Alumni Highlight: Aaron Kunzer

We had our Research and Award symposium last Friday (review of that coming soon!) to celebrate our students, particularly our soon-to-be alumni! In view of this, we recently chatted with one of our Alumni, Aaron Kunzer, currently a Senior Medicinal Chemist in the area of Oncology Discovery at AbbVie.

Here’s what he said in our Q&A:


Aaron Kunzer

What degree did you obtain from DePaul and what did you do immediately afterwards (go into another degree program, go into the workforce, etc)?
MS Chemistry. I obtained this degree while employed and continued my employment upon graduation.

What is your current position and how long have you been in that position?
Senior Scientist I – Chemistry in Oncology Discovery at AbbVie. I have been in this position for 5 ½ years and have been in various medicinal chemistry positions at AbbVie for the past 18 years.

What types of tasks and activities do you do in your current position (in other words, what actually happens in that job, our students might not know!)?
We design and synthesize potential drug molecules, analyze data from various in vitro and in vivo assays and utilize the data to design iterative rounds of compounds with more potency, better physical properties, etc.

How has your chemistry degree and DePaul education helped you in your career? What were the most beneficial aspects?
My MS from DePaul gave me a deeper understanding of organic chemistry and a great knowledge base in biochemistry as I was unable to fit biochemistry into my undergrad program. One of the most beneficial aspects was great access to supportive faculty to have discussions and get questions answered.

What do you think are the most useful skills to have for your current career?
Medicinal chemistry requires a collection of skills and knowledge: organic chemistry, biochemistry, strong synthetic skills. Perseverance is also essential. Most drug researches never get a drug onto market, so one must be passionate about the work itself.

What advice do you have for current or future DePaul students in order to succeed in Chemistry?
If you are not going on to graduate school or medical school, strongly consider the 5-year MS program. Graduating with your MS with only one additional year of study is a bargain (it took me three years while I worked). All things being equal, it will also differentiate you from other job candidates without an MS degree.

What advice do you have for our graduating students or recent graduates as they look at the next step in their careers?
Get experience wherever you can even if it is temporary or contract work. Be patient. Careers are rarely straight lines. Career paths tend to bend and curve and have detours. This is normal and can expose you to career options you may never have thought about otherwise.

Connections to the Chicago Area

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In our last post, we talked about research collaborations between DePaul Faculty and other researchers around the US and the World. In this post, we wanted to focus in to the city of Chicago and local areas. Part of DePaul’s mision is to engage Chicago and use the resources of this great city in our teaching and research, and the Chemistry Department is no exception!

We  have a strong connection to our local community here in the city of Chicago. Below are some highlights of recent and current programs.

  • Dr. Kyle Grice does outreach at DePaul Prep, a private Catholic high school in the area. He is also ACS Science coach, working with a local high school chemistry teacher. Through this program, the high school program received funding for supplies and equipment, and Dr. Grice also provides guidance and feedback on lab experiments.



  • Dr. Timothy French has launched a “Discover Chicago” course (incoming first year students take Discover or Explore Chicago courses in ther first quarter) entitled “Chicago: Food, Science, and Society”. The course will run as part of the Pathways Honors program in the coming fall quarter. Dr. French also works with the Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Center, a CPS high school in the North Park neighborhood. He works with them on judging science fairs and preparing their science Olympiad team.


  • Several faculty members collaborate with researchers at the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science (RFUMS). These projects also involve DePaul student researchers working on the projects.


  • DePaul chemistry students go to the Chicago Area Undergraduate Research Symposium (CAURS) every year to present their research. If you are a student, consider going next year!

The Department Marches For Science!

As you are probably aware, last Saturday, the 22nd, was the March for Science across the globe. Chicago’s march was 40,000 strong, and DePaul students, staff, and faculty were there to show their support for Science.

DePaul chemistry students and faculty members joined other science enthusiasts downtown in Grant Park to participate in the March for Science. The march was organized in the spirit of advocating for the scientific community and to voice support for the preservation of the scientific method. The morning began with a lively rally that encouraged those in attendance to continue to strive for scientific excellence all while promoting scientific curiosity and the preservation of our planet as the march coincided with the annual celebration of Earth Day. Supporters then marched down Columbus Drive toward The Field Museum where the event culminated with a science expo that included booths from local educational programs and advocate groups eager to share their information and passion for science with the general public. Those present included Drs. Karver, French, Baum-Wagner, Maresh, and Perez, as well as various students both individually and as part of student groups. They even ran into some faculty from the BIO department there!

Check out the photos below:

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Recent Curriculum Changes


The Department of Chemistry strives to provide the best and the most appropriate curriculum to its majors and minors. It is therefore necessary to make changes periodically in response to the changing needs of the field and the students and therefore to better prepare students for the future.  Below is a list of recent curriculum changes that students need to be familiar with. Students are highly encouraged to seek advising from their academic advisor to better plan for their program of study.

  1. CHE 128/129 – Basic Chemistry Concepts: This set of lecture and lab courses will no longer be offered during the regular academic year. Instead, the department will start offering CHE 120 and CHE 122 (see below) to fill the gap. Summer FYAS will offer CHE128/129 as they have in previous years.


  1. CHE 120 – General Chemistry IP (meets 6 hours per week) – This is a new course the department will be offering starting in AY1718. It is an introductory course for science majors and covers the same subject matter and sequence of topics as that of CHE 130 – General Chemistry I. However, this course includes additional coverage of fundamental chemistry concepts and more in-class time devoted to developing problem-solving skills. CO-REQUISITE(S): CHE131 and MAT 130 if math placement indicates MAT 130 (5 quarter hours). Enrollment into this course will be dependent on the student’s Chemistry Placement Test score.


  1. CHE 122 – General Chemistry IIP (meets 6 hours per week) – This is the second course of three in the General Chemistry series that covers the same material as that of CHE 132. However, this course includes additional coverage of fundamental chemistry concepts and more in-class time devoted to developing problem-solving skills. CO-REQUISITE(S): CHE133 (5 quarter hours). Enrollment into this course will be dependent on a student receiving a C- or higher in either CHE 120 or CHE 130.


  1. CHE 202 – Applied Probability and Statistics (2 credit hours) and CHE 394 – Seminar (2 credit hours) will no longer be offered starting in the 2017-18 academic year.


The content of CHE 202 will be partially covered in CHE 205 (Analytical Chemistry Lab) but mostly covered in CHE 261 (Instrumental Analysis Lecture and Lab), a new chemistry foundation course that will replace CHE 202 and CHE 394 (in terms of credits) for students entering into the chemistry program in autumn of 2017 and beyond.

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Updated our Resources Page

Hello DePaul Students, Alumni, and Friends!

We just updated the Resources page because ACD NMR software is no longer free, but also because there are two great resources that we wanted to add:

  1. Endnote is free to DePaul Students, Faculty, and Staff. This is a very powerful reference tracking system. Most of the professors use it when writing their peer-review research journals and similar documents. It can help immensely with paper and report writing. We recommend DePaul students download it and use it. (It’s normally quite expensive).
  2. Lynda training videos are also free to DePaul Students, Faculty, and Staff. These training videos focus on business, tech, and web skills, and are a great resource for those interested in developing those skills in preparation for a variety of careers. They also have guides on various software such as Excel, Photoshop, and others.

Congratulations to Dr. Greg Kharas on 25 years at DePaul University

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Chemistry faculty member Professor Greg Kharas has been at DePaul for 25 years, and recently sat down to reflect on his experiences. His reflection is really insightful, but rather than write it all here, we are just going to give some highlights. If you want to hear more, you should sit down to a cup of coffee with Dr. Kharas, which is always enlightening. Below are some paraphrased excerpts from his thoughts.

“Driven by passion for research and education I was fortunate to join in 1992 faculty of DePaul University which encouraged and fully supported my innovative approach of introducing a genuine research experience into a classroom setting.  Since that time, undergraduate students enrolled in 10 weeks organic chemistry laboratory course (CHE 235) are involved in individual research projects. In this guided discovery research project each student prepares and characterizes a novel organic compound and makes a polymer from it. Students are very excited to apply knowledge of the reactions they learned in the organic chemistry lecture to practical applications since polymers are a main constituent of our bodies (e.g. polynucleic acids and proteins), our food (starch and protein), our clothes (e.g. polyester and nylon), our houses (wood cellulose, paints, and adhesives). Every year the course is developed where students are guided to follow the common steps of any scientific inquiry: literature search and review, experimentak data collection and analysis of data, and discussion of results.

These projects promoting discovery based learning are developed every year to integrate students learning experiences with my research interests – which are the design, syntheses, and characterization of novel structures that could serve as a springboard for the further development of novel materials with new properties and applications. Making a novel compound and polymer, not described in the existing chemical literature, is an exciting project for students, and surprisingly, after all these years, still thrilling for me. When I walk from student to student to congratulate them on their discovery I feel very fortunate to be able to share these moments.

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Chemistry Courses for Non-Majors

Teaching non-science majors to become science-literate and to understand that science is a way of knowing has always been a part of the mission for the Department of Chemistry. One such course that the department has offered over the years is CHE 104 – Chemicals, Drugs and Living Systems. Students take this course to fulfill their liberal studies program’s scientific inquiry (SI) learning domain requirement.

Dr. Lihua Jin, Chair of the Department, recently visited the class to see firsthand how the students of CHE 104 are doing in learning science as a way of knowing. The course is currently taught by Dr. Gwen Baumann. Dr. Baumann is a professional lecturer who joined the department in the fall of 2016. Having received her education at MIT (B.S.) and the Johns Hopkins University (Ph.D.), taught chemistry and other science subjects for two decades at various colleges and universities, Dr. Baumann brings to the class a wealth of knowledge and effective teaching strategies. The focus of the course is on the molecular structure and function of drugs and their use for common diseases and ailments.  Students are learning how to think critically about drugs in the world, including everyday common drugs.

When Dr. Jin visited the class on Wednesday, Feb. 22nd…

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