Join us in celebrating our Spring 2020 Chemistry graduates! See the videos below for highlights of our students and a special message from faculty.
Chemistry research students recognized at ABRCMS
Arturo Chavez and Pomaikai Yamaguchi both won awards for their poster presentations at the 2019 Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students.
Arturo is a Biomedical Engineering major and NIH RISE student who conducts research in the Miller Conrad lab. He presented a poster on his work to develop new antibacterial treatment strategies by blocking virulence. Inhibition of virulence renders the pathogen more benign, allowing the immune system to clear the infection. Arturo’s project targets quorum sensing, the signaling system that controls virulence in many bacteria.
Pomaikai is a Chemical Engineering major and NIH RISE student. She presented a poster on her work in the Prof. Claire Komives lab in the Chemical Engineering Department. Currently she works in Prof. Roy Okuda’s lab working to isolate and identify new bioactive molecules from plants native to California.
Twenty-one SJSU students and six faculty members attended the 2019 Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students Conference in Anaheim, CA. Many students presented on their research in the department. They were joined by Chemistry Department alumni Rodger de Miranda and Kingsley Okakpu, who are pursuing PhDs at UC Irvine and UC Riverside, respectively.
Professor Wang Receives NIH Grant
Prof. Ningkun Wang was awarded an NIH SC2 research grant to study the allosteric regulation of SIRT1. SIRT1 is an NAD+-dependent protein deacetylase that has been shown to play a significant role in many biological pathways including insulin secretion, tumor formation, lipid metabolism, and neurodegeneration. For this reason, SIRT1 has been identified as a potential therapeutic target, where the regulation of SIRT1 activity could combat diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases. This progress has been hampered by insufficient understanding of the molecular mechanism of the regulation of SIRT1 activity. Prof. Wang’s lab aims to understand the regulatory allosteric interactions between the N-terminal domain and SIRT1’s catalytic core. Using biochemical and biophysical methods to clarify how the activity of SIRT1 is altered in various biological pathways and disease states will enable the targeted modulation of SIRT1 activity as a therapeutic method. The project will also provide insight into how other allosterically regulated enzymes function in the cell.
Vanshika Gupta Recognized at CSU Student Research Competition
Vanshika Gupta won the Undergraduate Physical Sciences and Mathematics category of the 33rd Annual CSU Student Research Competition. Vanshika is a Chemistry, concentration in Biochemistry major who researches the synthesis of single chain polymeric nanoparticles in Prof. Madalyn Radlauer’s lab. Her presentation was titled "Investigating Macromolecular Structures for the Transformation of Greenhouse Gases into Liquid Fuels." She discussed how these macromolecular structures have the potential to mimic enzymes, enabling challenging chemical reactions related to efficient and selective fuel production.
15th Annual COS Student Research Day and ISB Groundbreaking
In the biggest event yet, over 100 research posters were presented at the 15th Annual College of Science Student Research Day, which has been organized by Prof. Roy Okuda since its inception. Chemistry had a strong showing with 38 posters highlighting the diverse range of research happening in the department. The poster session followed the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Interdisciplinary Science Building. Planned to be completed at the end of 2021, the building will be the future home of the teaching and research labs in synthetic chemistry and biochemistry, in addition to those from molecular biology, microbiology and the high-performance computing center.
Chemistry research students recognized by NSF
Cassandra Villicana was awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to fund her PhD studies. Cassandra is a Biomedical Engineering major set to graduate from SJSU this spring. She studies a key enzyme involved in conferring antibiotic resistance to Pseudomonas aeruginosa in Prof. Laura Miller Conrad’s lab. She will pursue her doctoral studies in Engineering at Stanford University this fall.
Minh Tran was recognized with an honorable mention on the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Minh Tran graduated with a BS Chemistry, Concentration in Biochemistry degree in Fall 2018. He was also recognized as the department’s recipient of the American Chemical Society’s Division of Organic Chemistry Outstanding Senior Organic Chemistry Student. Minh also worked in the Miller Conrad lab, developing and testing new compounds to treat drug-resistant strains of P. aeruginosa. He will start his doctoral studies in Chemistry at the University of California, San Francisco this fall.
Dr. Esfandiari wins University Award
Dr. Melody Esfandiari was recognized with the 2019 University Outstanding Lecturer Award for her excellence in teaching effectiveness and service to SJSU. Dr. Esfandiari got her undergraduate degree at SJSU and returned to teach here in 2012 after obtaining her PhD from the University of California, Irvine. Since that time, she has taught over 3,500 students. She is an advisor of the Student Associates of the American Chemical Society (SAACS) and runs a summer internship program for underrepresented students in science.
Professor Pesek wins EAS Award
Prof. Joseph Pesek was recognized with the 2019 Eastern Analytical Symposium Award for Outstanding Achievements in Separation Science. A symposium will be held in his honor at the Eastern Analytical Symposium in November 2019.
In SJSU’s first fall commencement, the Chemistry Department celebrated 19 graduates from our undergraduate programs.
Students win poster awards at ABRCMS
David Navarro and Jocelyn Valenzuela were both recognized for their poster presentations at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in Indianapolis, Indiana last November. Both are undergraduates doing research in the Chemistry Department.
David Navarro is a Chemistry major and an NIH RISE student working with Prof. Madalyn Radlauer. David’s project aims to enhance the efficiency of fuel production by converting methane, a byproduct of the oil industry, to methanol, a liquid fuel. Taking inspiration from methane monooxygenases, bacterial enzymes that can promote this transformation, David is working to construct synthetic diiron and tri-copper complexes embedded in a polymer scaffold to promote the same transformation on scale.
Jocelyn Valenzuela is a Chemical Engineering major and an NIH MARC student working with Prof. Abraham Wolcott. Jocelyn is investigating functionalized nanoscale diamonds that have applications in biosensing, voltage sensing and quantum communication. After adding an amine functional group to the surface of the diamonds, she characterized the modification with X-ray absorption and X-ray photoemission spectroscopy at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory with Dr. Dennis Nordlund and colleagues.
Students present at ABRCMS
Over 30 SJSU undergraduate students from the NIH RISE, NIH MARC, NSF S-STEM and NSF LSAMP programs attended the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in Indianapolis, Indiana last November. Many presented on their research in the College of Science. The group was led by Professors Singmaster, Ouverney, Rascón and Wilkinson.
No Belles Performance at SJSU
October 17, 2018
The chemistry club, with the help of the American Chemical Society of Silicon Valley chapter, is bringing a performance of "No Belles" by the Portal Theatre group to SJSU on October 17th. The production raises awareness about gender bias in the sciences, highlighting that of the 581 individuals that have been awarded the Nobel Prize in the sciences, only 18 have been women. The free event will be at 7:30 pm on October 17 in Morris Dailey Auditorium followed by a reception. Visit here to register for the free tickets.
Profs. Pesek and Matyska-Pesek Receive College Award
Profs. Joseph Pesek and Maria Matyska-Pesek were recognized this fall with the College of Science Award for Research with Students. Both have dedicated much time over their careers at SJSU to mentoring students in research, leading to a large number of publications. They received their awards at the fall College of Science Welcome Event.
The Chemistry Department congratulates our 86 graduates from Summer 2017-Spring 2018. Our graduating class includes 8 students with a Master's of Science in Chemistry, 23 students with a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry, 9 students with an ACS-certified Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, and 46 students with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with a Concentration in Biochemistry.
Prof. Radlauer Awarded CSUPERB Grant
Prof. Madalyn Radlauer was awarded a CSUPERB New Investigator Grant in Spring 2018. The funded project is inspired by the question: Can we mimic the macromolecular environment of an enzyme with an organic polymer to achieve effective catalysis? Enzymes, biological catalysts that accelerate reactions, promote numerous impressive reactions in nature. For example, transformations like selective methane oxidation have the technological potential to revolutionize our fuel economy. Thus, Prof. Radlauer turned to nature for inspiration, aiming to mimic the chemical transformations made possible by enzymes. Enzymes generally include an active site – where the reaction occurs – embedded in a larger structure, which provides stabilizing forces to promote the desired reaction. To access enzyme-like activity, the lab hypothesizes that these stabilizing interactions must also be mimicked. This task is nontrivial and remains a significant challenge. The proposed work aims to address the challenge of reproducing secondary interactions by embedding a small molecule “active site” within a larger synthetic scaffold to mimic bacterial enzymes that convert greenhouse gases into useful fuels. In addition to a deeper understanding of enzymes and their structures, success with this type of synthetic system might allow technological leaps for the fuel economy since we would be better able to transform greenhouse gases into viable fuels or industry-relevant chemicals.
Prof. Okuda Wins University Award
Prof. Roy Okuda was recognized with the 2017-2018 Distinguished Service Award. The award is for "exemplary service in a leadership capacity to the university and/or community or profession that brings credit to San Jose State." Prof. Okuda has organized the College of Science Research Day for the past 13 years. He was recognized for this work and for his efforts to create scientific opportunities for students in general. The 14th annual COS Research Day event will be on Friday, April 27, 2018 in the Duncan Hall breezeway.
Professor Joseph Pesek Recieves National Award
After being recognized for research excellence in the CSU last year, Prof. Joseph Pesek has also been honored with the 2018 ACS Award for Research at an Undergraduate Institution. This prestigious award is sponsored by the Research Corporation for Science Advancement and recognizes outstanding research at a primarily undergraduate institution. The work must have received wide recognition and had a large impact on the professional development of undergraduate students. In his research studies to develop new separation methods, Prof. Pesek has published over 230 scientific articles, while working with over 100 undergraduate students. Prof. Pesek accepted the award and presented his work at the 255th American Chemical Society National Meeting in New Orleans, LA. Many faculty from SJSU were able to attend the ceremony.
Students Present at ABRCMS
Undergraduate students from MARC, RISE, LSAMP, McNair, S-STEM and CoSRaTS represented SJSU at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in Phoenix, AZ. The group of 25 was led by 4 faculty members, including Prof. Karen Singmaster and Prof. Alberto Rascón. A total of 2 oral presentations and 16 poster presentations were given by the students.
Professor Bradley Stone Wins Jazz Award
Prof. Bradley Stone has been recognized with the 2017 Bobby Jackson Award for Jazz Programmer of the Year (Internet and Non-Terrestrial Radio). The award recognized Prof. Stone’s programming and production of “The Creative Source” on SoulandJazz.com radio. The program champions radio airplay and greater exposure for new and current “living” artists and jazz composers. He has been the recipient of numerous awards for his work in jazz programming, including the prestigious “Duke DuBois Humanitarian Award” by JazzWeek in 2008, a national award for lifetime achievement and service to the jazz and jazz radio communities. Prof. Stone’s work at KSJS-FM at SJSU led to that station’s inclusion on the original panels for both the Gavin and JazzWeek national Top 50 jazz charts, as well as KSJS being selected as a 2-time winner (7-time nominee) of the JazzWeek “Jazz Station of the Year – Medium Markets” award.
Professor Madalyn Radlauer Joins Chemistry Department
Prof. Madalyn Radlauer will be teaching courses in inorganic, polymer and general chemistry. As both an organometallic and a polymer chemist, she is looking forward to combining these two areas in her lab, studying small molecule catalysts in macromolecular environments. Like traditional organometallic chemists, students in her lab will synthesize catalysts to lower the activation barrier for challenging reactions relevant to the fuel economy, but these catalysts will then be appended to polymers. Thus, the small molecule catalysts will work as active sites within a larger scaffold, similar to a protein or enzyme. The polymers’ ability to alter catalytic activity will be explored, where we expect that this biomimetic approach will have significant effects.
Professor Ningkun Wang Joins Chemistry Department
Prof. Ningkun Wang will be teaching courses in biochemistry. With a background in protein interactions, Prof. Wang’s research combines biochemistry and biophysical methods to study indirect allosteric effects on the activity and substrate specificity of enzymes. The general goal of the lab is to study the “supporting actors” in biology that play a major role in the story and to learn how they go about doing that.
Specifically, the lab is interested in studying SIRT1, an enzyme that affects gene expression by de-acetylating transcription factors and histones. SIRT1 has a large, unstructured N-terminus domain that is not directly involved in enzyme catalysis, but regulates the catalytic activity and substrate specificity. The lab will seek to elucidate the mechanism of this allosteric effect by studying the interactions between the N-terminus domain and the enzyme catalytic core.
May 27, 2017
The chemistry department congratulates its 75 graduates from the 2016-2017 year! Among our undergraduates, we had 8 students graduate with a B.A., 10 with a B.S., and 47 with a B.S. with a concentration in Biochemistry. We also had 10 graduate students receive their master’s degree.
Student Research Showcased at SJSU
May 5-6, 2017
The 13th College of Science Research Day on May 5th featured 73 posters representing all departments in the college, including 28 posters from the Chemistry department. Prof. Roy Okuda organized the event. On May 6th, SJSU hosted the 29th Annual American Chemical Society Northern California Undergraduate Research Symposium (NCURS). Students from 14 institutions gave oral and poster presentations. The event was supported by the Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society (SAACS) at SJSU, the ACS Santa Clara Valley Section and the College of Science and organized by Prof. Lionel Cheruzel, Dr. Melody Esfandiari, and Prof. Laura Miller Conrad. SAACS volunteers at the NCURS registration table are pictured.
Professor Joseph Pesek Receives CSUPERB Faculty Research Award
Jan. 7, 2017
Prof. Joseph Pesek was honored with the Faculty Research Award, which recognizes a California State University (CSU) faculty member for their outstanding work in a biotechnology-related research program. The award includes a $1000 grant and the opportunity to speak during a luncheon at the Annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium, held this year at the Santa Clara Marriott. In his introduction of Prof. Pesek, Prof. Eskandari (Cal Poly Pomona) stated that “Dr. Pesek is being recognized not only for his outstanding research productivity and his dedication to students, but also his persistence in building on theoretical studies to commercialize high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) products.”… [he has] “demonstrated on numerous occasions an intellectual generosity, a willingness to share ideas and an unwavering commitment to scientific rigor that builds excellence in research collaborations at both a national and international level.” Over his career he has worked with over 100 undergraduate researchers, served as the primary research advisor for exactly 100 Master’s students, and hosted over 50 visiting scientists and postdoctoral fellows from all over the world. His group has published over 230 peer-reviewed papers and garnered $6.95 million in research grants. In the above photo are Prof. Daryl Eggers, Prof. Sep Eskandari (Cal Poly Pomona, Chair of Selection Committee and former award winner), Prof. Joseph Pesek, and Dr. Pamela Stacks (SJSU AVP for Research).
Professor Chester Simocko Joins Chemistry Department
The chemistry department welcomes Prof. Chester Simocko to the department, where he will be teaching courses in organic and polymer chemistry. Prof. Simocko's research bridges the gap between organic chemistry and polymer science. He studies structure-property relationships in polymer systems by considering a desired property (mechanic strength, melting temperature, ion conduction, etc.) and determining how polymer structure affects that property. The lab controls polymer structure by growing a polymer from a surface to create polymer brushes and by making precise polymers and block copolymers for tailored self-assembly via alternating diene metathesis polymerization. Some of the students working on this effort in the Simocko lab are shown above: From left to right: Paul Abarquez, Sandy Rosa, Alexis Sarabia, Andrew Pham, Melvina Lu, Natsu Okuda, Bryan Chin (front), Josh Chen (back), Hamdy Yahya.
Students Present at ABRCMS
November 15, 2016
Students in the MARC, RISE, LSAMP and CoSRaTS programs presented their biomedical research at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students held in Tampa, Florida in November 2016.
May 27, 2016
The chemistry department congratulates our 65 graduates in the 2015-2016 year! In addition to 7 master’s students, we had 9 students graduate with a B.A., 9 with a B.S., and 40 with a B.S. with an emphasis in biochemistry.
Professor Miller Conrad Awarded an NIH Grant to Investigate Resistance in Pseudomonas aeruginosa
April 4, 2016
Prof. Laura Miller Conrad was awarded an NIH SC3 Grant to investigate and block antibiotic resistance in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The bacterium is the leading gram-negative cause of secondary infections in hospitals. Few treatments successfully clear the infection and resistant strains are increasingly encountered. One class of last-resort drugs currently used are cationic antimicrobial peptides (CAPs) like colistin and polymyxin B. Alarmingly, CAP-resistant strains have also been encountered, threatening the efficacy of these life-saving treatments.
The positively-charged CAPs enter the bacterial cell by electrostatic attraction to the negatively-charged outer membrane of P. aeruginosa, followed by disruption of the membrane. Once inside, the drug binds intracellular targets, killing the bacterium. In resistant strains, P. aeruginosa modifies its outer membrane to become less negatively charged, preventing uptake of the antibiotic. With the grant, the Miller Conrad lab will aim to inhibit a biosynthetic enzyme in the modification pathway, forcing the bacterium to maintain a negatively-charged outer membrane and to remain susceptible to CAP treatment. A successful inhibitor could be used in a combination therapy with the CAP antibiotic. Ken Choi and Sarah Matthews shown above are among the students working on the project.
Professor Rascón, Jr. Awarded an NIH Grant to Study Aedes aegypti Midgut Proteases
February 1, 2016
Prof. Alberto A. Rascón, Jr. was awarded an SC3 research grant from the NIH. The project will investigate the role midgut proteases play during the blood meal digestion process in the virus-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito. The mosquito specifically feeds on humans to obtain the nutrients needed for the egg laying process, and it is this blood-feeding behavior that facilitates the spread of blood-borne pathogens including Yellow fever, Dengue fever, Chikungunya, and the Zika virus, which has recently emerged in the Americas. At the moment, the only way to minimize pathogen transmission is through mosquito (vector) control. Current strategies include the use of insecticides, which have proven effective in reducing the mosquito population and slowing down pathogen transmission. However, there has been an increase in Ae. aegypti mosquito resistance to available insecticides and with increasing world population, global warming, urbanization, and the lack of other effective mosquito control strategies, the mosquito population will continue to grow. As a result, we will likely experience higher incidences of Dengue, Chikungunya, and Zika infections. The strategy being investigated in the Prof. Rascón, Jr. lab is to target the proteolytic enzymes involved in the blood meal protein digestion process, which should have a negative affect on egg development, reduce the mosquito population, and hence reduce pathogen transmission.
Students and Faculty Attend ABRCMS
December 1, 2015
A group of SJSU students and faculty attended the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in Seattle on November 11-14, 2015. At this conference students can present scientific research they have performed with faculty. The students are participants in the MARC, RISE, LSAMP and CoSRaTS programs housed in the College of Science. Five students received awards for their presentations. MARC students Jessica Ballin (Psychology) and Rebecca Sandoval (Psychology) presented research performed during the summer at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign and University of Michigan, respectively. Awardees from the RISE program presented work done with faculty at SJSU. These students are Fauna Yarza (Biological Sciences, Professor Elizabeth Skovran), Elvia Silva (Biological Sciences, Professor Tzvia Abramson) and Adrian Riives (Chemistry, Prof. Gilles Muller).
Chemistry Department Receives Equipment Donations
December 1, 2015
Two mass spectrometers were donated to the department this fall, giving students experience with state of the art equipment. The Prof. Joseph Pesek's research group received a Perkin-Elmer liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry (LC/MS) instrument donation for use by CHEM 55L students. A new gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) instrument was donated by the Santa Clara Valley Water District and will be used in Prof. Roger Terrill’s CHEM 155 class. This is the second donation from SCVWD - the first was an inductively coupled plasma-optical emission spectrometer system (ICP-OES).
Professor Kelly Receives NSF Grant to Develop a Visualization Framework for Chemical Reactions
October 1, 2015
Prof. Resa Kelly was awarded a $265,924 grant from the National Science Foundation – Division of Undergraduate Education - IUSE Program to design effective strategies to develop and present molecular visualizations that support student learning in General Chemistry. The framework will present students with a video of experimental evidence followed by animations in variance to each other. The student will be charged with critiquing the animations in connection to the experimental evidence to decide how the animations are similar to or different from the evidence and each other. Ultimately, they will be asked to reflect on the accuracy of each animation. The understanding and insights revealed through this endeavor, regarding how visualizations can enhance student success, will be of significant value to educators across a wide range of scientific disciplines, from biology, to earth sciences, to physics and more.
Professor Muller Leads Research Seminars in Japan
October 1, 2015
Prof. Gilles Muller was invited by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) to visit several Japanese universities (Osaka City University, Osaka University, Toyama University, Tsukuba University, Nara Institute of Science and Technology, Kinki University and Kwansei Gakuin University) in June 2015 to participate in educational and scientific discussions and to lead lectures and research seminars. Internationally recognized for his work in promoting excellence in research and for successful mentoring of high school, undergraduate, and graduate students, Prof. Muller is one of the few researchers in the world studying circularly polarized luminescence. During his month-long visit, Prof. Muller also shared the mission of his research group which is to facilitate and increase undergraduate research as a teaching and mentoring tool at SJSU.
Professor Pesek and Dr. Matyska-Pesek Receive Grants from Brazilian Government
September 20, 2015
Prof. Joseph Pesek received a grant from the Brazilian government agency (CNPg) associated with Ministry of Science and Technology and Dr. Maria Matyska-Pesek received a grant from Brazilian government agency (CAPES) linked to Ministry of Education. Grants are devoted to development of new separation methods for analysis of different food products, impurities in food, main components and monitoring the changes in food after food processing. Both researchers spent two weeks in Brazil at the Federal University in Pelotas this summer. More details on research in the Pesek lab can be found on his research group website and ResearchGate, where Prof. Pesek is a high-impact member.