Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Prof. Tschumper Wins 2021 SEC Faculty Achievement Award

Posted on: April 4th, 2021 by nhammer

Professor internationally recognized for research in physical and computational quantum chemistry

Greg Tschumper


Greg Tschumper, professor of chemistry in the College of Liberal Arts, has been named winner of the 2021 SEC Faculty Achievement Award for the University of Mississippi, the Southeastern Conference announced this week.

Tschumper joined the Ole Miss faculty in 2001, and his research interests are in weak chemical interactions that play a vital role in a host of chemical, physical and biological processes. He is an expert in the development of electronic structure techniques to describe weak intermolecular interactions and clusters, and he is a full member of Sigma Xi, the scientific research honor society.

“Dr. Tschumper is an outstanding member of our community of scholars, and this honor is a reflection of his many accomplishments,” said Noel Wilkin, UM provost and executive vice chancellor. “He is an internationally recognized researcher in the fields of physical chemistry and computational quantum chemistry and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“Beyond his research accomplishments and contributions to the scientific community, he is an excellent leader of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, is a stellar teacher, has been awarded the Cora Lee Graham Award for Outstanding Teacher of Freshmen and has been awarded the university’s Faculty Achievement Award.”

To receive an SEC achievement award, a faculty member must have achieved the rank of full professor; have a record of extraordinary teaching, particularly at the undergraduate level; and have a record of research that is recognized nationally and/or internationally.

University winners receive a $5,000 honorarium from the SEC and become their campus nominee for the SEC Professor of the Year Award, which will be announced in April.

Click here to learn more about Tschumper.

Departmental Alumna Featured in Ole Miss Alumni Review

Posted on: March 4th, 2021 by nhammer

Qun “Tring” Zhu (PhD 2001) was featured in the Fall 2020 edition of the Ole Miss Alumni Review.  Click Here for the full issue and full article.  Zhu earned her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Zhejiang University of Technology in Hangzhou, China, before she received a graduate research assistantship from Ole Miss and embarked on her journey there.  She was going to apply to the National University of Singapore, but her friend Zhuoli He, a postdoctoral fellow in chemistry at Ole Miss, convinced her to apply to Ole Miss.  “In the beginning, I struggled with the Southern accent,” Zhu says with a laugh. “I could read and write English, but having conversations was a challenge at the beginning.”  Her education included attending symposiums and conferences, such as a trip to a regional American Chemical Society meeting in New Orleans. Going to the Gordon Research Conference in New Hampshire every summer also gave Zhu insight into the tools needed to present to groups. The process included practice sessions where Zhu appreciated the feedback and training she received from Prof. Charles Hussey.  Hussey (BS 71, PhD 74), UM Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Chemistry and Biochemistry, saw Zhu’s dual skills as a researcher and team leader during her time as a doctoral student. Zhu earned her Ph.D. in electrochemistry and analytical chemistry from Ole Miss in 2001. “She is scientifically very bright and has a strong intuition, which is crucial to success in scientific research,” Hussey says. “She also has a very unique leadership skill in that she can influence team members to pursue a research direction without actually giving them orders.  I call this ‘gentle leadership.’ The best leaders have this kind of skill.”    “Dr. Hussey has high standards. He says, ‘You are not ready,’ and I practiced more until I was ready. Dr. Hussey taught me so much. He and the chemistry department gave me all the skills that I needed for future challenges.”  Obtaining a Ph.D. within the chemistry department also entails presenting a seminar to the entire department. “You have to come up with Ph.D. proposals, you have to prepare and learn how to present in front of a live audience,” Zhu says. “The auditorium was big. I prepared until I was ready!” After she completed her Ph.D., Zhu took an informal role as an Ole Miss recruiter. She recommended a couple of potential graduate students to the chemistry department at the university. “I did the screening,” Zhu says. “I looked at their resumés and made sure they were truly interested in pursuing the Ph.D. degree at Ole Miss.” Hussey notes Zhu could have excelled just as well if she had taken another path. “Qun trained with me at Ole Miss in the area of electrochemistry and went almost immediately into an industry where she went to work on diagnostics product development based on electrochemistry concepts. I think she would have done well in academia too.” 

Zhu’s transition from student to scientist began in 2001, when she accepted a job as a senior scientist with Aclara BioSciences Inc., in Mountain View, California. “My first job was doing R&D,” Zhu says. “I was doing electrochemistry. Two years later, I moved to San Diego to work for a company which was later acquired by BD. In 2007, I joined (the) Rapid Diagnostics division (now called the Point of-Care division).” Although Zhu has been working in industry since she left Ole Miss, she is also passionate about teaching and coaching, particularly in program management and leadership. She was a certified instructor at BD for planning and leading projects, and while working for  AstraZeneca China, she loved to provide training and coaching to the project managers. Zhu lives in San Diego with her husband, son and daughter. When she is not working, she enjoys running. “I love the outdoors,” she says. “My goal is to run 80 miles every month. I run at least three times a week and try to do that after work outdoors. You can do that year-round here.” Running enables Zhu to ponder ongoing work projects and clear her mind when needed. She realizes the rest of the year will be spent primarily addressing COVID-19. “Everybody is highly motivated, and people are exhausted,” Zhu says. “I work from home, but I really admire and appreciate our scientists because they had to go to the labs and do experiments every day. Without them, we do not have a product.”

Click Here for the full issue and full article. 

Prof. Davita Watkins Featured in C&E News!

Posted on: February 22nd, 2021 by nhammer

Prof. Davita Watkins was featured in the February 22nd, 2021 issue of Chemical & Engineering News as part of its special Trailblazers Issue.  Click here to access the full issue and click here for the feature article just on Davita Watkins.  This special issue celebrates Black chemists and chemical engineers.

Prof. Cizdziel edits a Special Issue in the Journal Atmosphere

Posted on: February 2nd, 2021 by nhammer
James Cizdziel, Associate Professor of Chemistry

James Cizdziel, Associate Professor of Chemistry

Mercury is a persistent and toxic global contaminant that is transported through the atmosphere, deposits to terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and concentrates up the food chain.  Prof. Cizdziel recently edited a Special Issue in the journal Atmosphere titled “Atmospheric Mercury Monitoring, Analysis and Chemistry: New Insights and Progress toward Minamata Convention Goals”.  In it eight original research articles report the latest findings on the distribution, deposition, and measurement of this airborne pollutant as well as the human and environmental impacts of artisanal mining of Hg and gold. Dr. Cizdziel’s editorial provides highlights of these papers and presents them in the broader context of modern atmospheric Hg research and the Minamata Convention on Mercury, a global treaty now signed by 127 parties designed to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions of Hg. The Special Issue and his editorial can be found here







Distinguished Professor Charles L. Hussey to Retire

Posted on: December 10th, 2020 by nhammer
Charles L. Hussey, Professor and Fellow of The Electrochemical Society

Charles L. Hussey, Distinguished Professor and Fellow of The Electrochemical Society


After 42 years, Dr. Charles L. Hussey, Associate Dean for Research & Graduate Education in the College of Liberal Arts and Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, is retiring this December.  Hussey first came to the University of Mississippi in 1968 as an undergraduate student majoring in chemistry.  He received the department’s flagship  American Chemical Society (ACS) certified Bachelor of Science in Chemistry in 1971.  He chose to stay at UM and received his PhD in 1974.  After graduation he served on active duty in the USAF at the Frank J. Seiler Research Laboratory at the USAF Academy, where he was also an instructor in the Department of Chemistry. He received the Air Force Commendation Medal for his research work on the development of molten salt-based thermal batteries.  He then returned to the University and has taught courses in analytical chemistry and electrochemistry in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UM since 1978.  Dr. Hussey served as Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry from 1997 until 2017 and then became the first  Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education in the College of Liberal Arts

Hussey’s research interests are directed at electrochemistry and spectroscopy in molten salts and ionic liquids. His experimental work includes the electro-deposition of metals and alloys, the electrochemistry of lanthanides and actinides as related to the nuclear fuel cycle, the physical and transport properties of molten salts and ionic liquids and the applications of ionic liquids as fluids for chemical engineering processes. He has authored/co-authored more than 160 journal articles and book chapters and is co-inventor on five patents. He co-authored a seminal journal article entitled “Dialkylimidazolium Melts: A New Class of Room Temperature Ionic Liquids for Electrochemistry, Spectroscopy and Synthesis,” which has garnered more than 2,000 citations. Hussey has been the P.I./co-P.I. on more than $8,000,000 in external grants. He has presented papers and given lectures on his work at international conferences and at universities in the U.S. and Europe. In 2014, his research about the electrochemistry of ionic liquids was recognized by the international Max Bredig Award for Molten Salt and Ionic Liquid Chemistry.

For more than 18 years, Dr. Hussey served as a technical editor for the Journal of The Electrochemical Society, the world’s top-ranked journal devoted to the science of electrochemistry. His national service includes the Board of Visitors Review Team for the Battery and Propulsion Directorate at the Wright Laboratory (now AFRL), the National Research Council Committee on Electrometallurgical Techniques for DOE Spent Fuel Treatment, the University of Chicago Review Committee for the Chemical Technology (CMT) Division of Argonne National Laboratory, and the Board of Visitors Review Team for the Chemical Sciences Division of the Army Research Office. He has also served as a consultant to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Dr. Hussey was elected Fellow of The Electrochemical Society in 2007 and was designated as an Emeritus Member in 2017. He is a member of Phi Kappa Phi, Sigma Xi, and the Golden Key National Honor Society. In 2014, he received the Southeastern Conference Faculty Achievement Award and the R&D Magazine Top 100 Invention Award. At the University of Mississippi, he has been honored with the Distinguished Research and Creative Achievement Award, the Faculty Achievement Award, and the 25-Year Service Award. In 2018, he was recognized with the Lift Every Voice Award for diversity and inclusion during Black History Month.

Read more about Dr. Hussey in the UM News story.

Chemistry Professors Innovate to Run Labs Safely Amid Pandemic

Posted on: December 3rd, 2020 by nhammer

Chemistry professors and lab coordinators at the University of Mississippi worked with the university’s facilities management and facilities procurement teams to create individual cubicles, made using nonporous barriers, in chemistry labs so students could safely conduct experiments and get in-person instruction during the fall semester.


Chemistry professors could lecture about displacement reactions in their sleep, but one displacement problem had them stumped as they planned for fall semester. How could some 1,000 University of Mississippi students, many suddenly uprooted last spring, attend lab sessions during a global pandemic?

When classes started in August, Mississippi’s Department of Health was reporting hundreds of new COVID-19 cases a day.

In response to public health and UM guidelines, Gregory Tschumper, chair and professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and the lab coordinators worked with the university’s facilities management and facilities procurement teams to come up with a proposal for safely distancing students.

Randy Wadkins


They decided to create individual cubicles, made using nonporous barriers, in the labs. The department invested in $20,000 of Plexiglas, for which the facilities team coordinated the ordering and installation.

Additional safety measures included students wearing masks and the sanitizing of each station before and after students worked at it. Teaching staff assistants kept common work areas sanitized.

“I hope that our students and other members of the UM family recognize the Herculean effort that has been put forth by chemistry faculty like Dr. John Wiginton, Dr. Safo Aboaku, Dr. Kerri Scott and Dr. Randy Wadkins in our teaching labs this semester,” Tschumper said.

“With all of the safety restrictions imposed by the pandemic, they have gone to extraordinary lengths to convert our laboratory courses to a hybrid format that still regularly includes in-person instruction. It is a privilege to work with such a dedicated group of faculty and teaching assistants.”

To reduce the number of students working in the labs during a given session, the department split the 24-person sessions in half – into an A group and a B group – and rotated the groups so that 12 students at a time could attend face-to-face lab sessions. Those not in the lab watched video experiments produced by graduate students or worked remotely on labs that were available on an online platform.

The new arrangement brought some unanticipated benefits.

Kerri Scott


“Initially, I had to be sold on the idea of hybrid labs, said Randy Wadkins, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, “But I soon realized that with smaller numbers I’m getting to know my students better than before.”

Students, too, realized advantages of the rotation concept.

“Rotations allow each student at least two times to perform an experiment each session because there are fewer students,” said Juaneisha Finnie Kennedy, a member of Wadkins’ 400-level biochemistry class from Booneville.

Smaller classes also give professors and instructors more one-on-one time for teaching.

“Faculty and teaching assistants usually can spend seven minutes with a student, but with only 12 per class, we could actually give them twice that amount of time,” said Kerri Scott, instructional professor and associate coordinator of the forensic chemistry program. “The noise level is a lot lower, so it’s easier to have a conversation.”

Safo Aboaku


Having 12 students instead of 24 makes lab sessions more relaxed, said Safo Aboaku, an instructional assistant professor of chemistry.

“When you spread students out, the station next to them is empty, so they get a lot more elbow room,” he said. “It’s more comfortable if you have space to maneuver.”

As for increased safety measures such as masking, these students seem to take it in stride.

“Many of us are used to taking extensive measures for safety in labs due to the types of chemicals we can work with, so the additional safety procedures for keeping us safe don’t cause any hindrance to our experience in the labs,” said Guinn Gruber, of Denton, Texas, a student in Scott’s 300-level Quantitative Analysis labs.

“I am certainly grateful that Dr. Scott is taking every precaution to keep a rather vital part of our learning in-person, while also making sure our safety is top priority.”

John Wiginton


When safety concerns kept students off-campus campus over the summer, John Wiginton, instructional associate professor and coordinator of undergraduate laboratories, found a feasible solution for the summer students in 100-level General Chemistry labs. These courses, typically taken by first-year students, have the largest enrollment, by far, of any chemistry course.

He partnered with a consortium of lab supply companies to create at-home kits that were custom assembled for Ole Miss general chemistry lab classes and paid for by the department. The kits – beakers, alcohol burners and other equipment, except chemicals – were delivered to the homes of 150 students at no cost to them.

By fall, they were able to take the next level of chemistry, having done at least rudimentary lab work.

“I am very proud of my colleagues in this department, who did the best possible job under really difficult circumstances,” Wadkins said. 

Click here for the original article.

Prof. Gregory Tschumper Named AAAS Fellow!

Posted on: November 27th, 2020 by nhammer
Gregory Tschumper, Chair and Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry. Photo courtesy of Bella Vie Photography

Gregory Tschumper, Chair and Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry.


Nearly 500 members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science have earned the lifetime distinction of AAAS Fellow.  Professor and Chair Gregory S. Tschumper is now one of them.  He was cited for  contributions in the fields of physical chemistry and computational quantum chemistry, including seminal studies of water clusters, hydrogen bonding and non-covalent interactions. 

AAAS Fellows are elected each year by their peers serving on the Council of AAAS, the organization’s member-run governing body. The title recognizes important contributions to STEM disciplines, including pioneering research, leadership within a given field, teaching and mentoring, fostering collaborations, and advancing public understanding of science.

A virtual induction ceremony for the 489 newly elected Fellows will take place on Feb. 13, 2021, the Saturday following the AAAS Annual Meeting. The honorees will receive official certificates and rosette pins in gold and blue, colors symbolizing science and engineering, by mail.

The tradition of electing AAAS Fellows began in 1874. Since then, the recognition has gone to thousands of distinguished scientists, such as inventor Thomas Edison, elected in 1878, sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois (1905), anthropologist Margaret Mead (1934), computer scientist Grace Hopper (1963), physicist Steven Chu (2000), and astronaut Ellen Ochoa (2012). The 2020 group contains members of each of AAAS’s 24 sections.

AAAS Fellowship often precedes other accolades in long and impactful careers. Two of the 2020 Nobel laureates announced last month, Jennifer Doudna and Charles Rice, are AAAS Fellows. Doudna and a research collaborator received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of the CRISPR/Cas9 genome editor, while Rice and two colleagues received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for contributions to the discovery of the virus that causes Hepatitis C.

In order to be considered for the rank of Fellow, a AAAS member must be nominated by three previously elected Fellows, the steering group of a AAAS section, or the organization’s CEO. Nominations go through a two-step review process, with steering groups reviewing nominations in their section and the AAAS Council voting on the final list.

AAAS leadership has long encouraged its sections and Council to consider diversity when nominating and selecting Fellows, and the association has taken recent steps toward solidifying its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

Last month, AAAS published a report that compiles demographic data on the organization’s honorary Fellows, Science and Technology Policy Fellows, award winners, governing bodies, and journal authors and reviewers. The data show that the policy fellows are roughly as diverse as the broader scientific enterprise, while women and racial minorities are underrepresented as elected Fellows. Of note, policy fellows apply to participate in the program, while elected Fellows receive the honor through a nomination process. AAAS has committed to releasing updated data each year to inform its DEI initiatives.

In September 2018, the AAAS Council adopted a revocation policy that allows the organization to rescind honorary Fellowship if warranted. The policy is intended to combat sexual misconduct, racial discrimination, and other breaches of professional ethics and scientific integrity.

An Ionic Forcefield for Nanoparticles

Posted on: November 27th, 2020 by nhammer

Tunable coating allows hitch-hiking nanoparticles to slip past the immune system to their target

Chemistry’s newest assistant professor just had her research published in Science Advances.  She finished this work when she arrived on campus and plans to continue this work at the University of Mississippi.

Nanoparticles are promising drug delivery tools, offering the ability to administer drugs directly to a specific part of the body and avoid the awful side effects so often seen with chemotherapeutics. 

But there’s a problem. Nanoparticles struggle to get past the immune system’s first line of defense: proteins in the blood serum that tag potential invaders. Because of this, only about 1 percent of nanoparticles reach their intended target. 

An SEM image of the nanoparticles on the red blood cell 


An SEM image of the nanoparticles on the red blood cell  (Image courtesy of Eden Tanner/ Harvard SEAS)

“No one escapes the wrath of the serum proteins,” said Eden Tanner, a former postdoctoral fellow in bioengineering at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). 

Now, Tanner and a team of researchers led by Samir Mitragotri, the Hiller Professor of Bioengineering and Hansjorg Wyss Professor of Biologically Inspired Engineering at SEAS, have developed an ionic forcefield that prevents proteins from binding to and tagging nanoparticles. In mouse experiments, nanoparticles coated with the ionic liquid survived significantly longer in the body than uncoated particles and, surprisingly, 50 percent of the nanoparticles made it to the lungs. It’s the first time that ionic liquids have been used to protect nanoparticles in the blood stream. 

“The fact that this coating allows the nanoparticles to slip past serum proteins and hitch a ride on red blood cells is really quite amazing because once you are able to fight the immune system effectively, lots of opportunities open up,” said Mitragotri, who is also a Core Faculty Member of Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.

The research is published in Science Advances

Ionic liquids, essentially liquid salts, are highly tunable materials that can hold a charge. 

“We knew that serum proteins clear out nanoparticles in the bloodstream by attaching to the surface of the particle and we knew that certain ionic liquids can either stabilize or destabilize proteins,” said Tanner, who is now an Assistant Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry at the University of Mississippi. “The question was, could we leverage the properties of ionic liquids to allow nanoparticles to slip past proteins unseen.”

“The great thing about ionic liquids is that every small change you make to their chemistry results in a big change in their properties,” said Christine Hamadani, a former graduate student at SEAS and first author of the paper. “By changing one carbon bond, you can change whether or not it attracts or repels proteins.”

Hamadani is currently a graduate student at Tanner’s lab at the University of Mississippi.

SEM image of the ionic liquid coating the nanoparticle

SEM image of the ionic liquid coating the nanoparticle (Image courtesy of Eden Tanner/ Harvard SEAS)

The researchers coated their nanoparticles with the ionic liquid choline hexenoate, which has an aversion to serum proteins. Once in the body, these ionic-liquid coated nanoparticles appeared to spontaneously attach to the surface of red-blood cells and circulate until they reached the dense capillary system of the lungs, where the particles sheared off into the lung tissue. 

“This hitchhiking phenomenon was a really unexpected discovery,” said Mitragotri. “Previous methods of hitchhiking required special treatment for the nanoparticles to attach to red blood cells and even then, they only stayed at a target location for about six hours. Here, we showed 50 percent of the injected dose still in the lungs after 24 hours.” 

The research team still needs to understand the exact mechanism that explains why these particles travel so well to lung tissue, but the research demonstrates just how precise the system can be. 

“This is such a modular technology,” said Tanner, who plans to continue the research in her lab at University of Mississippi. “Any nanoparticle with a surface change can be coated with ionic liquids and there are millions of ionic liquids that can be tuned to have different properties. You could tune the nanoparticle and the liquid to target specific locations in the body.”

“We as a field need as many tools as we can to fight the immune system and get drugs where they need to go,” said Mitragotri. “Ionic liquids are the latest tool on that front.”

The research was co-authored by Morgan J. Goetz.

November 25, 2020

Congratulations Chemistry Majors for Inductions into Phi Kappa Phi!

Posted on: November 19th, 2020 by nhammer

Chemistry Majors Represent at SURC 2020

Posted on: January 26th, 2020 by nhammer

Congratulations Ivy Li, William Meador, Genevieve Verville, and Michael Valencia for receiving awards at SURC 2020 on January 25th, 2020 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  The Southeastern Undergraduate Research Conference is a unique opportunity for students in the SouthEastern region to present their undergraduate research work to other students and faculty members. Both oral and poster presentations are given. Students also network with graduate school recruiters and meet other students and faculty members engaged in chemistry research. Prizes are given for the best posters and oral presentations. The conference allows students to present their work in a friendly environment and obtain feedback and ideas related to their work.