DePaul Research Highlighted in ACS Special Issue

The ACS journal Organometallics recently published a Special Virtual Issue focusing on Undergraduate Research in Organometallics. Two DePaul Chemistry and Biochemistry faculty members, Dr. Paul Vadola and Dr. Kyle Grice, had their papers included in this Special Virtual Issue!

According to the website of the special issue,

“This Virtual Issue features 24 organometallic chemistry papers from research groups at Primarily Undergraduate Institutions (PUIs) published in four core journals from 2014-2018: Organometallics, Inorganic Chemistry, Organic Letters, and The Journal of Organic Chemistry. The PUI researchers featured here represent a broad spectrum of institutions across the U.S. and Canada, career levels of faculty, and areas of interest. But they all share the common purpose of the pursuit of high-quality research with undergraduates”.

“It’s clear from these highlighted reports that PUI researchers strive to maintain a presence in emerging frontier areas of organometallic research”.

“As the guest editors noted: “The research featured in this Virtual Issue is a testament to the high-level work that can be performed with undergraduates. …Research for undergraduates is often a transformative experience, providing a natural incubator for the next generation of organometallic chemists””.

Congratulations to Dr. Vadola and Dr. Grice and their students for having their work highlighted! Way to go DePaul Chemistry and Biochemistry undergraduate researchers! You can learn more about the research being performed by Drs. Grice and Vadola, as well as our other faculty, by visiting faculty bio pages.

Here are the citations to the papers that were highlighted:

Electrocatalytic Reduction of CO2 by Group 6 M(CO)6 Species without “Non-Innocent” Ligands
Kyle A. Grice* and Cesar Saucedo
Inorg. Chem., 2016, 55 (12), pp 6240–6246
DOI: 10.1021/acs.inorgchem.6b00875

Gold-Catalyzed Hydroarylation of N-Aryl Alkynamides for the Synthesis of 2-Quinolinones
Taylor Vacala, Lauren P. Bejcek, Chloé G. Williams, Alexandra C. Williamson, and Paul A. Vadola*
J. Org. Chem., 2017, 82 (5), pp 2558–2569
DOI: 10.1021/acs.joc.6b02984


CHE261 – Instrumental Analysis

This quarter, CHE261 – Instrumental Analysis is running again after being defunct for a significant amount of time. This lab-based course was recently re-incorporated into our curriculum for several reasons, the most important being to give our students more hands-on experience with modern research instrumentation. This class is offered every spring, and it should be taken the same year that CHE204/205 is taken (CHE204/205 – Analytical Chemistry Lecture and Lab are pre-requisites for CHE261).

The course is  being co-instructed this quarter by Drs. Grice, Griffin, and Niedziela. It started out with several workshop days in which Dr. Griffin helped the class learn about electronics and circuits, including hands-on time building and examining circuits with various arrangements of resistors and capacitors. Students then used UV-Vis spectroscopy of metal salts to learn how to understand Limit of Detection (LOD) and Limit of Quantification (LOQ) values.

After this, the bulk of the course involves hands-on work with four important instrumental techniques: Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometetry (GC-MS), Cyclic voltammetry, Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy (AAS), and Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS).

All of these modules involve creating various solutions for samples and for calibration curves of known standards . Solution-making is an important skill that comes with practice, and is critical to getting accurate measurements.


The GC-MS experiments allow analysis of volatile components of organic mixtures. The samples are heated to a gas then pushed through a column. The interaction with the column’s packing materials separate out the components, which are then analyzed by mass spectrometry. The mass spectrum of each compound gives identifying information about a molecule based on its molecular mass and fragmentation pattern.


Cyclic voltammetry (CV) allows for analysis of redox-active compounds in solution. For this module, students learn about CV and use it to analyze the amount of acetaminophen in children’s Tylenol. The acetaminophen can be quantified because it can be oxidized at an electrode in aqueous solution. The PINE potentiostats are relatively small and can be used on the bench-top with a laptop computer.


Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy (AAS) is an adaptation of optical spectroscopy that relies on the characteristic absorption properties of elements. It can be used to quantify the amounts of specific elements in a sample, such as Pb, Hg, Ca, and Mg. In this module, students use AAS to analyze Ca, Pb, and/or Mg content in various water samples.


The 4th technique that students learn is LC-MS. LC is a widely used technique, sometimes called HPLC or UPLC (depending on the specifications of the instrument). We recently obtained a LC-MS and students use it to identify the active components in Excedrin as well as quantify caffeine in coffee and yerba mate. The LC-MS offers several benefits over GC-MS, particularly in that samples do not need to be in the gas phase, so ionic or very polar species can be separated and analyzed in complex mixtures.



NSF GRFP! What does that stand for? It’s the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). This program provides fellowships for graduate students or colleges seniors planning to go to graduate school in NSF-funded areas. It is a competitive program that involves writing a novel research proposal and getting letters of recommendation from researchers in your field. Recipients receive funding that allow them to focus on their research, such as paying their stipends so that they are not required to TA for their universities for a up to 2 years.

This year, three awardees who are DePaul alumni or current DePaul students received the award! We are delighted to report that two of the three are related to our department.

Cesar Saucedo is a graduating chemistry major senior who received the NSF GRFP grant. Cesar has been working in Dr. Grice’s research lab for over three years. He has accumulated a lot of research experience that include but are not limited to two publications in Inorganic Chemistry, a publication in Electrochimica Acta, a publication in Journal of Physical Chemistry, being a Mitchem and McNair Scholar, participating the Leadership Alliance summer program at the University of Chicago, being a recipient of the ACS Scholarship. You might have seen him on the third floor of McSouth as he is the general chemistry lab prepper, and has been a CA/TA/tutor.

The NSF GRFP will provide Cesar with funding to support his research as he pursues a PhD in chemistry starting next academic year at the University of Wiscosin-Madison. Cesar’s research will depend on the group that he joins and the projects that he works on, which will be decided once he starts at UW-Madison.

In addition, Anthony Arena received the NSF GRFP this year. Some of you who have been at DePaul for a while might know Anthony. He graduated from DePaul in 2007 with BS/MS, worked for DePaul for 6 years as the Chem Lab Manager, Safety Officer and Adjunct. He was a great addition to the department, and was missed when he moved to Cambridge, MA and to work in a Biochemistry Lab at Brandeis University studying ion channels in health and disease. After three years, he then moved back to Chicago to start graduate school at University of Illinois – Chicago  (UIC) in the College of Medicine, Graduate Education in Medical Sciences (GEMS) Program. I came in under the Department of Physiology and Biophysics. He joined the research group of Dr. Dan Shaye at UIUC.

The NSF GRFP will support his research in Dr. Shaye’s lab. His project involves using genetics to examine the intersection of G-protein signaling and a protein class called CLICs during tubulogenesis (those of you with a biological background might understand this… but its ok if you don’t… ask Anthony for more info!). One model system for his work is C. elegans, a worm species that has been used in biology for a variety of applications. CLIC stands for “chloride intracellular channel”. They are a unique class of proteins because they have both a soluble and membrane-bound form. In the bigger picture, work with these systems can have implication to angiogenesis, the development of new blood vessels.

Congratulations to all of the awardees!

If you are considering going to graduate school in an NSF-funded area, you should definitely apply to the program. Even if you don’t get the grant (it is competitive), the process of applying is good practice for grant-writing. Talk to your research and/or academic adviser for more information.

Chemistry Seminar This Week

Patil Seminar.jpg

We are continuing our chemistry-packed seminar this week with Dr. Shivaputra Patil from Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science (RFUMS). Dr. Patil researchers medicinal organic chemistry and collaborates with a variety of researchers, including Dr. Grice in our department. We look forward to hearing his talk!

See you in McGowan South 105 at 1pm!


Dr. Niedziela Research Seminar Today! 1 pm in McGS 105.

SeminarSeries_Rick_April13Our Chemistry Seminar series is packed with great science this quarter. Dr. Niedziela will be giving a research talk today on Aerosol Spectroscopy.

Note that the room is McGowan South 105, and subsequent seminars will be in MGS 105 as well.

Next week, April 20th, we will have Dr. Patil from Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science (RFUMS) giving a talk about Medicinal Chemistry for Anticancer and Antiviral agents.

See you in McGowan South 105 at 1pm!

Seminar Tomorrow! Dr. Griffin giving a research talk at 1 pm in MGS 106.

Griffin_SeminarSeries_TwitterYou might have seen the fliers around McGowan South. Dr. Griffin is giving a talk on his research tomorrow at 1 pm in McGowan South 106. The talk is entitled “Charge Generation in Conjugated Organic Dyads” and more information can be found at the facebook event:

We hope to see you there, all are welcome!

Also, mark your calendars for Friday the 13th as well. Dr. Niedziela will be giving a talk on his research:

More seminars are scheduled throughout the quarter as well. We look forward to hearing a wide variety of great science!


Publications from Faculty and Students

Research from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry has produced several articles in several major journals in recent months. Undergraduate and graduate student coauthors were prominently involved in many of the studies.


In December of 2017, Prof. Kyle Grice and five DePaul student coauthors published a paper in New Journal of Chemistry studying the behavior of drug molecules, in collaboration with colleagues at Rosalind Franklin University and North Carolina State University.The research team used NMR, reactivity testing, absorbance spectroscopy, fluorescence spectroscopy, X-Ray crystallography, and computational methods to study the compounds. They determined that a C-S bond was very weak because of the favorable formation of a carbocation upon cleavage. This result may explain some of the biological activities of these molecules as well.

Prof. Paul Vadola and five DePaul students published an article in the Journal of Organic Chemistry in January reporting a catalytic redox-neutral method for the synthesis of spirolactams, proceeding through the dearomative spirocyclization of N-aryl alkynamides. They were able to achieve selective spirocylcization with 35-87% yields and broad substrate scope.

Profs. Caitlin Karver and Carey Southern published a collaborative paper in February 2018 in the journal Analytical Biochemistry , with four DePaul student coauthors. They were able to develop a new assay for monitoring inflammatory caspase activity, relying on energy transfer between a tryptophan coumarin amino acid side chains. This methodology will allow for C-terminal amino acids to be included in peptide substrates. They were able to find activity differences with minor sequence modifications on the C-terminus with one enzyme, and will be able to develop a substrate specificity/selectivity pattern for all of the inflammatory caspases in the future.

Profs. Kyle Grice  and Graham Griffin published a collaborative paper in the Journal of Physical Chemistry A in March of 2018, along with four DePaul student coauthors. Their study reveals the solution phase structure, electronic structure, and electronic dynamics of a metal-ligand complex that has applications in OLEDs and other organic electronic technologies.

Profs. Wendy Wolbach and Timothy French were co-authors on two papers recently published on a significant bio-mass burning episode 12,800 years ago (a cosmic impact caused a really really big fire!). Both papers were published in the Journal of Geology (second paper) and the articles got some press coverage as well!

Congratulations to all of the authors, we are very proud of their hard work and great achievements!