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

Current Seminar Schedule 

Seminars will be hosted on Zoom throughout Fall 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

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 previously recorded seminar please reach out to

Fall Quarter 2021


September 24, 2021 – The Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of Graduate School 

WWU Chemistry faculty panel discussion

October 1, 2021 – Dr. Jeanine Amacher

Assistant Professor, WWU

Title: Structure, Selectivity, & Sortases: Investigating Protein-Peptide Interactions on the Molecular Level

Abstract: The Amacher lab is broadly interested in protein-peptide interactions, or those that involve recognition of a small number of amino acids by a protein module. These interactions are often transient and regulatory in nature, and members from the same family of peptide-binding domains may have overlapping specificities. We use protein biochemistry and structural biology to investigate the position-specific selectivity determinants of these important interactions. In this seminar, Dr. Amacher will briefly discuss the evolution of specificity in the PDZ domain, using choanoflagellates as a model system. This work is a collaboration with Dr. Filip Jagodzinski's lab in Computer Science. She will then present peptide-bound structures and biochemical data using loop-swapped chimeras that provide exciting new insights into target recognition by bacterial sortases. This work is a collaboration with Dr. John Antos’ lab in Chemistry.

October 8, 2021 – Dr. Ying Bao

Assistant Professor, WWU

Title: Morphology and Surface Design of Plasmonic Nanomaterial for Improved Plasmonic Functions

Abstract: Metal nanocrystals have attracted intense interest owing to their astonishing localized surface plasmon resonance properties and potential applications such as sensing, catalysis, and biomedicines. These properties are highly dependent on the nanocrystals' physical parameters including morphology and surface ligands. The Bao Group has worked to improve plasmonic sensing performance of metal nanoparticles via both nanocrystal synthesis and surface modification. In this talk, Dr. Bao will first present her work on developing a rapid and effective synthesis method for preparing 2D gold nanosnowflakes (AuNSFs). By adjusting the synthesis conditions, the morphology and size of the 2D AuNSFs can be fine-tuned and  demonstrations of the 2D AuNSFs' function as signal amplifiers to enhance Raman scattering from small molecules will be discussed. Second, Dr. Bao will briefly discuss her group's work performing surface modification on gold nanorods to obtain an  enhanced sensing ability serving as a signal transducer in the detection of mercury ions, along with a significant enhancement of the nanoparticle stability.

October 15, 2021 – Dr. David Rider

Associate Professor, WWU

Title: Making the Most of Grafting Reactions at Polymer Networks and Nanomaterials to Improve Solar Energy Devices and Aerospace Materials

Abstract: The Rider lab conducts research at the intersection of polymer science, surface chemistry and nanomaterials. Independently or often through collaboration, our group addresses limitations in energy devices and applied materials by designing alternative components and functionalizing interfaces for compatibilization and/or for tailoring the properties of the materials for advances in those fields. This seminar will focus on recent developments in our labs for tailoring polymer networks and nanomaterials with other polymers via grafting reactions. In particular, two projects will be covered: (i) where we establish a new grafting thermal ring-opening polymerization reaction for benzoxazine monomers in the presence of sulfonyl-ester functionalized polymers and structures and (ii) where we and collaborators adapt the surface of quantum dot fluorophores for integration into plexiglas-type matrices to fabricate low-optical loss luminescent solar concentrators.

October 22, 2021 – Elizabeth Landau

Journalist and Science Communicator

Title: Sharing Science with the World

Bio: Elizabeth Landau is an award-winning journalist and science communicator. Currently, she lives in Washington, D.C. She is a contributor to the New York Times, Washington Post, WIRED, Smithsonian, Scientific American, Quanta, and other publications. As a contractor, she serves as a Senior Communications Specialist at NASA Headquarters, where she produces and edits podcasts, videos, and website articles.

October 29, 2021 – Careers at SeaGen and in Biotechnology

WWU Chemistry alumni panel discussion

November 5, 2021 – Dr. Bozhi Tian

Professor, University of Chicago

Title: Physical Biology at the Semiconductor-enabled Subcellular Interfaces

Abstract: Biointerface devices can probe fundamental biological dynamics and improve the lives of human beings. However, the direct application of traditional rigid electronics onto soft tissues or cells can cause signal transduction and biocompatibility issues, due to mechanical mismatch at the biointerfaces. One common mitigation strategy is the use of nanostructures or soft-hard composites to form more biocompatible interfaces with target cells or tissues. My group integrates nanoscience and soft matter physics with biophysics to study several semiconductor-based biointerfaces. In this talk, I will first pinpoint domains where semiconductor properties can be leveraged for biointerface studies, providing a sample of numbers in semiconductor-based biointerfaces. Next, I will present a few recent studies from our lab and highlight key bioelectrical mechanisms underlying the non-genetic optical modulation interfaces. In particular, I will present a biology-guided two-step design principle for establishing tight intra-, inter-, and extracellular silicon-based bioelectrical interfaces in which semiconductors and the biological targets have matched mechanical properties and efficient signal transduction. Research in my lab has revealed how the physicochemical outputs from the photothermal, photofaradic, and photocapacitive effects of nanostructured semiconductors can be identified, quantified, and utilized at semiconductor-based biointerfaces to modulate electrical activities in neurons, cardiomyocytes and bacterial cells. The non-genetic and free-standing materials-based methods have the potential to overcome the limitations of current metal electrode-based devices such as bulk and cell membrane disruption, and are not dependent on genetic modifications. Finally, I will discuss new tissue-like materials and other biological targets that could catalyze future advances.

November 12, 2021 – Dr. Daniel Fredrickson

Professor, University of Wisconsin

Title: Frustrated and Allowed Structural Transitions: Lessons in Materials Design from Complex Intermetallic Phases

Abstract: Intermetallic phases—solid state compounds that form upon alloying metallic elements together—comprise a realm of immense structural diversity: their structures range from simple variants of the familiar fcc, bcc and hcp lattices, to the giant cubic unit cells of NaCd2 (>1,000 atoms/cell) and Al55.4Cu5.4Ta3.9 (23,134 atoms/cell), to quasicrystals such as YbCd5.7 whose geometries defy description with 3-dimensional unit cells. A limiting factor in realizing the broad technological applications promised by this diversity of atomic arrangements is our inability to understand, let alone control, the crystal structures of these compounds. An emerging theme in the study of these phases is a link between structural complexity and driving forces that are familiar from molecular chemistry. One focus of our group’s research has been pursuing this theme using an interaction of theory and experiment. In this seminar, we will discuss some of our recent advances in this pursuit, including (1) the development of the theoretical tools for creating graphical and intuitive representations the electronic and atomic size requirements of crystal structures, and (2) the Frustrated and Allowed Structural Transitions principle for understanding and predicting how structural phenomena arise from the coordination or competition between the electronic and atomic size factors.

November 19, 2021 – Dr. Sharon Neufeldt

Assistant Professor, Montana State University

Title: Ligand and Solvent-Controlled Site Selective Pd-Catalyzed Cross Coupling Reactions

Abstract: 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 (pseudo)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 general approach is to manipulate selectivity through choice of catalyst/ligand or reaction conditions. This presentation will describe our recent work on ligand-controlled C4-selective cross-coupling of 2,4-dichloropyridine derivatives.  The mechanistic origin of solvent-controlled selectivity in cross-couplings of chloroaryl triflates will also be discussed. In addition to streamlining synthetic methods, this work provides insight into mechanistic details that could facilitate future catalyst design.

December 3, 2021 – Dr. Bassam Haddad

Postdoctoral researcher (and WWU alum)


WWU Chemistry Research Publications