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chemistry Accomplishments

Aug 9, 2018
Jun Yong Kang (Chemistry and Biochemistry) and his research team (Hai Huang and Jeffery Ash) published a research article, "Tf2O-Promoted Activating Strategy of Phosphate Analogues: Synthesis of Mixed Phosphates and Phosphinate," in Organic Letters. This research reports an efficient, mild synthetic method of phosphates and mixed phosphonates. Phosphonate derivatives are prevalent in bioactive small molecules, pharmaceuticals, and agrochemicals. This synthetic methodology will have significant effect on the research of organophosphorus chemistry by avoiding the use of toxic metals and hazardous chloride reagents. Jeffery Ash is an undergraduate student in Kang’s research laboratory.  

Jul 27, 2018
Katherine Thornock Luebke (Chemistry and Biochemistry) won an award for best poster presentation at the annual Department of Energy (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Research and Development (DNN R&D) University Program Review (UPR) meeting in June. Luebke's poster detailed her work on electrochemical recovery of uranium from uranium hexafluoride, the compound used in the uranium enrichment process to produce fuel for nuclear weapons. Her work was performed in collaboration with her mentor, Robert Rundberg, from Los Alamos National Laboratory, and supports advances in the separation, recovery, and utilization of uranium. She is a Nuclear Science and Security Consortium (NSSC) Graduate Fellow in the radiochemistry program at UNLV. The meeting included more than 285 students, faculty, national laboratory scientists, and DOE NNSA program officials. The NSSC student fellows presented 18 oral presentations and 30 poster presentations. Three types of awards were presented to the students: awards for best national laboratory collaboration, best poster presentation, and best oral presentation.

May 4, 2018
Hui Zhang (Chemistry and Biochemistry) and a team of UNLV biochemistry researchers recently published a paper in the journal Nature Communications. The paper is entitled “Methylated DNMT1 and E2F are Targeted for Proteolysis by L3MBTL3 and CRL4DCAF5 Ubiquitin Ligase”. Lysine-specific methylation of histones is a major epigenetic modification that regulates chromatin structure and gene expression. Emerging evidence indicates that a large number of nonhistone proteins are also lysine methylated and a major function of this modification is to control the stability of the methylated proteins. The research team  discovered for the first time a novel mechanism by which the stability of methylated proteins is regulated to control the epigenetic inheritance of DNA methylation and gene expression during cell division.  

Apr 18, 2018
Jun Yong Kang and Hai Huang (both Chemistry and Biochemistry), as well as computational study collaborators at the University of Colorado, Denver, published a research article, "Direct Aryloxylation/Alkyloxylation of Dialkyl Phosphonates for the Synthesis of Mixed Phosphonates," in Angewandte Chemie. This research demonstrates a new synthetic transformation of dialkylphosphonates to mixed phosphonates under mild reaction conditions. The mixed phosphonates are prevalent in pharmaceuticals and bioactive small molecules such as antibacterial, ligand prodrug, and enzyme inhibitors. This synthetic method avoids the use of toxic metals, hazardous chloride reagents, and moisture sensitive chloride intermediates for the synthesis of biologically important mixed phosphonate compounds.

Feb 7, 2018
Hong Sun (Chemistry and Biochemistry) and her laboratory's research were featured in the most recent issue of Research Features for their model on target acid sphingomyelinase (ASM) for anti-cancer therapy. Titled, "Acid Sphingomyelinase – A Novel Target for Anti-Cancer and Degenerative Diseases?," their research explores how ASM interacts with key components of the plasma membrane of the cell, thereby influencing cell signaling. Her team has discovered that mutations or abnormal expression in the gene that encodes ASM can result in a wide range of impacts, from regulating lifespan to enhancing the risk of cancer and neuron degenerative disease. According to the magazine, "As we enter the new year we look forward to showcasing new research from around the world and learning how researchers are working to make a difference. This issue we pay homage to the scientists behind our ever-increasing quality of life as we feature the latest in health research. Whether it's the technology that allows us to peer deep into the body or medicines that extend the lives of those with chronic diseases, it's easy to see how advances in health and medicine have touched the lives of nearly every person on the planet." Other laboratories featured included those at Stanford University, University of Chicago, and Brown University.

Nov 8, 2017
Ken Czerwinski (Chemistry and Biochemistry) has accepted an invitation from the director of the Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to serve as an expert on a study mandated by Congress on the treatment of low-level radioactive waste at the Hanford site in Washington state. Czerwinski, a radiochemist, will serve on this task force for the next 20 months.      

Nov 8, 2017
David Hatchett (Chemistry and Biochemistry) was recently awarded a $232,936 research grant from National Security Technologies. The funding will support his “Metals Separation Project.”  

Nov 1, 2017
MaryKay Orgill (Chemistry and Biochemistry) was shocked by the news of the Oct. 1 incident on the Las Vegas Strip. How she reacted and some of her students' responses were featured recently in Chemical & Engineering News.   The morning after the incident, Orgill decided to talk to her class about how the mass shooting affected them. She brought up Martin Luther King Jr.'s quote, "“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” The article includes excerpts from just two of the more than 80 responses she received that exemplify what those students took from her lesson.

Sep 25, 2017
Jun Kang (Chemistry and Biochemistry) and the Division of Research and Economic Development have partnered with the reagent company Kerafast to market and distribute two novel reagents. The agreement allows Kerafast, a global supplier of biological research tools, to market two reagents that generate phosphorus- and nitrogen-containing compounds without toxic heavy metals. The reagents should make new drug development less costly and more environmentally friendly. These compounds are particularly important in pharmaceuticals. These reagents are the first products to be commercially available due to support from the 2015 Faculty Opportunity Awards.

Sep 6, 2017
Laurel Raftery, Andrew Andres, Ai-Sun "Kelly" Tseng, and Boo Shan Tseng (all Life Sciences), and Hong Sun (Chemistry & Biochemistry), have been awarded a National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation grant to purchase a multiphoton fluorescence imaging system titled "MRI: Acquisition of a High Speed Multiphoton Laser-Scanning Microscope for Research and Training at UNLV." Raftery is the principal investigator, while Andres, Sun, Tseng, and Tseng are co-principal investigators. Collaborators on the award are Nora Caberoy, Sophie Choe, Jeffery Shen, and Jenifer Utz (all Life Sciences), Rochelle Hines (Psychology), and Kwang Kim (Mechanical Engineering). The $998,614 microscope system will be installed in 2018, and operated on a first-come-first-served,  fee-for-service basis, through the UNLV confocal and biological imaging core. It will be Nevada's first multiphoton system for thick tissue (1mm) time-lapse imaging. This technology enables new discoveries in neurobiology, tissue formation, organ repair and whole-scale regeneration, and ion flux in biological tissues and in eletroactive polymer materials for engineering, and expands to other research areas through graduate student training and through recruitment of new faculty and other scientists to work at UNLV and other Southern Nevada technology centers.