager. They need options and alternatives. Dogma doesn’t advance science or business.  Flexibility is what is needed in order to adjust.

Would you say that is the most important thing you learned at UMD?
“[Earlier] I shared with the group [of students] about the importance of networking with people.  I don’t consider myself a master networker, but it’s the connections in life that have helped me, and I’ve been very grateful as I have advanced in my career.  Again that has been part of having those paths presented to me as the result of individuals who believed in me either recommending me or introducing me to others.

An example is that Richard Goldsby, when he left University of Maryland, introduced me to a lab at Hopkins for a summer internship. It ended up being the place where I was funded to do my graduate work.  When I finished there, I was in turn introduced to other investigators at Los Alamos National Lab, and later in my publishing career similar things have happened.  It all grew into a network of scientific contacts or professional contacts that led me to make my career choices.  So I would say it this way, to grown children when they go off to a new University, it so important to make friendships and network with people.  Not because you want to exploit the network but because that network will naturally coalesce around you.”

What is the best thing your education from the University has allowed you to accomplish?

“It has allowed me to provide for my family.  I married when I was an Undergraduate my senior year.  My wife was at Hopkins at the time, and we ended up having three children who are now young adults.  If I had not pursued an education and started with that here, I would not have been able to provide for my children, who are all educated and have pursued graduate educations themselves.

I was the first member of my immediate family to get a higher education. My sister also attended UMCP and then Princeton for masters work, but within my family, these were firsts.  It then set up a pattern for the next generation.  Thinking about it more broadly and philosophically, even though I was a chemistry major, I had the advantage of the work in the humanities here.  I took courses in English, Philosophy, made me a broader thinker, well rounded person and I think even though I was not a perfect parent it made me a better parent.”

How do you take what you learn into your current life as publisher?
“My appreciation for science and the scientific method, and an understanding of the pressures scientists are under; particularly in the academic environment, to write for research grants and to be able to publish that work from their research as a means of getting funded again.  I understand the commerce of science, and I bring that mind set to what I do in publishing. There is a practical aspect to that mentality that the very best published science is going to advance science. So I feel as though I’m serving the next generation of scientists by making sure they have high caliber publications as venues to publish in, and to have an opportunity to network. Scientific publishing is a type of networking.

So I would say what I brought from this experience onward was I learned about research journals as opposed to textbooks here at UMCP.  I didn’t even know research journals existed until I came here.”

What made you choose publications as a career?
“The irony is that it was Professor Rollinson, an inorganic chemist, who took me down the bowels of the chemistry library and said, “You need to understand what scientific journals are and he said look at these they are in German, you better learn how to read German if you want to be a chemist.”

I didn’t learn German but I did learn about scientific journals.  He told me the Goldsby lab was where I would learn to read scientific journals and for the content published in them. So that grounding in what a journal is, what peer review is, how to frame a response to a research report and how to have it reviewed by peer reviewers led me then to working with others when I was publishing myself when I was helping others to edit their manuscripts.  That led to the decision to pursue a science publishing career.  I knew what the scientific communications side was about.”

What would you want current or future students to know about the University of Maryland?
“The breadth of courses offered here is so tremendous and it’s a wonderful opportunity to get a graduate education.  Also even though it’s a large school, there is also the ability to identify a small group of faculty and to personalize that experience. I think some students, when they are touring schools, think about where they want to attend, they think of big school/small school.  When I was here [at UMD and in chemistry] it was that big school opportunity with a small school touch.”

Letter from the Chair

IMG_0014As we approach the holiday season, I am inspired to reflect on the bounty of the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, and share with you some of the many things that make me very grateful.

I am grateful to our students and alumni, who are the best ambassadors of our programs and whose successes give us a tremendous sense of accomplishment.  Did you know there are 3260 undergraduate and 1480 graduate alumni of the Department?   Our alumni reside in all 50 states, 6 U.S. territories and 22 countries, helping to spread the word about the Maryland experience.  I would like to give a shout out to Dr. Bryan Dickinson (Biochemistry B.S., 2005), who recently visited and gave a departmental seminar, for his recent appointment to the chemistry faculty at the University of Chicago. Another shout out goes to  Dr. Willie May (Chemistry PhD, 1977), acting Director of the National Institute of Standards & Technology and Undersecretary of the Department of Commerce, for serving on the Board of Visitors of our College and, most remarkably, for taking the time to mentor our students and junior faculty. I would also like to recognize Phil Schneider, M. D. (Biochemistry BS, 1979), winner of our College Alumni Award.  Read down to Dr. Schneider’s profile to learn about how he is impacting University of Maryland students.

I am so proud of our current students, who are balancing very demanding majors with professional development and the fun of the new Big Ten experience. At the Spring 2014 commencement, we conferred exactly 100 ACS-certified undergraduate degrees – 49 in Chemistry and 51 in Biochemistry. Remarkably, 19 of these students double-majored, with Biological Sciences leading the 2nd-major pack (10 double-majors), followed by Computer Science, Math, and Art (2 double-majors each). Our students additionally earned second majors in Secondary Education, Physics, and Economics.  We are also extremely proud of the 30 new Chemistry and Biochemistry PhD’s and MS’s minted last year, and very grateful for the scholarship and fellowship support our students have attracted.  Read down to learn more about 4th year Chemistry Graduate Student Benjamin Roembke.

The accomplishments of our Faculty also deserve special recognition.   I am particularly happy to announce the tenured promotions of Dr. Nicole LaRonde and Dr. YuHuang Wang to Associate Professor.  Dr. LaRonde is a protein crystallographer researching ribosome biogenesis and protein pathogenesis related to the Ebola virus. Dr YuHuang Wang is a materials chemist who creates carbon-based materials for energy and sensing applications. Dr. Garyk Papoian, a theoretical chemist who performs multi-scale simulations of subcellular processes, was recently promoted to full Professor.  Dr. Chris Jarczynski was selected as a Distinguished University Professor, the highest honor the University bestows, in recognition for ground-breaking work on nonequilibrium statistical mechanics.   His discovery of the Jarczynski Inequality, a generalization of the 2nd Law of Thermodyamics, is widely regarded as the most important discovery in thermodynamics in the past 50 years.  Our faculty has attracted more than $11,600,000 in external funding over the past year.  Read down to learn about a new National Science Foundation grant in nanolithography awarded to Drs. Fourkas, Mullin, and Falvey.

The dedication of our faculty and staff to our core education mission is transforming the education and training experiences of our students. This year Dr. Earl Stone redesigned CHEM177 – our general chemistry laboratory for freshman majors – to provide students with hands-on access to state-of-the-art laboratory instrumentation and researcher-level safety training.   Dr. Lee Friedman has “flipped” his organic chemistry lecture courses, while Dr. Montague-Smith has received a grant from the University of Maryland System to introduce new technology tools in the organic chemistry “discussion” sections to promote active learning. Dr. William Walters, our ACS award winning nuclear chemist, enthralls honors students in a seminar course entitled “The Manhattan Project: A Century of Radioactivity, Nuclear Weapons, and Nuclear Power”, while Assistant Professor Zhihong Nie has developed a new course on “Interfaces: From Fundamentals to Nanoscience” that brings together graduate students from life science, physical science and engineering programs.

Chemistry and Biochemistry are the science of change – and the Department itself is undergoing important transformations.  Dr.  Michael P. Doyle, who served for 10 years as a highly dedicated Chair, will depart in January for a Chaired Professorship at the University of Texas at San Antonio.  We are very sorry to see Mike go, but happy that he has the opportunity to pursue new research directions and relocate to be closer to his family.  On another front, I am delighted to announce that Dr. Lai-Xi Wang, an ACS award winning chemical biologist with expertise in carbohydrate chemistry and glycoscience, will join the faculty as a Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry beginning in January.   Wang, currently a professor in the School of Medicine, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, (UMB), will strengthen and lead efforts to develop new research programs centered on chemical biology.  This field applies chemical tools and ideas to biological and medical problems, including creating and discovering new molecules with biological specificity for drug and vaccine development. A Symposium on Carbohydrate Chemistry is being planned to celebrate the addition of Dr. Wang to the faculty.

Below I share with you three stories that highlight recent achievements by our alumni, students and faculty.   For pictures and additional stories, please go to  And finally, I want to thank the generous alumni and parents who have donated gifts to our department. Your contributions go directly to our education and research programs, and impact students, faculty and staff in very meaningful ways.

With best regards,
Janice Reutt-Robey

Chemistry Researchers Advance Patterning Nanotechnology

Dr. John Fourkas, Dr. Amy Mullin and Dr. Daniel Falvey have been awarded a $1.5 million dollar National Science Foundation grant to fund cutting-edge research on Scalable Nanomanufacturing. The team, which includes Dr. Gottleib Oehrlein from the Department of Material Science & Engineering, uses three beams of visible light of different wavelengths to produce nanoscale features with the improved resolution required to produce high-density integrated circuits.

Moore’s Law, a mathematical rule, predicts that storage capacity on a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. Without new breakthroughs, the limits of this rule are about to be reached, because current technology cannot achieve sub-20-nm resolution.

This three-color photolithography method is designed for scalable, large-area, low-cost nanomanufacturing, and promises fundamentally new ways to put more information in even smaller spaces with the improved resolution required to produce high-density integrated circuits. In conventional approaches, one color of light is used to initiate the chemistry, and a second color is used to arrest it.  A two-color method has limited spatial resolution because the initiation of the chemistry competes with the deactivation. In the three color method, however, one color of light pre-activates the chemistry, a second color of light deactivates the molecules, and a third color of light transforms pre-activated molecules into activated molecules that then undergo chemistry. This approach provides a viable path to attaining sub-20-nm resolution for scalable nanomanufacturing in two and three dimensions. Because visible light is inexpensive to produce, propagate and manipulate, the method has the potential to lower the cost of cutting-edge nanomanufacturing by a factor of 10 or more.

Major industrial developers and end-users will be part of the project team’s collaborative process so that the transfer of this technology into practice can provide a major boost to American competitiveness in scalable nanomanufacturing. The new types of photochemistry that are being created through this work will help keep future products from being prohibitively expensive, keeping the cheap production benefit alive.

Additionally, this project team, by virtue of blending the disciplines of Organic Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, and Materials Engineering has created, and will continue to create over the life of the grant, an exceptional learning environment for their students by involving them in a true academic and industrial interdisciplinary collaboration.

Dominik Meltzer, a Materials Science and Engineering graduate student in this group, thinks this is an important opportunity.

“This [work] has helped make me more adaptable and nimble in my thinking.” Said Meltzer.