Center Graduate Greg Smith wins PNAS Cozzarelli Prize for Engineering and Applied Sciences (March 2019)
A publication with lead author Center graduate Greg Smith has been awarded the 2018 Cozzarelli Prize in the category Engineering and Applied Sciences by PNAS. The award recognizes outstanding contributions to the scientific disciplines represented by the National Academy of Sciences. Papers were chosen from the more than 3,200 research articles that appeared in the journal last year and represent the six broadly defined categories under which the NAS is organized.
The paper demonstrates that nucleic acid mononucleotide triphosphates, at sufficiently high concentration and low temperature in aqueous solution, can exhibit a phase transition in which chromonic columnar liquid crystal ordering spontaneously appears. This polymer-free state exhibits, in a self-assembly of nucleic acid monomers, the key structural elements of biological nucleic acids, including: long-ranged duplex stacking of base pairs, complementarity-dependent partitioning of molecules, and Watson–Crick selectivity.
Greg carried out his doctoral research on the liquid crystal phases of DNA under the supervision of Noel Clark. The prize winning study was a collaboration between the Boulder group and investigators at the University of Milan and at the ALS in Berkeley. Greg is now a postdoctoral researcher in the Soft Materials Research Center, where he continues his work on DNA and chromonic liquid crystals. (3/19)
For details on all of the 2018 Cozzarelli Prize recipients, see the PNAS press release.
"Backbone-free duplex-stacked monomer nucleic acids exhibiting Watson–Crick selectivity," by Gregory P. Smith, Tommaso P. Fraccia, Marco Todisco, Giuliano Zanchetta, Chenhui Zhu, Emily Hayden, Tommaso Bellini, and Noel A. Clark, PNAS 115 (33), E7658-E7664 (2018).
See also the extensive accompanying commentary by Rudolf Podgornik.
Undergraduate Kimi Bourland named Outstanding Graduate of the College of Engineering (November 2017)
Undergraduate Kimi Bourland has been named Outstanding Graduate of the College of Engineering for fall 2017. She ended her undergraduate career in the top 1 percent of her class. For three years, Kimi worked in the labs of Professors Rich Noble and Center Investigator Doug Gin, designing experiments to create and test nano-filtration membranes and learning from Center graduate mentor Sarah Dischinger. She even was credited as a co-author on a published paper. Kimi, who plans to go to graduate school, also held summer fellowships at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates program at the University of Houston. "I was always interested in research," she said. "I thought it was really cool, the idea of doing something new that hadn't been done before."(1/18)
See S. M. Dischinger, M. J. McGrath, K. R. Bourland, R. D. Noble, and D. L. Gin, "Effect of post-polymerization anion-exchange on the rejection of uncharged aqueous solutes in nanoporous, ionic, lyotropic liquid crystal polymer membranes," Journal of Membrane Science 529 (2017).
Center Graduate Robert Blackwell wins Award for Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Research in Biological Physics (January 2017)
Center graduate Robert Blackwell has been awarded the 2016 Award for Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Research in Biological Physics by the American Physical Society. The award is given annually to "recognize doctoral thesis research of outstanding quality and achievement in any area of experimental, computational, engineering, or theoretical Biological Physics, broadly construed." Robert will receive a cash prize and give an invited talk at the APS March Meeting.
Robert carried out his doctoral research on the modeling of cytoskeletal active matter under the supervision of Matt Glaser and Meredith Betterton. Robert is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Erlangen, Germany, where he works in soft matter on modeling membrane-protein interactions. (1/17)
See also the feature article in CU's Arts and Sciences Magazine.
Center Graduate Angel Martinez wins Glenn H. Brown Prize for Doctoral Research on Liquid Crystals (August 2016)
Center graduate Angel Martinez has received a prestigious Glenn H. Brown Prize, one of only four awarded biennially by the International Liquid Crystal Society. The prize recognizes recent doctoral graduates from all over the world whose PhD theses "demonstrate an outstanding contribution to the science of liquid crystals." Martinez was recognized for "his outstanding research contribution to enriching the toolbox for structural manipulation of soft matter based on the optical effect and its application to liquid crystal colloids and polymeric systems. His research pioneered a new trend in the artificial control of microscopic topological structures in liquid crystals that opens a novel avenue for self-assembly in soft matter with a wide range of future applications." Martinez came to the Center from partner institution California State Polytechnic University Pomona and worked in the group of Ivan Smalyukh. He is now a postdoctoral researcher with the University of Pennsylvania, where he continues to work on soft matter physics, liquid crystals and colloids. (8/16)
The Colorful World of Liquid Crystals on Display (Spring 2016)
Center students, faculty and staff have created an informational exhibit around a striking set of images of liquid crystal textures that will be on display in the Stairwell Gallery of the Gemmill Library of Engineering, Mathematics and Physics at the University of Colorado through the end of the spring semester. The exhibit, which uses eye-catching photomicrographs obtained in the laboratory to showcase Center research, has served as a way of training Center graduate students in how to communicate science-related topics to non-experts. Each poster-size image is accompanied by a brief technical caption and a short narrative explaining what the picture tells the researcher. The student participants were also encouraged to compose vignettes that communicate their own perspective on what it is like to conduct leading-edge, academic research and these personal reflections form an integral part of the display.
Partnership with Arrupe High School (2009 – )
Since 2009, the Center has worked closely with Arrupe High School, an urban Denver school that draws from a primarily Hispanic and low-income population. Using a multi-pronged approach to encourage Arrupe students to pursue STEM subjects in college and eventually continue with STEM careers, the Center has conducted several outreach activities at the school. Each academic year, the Center also hosts and supervises an Arrupe senior who works as an intern with students and faculty in the Center laboratories for a full day every week.
Working with Arrupe's science faculty the Center has conducted a series of science and career oriented workshops, described below:
Science in Motion: Chemistry – Rube Goldberg Machines at Arrupe High School (Spring 2010)
Meeting once a week for six weeks, students were challenged with designing five independent apparatuses that would trigger one another sequentially using different chemical reactions. Center investigators were there to interview the leading teams selected by their peers for best designs and to cheer them on during a culminating school assembly, in which they successfully set off their machines and finished with a bang by launching a rocket across the gym.
(Em)Powering the Future – Students Exploring Alternative and Renewable Energy
Ninth grade student teams met once a week for five weeks to design scaled down wind turbine blades and connected them to generators to determine how much power they generated. The students then had to figure out how to capture and store the energy in super-capacitors, and transfer that energy to model cars in order to race them. During a culminating school assembly, selected teams demonstrated the conversion and transfer of energy and then raced their models on a course. Many students found that determining the optimal design features of the turbine that would yield the maximum power was particularly challenging. By the end of the program, most students agreed that it was teamwork that had enabled them to create their best designs.
Exploring the Nanoworld at Arrupe High School (February 2012)
Building upon a Center program originally funded by the Dreyfus foundation, Center members developed a series of four classes that take a deep dive into four of the seven "big ideas" in nanoscale science and engineering . Equipment and modules were developed to give the students a thorough understanding of what makes nanoscale science and technology such an important field of study and to make them aware of the societal implications. Students conduct hands-on investigations exploring concepts of size and scale, size-dependent properties, nanofiltration, and understanding the role of forces and self-assembly.
 The Big Ideas of Nanoscale Science and Engineering by Shawn Y. Stevens, LeeAnn M. Sutherland, and Joseph S. Krajcik (NSTA Press, 2009).
Partnership with California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo (2015 – )
The Center partnership with CalPoly Physics Professors Jon Fernsler and Tatiana Kuriabova supports joint research projects in areas of common interest. Each summer the Center hosts and supervises Cal Poly physics students in the Boulder laboratories. During the following academic year back at Cal Poly, these students continue this work as senior research projects. This partnership, modeled on a successful Center collaboration with Cal Poly Pomona from 2009-2014, allows Cal Poly students to gain valuable research experience working at a world-class research institution. Several participating Cal Poly students have stated that their experience with the Center was invaluable in helping them secure a research position in the work force after graduation. Other students have been inspired to further their studies and continue on to graduate school, some of them at the University of Colorado.