A letter from the WSU Chemistry Chair, Matt Allen
Dear friends and alumni,
The past year has been the craziest that I can remember at Wayne State University (or anywhere else for that matter). The winter 2020 semester saw all of our courses move online and our building close in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While our faculty and staff transitioned to online learning, members of our community also rallied to help with the pandemic efforts in Detroit. Shortly after the shutdown, a call was put out to help make hand sanitizer for first responders. Fifteen department members volunteered to help within three minutes of receiving the call. To maintain social distance, four volunteers ultimately participated: Gibson Kirui (Verani Lab), Bailey McCarthy Riley (Linz Lab), Regina Szlag (Rabuffetti Lab), and Joseph Wakpal (Nguyen Lab) prepared 45 gallons of sanitizer. After months of meetings, we were able to ramp up research over the summer to around 25% capacity.
The following provides a small sampling of what’s happened in the department over the past year: Federico Rabuffetti was promoted to associate professor. Long Luo received a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation. A team led by Stephanie Brock that included Chuck Winter, Federico Rabuffetti, Judy Westrick, and Mike Mei received a grant from the NSF for a new electron microscope to be housed in the Lumigen Instrument Center. Stephanie Brock also became a member of the WSU Academy of Scholars. Regina Zibuck led efforts to bring a Science Olympiad Detroit Urban Schools Initiative to Wayne State. Jeremy Kodanko received an Outstanding Graduate Director Award, and Nawana Lawson received an Outstanding Contributor Award. Sarah Trimpin received a WSU Board of Governors Faculty Recognition Award. Jennifer Stockdill received a Career Development Chair Award. Jackie Baldyga was promoted to Facility Coordinator II. Former department member Amanda Bryant-Friedrich was welcomed back as dean of WSU’s Graduate School. I was honored to receive an Outstanding Graduate Mentor Award from Wayne State. Colin Poole retired after a long career at WSU and had a special editorial in the Journal of Chromatography in his honor. Our students also continue to thrive. Regina Szlag received a fellowship from the Michigan
Space Grant Consortium, and Brooke Corbin received an F31 predoctoral fellowship from the National Institutes of Health. A team of students from the Brock and Verani labs — Tepora Su’a, Isuri Weeraratne, Samudra Amunugama, Fredricka Morgan, Karunamuni Silva, Thranga Batugedara, and Abigail Cousino — was chosen to host a symposium at the spring 2021 national meeting of the American Chemical Society, and they applied for and received funding from the National Science Foundation to support it. The WSU Chem Club garnered national attention when it worked with other chem clubs in the region to assemble the world’s largest periodic table on Wayne State’s campus. We’ve also expanded our Equity and Inclusion Committee, Safety Committee, and Recruiting Committee to include students, and were overwhelmed with volunteers when we put out the call. Additionally, Jessica Hovey won a poster prize at the Ohio Inorganic Weekend, and the Linz Lab won the department’s inaugural safety competition.
My sincere gratitude goes to returning chemistry alumni Rose Ryntz, Hasini Mundigala, Kapila Wadumesthrige, Pavithra Pathirathna, Christopher LaJeunesse, Linda McKenzie, Ed Thomas, Larry Roy, Jane Philip, and Ed Hortelano for taking time to return to campus or to virtually network with our current students.
The remainder of this newsletter contains stories about happenings from the past year, including new faculty member James Bour, our new lab coat vending machines, our departmental safety contest, and updates from our student organizations and alumni.
For alumni, please stay in touch. Send updates with your outstanding achievements and new jobs so that we can include them in future newsletters. We love to hear from you and want to keep in touch. Next time you are in the Detroit area — after the pandemic — please stop by to see the building and meet with friends, colleagues, and mentors.
Matthew J. Allen
Professor and Chair