Factors in the Chemistry Equation
By Karen Young Kreeger
new assistant professors joined the Bryn Mawr
chemistry faculty last fall, and the department
now spans the broad spectrum of the fields
disciplines, from biochemistry and organic chemistry
to inorganic and physical chemistry, as well as
covering a wide range of basic research projects
with applications from novel materials to fighting
industrial pollution to designing drugs.
A. White, associate professor of chemistry and
chair of the department, says the research and
teaching skills of the two new faculty members
mesh well with the research interests of other
faculty and the courses offered to students. Whites
own area is RNA biochemistry, specifically RNA
structure, stability and protein binding.
on Enzyme Inhibitors
P. Malachowski, assistant professor of chemistry,
arrived at Bryn Mawr from the University of New
England in August 2000. Hes a synthetic
bioorganic chemist whose research focuses on the
interface between organic and biochemistry. Last
year he taught two courses in organic chemistry
and plans to teach general chemistry next fall
as well as a topics course in modern medicinal
research has been published in the Journal
of Biological Chemistry and the Journal
of Organic Chemistry, and his work has been
funded by the National Science Foundation and
the National Institutes of Health.
central research theme of his lab is the development
of enzyme inhibitors, molecules that block what
an enzyme normally does. For example, most drugs
are enzyme inhibitors. "Right now I have
two projects that work to develop methods of generating
these inhibitors," he says.
project focuses on developing beta-lactam protease
inhibitors. Most antibiotics in use today are
beta-lactam antibiotics, such as penicillin. More
recent examples are the protease inhibitors used
to treat AIDS and other diseases such as cancer,
rheumatoid arthritis and pulmonary embolisms.
"At this point we havent focused on
any one ailment," he says. "This work
has general applications."
approach is to test his methods for designing
molecules on chymotrypsin, a well-characterized
protease located in the gastrointestinal tract.
"If we can show a way of designing a molecule
that will inhibit chymotrypsin, then it could
be applied to other enzymes in the same class."
From there a pharmaceutical company could pick
up on his basic concepts and apply it toward a
second research interest involves synthesizing
another type of molecule called alpha-aminophosphonic
acid, which is used to make inhibitors of proteases
and other enzymes. Although there are methods
to make this type of inhibitor, none has been
routinely adopted. Malachowski is developing more
efficient and easier ways to make this molecule.
"There are a lot of ways to make it, but
were looking to improve it," he says.
with Surface Chemistry
Wovchko is Bryn Mawr's newest assistant professor
of physical chemistry. He came straight to Bryn
Mawr after earning a Ph.D. at the University of
Pittsburgh in 1998. After a year of teaching physical
chemistry and general chemistry, he took on courses
in inorganic chemistry. He became a tenure-track
faculty member in September 2000. Wovchkos
research has recently appeared in the Journal
of Physical Chemistry and Langmuir.
points out that he is "interested in nanotechnology
and plans to investigate surface reactions on
substances such as nanotubes," but he currently
specializes in analyzing chemical processes that
occur on the surfaces of high-area materials.
He uses spectroscopy and ultrahigh vacuum techniques
to examine reactions between two phases, gas and
solid. The surface chemical processes he studies
involve materials such as aluminum oxide, silica,
porous silicon and calcium oxide, which function
as supports in automotive catalytic converters,
industrial catalysts and semiconductor-device
fabrication, and as adsorbents for hazardous pollutants
such as chlorocarbons.
also searching for synthetic routes using heterogeneous
photocatalysts and are investigating the thermal
destruction of hazardous molecules on solid adsorbents,"
Wovchko explains. "Im particularly drawn
to the area of catalysis because of its immense
impact in commercial synthetic processes."
is attempting to devise a heterogeneous catalytic
process that will incorporate ultraviolet light
as an energy source. His interest in photocatalytic
pathways may one day be applied to solar-based
chemical technologies and environmental clean-up
and Malachowski have joined a distinguished faculty
with wide-ranging interests in chemistry. Frank
B. Mallory, the W. Alton Jones Professor of Chemistry,
studies organic photochemistry the use
of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to
view interactions among organic molecules
and "graphite ribbons." "In the
last several years he has involved students in
a project inspired by materials science and nanotechnology
to make designer molecules," says White of
Mallorys graphite ribbons, which are made
of long strings of benzene rings.
Michelle M. Francl, who specializes in computational
and theoretical physical chemistry, studies chemical
structure and reactivity using computers in a
burgeoning area called computational chemistry.
Of particular interest to her group is the development
of methods for assigning Class III atomic charges
to certain molecules. Francl works with students
on projects ranging from protein structure to
organic reaction mechanisms.
J. Nieter Burgmayer
Professor Sharon J. Nieter Burgmayer is focused
on metalloenzymes, which are widely distributed
throughout nature and are important in organic
reactions critical to the health of many organisms.
Because the metalloenzymes are difficult to study
in nature, Burgmayer and her students use synthesized
models of coenzymes to study how they behave.
the department members are clearly dedicated to
advancing their research, White emphasizes that
aspects of all their scientific investigations
make it into the classroom, so students, as well
as science itself, benefit from the creativity
and ingenuity of the Colleges chemistry
About the Author
Karen Young Kreeger is a science
journalist who writes on biomedical and womens
health topics, as well as careers in science.
Her most recent work has appeared in Bioscience,
Genome Technology, Muse and The