Department Calendar of Events

MiC Series Alumni Series – Ishita Aggarwal
May 30 @ 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm
ChemE Alumni Mixer & Lab Tour
Jun 3 @ 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm

All ChemE alumni from years ending in 3 or 8 are welcome to attend.

The event will start with a mix-and-mingle session in the undergrad common room (WB238) from 1-2pm, followed by an exclusive one-hour lab tour departing from the same location at 2pm. Don’t miss out on the chance to catch up with old friends and see the latest advancements in ChemE. Be sure to register now to secure your spot!

Seminar: State-of-the-art Research in Thermocatalytic CO₂ activation @ WB407, refreshments will be served
Jun 15 @ 3:30 pm – 5:00 pm

Host: Cathy Chin, Multidisciplinary Laboratory for Innovative Catalytic Science

Unraveling the nature and the identity of the active site in heterogeneous catalysis by a multi-scale and multi-technique approach

Professor Matteo Maestri, Politecnico di Milano, Italy

There is no doubt that the rational interpretation of the structure-activity relationship in catalysis is a crucial task in the quest of engineering the chemical transformation at the molecular level. In this respect, multiscale analysis based on structure-dependent microkinetic modelling is acknowledged to be the essential key-tool to achieve a detailed mechanistic understanding of the catalyst functionality in reaction conditions. In this talk, I will present the development of a methodology for the study of the structure-activity relationship in heterogeneous catalysis via a structure-dependent multiscale and multi-technique approach. This includes the combined application of both experimental analysis (kinetic experiments, operando spectroscopy) and first-principles and multiscale simulations. Selected examples in the context of CH4 dry reforming, CO2 hydrogenation on metal catalysts and NO oxidation will be used as show-cases. As a whole, this methodology makes it possible to reach a molecular level description of the catalyst material in reaction conditions and its catalytic consequences in terms of reactivity. As such, it paves the way towards the use of a rigorous theoretical description for the interpretation of the experimental evidence in terms of structure-activity relationships.

Matteo Maestri (Ph. D., PoliMI, 2008) is a Full Professor of Chemical Engineering at the Politecnico di Milano, Italy. He has been visiting scholar at the University of Delaware, USA (2006-2007), Alexander von Humboldt Fellow and at the Fritz-Haber-Institute in Berlin, Germany (2009-2010) and at the Department of Chemistry of TUM, Munich, Germany (2011). His main research interests are related to fundamental analysis of catalytic kinetics and multiscale modeling of catalytic processes, by applying and developing methods that span from atomistic (DFT) calculations to CFD, and from kinetic analysis to operando-spectroscopy. He has been awarded the 3 ERC grants (ERC Starting Grant + 2 ERC Proof-of-concept). He has been the recipient of several international awards including the honorary title of TUM Ambassador (2021), TUM, Munich, Germany, and the Gold Medal in Catalysis “Gian Paolo Chiusoli” by the Italian Chemical Society (2022).

Full CV, Google Scholar Link

CO2 Reforming of CH4 over Ni-MgO-Cex-Zr(1-x)O2 Catalysts

Professor Hyun-Seog Roh, Yonsei University, South Korea

Ni-MgO-Cex-Zr(1-x)O2 catalysts are developed and applied to CO2 Reforming of CH4. Ni–MgO–CeO2 shows the smallest Ni particle size and the particle size increases with increasing ZrO2 content. Ni–MgO–Ce0.6Zr0.4O2 exhibits the largest oxygen storage capacity. The size of the Ni particle and the oxygen storage capacity are found to be the primary and secondary key factors that influence the catalytic performance, respectively. The turnover frequency is dependent on the size of the Ni particle, but the catalytic performance is affected by the number of Ni active sites, which is estimated from the reduction degree and Ni particle size. Overall, the Ni–MgO–Ce0.8Zr0.2O2 catalyst shows the highest performance owing to the high reduction degree and small Ni particle size.

Hyun-Seog Roh (Ph. D., Yonsei University, 2001) is a Professor of Environmental Energy Engineering at Yonsei University, South Korea. His research interests comprise of hydrogen production, C1 chemistry, Bio-oil upgrading, Desulfurization, Liquid phase oxidation of aromatic compounds, DeNOx, Microwave catalysis, Synthesis of nanoporous materials, Inorganic membrane, and VOCs removal. As the author of 201 published papers and the inventor of 27 patents, Professor Roh is an outstanding scientist with an h-index of 60 and has been ranked globally as the Top 2% Scientist on multiple occasions (2020 & 2021). He also serves as the Director of BK 21 Four Project, Yonsei University, and on the editorial boards for Journal of CO2 utilization and Catalysts.

Full CV, Google Scholar link

Seminar: “Polymer Nanoparticle Design and Delivery Strategies to Resolve Vascular Inflammation” @ Donnelly Centre
Jul 11 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am

Headshot of Dr. Laura BracagliaPolymer Nanoparticle Design and Delivery Strategies to Resolve Vascular Inflammation

Dr. Laura Bracaglia, PhD Villanova University

Hosted by Dr. Molly Shoichet

Snacks and refreshments available




Polymer nanoparticles (NPs) can provide a safe and efficient delivery mechanism for therapy directly at specific tissues and cells, but achieving sufficient levels of NPs and therefore therapeutics in target tissues in humans has remained a barrier to the translation of this technology. The in vivo efficacy of polymeric NPs is dependent on their pharmacokinetics, including time in circulation and resulting tissue tropism, as well as intracellular trafficking and behavior. In this work, we examine tunable chemical and molecular characteristics of polymer NPs to tailor the design for an intended therapeutic delivery – both to and within the target cell. We are particularly interested in designing NPs and delivery strategies which can direct therapeutics to endothelial cells to correct dysfunctional inflammation in the vasculature. I will present several approaches for nucleic acid and small molecule delivery using polymeric NPs in vitro, in vivo, and in ex vivo models of human tissue, and show the impact of design changes on reducing inflammatory signaling. Our goal is to optimize NP design to combat dysfunctional inflammation locally and with more impact than globally administered therapies.


Speaker Bio

Dr. Bracaglia joined the faculty at Villanova University in the fall of 2022 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering. She is continuing her research into NP-based therapeutic delivery to human vasculature and integrating these strategies with tissue-engineering to create tools for long-term immune modulation. Specifically, materials that provide support for tissue regrowth while temporarily inhibiting inflammation-related injury, thus reducing the burden of chronic inflammation. This work was born out of work that Dr. Bracaglia conducted as a Postdoctoral Fellow in Biomedical Engineering at Yale University as part of Dr. W. Mark Saltzman’s research group, as well as her graduate work, where she developed vascular, tissue engineered constructs using a combination of biological and synthetic materials at the University of Maryland with Dr. John Fisher in Bioengineering.

Seminar: “Following the Rabbit into Chemical Space” @ Donnelly Centre (Zoom link also available)
Jul 14 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am

Headshot of Dr. Brian Soichet

Following the Rabbit into Chemical Space

Dr. Brian K. Shoichet, PhD University of California, San Francisco

Hosted by Dr. Molly Shoichet

Snacks & Refreshments Available


Zoom Link:

Meeting ID: 860 8663 8773

Passcode: 484696



Structure-based docking can be used to screen compound libraries for novel ligands. Recently, docking libraries have expanded from three million “in-stock” to over four billion make-on-demand (“tangible”) molecules. Docking these new libraries versus the dopamine, melatonin, and s2 receptors have revealed novel scaffolds with nM and sub-nM potencies directly from the docking. I will discuss recent applications to the alpha2a-adrenergic, serotonin, and cannabinoid receptors, and the serotonin transporter, where in vivo active leads have been developed for analgesia, depression, and opioid withdrawal. Methods questions will also be considered: the effect of bias toward bio-like molecules in the virtual libraries, how and if docking score improves as the libraries grow, how number tested affects the quality of the experimental actives, and whether we have reached a plateau in the results we can expect from large library docking, or if bigger remains better.


Speaker Bio:

Brian Shoichet received a B.Sc. in Chemistry and a B.Sc. in History in 1985, from MIT. MIT appears to have no record of this. He received his Ph.D. for work with Tack Kuntz on molecular docking in 1991, from UCSF. Shoichet’s postdoctoral research was largely experimental, focusing on protein structure and stability with Brian Matthews at the Institute of Molecular Biology in Eugene, Oregon, as a Damon Runyon Fellow. Colleagues from Eugene have only sketchy memories of his time there. One recalls, “He seemed to travel a lot.” Matthews himself was unavailable for comment. Shoichet joined the faculty at Northwestern University in the Dept.of Molecular Pharmacology & Biological Chemistry as an Assistant Professor in 1996. No record of this Department’s existence can be found outside of one locked filing cabinet in Gene Silinsky’s office. Silinsky was unavailable for comment. In a fit of absent-mindedness, Shoichet was promoted to a tenured Associate Professor in 2002, only one year after his younger sister, Molly Shoichet, received tenure at the University of Toronto. Shoichet denies any sensitivity around this issue. Around that time he was recruited back to UCSF, where he is now a Professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry. We confused him with Kevan Shokat, admits a member of the recruiting committee at UCSF. A charismatic speaker, he is recalled as giving ‘the best talk at the worst Keystone Conference I ever attended,’ by a senior NIH Program Officer. Research in the Shoichet Lab seeks to bring chemical reagents to biology, combining computational simulation and experiment. An unanticipated observation emerging from the theory/experiment cycle was the colloidal aggregation of organic molecules. This phenomenon has great effects in early and late drug discovery, and we continue to investigate it. More broadly, we adopt a protein-centric approach that seeks new ligands to complement protein structures. This involves new docking methods, model experimental systems to test them. Using a ligand-centric approach, we seek new targets for established drugs and reagents. Whereas this lacks the physical foundation of the structure-based research program, it returns to an older, pharmacological view of biological relationships, bringing to it a quantitative model. A focus for both approaches is ligand discovery against G Protein-Coupled Receptors (GPCRs).

Seminar: “We Should All Try to Save the Planet” @ WB 407 - Wallberg Building
Aug 3 @ 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

Professor Larry Lessard
Department of Mechanical Engineering McGill University, Montréal

Hosted by Professor Elizabeth Edwards

Join Via Zoom:
Meeting ID: 814 6372 1950
Passcode: 384453


Professor Larry Lessard, from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, works in the research area of recycling of composite materials. He will present work on recent projects on the topic of recycling and sustainability. Furthermore, Professor Lessard is undergoing a round-the-world bike trip to help promote these ideas and to film a documentary film on the subject. Bike62 will be cycling around the world from July 2022 to August 2023, a journey that will cover over 22,000Km, visit around 20 countries, and speak at 30 universities to promote ways to rethink and reuse composite materials.


Follow Professor Lessard’s journey:
website: |Instagram: ridebike.saveplanet |YouTube: Bike62

Special Seminar: Delivery of Biologics for Rotator Cuff Muscle Healing (Dr. Johnna Temenoff, PhD Georgia Tech/Emory University) @ Donnelly Centre, Red Seminar Room (2nd Floor)
Aug 21 @ 10:30 am – 11:30 am

Headshot of Johnna Temenoff


Dr. Johnna Temenoff

PhD Georgia Tech/Emory University




After rotator cuff tendon tear, marked degeneration of the attached muscle is apparent clinically, with both fibrous and fatty infiltration of the tissue. Our laboratory is working on delivery strategies for biologics, including proteins and cells, that might slow or reverse this degeneration. In particular, our laboratory has focused on “jump-starting” host regenerative processes through use of glycosaminoglycan (GAG)-based biomaterials for release of cytokines to promote the recruitment of pro-healing cell populations, such as proresolving macrophages, and mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs), into the muscle. In other work, we have explored priming strategies for MSCs to alter their immunomodulatory properties as a means to reduce inflammation, such as that which occurs in muscle after rotator cuff tendon tear.


Dr. Johnna S. Temenoff is the Carol Ann and David D. Flanagan Professor the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech/Emory University. She is also currently the Deputy Director of a NSF Engineering Research Center in Cell Manufacturing Technologies (CMaT). Scientifically, Dr. Temenoff is interested in tailoring the molecular interactions between glycosaminoglycans and proteins/cells for use in regenerative medicine applications. Her laboratory focuses primarily on promoting repair after injuries to the tissues of the shoulder, including cartilage, tendon, and muscle. Dr. Temenoff has been honored with several prestigious awards, such as the NSF CAREER Award, Arthritis Foundation Investigator Award and Society for Biomaterials (SFB) Clemson Award for Contributions to the Literature, and was named to the College of Fellows of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineers (AIMBE), as a Fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) and as a Fellow of Biomaterials Science and Engineering, International Union of Societies for Biomaterials Science and Engineering (IUSBSE). She has co-authored a highly successful introductory textbook – Biomaterials: The Intersection of Biology and Materials Science, by J.S. Temenoff and A.G. Mikos (now in a 2nd edition), for which Dr. Temenoff and Dr. Mikos were awarded the American Society for Engineering Education’s Meriam/Wiley Distinguished Author Award for best new engineering textbook.

Special Seminar: Immune Engineering: Detection and Treatment of Undesired Immune Responses (Dr. Lonnie Shea, PhD University of Michigan) @ Donnelly Centre, Red Seminar Room (2nd Floor)
Aug 23 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am

Headshot of Lonnie Shea

Dr. Lonnie Shea

PhD University of Michigan


Vaccines are the initial immunotherapy by providing a means to activate an immune response to specific antigens to protect against disease. This success has motivated the development of alternative immunotherapies for treating undesired immune responses, such as those found in autoimmune disease, allergy, organ transplantation, and cancer, with the objective to attenuate responses. For autoimmune and allergic disease, we have developed nanoparticles loaded with antigen or allergen, which suppresses the antigen specific response without impacting the remainder of the immune system. The nanoparticles maintain the antigen until internalization by immune cells, with subsequent presentation of the antigen coincident with down-regulation of the co-stimulatory factors and up-regulation of negative co-stimulators. Similar nanoparticles have been applied to attenuate inflammation, such as that associated with cancer progression. A critical need for treating undesired immune responses is the identification of disease prior to significant tissue damage, with disease such as Type 1 Diabetes, multiple sclerosis, or metastatic cancer often detected through patients selfreporting symptoms. We have developed scaffold implants that support the formation of tissues that function as an immunological niche to represent the immune function in endogenous tissues. The early detection and treatment of undesired immune responses provides an opportunity to ameliorate disease while preserving tissue function.


Lonnie Shea is the Steven A. Goldstein Collegiate Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Michigan (U-M), which is joint between the College of Engineering and the School of Medicine. He received his PhD in chemical engineering and scientific computing from U-M in 1997, working with Professor Jennifer Linderman. He then served as a postdoctoral fellow with then Chemical Engineering Professor David Mooney in the Department of Biologic and Materials Science at the U-M Dental School. Shea was recruited to Northwestern University’s Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and was on the faculty from 1999 to 2014. In 2014, Shea returned to the University of Michigan as chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, with his recruitment coinciding with the endowment of the chair position by William and Valerie Hall. His term as chair completed on June 30, 2021. He is the Steven A. Goldstein Collegiate Professor of Biomedical Engineering and is an internationally recognized researcher at the interface of regenerative medicine, drug and gene delivery, and immune-engineering, whose focus is on preventing tissue degeneration or promoting tissue regeneration. His projects include islet transplantation for diabetes therapies, nerve regeneration for treating paralysis, and diagnostics for immune dysfunction in cancer and autoimmunity. He is currently PI or co-PI on multiple NIH grants. Shea has published more than 270 manuscripts. He served as director of Northwestern’s NIH Biotechnology Training Grant. He has received the Clemson Award from the Society for Biomaterials, and also the recipient of their 2021 Technology Innovation and Development Award for his development of nanoparticles for tolerance in autoimmune disease. Shea is a fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) and the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), a member of the editorial boards for multiple journals such as Molecular Therapy, Biotechnology and Bioengineering, and the Journal of Immunology and Regenerative Medicine.

Research Seminar: Digitizing the Chemical Sense: Building a Primary Odor Map to Encode and Predict Olfactory Percepts @ WB215; Teams
Sep 13 @ 11:00 am – 12:00 pm

Headshot of Benjamin Sanchez-Lengeling

Benjamin Sanchez-Lengeling
Research Scientist, Google Deepmind

Abstract:Properties of the physical world come to life through our human senses, digitizing these senses allows us to catalog, search and design percepts. We have made remarkable progress in the domain of vision, hearing, but what about the rest? Olfaction is a chemical sense, and in this talk, I will present our recently published work on how we built a digital representation of olfaction for single compounds, which we call the Primary Odor Map and can be used in a variety of olfactory tasks. To validate our representation, we selected a set of 400 novel and diverse molecules with no known recorded scent and had them rated by a panel of trained humans. We compared our predicted olfactory profiles with the panel consensus response and found that our machine learning model outperforms any single human in the panel. The story will touch on deep learning, molecular representations, compound discovery pipelines, training humans to reliably rate odor percepts, as well as diverse applications of a principal odor map.

Speaker Bio: Benjamin Sanchez-Lengeling is a researcher at Google DeepMind, solving chemical problems leveraging data-driven techniques. Ben designs, builds, and evaluates computational tools that enable molecular discoveries, covering small molecules, polymers, chemical mixtures, and proteins.  Striving to bring computational predictions into the lab by designing experimental validation with collaborators, prioritizing the interpretation of our discoveries, and making research clear and approachable. Ben graduated with a Ph.D. in Chemistry and Chemical Biology and a secondary field in Computational Science & Engineering from Harvard University under the supervision of Alán Aspuru Guzik. Besides research, he is also passionate about science education and divulgation. He is one of thefounders and organizers of a STEM-education NGO Clubes de Ciencia Mexico and a LatinX-centered AI conference RIIAA.

Microsoft Teams meeting

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Research Seminar: Accelerating drug discovery with quantum chemistry, machine learning, and molecular dynamics @ WB215; Teams
Sep 20 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am

Headshot of Simon Axelrod

Simon Axelrod
PhD, Harvard University

Abstract:Light-activated drugs are a promising way to treat localized diseases for which existing treatments have severe side effects. However, their development is complicated by the set of photophysical and biological properties that must be simultaneously optimized. For example, photoactive drugs based on transcis isomerization must isomerize under light, absorb in the near-IR, have reasonably long cis lifetimes, and have differential cistrans binding to a protein target. To accelerate the design of photoactive drugs, we develop new computational methods for predicting their properties. These techniques combine atomistic simulation with machine learning based on quantum chemistry. They enable the prediction of the isomerization efficiency, absorption spectrum, thermal half-life, and binding affinity. We use these tools to screen 5 million hypothetical ligands for the photoactive inhibition of the PARP1 cancer target. We identify several compounds with redshifted absorption spectra, ideal thermal half-lives, and differential protein binding under illumination. These results show that computation can help address the difficult optimization problem that is central to photoactive drug design.

Speaker Bio: Simon Axelrod received his BSc at Queen’s University in 2016, with a major in Physics. He received his MSc in Physics at the University of Toronto in 2017. He worked under Prof. Paul Brumer in the Chemistry department, developing theoretical models for understanding quantum effects in biology.  He received his PhD in Chemical Physics from Harvard University in 2023. He worked under Prof. Eugene Shakhnovich (Chemistry) and Prof. Rafael Gomez-Bombarelli (Materials Science and Engineering, MIT), combining atomistic simulation with machine learning to accelerate drug discovery. In his spare time, Simon likes playing basketball, joking around with friends, and writing short bios.

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