UMass Boston



  • Congrats to PhD students Jessica Karch and Sederra Ross on their NSF Graduate Research Fellowships!
  • Congrats to lots of faculty on their new NSF, NIH, Templeton Foundation, and American Heart Association grants!
  • Check out Prof. Green's newest paper in Nature Physics, major breakthrough that updates the Uncertainty Principle!

​Current External Funding

Graduate Students

  • Two chemistry PhD students Jessica Karch (Sevian Lab) and Sederra Ross (Reilly Lab) have been awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowships, making UMass Boston history as the first recipients of this prestigious award in the Chemistry department. Each student will receive $138k between 2018 and 2021. For more information read the University's news story


  • Professor of Chemistry Hannah Sevian is PI on a new NSF grant and co-PI on another new NSF grant. She is PI, along with co-PI John Silveria (UMass Boston's Dean of Students) on an NSF IUSE grant of $300k to develop and study student success in an asset-based supplemental chemistry course (see NSF abstract for further info). She is co-PI with former UMass Boston postdoc and lecturer Ira Caspari as PI (she is now an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Tufts University) and also former UMass Boston postdoc Vesal Dini as co-PI (he is now a Lecturer in Physics at Tufts University). They were awarded a $500k NSF ECR grant to study the facilitation practices of instructional assistants in large lecture undergraduate chemistry and physics classes (see NSF abstract for further info).
  • Professor of Chemistry Bela Torok (as PI) and Associate Professor of Chemistry Marianna Torok (as co-PI) in collaboration with Instructor in Medicine Zsuzsanna K. Zsengeller (Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center) have been awarded a $154k 2020 Institutional Research Enhancement Award (AIREA) from the American Heart Association (AHA) for the ‘Alleviation of Mitochondrial Oxidative Stress in Preeclampsia’.
  • Associate Professor of Chemistry Jason Green has been awarded a two-year grant from the John Templeton Foundation totaling $234,800 to advance the theory and practice for universality and dynamic scaling of chemical mechanisms, with a focus on autocatalytic networks relevant to living systems.
  • Professor of Chemistry Hannah Sevian is co-PI on a newly awarded $300k NSF ADVANCE Catalyst award, along with three other professors at UMass Boston: Associate Professor of Higher Education Katalin Szelényi (PI), Professor of Biology Adán Colón-Carmona (co-PI), and Associate Professor of Sociology Andrea Leverentz (co-PI). The goal of the project is to study and work on addressing systemic barriers and facilitators of gender and racial equity among STEM faculty. See the NSF abstract for further information.
  • Assistant Professor of Chemistry Niya Sa (as PI) and Associate Professor of Chemistry Michelle Foster (as co-PI) have been awarded a $426k NSF Major Research Instrumentation grant, which funds the acquisition of a high-resolution scanning electron microscope (SEM) to enhance research collaborations among colleges and universities in the New England area. See the NSF abstract for further information.
  • Associate Professor of Chemistry Jason Green has been awarded a three-year NSF grant totaling $435k to develop a theory for dynamic matter, specifically studying the design of mechanisms for dissipative nanomaterials. See Green's grant for more information.
  • Professor of Chemistry Hannah Sevian is a co-PI on a two-year $392k NSF grant to support national studies of persistence, effectiveness, and retention in STEM teaching. See the NSF abstract for further information.
  • Associate Professor of Chemistry Jonathan Rochford has been awarded an NSF grant totaling $405k through 2021 for his work focusing on outer coordination sphere optimization of electrocatalytic CO2 reduction. See Rochford's grant through NSF and read the University's news story for more information.
  • Assistant Professor of Chemistry Daniel Dowling has been awarded an NSF grant for $294k through 2020 for his research focused on proteins involved in extracting sulfur from naturally occurring organic molecules. Elucidating this cycle will allow for a better understanding of how living creatures move sulfur between Earth's water, atmosphere, and land. See Dowling's grant for more information. 
  • Assistant Professor of Chemistry Neil Reilly has been awarded an NSF grant totaling $402k through 2021 for his research focused on spectroscopic interrogation of reactive intermediates implicated in hydrocarbon combustion and pyrolysis. See Reilly's grant and the University's news story for more information. 
  • Professor of Chemistry Hannah Sevian has been awarded an NSF grant totaling $1.1 million through 2023 for her work regarding the assessment practices of STEM teachers. See Sevian's grant and read the University's news story for more information. 
  • Associate Professor of Chemistry Michelle Foster was awarded an NIH sub-grant from the U54 through 2021 for her work in the Development of Biodegradable Liquid Metal Nanocarriers as Potent Cancer Theranostic Agents. 
  • Assistant Professor of Chemistry Neil Reilly has been awarded an ACS Petroleum Research Fund grant for $110k through 2019 for spectroscopic interrogation of aromatic fuel combustion.
  • Assistant Professor of Chemistry Daniel Dowling has been awarded an NIH grant for $445k through 2020 for his work to engineer natural product biosynthetic pathways for the production of candidate drug-like molecules, particularly to characterize molecular and biochemical features of five-membered heterocycle formation in nonribosomal peptide synthetases. See Dowling's grant for more information.
  • Professor of Chemistry Hannah Sevian has been awarded an NSF grant totaling $2.6 million through 2020 to study chemistry teachers' assessment reasoning and the practices of chemistry that teachers emphasize in their classrooms. See Sevian's grant for more information.
  • Associate Professor of Chemistry Jason Green is part of a research team that has been awarded a Department of Defense Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (DOD-MURI) grant for $6.25 million. Green will use about $1 million of that funding to support his research focused on the ability to predict the outcomes of complex chemical reactions. Read the University's news story for more information. 

Faculty Highlights 

Green Group, Computational Chemistry 

2020: A new article from Professor Green's research group was published in September 2020 in Nature Physics on Time-Information Uncertainty Relations in Physics. The editor at Nature selected to highlight this paper:

A time-information uncertainty relation in thermodynamics has been derived, analogous to the time-energy uncertainty relation in quantum mechanics, imposing limits on the speed of energy and entropy exchange between a system and external reservoirs. 

2019: Post-doctoral researcher Moupriya Das published her work on Critical Fluctuations and Slowing Down of Chaos in Nature Communications in May of 2019. The article was featured on Nature Communications' website with an editor's blurb that read:

It is well known that fluids become opaque at the liquid–vapor critical point, but a description of the underlying mechanical instability is still missing. Das and Green leverage nonlinear dynamics to quantify the role of chaos in the emergence of this critical phenomenon. 

2017: Post-doctoral researcher Moupriya Das published her work on Self-Averaging Fluctuations in the Chaoticity of Simple Fluids in Physical Review Letters in September of 2017. The group wrote the following blurb titled "Chaos in liquid matter": 

A still glass of liquid appears lifeless to the eye but is teeming with activity on the nanoscale. What we cannot see are molecules in ceaseless motion, chaotically wandering through the available volume. Our work in Phys. Rev. Lett. quantifies the degree of chaos in this motion through computer simulations of model liquids. In these simulations, densely packed molecules are in constant interaction, attracting at a distance and repelling when they become too close. These simulations show that repulsive forces are largely responsible for not only the liquid structure, as is well known, but also most of the chaos in the dynamics. While these interactions have long been central to predicting the observable properties of liquids, this work quantifies just how quickly the bulk properties of liquids emerge from the chaotic molecular dynamics and shows repulsions are again dominant. These findings are another lens through which we can view liquids and opens up the possibility for new links between molecular properties and the macroscopic liquids of everyday experience.

The article was featured on the Physics Buzz Blog on Physics Central's website later that year.  

Reilly Group, Physical/Analytical Chemistry 

2020: An article by Assistant Professor Neil Reilly and three graduate students in his research group, on Gas-Phase Optical Detection of 3-Ethynylcyclopentyl: A Resonance-Stabilized C7H7 Radical with an Embedded 1-Vinylpropargyl Chromophore, was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

2018: Assistant Professor Neil Reilly gave a "hot topic" talk on the spectroscopic detection of a new isomer of C7Hat the 2018 Gordon Research Conference on Molecular Interactions and Dynamics at Stonehill College. 

Rochford Group, Inorganic Chemistry 

Professor Jonathan Rochford was invited to contribute to the ‘Organometallic Electrochemistry: Redox Catalysis Going the Smart Way’ special issue of the ACS Organometallics journal. His group's contribution, conducted in collaboration with Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Freie Universitaet Berlin, is titled “Synergistic Metal–Ligand Redox Cooperativity for Electrocatalytic CO2 Reduction Promoted by a Ligand-Based Redox Couple in Mn and Re Tricarbonyl Complexes”. 

Sa Group, Physical/Analytical Chemistry

2020: An article by Assistant Professor Niya and graduate students in her research group, A Simple Halogen-Free Magnesium Electrolyte for Reversible Magnesium Deposition through Cosolvent Assistance, was published in the ACS journal, Applied Materials and Interfaces. This paper was selected as an Editor's Choice paper and also featured on the cover of the printed journal issue.

2018: Assistant Professor Niya Sa organized the Analytical Chemistry Symposium on the topic of “Analysis of Materials” at the 256th American Chemical Society Conference held in Boston in August 2018. At the conference, Professor Sa also gave an invited talk about some recent research progress in her group on “Developing Next Generation Battery Technology based on Multivalent Ions” in the Energy and Fuels Division.

Sevian Group, Chemistry Education Research

2019: Professor Hannah Sevian will be giving the closing invited talk at the 2019 Gordon Research Conference on Chemistry Education Research and Practice in June 2019 at Bates College. Her talk, tentatively titled "The Choices We Make While Teaching Chemistry in the Classroom", will be in the session on Deepening Teacher Thinking.

2017: Work published in Chemistry Education Research and Practice by Postdoctoral Researcher Melissa Weinrich and Professor Hannah Sevian on analyzing students' abstraction during organic chemistry problem solving was highlighted in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal, Education in Chemistry

Although problem solving is widely acknowledged as a key skill for scientists, the deliberate development of the skill remains a challenge. After an exam, it’s common to hear, ‘That wasn’t fair – we’ve never done that before’, when the question simply required the application of knowledge that had been encountered before to an unseen example.

B Torok Group, Green Chemistry

Professor Bela Torok, with Senior Lecturer Timothy Dransfield, has published a green chemistry book, entitled Green Chemistry: An Inclusive Approach. The book describes a variety of topics, from green synthesis, atmospheric chemistry, and toxicology to green energy and more, in over 1000 pages. The book was published by Elsevier and is available from all major booksellers. 

M Torok Group, Biological/Medicinal Chemistry

2020: The article on "Sulfonamides as Multifunctional Agents for Alzheimer's Disease", coauthored by M. Torok, B. Torok, H. Levine (University of Kentucky) and their research groups was one of the most highly cited papers in Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry (BMCL) in 2015. Since this topic is of great interest, Associate Professor Marianna Torok was invited to submit a Digest article to BMCL in 2018. Her review paper with graduate student Sinem Apaydın was published in 2019 under the title, "Sulfonamide Derivatives as Multi-Target Agents for Complex Diseases". 

2018: Associate Professor Marianna Torok's work with graduate student Anne Kokel was published in 2018 under the title, "Recent Advances in the Development of Antimicrobial Peptides (AMPs): Attempts for Sustainable Medicine?".

Zhang Group, Organic Synthesis 

Professor Wei Zhang’s lab has been collaborating with the labs of Professors James Bradner and Jun Qi at Harvard Medical School and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute on the development of new drugs for cancers. They have reported the discovery of UMB32 as a potent inhibitor for bromodomain-containing protein 4 (BRD4). Read the article: Biased Multicomponent Reactions to Develop Novel Bromodomain Inhibitors. A joint patent (US9975896B2) on this work was granted in May 2018. In a recent paper, titled Structure-Guided Design and Development of Potent and Selective Dual Bromodomain 4 (BRD4)/Polo-like Kinase 1 (PLK1) Inhibitors, compounds synthesized from Zhang’s lab were reported as potent dual inhibitors for BRD4 and kinase protein (PLK1). The lead compounds also have promising results on animal and toxicity studies.


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