Chemistry Department Seminars

Chemistry Department Seminars will take place online until further notice. In order to attend a department seminar, please contact the chemistry department at to request the Zoom meeting information.

The department strives to offer a diverse and vibrant seminar program. Each year leading researchers from outside the department, as well as faculty and graduate students from Western, present and discuss their cutting-edge research. This is an excellent opportunity for students, faculty, staff, and visitors to actively participate in the scientific community. In addition, many outside seminar speakers are recruiting graduate students for their respective programs and are eager to discuss their program. All are welcome and encouraged to attend! 

Photo Credit Roisin Cowan-Kuist, 2019
Winter Quarter 2021

Current Seminar Schedule 

Seminars will be hosted on Zoom throughout Winter Quarter 2021. If you are interested in attending a seminar, please email to request the seminar zoom attendance information.

Seminars typically take place on Friday from 3:15-4:15pm

Winter quarter may have seminars outside of the usually scheduled seminar time to host faculty candidates.


Seminar topics and titles will be posted as we receive additional information from speakers.

Recordings of select seminars will be available on the Chemistry Department Canvas page. If you wish to watch a past, recorded seminar please reach out to


Friday, Jan 15 - Kevin Cavicchi | University of Akron
4D Printing of Shape Memory Polymers

The ability to program a stimuli-responsive shape-change into a material is of significant interest for remotely deployable devices and sensors across a range of industries, such as aerospace, packaging, and medicine. One class of materials useful for shape morphing are shape memory polymers. The shape change is programmed by deforming an article into a temporary shape and then returned to their initial shape upon that application of an appropriate stimulus. The key to designing shape memory polymers is the presence of two networks, an elastic network, which drives the shape recovery, and a reversible network, that counterbalances the elastic restoring force to hold a temporary shape. While shape memory polymer articles have typically been fabricated using conventional polymer processing techniques, such as casting, molding and extrusion, the advent of 3D printing has provided a route to generate articles complex 3D features in the initial shape. The 3D printing of shape memory polymers is one type of 4D printing.

This talk will present general material design rules for preparing shape memory polymers illustrated by mixing a commodity elastomer and fatty acid. Second, the use of different 3D printing techniques, namely digital light processing (DLP) to print an SMP through free radical polymerization, and fused filament fabrication (FFF) to print a thermoplastic shape memory polymer blend. The influence of the processing on material structure and properties will be highlighted, especially where the printing enhances the shape memory properties compared to a conventionally cured or molded sheet of material. More broadly, this talk will demonstrate how shape memory is inherently tied to the fundamental viscoelasticity and anisotropy of polymeric materials, where simple design rules lead to numerous avenues for imparting shape memory into virtually any polymeric material.


Kevin Cavicchi is a Professor in the School of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering at the University of Akron. His research group is interested in the structure-property-processing relationships of nanostructured soft-matter including small molecule organogels, ionomers, block copolymers, and their blends using commercial polymers and in-house synthesized polymers prepared by reversible addition fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) and anionic polymerization. A central interest is in the fabrication of shape memory and reversibly actuating materials through in-situ polymerization, casting, molding, and additive manufacturing.

Born and raised in Reading, MA, Kevin attended Cornell University where he received a BS in Materials Science and Engineering. He completed his PhD in Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota and was a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Polymer Science and Engineering at UMASS-Amherst before joining the Department of Polymer Engineering at the University of Akron in January 2006.

Kevin received the Polymer Networks Group Young Investigator Award in 2014, the William C. Zekan Memorial Award from the Akron Section of the Society of Plastics Engineers in 2017, a Distinguished Service Award from the Division of Polymer Chemistry of the American Chemical Society in 2019, and the Sparks-Thomas Young Investigator Award from the Rubber Division of the American Chemical Society in 2021. He was named a Fellow of the American Chemical Society in 2019 and a Fellow of the Division of Polymer Chemistry of the American Chemical Society in 2020.

Friday, February 5  Prof. Karin Öberg - Department of Astronomy | Harvard University

Seminar Title: The Chemistry of Planet Formation

(student-invited seminar speaker!)

Friday, February 12th Prof. Stefanie Sydlik | Carnegie Mellon University 

Polymers and functional graphenic materials as stem cell instructive scaffolds for bone regeneration

Abstract: The Sydlik group at Carnegie Mellon uses chemical signals and intelligently designed materials to instruct bone regeneration. To do this, we use polymers and functional graphenic materials (FGMs) to create new biomaterials that offer tunable mechanical properties, degradability, and surface chemistry, which together can be used to control bioactivity.  FGMs, are degradable in in vivo, but the application of FGMs as biomaterials have been limited due to insufficient control of the chemical interface and limited processing methods. To address this, the Sydlik group has developed new methods to covalently bind polymers and other biomimetic moieties to the surface of FGMs using classic organic reactions. Using these novel organic transformations, we can impart surface functionalization. This produces FGMs with tunable surface chemistry, allowing installation of cell instructive moieties, and improved mechanical properties arising from graphene reduction. We have developed FGMs that inherently induce osteogenesis in vitro and in vivo. Specifically, our modified Arbuzov reaction couples polyphosphate on the GO backbone with control over a variety of bioinstructive counter ions (Ca2+, K+, Li+, Mg2+, or Na+). Ca2+, Li+, Mg2+, and PO4-. These ions are known to be inducerons, or small ions that encourage the osteogeneic differentiation of stem cells. Further, we have shown that calcium phosphate graphene (CaPG) induces osteogenesis in vivo in a mouse model. These materials are designed to degrade in water, and to release signals known to drive regenerative healing in their process of degradation. We have also developed a new class of peptide-graphene covalent conjugate and are working to show that FGMs can serve as intrinsically inductive, autodegradable scaffolds for bone regeneration in vivo.


Bio: Prof. Sydlik received her Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under the direction of Professor Timothy Swager studying novel nanocarbon and polymeric materials. She continued her training at MIT as a postdoctoral fellow with Professor Robert Langer, developing a novel biomimetic block copolymer for cartilage repair and establishing the biocompatibility of graphene oxide. Through her training, she received fellowships from the Beckman Foundation, NSF, and NIH. She joined the faculty at Carnegie Mellon University in August of 2015 and has since won the PMSE Young Investigator Award and is a World Economic Forum Young Scientist.

Thursday, Feb 18 starting at 10:00 am

MS Thesis Defense - Reuben Szabo (Kowalczyk group) 

Friday, Feb 19 at 3:00 pm

MS Thesis Defense - Haley Doran (Patrick group), 

Friday, March 5 Prof. Sharon Neufeldt - Department of Chemistry | Montana State University
Controlling Site Selectivity in Cross Coupling Reactions

Catalytic cross coupling reactions are among the most widely used strategies for C—C and C—N bond formation in organic synthesis. However, when two or more electrophiles (usually aryl halides) are present in the reactants, controlling site selectivity becomes critical. The most common approach to controlling selectivity involves using different substrates to access different products (substrate control). A potentially more efficient approach is to manipulate selectivity through choice of catalyst or reaction conditions. Here, we describe our efforts toward achieving and understanding ligand- and solvent-control over selectivity in Pd- and Ni-catalyzed cross coupling reactions. In addition to streamlining synthetic methods, this work provides insight into mechanistic details that could facilitate future catalyst design.

Friday, Mar 12 - Daniel Korus  | UbiQD and WWU MS Candidate

With the rise of emissions-related climate change, novel renewable energy sources must be realized. At the same time, evolution of the electric distribution grid away from traditionally large, centralized producers toward smaller, decentralized sources drives the need for next generation technologies that can be more readily integrated into the built environment. Nanocrystal (NC)-doped luminescent solar concentrators (LSCs) are waveguides that absorb diffuse and broadband sunlight across their surface and direct narrow-bandwidth, high-brightness light to their edges, for conversion into electricity by coupled, bandgap-matched, photovoltaic (PV) cells. LSCs are insensitive to incident light orientation, partial shading, and can be integrated into the built environment as windows, facades and other structural elements; thus LSCs overcome major barriers of employing traditional PVs in city environments.

Recent advances in colloidal semiconductor luminophores have brought LSC technology closer to commercialization. This talk will discuss several academic narratives of the development of LSCs at Western Washington University. The Industrial Internship Master of Science graduation pathway will be introduced along with UbiQD, a nanomaterials start up company based in Los Alamos New Mexico.

Daniel Korus studied Quantum Dot based LSCs under Dr. David Patrick for several years at WWU and has began the Industrial Internship track at WWU to prospectively graduate with his master’s degree in 2021 while simultaneously working at UbiQD, a quantum dot-based company in Los Alamos New Mexico.

WWU Chemistry Research Publications