2020 Newsletter

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Robin Lammi, Chair

Greetings from Sims to all chemistry, biochemistry, physics and geology program friends!

What a year!! 2020 brought changes and challenges to Sims, as we grappled with the unprecedented conditions of the global pandemic, but we persevered. I’m so proud of everything that our students, faculty, staff and alums were able to accomplish; as you peruse this newsletter, I think you will be, too!

The campus closed in March, causing faculty, staff and students to quickly transition to online courses and operations, many of us for the first time – quite a learning experience for everyone! COVID-related preparations for summer were busy, too, as Sims was one of the first buildings to reopen, in time to welcome summer researchers and Eagle STEM Scholars in July. You can learn more about the Sims COVID transformation below, recognized across campus and beyond as a model for safe, socially distanced operations – thanks to everyone for their insights and hard work! Fall classes began online in August; the campus opened in early September with a mixture of online, hybrid and in-person classes, before moving back to remote learning after Thanksgiving. It was definitely a different fall semester, with many fewer people in the building.

In spite of these significant COVID-induced interruptions, fifteen terrific chemistry majors become program alums in 2020. Impressively, ten recent grads enrolled in doctoral programs (five Ph.D., three Pharm.D., one M.D., and one D.M.D.), while two began MAT and R.N./P.A. programs; others entered scientific industry, taking positions at 3M and Duke Energy, for example. Kudos to all!

Pat Owens stepped down as chair in June, after 25 years of amazing leadership – growing the major and department, building research infrastructure, securing extramural grant funding and so much more. We are all fortunate to have benefited from Pat’s efforts…and we’re thrilled that he continues to serve as professor of chemistry!

Two other long-time Sims residents did leave us in the summer, as instrumentation manager Pam Jaco retired and physics instructor TJ Lipinski relocated to Anderson, South Carolina, and a new position at Tri-County Technical College. They will be missed! Taking up their positions – but not their places – we were delighted to welcome Dr. Athena Detrick and Mr. Jim Curley in August. Two other colleagues assumed new leadership roles in August, as Dr. Nick Grossoehme became Winthrop’s director of undergraduate research and Dr. Scott Werts took over as Dalton's Endowed Chair of the Environmental program – great selections for Winthrop and well-deserved recognitions for Nick and Scott.

Read on to learn more…and please keep in touch!


Fatima Amir

THIS PAST YEAR PROVED to be a very challenging year with the sudden switch to online teaching on March 15, 2020. Just choosing the right method to effectively present lectures virtually presented difficulties. The asynchronous online courses were not very helpful to students who struggled, especially for a class as hard as PHYS 212. In fall, for my hybrid classes, I decided to have synchronous online classes on zoom and face-to-face meetings. The synchronous online showed to be more helpful for a class like mine with a flipped model. I could solve as many problems as I did in a face-to-face class, and have an active class where students could ask and answer as many questions as they wanted. Students were able to adequately adapt and learn virtually.

The pandemic brought in-person research to a screeching halt! Spring semester in-person research ended in March and travel was banned. Results of our summer 2019 research were supposed to be presented at the American Physical Society (APS) March meeting, but the meeting was cancelled. However, Sean Wechsler ’20 was able to present his research results virtually at the American Chemical Society (ACS) national meeting in March during the Sci-Mix session. The Sci-Mix poster session consists of abstracts selected by division program chairs and represents the most exceptional abstracts submitted to participating divisions. Sean was also awarded the Excellence in Undergraduate Research Award by the ACS Carolina-Piedmont Section. In addition, Sean co-authored my invited article entitled, Superior Electrochemical Performance of Pristine Nickel Hexaamino-benzene MOF Supercapacitors Fabricated by Electrophoretic Deposition in the ChemSusChem journal published January 21, 2020.

Summer laboratory research was not without struggles. With the pandemic a factor, only one of my research students, Austin Read ’22 completed the virtual assignments. Austin was able to analyze some of the data taken by Darien Nguyen '20 in spring 2020, and was able to be present and summarize all the weekly remote presentations organized by the NSF-EPSCoR schools. Not being able to travel with research students to Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York this past summer and not having in-person research but via ZOOM periodically made it a very unprecedented and a highly unusual laboratory research period.

Maria Gelabert

ACCORDING TO Dr. Gelabert, her lab continued research in the area of optical materials discovery, funded by the MADE In SC NSF-EPSCoR initiative and a collaborative GEAR grant from SC EPSCoR. Kameron Johnson ’21 has participated in this research remotely since July 2020, continuing to a remote Fall 2020 with the CHEM551 senior research course. Because the GEAR grant is for folding in computational calculations in Density Functional Theory (DFT, with Dr. Ming Hu, University of South Carolina Mechanical Engineering), the remote time provided an excellent opportunity to focus more explicitly on the modeling leading up to the choice of experiments. Mr. Johnson will continue into Spring 2021 with synthesis experiments in order to discover novel rare earth oxides.

Christian Grattan

THIS PAST SUMMER I mentored three students through their summer research experiences. Two of these students worked on one project and participated in the McNair program, which framed a very thorough experience, while the final student had never performed research and initiated a new area of future research study. Each of these projects helped the students to learn and think about chemistry and produced results while allowing the students to incorporate their own ideas into the projects.

Jay Hanna

FOR OUR RESEARCH GROUP, 2020 looked like it was going to be a very productive year. Joining Evan Thibodeaux ’21 were three very talented freshmen (Jackson Barrett ‘23, Molly Quetel ’23 and Eric Walters ’23), who seemed very eager to get into the lab. Evan took control of training these students in the ACS-Petroleum Research Fund supported visible-light photochemistry project, and by the beginning of March, they had become pretty independent, and had their own sub-projects to focus on. Things were on track to have a very productive summer, and perhaps generate enough data to complete the next photochemistry paper by the end of 2020. The student working on our NIH-INBRE supported project involving the synthesis and evaluation of small molecules as amyloid-beta aggregation inhibitors (Kendall Claxton ’22) was going to spend another summer in the lab, looking at how the inclusion of an electron-deficient aromatic ring (pyridine) in teraryl scaffolds affects the extent of inhibition. Then, of course, the pandemic caused us to change course. In mid-March, all on-campus activities (including research) ceased, and travel to conferences was prohibited.

Some progress was made in May and June. One of my research students, Eric Walters, was selected as a 2020 McNair scholar. For his project, he collaborated virtually with me during these months to produce a research proposal on the photoredox-mediated alkylation of ketones and aldehydes, which will guide his future research in my group. This proposal will likely be included in the next issue of the McNair Research Bulletin.

Things began to look more promising in early July, when students working on the photochemistry project returned to the lab for a five-week summer research period (unfortunately, Kendall was not able to work during this time). It took a few days, but things got cranked up, and it looked like we would be able to make some research gains in the limited time we had. However, we soon had to shift to remote research due to COVID concerns. The remainder of the summer was spent meeting over Zoom, discussing literature papers and Orgo 2 topics. During this period of remote research, the group also collaborated on a review article summarizing the addition of organotrifluoroborates to carbonyls and imines, and they were able present the work they did accomplish at the 2020 virtual SURE poster session: Photoredox Mediated Alkylation of Imines with Potassium Organotrifluoro-borates in the Presence of an Organic Photocatalyst.

Timea Fernandez

MY SECOND YEAR at Winthrop represented unprecedented challenges but provided plenty of opportunities to be joyous as well. As the pandemic hit in March, I quickly learned how to effectively teach online while homeschooling my three young children and moving into our new home in Rock Hill. I made countless protocol videos to convert the CHEM 525 biochemistry laboratory course into a hybrid setup where pre-laboratory instruction and some of the labs were held online. I had never before thought that a lab course can be taught effectively (even in part) remotely, but to my great pleasure students were satisfied with the experience.

In the summer I had the privilege to mentor two students in Winthrop’s summer research program. Using funding from SC-INBRE (NIH), Thomas Sullivan '21 and I explored the usage of surface plasmon resonance and isothermal titration calorimetry to measure the binding affinity of the antibiotic tetracycline and the chaotrop guanidine to the ykkCD guanidine sensing riboswitch RNA. This work ultimately aims to decipher how this toxin-sensing regulatory RNA recognizes its targets. Funding provided by SC-INBRE and EPSCoR made it possible for Allen Livingston '23 and I to research the usage modified RNAs as caging compounds to deliver the antibiotic tetracycline to bacterial cells that are resistant to it. To sum up, I believe my second year at Winthrop was adventurous but successful.

Jason Hurlbert

LABORATORY RESEARCH IS a huge part of who we are in the Depart-ment of Chemistry and when the shutdown order came in March 2020, I felt as though half of my life was missing by not being able to go into the lab. The partial reopening of campus in July could not come early enough as I had gotten so good at Call of Duty, I was considering turning pro. Fortunately for the esports community, we were able to get back into the lab and make progress on several projects despite the delays caused by the pandemic. Alyssa Petty '20 was able to complete a study on the chaperone activity of the Type III effector protein XopAZ on the last day campus was open prior to Spring Break. Juliana Quay '20 was able to obtain crystals of the periplasmic calcium sensor EfhX in July of 2020 once campus partially reopened. Alyssa graduated in December 2020 and will start pharmacy school at Wingate University in Fall 2021. Juliana graduated in May 2020 and has started her doctoral studies in the Quantitative and Chemical Biology program at Vanderbilt University. The program director at Vanderbilt, Dr. Tina Iverson, was generous enough to share some of her beamtime at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory in October, and we attempted to collect diffraction data on Juliana’s crystals in November. Unfortunately, they did not diffract, but we have been able to grow more crystals with a variety of additives and will send them out to California in the spring for another data collection run. In the Fall of 2020, Christine Dunn '22 came into the lab and helped work up the expression and purification of a domain of the cauliflower mosaic virus movement protein, a collaboration with Winthrop biology graduate Danny Stanton and Dr. Ron Brlansky at the University of Florida Lake Alfred Research Extension station. Christine will return to the lab in the Spring 2021 to determine the cyclophilin activity of XopAZ and initiate crystallization trials of the purified protein.

We were also fortunate enough to have had two manuscripts published this year. The first manuscript (https://doi.org/10.1002/pro.3963) was published in Protein Science and describes the three-dimensional structure of a glycerol dehydrogenase double mutant that acquired a D-lactate dehydrogenase activity. We were able to explain the acquired activity based upon the tertiary structure. This manuscript included Winthrop alumnus Grace Jones '15 as a coauthor. The second manuscript was published in PLOS One (https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0233301) and describes the work we did to characterize three ORFs acquired by a phytopathogenic strain of Xanthomonas perforans. In Spring 2021 Ashton Dorman '21 will continue to work on the expression and purification of these proteins with a goal of determining the substrate specificity of the proteases.

Scott Werts

THIS SEMESTER HAS BEEN a difficult one for research in my laboratory. All of my lecture-based courses were virtual this year, and I have children doing virtual learning in grade school. The amount of time spent in the laboratory was limited every week. My two research students were in, on average, once per week tending to soil samples. We did manage to complete some datasets of total nitrogen and carbon content as well as powder x-ray analysis of the same sets of samples from a local farm to assess carbon sequestration processes. To start the next semester, we will be establishing a remote sensing station at the farm. We had hoped to do that toward the end of this past semester but decided under an abundance of caution to delay the work.


Dr. Maria Gelabert

Principal investigator (PI) - Materials Assembly and Design Excellence in South Carolina; Made in SC/Established Program to Stimulate Com-petitive Research (EPSCoR)/National Science Foundation (NSF). The goal of the SC EPSCoR GEAR CRP (Collaborative Research Program) encourages faculty researchers to build and enhance networks amongst South Carolina scientists in the state. Also, PI for an EPSCoR GEAR CRP Discovering and Opt grant.

Dr. Nicholas Grossoehme

Principal investigator (PI) - South Carolina EPSCoR/IDeA/SC Commission on Higher Education (SC CHE) - GEAR CRP: Collaboration to develop ferritin-based bio-macromolecular assemblies for targeted interactions with cells

Dr. James Hanna, Jr.

Principal investigator (PI) - American Chemical Society’s Petroleum Research Fund, ACS-PRF Grant Visible-Light-Promoted Additions of Organoborates to Imines

Dr. Robin Lammi

Principal investigator (PI) - South Carolina’s IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE)/National Institutes of Health (NIH)



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August 1, 1995 was the day in which the department of chemistry, physics and geology was graced with an awesome new chair. His name was Dr. Pat Owens. The department, as well as the Sims building, was about to undergo a tremendous transformation.

As momentum began to build and with the addition of safety, biochemistry, curriculum, accreditations, instrumentation, external grant funding, student research and the Eagle STEM Scholars Program, the department grew 173% in size. When Dr. Pat Owens' arrived, the department only had five chemists, two physicists, two geologists and two support staff. On Dr. Owens final day as chair, June, 15, 2020, the department had a makeup of ten chemists, three biochemists, three geologists, two physicists, six adjunct instructors, four full-time staff and two part-time staff employees.

Dr. Owens was relentless in his approach to increase the number of chemistry majors. He focused on recruiting quality faculty and increasing the number of students enrolled in the program. Through countless conversations with potential students and their parents, personal tours and numerous letters written, Dr. Owens successfully explained why a student should be a chemistry major! Student research started booming, state-of-the-art instrumentation/equipment was added and grant funding surged to $3.73 million within the department. The enrollment of chemistry majors increased from 29 to 106 in the Spring of 2020, a 266% increase. By 2019, the number of graduating chemistry majors had increased 667%. The number of alums that have continued on to get doctoral degrees also increased. For comparison, over an 82-year period (1920 to 2002) six chemistry alums obtained doctoral degrees, while since 2002 (an 18-year period) a total of 76 alums graduated with doctoral degrees (1,167% increased). Subsequently, since 2004 a total of 81 students have matriculated into Ph.D. programs.

Even the Sims Building was impacted by Dr. Pat Owens’ leadership. In 2002, there was a need to improve the building to meet safety guidelines for earthquake codes. Sims was expanded on each end of the building and braces were mounted in the roofing area. Dr. Owens and the department worked tirelessly until all classes were rescheduled into other buildings, and all required equipment was relocated and then replaced after completion. Dr. Pat Owens received a Presidential Citation for his role in the renovation and reoccupation of the building. In 2020, Dr. Owens was tasked with making Sims COVID-19 ready. When Winthrop brought in an outside consultant to access COVID-19 readiness, the department did not encounter any major problems during the assessment. The department was praised and used as an example for other departments.

The department and Sims building benefited from the tremendous growth and implementation of new programs which occurred over the past twenty-five years! Dr. Owens greatly influenced every area within chemistry, biochemistry, physics and geology. Although the chair’s role was passed into the quite capable hands of Dr. Robin Lammi, it is good to know that Dr. Pat Owens is still working in the department. Dr. “O”, as some students call him, continues to teach and oversee the numerous activities of the grant budgets.


Pam Jaco retired on June 30, 2020. When the pandemic is under control and life returns to the norm, Pam and her husband, Charlie, plan to travel, mainly close to home (in the United States and Canada) starting with a trip to New England (Boston to see their grandson again). Dr. Owens said, " We all owe a special thanks to Pam who in addition to overseeing the transformation of Sims, has consistently and reliably been there through thick and thin providing whatever support is needed to keep instruments running, facilities repaired, samples analyzed, time sheets completed, equipment serviced, budgets tracked, procurements done and so many other countless important roles, without which many other things would not be possible." The department will surely miss Pam.

Activity planning was hampered by COVID-19, but in honor of Pam, the department was able to give her a few momentos. Dr. Gelabert said Pam was very touched by the roses, balloons, gifts and electronic card.

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Dr. Athena Detrick

Athena Detrick, Ph.D., joined Winthrop University full time as the new chemistry instrumentation manager and Instructor on August 6, 2020. She received her triple-major undergraduate B.S. degrees in molecular biology, zoology and violin performance from University of Wisconsin at Madison and her Ph.D. in biochemistry from University of North Texas Health Science Center, Fort Worth, Texas. She has worked in industry as a scientist at Covance Laboratories/Eurofins, Madison, Wisconsin; Alcon Laboratories/Novartis, Fort Worth, Texas; freelance consulting, Rock Hill, South Carolina; and CbdMD, Charlotte, North Carolina. Her experience in instrumentation/ techniques include HPLC, LCMS, Chromatography, cloning, protein purification, spectroscopy and chromatography. Past courses she has taught at Winthrop include Microbiology 310, Biochemistry 520, Chemistry 104, Biology 150 and Chemistry 108 (current). Her hobbies are playing the violin, hiking and reading.

Mr. Jim Curley

Jim Curley is a new adjunct professor at Winthrop University, teaching physics labs. He joined the Department of Chemistry, Physics and Geology on August 24, 2020. Jim graduated from the Citadel with a physics degree and with a master's in physics from John Carroll University. Jim worked doing research and development in optical fiber sensors and optical components at Aster Corporation. He also worked as the manager of engineering services at Pirelli Cable. Jim is a USPTO registered patent agent, assisting corporations and independent inventors obtain patents for their inventions. Also, Jim has taught physics and astronomy at York Technical College and Columbia College. Jim and his family live on a small homestead in rural SC where they raise pigs, chickens and lots of vegetables.


Congratulations to our distinguished colleagues on their well-deserved achievements!

As of May 7, 2020:

  • Dr. Fatima Amir was awarded tenure (she was promoted to associate professor of physics last summer).
  • Both Drs. Nicholas Grossoehme and Jason Hurlbert were promoted to professor of chemistry.
  • Dr. Clifton Harris was awarded tenure and promoted to associate professor of chemistry.

Effective July 1, 2020, Dr. Robin Lammi replaced Dr. Patrick Owens as the the department chair. Dr. Owens will continue to serve as a professor of chemistry and a consultant for the budgets.

Also effective July 1, 2020, Dr. Scott Werts took on the role of Dalton Endowed Chair of Environmental Sciences and Studies.


Dr. Athena Detrick replaced Ms. Pam Jaco as the department's instrumentation manager/instructor effective August 6, 2020.

It was announced on August 10, 2020, that Dr. Nicholas Grossoehme will serve as the new director of undergraduate research in University College, replacing Dr. Robin Lammi.

Effective August 24, 2020, Mr. Jim Curley took over a major portion of Mr. Thomas Lipinski's position as an adjunct physics instructor. Mr. Curley will absorb remaining courses in Spring 2021.


During Phase II, Sims was set-up to meet CDC suggestive guidelines. Drs. Pat Owens, Cliff Calloway and Robin Lammi were valuable resources for setting up Sims. Dr. Calloway, Willie Aiken, Holly Truluck and Pam Jaco did an awesome job transforming Sims into a COVID-19 ready facility. On August 18, 2020, MUSC, an outside contractor for Winthrop, evaluated Sims' readiness. The department received their stamp of approval and passed the evaluation. Sims served as a model for the rest of the campus. If you would like to view some of the changes, please watch the video below that was filmed by Willie Aiken and narrated by Dr. Cliff Calloway.

Sims COVID 19 Preparation Narrated


Dr. Nick Grossoehme is honored to introduce the newest addition to his family, Seth Wendell Grossoehme. Jill and Nick’s healthy bundle of joy was born at 6:48 a.m. on June 10, 2020. Their son weighed eight pounds and twelve ounces, and was twenty and half inches long. Both Seth and Jill did well through the birthing process and engaged in some well-deserved sleep afterwards. Pictured in the photo below is Seth and his big sister, Laurel. According to Daddy, Laurel loves being a big sister.

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Holly Truluck was united in marriage to Adam Powell in a beautiful morning ceremony at 8:30 a.m. on October 20, 2020. The breathtaking ceremony was held on the mountain top of Black Balsam Knob in North Carolina. This is one the couple’s favorite hiking spot. The newlyweds enjoyed a wedding reception in Asheville, North Carolina.

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Due to the internal support of Winthrop and external grants, such as EPSCoR Made in SC and SC INBRE, the department continues to add exciting new instruments/equipment. The new equipment has been very beneficial to faculty research and students taking various chemical courses and performing summer research.


AKTA go arrived at Winthrop on June 25, 2020. Installation and training took place in July. This instrument is used to purify proteins from solution. The instrument uses a variety of columns that take advantage of the chemical properties of our target proteins and allows us to monitor the purification in real time in addition to fractionating the column eluate into discrete volumes for subsequent analysis. This instrument will be used to support the research programs of faculty as part of their involvement in the Made in SC grant ( NSF Award # OIA-1655740).

Thermal Cycler, Muffle Furnace, Spin Coater and Ball Mill

Biochemists were very excited about the arrival a new 96-well thermal cycler that arrived July 6, 2020. It was very beneficial to the 2020 summer researchers. Programming with the intuitive touch screen saves time, reactions are quickly optimized in a single run and personalized folders enable users to manage and organize protocols easily.

The Nabertherm N 7/annealing muffle furnace arrived July 29, 2020. It provides the capabilities of heating samples at very high temperature (1280 degree C max.) along with the flow of inert gases (protected up to 1100 degree C). The furnace will be used primarily for samples that have a potential use for electricity generation with light and water such as solar panels or water-splitting electrodes. The physical chemists are excited about this equipment and how it can provide rewarding experiences for research students.

Both the Hi-Speed Spin Coater and the High Speed 3D Ball Mill arrived around August 31, 2020. The Hi-Speed Spin Coater is used to coat surfaces with ultra-thin films, generally for chemical or electronics applications. It is be expected to develop new photovoltaic devices. Then the High Speed 3D Ball Mill will be used to crush bulk solid samples down into nano-scale powders. The Ball Mill will be used to develop new materials for the photovoltaic devices.


Seminars play a critical role in science, providing a venue for public dissemination of scientific methods, results and advances. Seminars also provide "networking" opportunities through face-to-face contact (in-person or by a web conference tool). A typical seminar usually involves an introduction of the speaker, and a presentation by the speaker followed by a time for questions and discussion. The department typically seeks speakers from other universities, industries and government agencies to provide students with a broad perspective of the chemistry enterprise.

On Thursday, January 30, 2020, our seminar speakers were Winthrop University chemistry faculty that introduced their undergraduate research. If you would like to participate in the research listed below, e-mail links are provided.

Dr. Clifton Calloway's research topic was "Automating the Standard Dilution Analysis Method for Rapid Determination of Trace Metals in Water using ICP-OES." For additional information, contact Calloway at callowayc@winthrop.edu.

Dr. Timea Fernandez spoke on "Bacterial Small RNAs: From Gene Expression Regulation to Drug Delivery Vehicles." Contact Fernandez at fernandezt@winthrop.edu for additional information.

Dr. Nicholas Grossoehme presented the research topic, "Iron, and Copper, and E. coli, Oh My." E-mail Grossoehme for additional information at grossoehme@winthrop.edu.

USC-Columbia's Professor of Chemistry and Associate Dean Dr. Hans-Conrad zur Loye talked to Winthrop students on February 13, 2020. "The Search for Next Generation Nuclear Waste Sequestration Materials: Directed Synthesis of New Actinide Containing Oxides and Fluorides" was his presentation topic.

Dr. Peter Schreiber, director of technology and continuous improvement at Gabriel Performance Products in Rock Hill presented his work to the Winthrop students on March 12, 2020. Schreiber's talk was titled "Industrial Chemistry: Chemistry is the Easy Part."

UCLA’s professor Marc A. Suchard, M.D., Ph.D. was scheduled to speak at Winthrop University on April 7-9, 2020. Unfortunately, the two-day lectures for the fourth annual INBRE Distinguished Lecture Series was canceled due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Hopefully, he will speak at a later date. His contributions to the fields of mathematics and biology interface will be very beneficial to our undergraduate research students where data science and biomedical sciences intersect.

Furman University's Dr. Meghan Breen presented a virtual seminar on "New Genetically-Encodable Amino Acids for Covalent Capture of Protein-Protein Inter-actions" on September 3, 2020. If you missed the presentation, click on the following link https://winthrop.techsmithrelay.com/4F0X. Host: Dr. Maria Gelabert

On October 8, 2020, Dr. Sarah Keane from the University of Michigan presented virtually to Winthrop students on "A Tale of Two Transitions: The Unfolding Mechanism of the prfA RNA Thermosensor." View presentation at https://winthrop.techsmithrelay.com/IBRd. Host: Dr. Maria Gelabert.

Dr. Michael Walter visited Winthrop virtually from UNC-Charlotte on October 22, 2020, with talk title: "Properties and Applications of Highly Fluorescent Thiazolothiazole Materials." Dr. Jay Hanna spent time in Walter's lab during his sabbatical this past year. Watch the video by clicking on the following link: https://winthrop.techsmithrelay.com/9iOD. Host: Dr. Maria Gelabert.

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The November 19, 2020 seminar highlighted careers of two Winthrop chemistry alums. Ms. Brittany Keane '13 who is a full-time Deputy Coroner for York County and Mr. Ishmell Williams '19, a laboratory technician at Coatex in Chester, South Carolina. They discussed their career paths and took questions from students in a forum-style seminar on Zoom. To view the seminar, please click on the following link: https://winthrop.techsmithrelay.com/4hYR. Host: Dr. Maria Gelabert, assisted by Mrs. Kristen Kull.


Students Learning Beyond the Walls of Winthrop University

Under the direction of professors/mentors, Winthrop students generally have the privilege to travel to various locations around the world. Traveling to these various locations would far exceed the depth of learning that takes place in the classroom or laboratory. Students evaluate breathtaking environments and terrains abroad, perform research at different locations, or they may collect samples to analyze at Winthrop. Students performing research at these locations have awesome opportunities to learn different laboratory techniques and use new laboratory equipment. Truly the exposure for learning is immeasurable. However, traveling have been very limited this year due to the COVID-19.

Southern Piedmont Area-Clay Soil Samples

Ashley Allen ’21, Mikayla M. Burke ’21, and geology faculty member Dr. Scott Werts have traveled to an experimental farm in Sharon, South Carolina, numerous times since February of 2020 to collect soil samples. They will take the samples back to Winthrop University to analyze in Dr. Werts' research laboratory. Werts' research topic is "Clay Chemistry, Particle Size, and Carbon Sequestration in Southern Piedmont Soils."

Exciting Opportunities in New York, Canada, Bahamas, & Ohio

Prior to the COVID-19 travel ban, students performed research at Brookhaven National Labs in Upton, New York with Dr. Fatima Amir (amirf@winthrop.edu), traveled abroad to Manitoba Province in northern Canada with Dr. Scott Werts (wertss@winthrop.edu), and accompanied Dr. Diana Boyer (boyerd@winthrop.edu) to San Salvador Bahamas and to the Cleveland, Ohio area. If you interested in such a rewarding experience, e-mail professors, check-out GEOL 345 - Geology of the Bahamas course, or read previous department newsletters (http://chem.winthrop.edu/).

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Student(*) Peer-Reviewed Publications

-Wechsler, S. C.;* Amir, F. Z. Superior Electrochemical Performance of Pristine Nickel Hexaamino- benzene MOF Supercapacitors Fabricated by Electrophoretic Deposition. ChemSusChem 2020, 13(6), 1491-1495.

Student(*) Presentations at National Conferences

-Wechsler, Sean;* Amir, Fatima. High Performance supercapacitors based on pristine nickel hexa- aminobenzene MOF electrodes. 259th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, Philadelphia, PA, 2020.

Student(*) Presentations at Regional Conferences

-For the past couples of years, twenty-six students traveled and made presentations at the Geological Society of America Southeast Regional Meeting in Tennessee and Southeast Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Georgia. However, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, students were not allowed to travel and present at Regional Conferences in 2020.

External Summer 2020 Research Fellowship Awards

Due to COVID-19, no students were awarded external research fellowships during the summer of 2020.

Winthrop's Internal Summer 2020 Research Fellowship Awards

Students in the department are awarded Winthrop research fellowships to perform research under Winthrop's faculty mentors. Mentors coordinate the activities during the summer in which the students enthusiastically participate in the research.

Winthrop University Fellowship activities fall under the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) program. SURE is an exciting experience for students involved in the Department of Chemistry, Physics and Geology research. The students were able to participate in a modified research program during a four-to-five-week period over the summer with faculty mentors.

Due to COVID-19, students did not present their research in the form of presentations and posters at various meetings, conferences and symposiums. However, the research performed by students was very rewarding to each research student. Thanks to the financial support of various external agencies and organizations, the hands-on learning research experience provided by the mentors and the university support for making the undergraduate research possible for department students.

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Winthrop students present their research at conferences and annual meetings. Winthrop students learn from others and compete with students from around the world. They have awesome opportunities to network with various scientists from across the globe.

ERN STEM Conference in Washington D.C.

Merilyn Palmer '21 traveled to Washington, D.C., February 5-8, 2020 to present her biomedical (cancer) research at the Emerging Researchers National (ERN) Conference in STEM. The topic of the research is “Enhancing Radiation Induced Cell Death in small Cell Lung Cancer Using Auranofin.” Marilyn performed this research at the University of Iowa. She was a recipient of an External Research Fellowship during the summer of 2019. Merilyn also used this opportunity to obtained valuable information to share with the minority student STEM group that she started last year at Winthrop. If you have an Instagram account and would like to see the information she gathered, click on the following link: https://www.instagram.com/tv/B9PZnt6gaRp/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link.

ACS Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Canceled

Sean Weshler '20 was scheduled to attend and present research in-person on March 22-26, 2020 at the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The in-person conference was canceled due to the COVID-19 travel ban. So, Sean nor his mentor, Dr. Fatima Amir, were not able to attend in-person. However, Sean was able to virtually present two presentations. One was selected in the Sci-Mix poster session and the other was selected by the program chairs because it represented the most exceptional abstracts submitted to the participating divisions.

GSA Meeting Canceled Due to COVID-19

On March 19 – 22, 2020, the following students were scheduled to attend and present research at the joint regional Geological Society of America meeting in Renton, Virginia: Keele Puckett '21 and Emily Crago '20. However, due to the pandemic outbreak and for the safety of the students and faculty, all travel was canceled by the university. For additional information about geology research and the regional meetings, contact Geology advisors, Drs. Diana Boyer (boyerd@winthrop.edu), Gwen Daley (daleyg@winthrop.edu) and Scott Werts (wertss@winthrop.edu).


ACS Excellence in Undergraduate Research Award

Sean Wechsler '20 was awarded the Excellence in Undergraduate Research Award by the American Chemical Society, Carolina--Piedmont Section on April 6, 2020. Sean receive this certificate for his work on "Electrochemical Performance of Pristine Nickel Hexaaminobenzene Supercapacitors Fabricated by Electrophoretic Deposition."

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Inez Bell Caskey Student Scholar Awards

Sean Wechsler '20 is also the recipient of the Inez Bell Caskey Student Scholar Award that was presented April 27, 2020 in Science and Mathematics category. Sean received this award based on the impressive quality of his work as well as its contribution to chemistry, physics and geology.


Student researchers were not able to experience the full effect of SURE in 2020. They were denied the opportunities to make presentations, win awards, travel, make life-long contacts, etc. As you can see in the photos below, some students were provided this experience during in 2019. Kendall Claxton '22, KeeLe Puckett '21, Daniel Croke '21, Alyssa Petty '20 and others presented their work to other Winthrop students, faculty, staff and visitors.

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In the past, research students like Evan Thibodeaux '21, Molly Quetel '23, Eric Walters '23, Thomas Sullivan '21, Kendarius Butler '22, Blake Campbell '21 and others were able to take advantage of many ​opportunities to present their research both locally and on bigger platforms. It is unfortunate that students in the past year were not given the opportunity to compete against other schools, win awards for the best posters, travel to conferences, as these activities were canceled due to COVID-19 social distancing and travelling restrictions.

To showcase the hard work and resilience of the students that participated in summer research during 2020, Dr. Diana Boyer, the SURE program leader, worked with library staff to allow research students and mentors to submit posters virtually to Winthrop's digital commons and reach a wide audience. The topics, students and mentors are listed below. View posters by clicking on the topics below. Additional information can be found by clicking on the link under the S.U.R.E Poster's section.

Photoredox Mediated Alkylation of Imines with Potassium Organotrifluoroborates in the Presence of an Organic Photocatalyst; Jackson W. Barrett, Evan H. Thibodeaux, Molly A. Quetel, and Eric J. Walters; Mentor: Dr. James Hanna, Jr.

Discovery Research for New Optical Materials; Kameron Johnson; Mentor: Dr. Maria Gelabert

Using nucleic acid-gold nanoparticle conjugate in the fight against bacteria that are resistant to tetracycline antibiotics; Allen T. Livingston; Mentor: Dr. Timea Fernandez

Elucidating the effect of the antibiotic tetracycline on the regulatory function of the guanidine sensing riboswitch ykkCD; Thomas k. Sullivan; Mentor: Dr. Timea Fernandez

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Pandemic Prohibited SAACS Activities

According to Dr. Clifton Harris, the Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society (SAACS) Advisor, the pandemic made it difficult for students to participate in any activities. Hopefully, student activities will be resumed in 2021.

M.A.D. Interview Workers in the STEM Field

M.A.D. scientists (Minorities who are Astonishingly Driven) interviewed various workers in the STEM profession. These interviews were typically shared with the group on Mondays, referred to as “MAD Mondays.”

On February 28, 2020, M.A.D. President Merilyn Shanell Palmer '21 interviewed alumnus Darius Ollison '12. He really shared the "ins and outs" on working in the chemistry industry. As advisor Willie Aiken filmed the event (https://www.instagram.com/tv/B9zsWctAeHs/?utm_source=ig_web), Ollison provided very valuable information for chemists working in the industrial field. Others interviewed by Palmer were Katharyne Tedford from Winthrop EHS department and Willie Aiken for the chemistry department. Biology alumnus Samuel Robinson '16 was scheduled for an interview, but COVID-19 brought the interviews to closures.

President Palmer '21 and officers for the group, Vice-President Carla Wilson '21 and Secretary Bryson Samuel '22 celebrated one year of the club. The celebration video below is an overview of M.A.D. Scientists.


Congratulations Class of 2020!

Class of 2020 students matriculated into various graduate programs and into industry. When students graduated, some had not made a decision, while others matriculated into doctoral or master's programs or pursued careers in industry. The Class of 2020 had to endure a pandemic year, and we are so proud of each graduate!

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2020 Doctoral Degrees

Hats off to the biochemistry and chemistry alumni that received doctoral degrees in 2020.
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Congrats to Alumni on the Move in the Workforce!

Because alums have been so resilient, their chemistry degrees from Winthrop's Department of Chemistry, Biochemistry, Physics and Geology have shown how they were able to move into many facets of the workforce. We are so proud of each one of them. Keep up the good work!

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Alumni Sightings

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Video from Alumna, Dr. Summer Hanna

Dr. Summer Hanna '07 Winthrop chemistry alumna and principal science manager at BAT, was among five women featured in video celebrating International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

Celebrating our Women in Science

Alumna Sarah Wicks featured in "Duke Today"

Winthrop alumna, Sarah Wicks '15 is pursuing a Ph.D. at Duke University. After returning from the COVID break, she was featured in "Duke Today." Sarah said: “It hasn't been completely lonesome. But I do miss the chatter of other group members being here. We usually have about nine lab members working, we have music playing, equipment humming and to have such silence now does make it lonelier than it was.” Drs. James Hanna and Robin Lammi mentored Sarah at Winthrop. Click on link for additional information: https://today.duke.edu/2020/06/duke%E2%80%99s-labs-are-back-business-new-way

Alumnus Personal Journey Into Medical School

J.R. McAnally, M.S. '14 said: "Persistence pays off:" This is a heartwarming and inspiring story written by an awesome Winthrop chemistry graduate on his personal journey into medical school. Jacob is pursing a M.D. degree at the Medical University of South Carolina. Read the entire story by clicking on the following link: https://www.linkedin.com/posts/j-r-mcanally_chemistry-graduate-medicalschool-activity-6613475868926889984-i0y5.

Alumna's Poster Awarded at Winter Conference

On January 17, 2020, Winthrop chemistry alumna and current Clemson Ph.D. candidate Katja Hall '16 won a student poster award at the 2020 Winter Conference on Plasma Spectrochemistry, held in Tucson, Arizona. As an undergraduate at Winthrop, Dr. Cliff Calloway mentored Katja. For additional information about the award, click on the following link: https://blogs.clemson.edu/chemistry/2020/01/17/katja-hall-wins-student-poster-award-at-the-2020-winter-conference-on-plasma-spectrochemistry/.

Winthrop University and Materials Research: Alumni Focus

As the Materials Assembly and Design Excellence in South Carolina (MADE in SC) funding was awarded in 2017, Winthrop University’s Department of Chemistry, Physics and Geology had begun making strides to strengthen materials research. With faculty hires in solid state photochemistry (Cliff Harris, 2011), hydrothermal crystal growth (Maria Gelabert, 2012) and supercapacitors (Fatima Amir, 2014), the department was in a strong position to join nine other South Carolina institutions in the EPSCoR Track I funding for Research Infrastructure and Improvement (RII). Harris, Gelabert and Amir all contribute to the Thrust 1 strategic goal. The article below focuses on three alumni of Winthrop who participated in materials research as undergraduates and are currently completing a doctoral degree.

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Under Gift Designation, select "Chemistry Department Enrichment Fund" or mail a check payable to Winthrop University, Chemistry Dept.; 101 Sims; Rock Hill, SC 29733; Acct# 142250-2555-200.