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Citizen Science Soil Collection Sample

The Citizen Science Soil Collection Program, a public outreach initiative developed and directed by the Natural Products Discovery Group (, was recently awarded a grant from The Kerr Foundation, Inc. The objective of the program is to bring citizen scientists together with biomedical researchers to find new natural products from soil microorganisms. Having already recruited thousands of individuals from across Oklahoma and the nation, the Citizen Science Soil Collection Program is enriching natural product drug discovery research capabilities, while engaging the public in discussion about soil science, chemistry, and drug discovery. Project manager, Candace Coker, led the grant application process and states this is the first award of its kind for the program. The Kerr Foundation grant will contribute to the support and expansion of the program’s educational outreach in Oklahoma.

For more information about the Citizen Science Soil Collection Program, please visit

December 1, 2016

Artwork by Jane Hsi Selected for Cover of OU FORUM's November Issue

Surgical Unraveling of Whiteness by Jane Hsi

Biochemistry and Letters double major, Jane Hsi, created artwork that was selected for the cover of the November issue of the OU FORUM newsmagazine. Her artwork is featured in an article on the student-run site, titled "Surgical Unraveling of Whiteness: two pieces of artwork by Jane Hsi".

For more information about the November issue, please visit the OU FORUM website.

November 28, 2016

New Class of Drugs Holds Promise for Combating Antibiotic Resistance

Through a combination of laboratory experiments and supercomputing, Professor Helen Zgurskaya and a team of researchers collaborated to discover a new class of drugs that combat antibiotic resistance. Their combined efforts identified molecules that boost the effect of antibiotics on disease-causing bacteria and identified four new chemicals that seek out and disrupt bacterial proteins called “efflux pumps”, a major cause of antibiotic resistance in bacteria.

“The supercomputing power of ORNL’s Titan supercomputer allowed us to perform large-scale simulations of the drug targets and to screen many potential compounds quickly,” said Zgurskaya, head of the OU Antibiotic Discovery and Resistance Group at the Stephenson Life Sciences Research Center.  “The information we received was combined with our experiments to select molecules that were found to work well, and this should drastically reduce the time needed to move from the experimental phase to clinical trials,” she added.

The study, “Reviving Antibiotics: Efflux Pump Inhibitors That Interact with AcrA, a Membrane Fusion Protein of the AcrAB-ToIC Multidrug Efflux Pump,” was published in the American Chemical Society’s Infectious Diseases journal. More details about the project may be found in a video released by Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

October 28, 2016

Tekenari Tienabeso Receives 2016 SURF Award

Tekenari Tienebeso Receives 2016 SURF Award

The Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) is awarded annually to students who demonstrate their accomplishments through research proposals, academic records, faculty recommendations and their interest in laboratory science. In addition to a $5000 fellowship provided to support their research, financial support is provided to visit an industrial campus to present their results.

Tekenari Tienebeso, a biochemistry major studying under Dr. Indrajeet Sharma, was awarded with the highly competitive 2016 SURF award. His research proposal was titled "Synthetic Access to Pseurotin Core via a Diazo-OH Insertion/Conia-Ene Cascade Abstract" with the goal to access the spiro-γ-lactam core of pseurotin natural products through a stepwise diazo-OH insertion/Conia-Ene cascade sequence. Upon successful completion, a four step asymmetric synthesis of this biologically relevant core will be achieved. In conjunction with the synthesis of this core, investigation of the well-known Conia-Ene cycloisomerization reaction using electronically unique γ-lactams as applied to the synthesis of spirocycles in an asymmetric fashion would accomplish a challenging feat faced by synthetic chemists.

June 10, 2016

High School Students Participate in CLIMB Academy

Oklahoma high school students were recently provided the opportunity to stay on campus for a week of research and laboratory experiences with OU professors. The program, Chemistry Learning Incorporating Mathematics and Biology Academy (CLIMB), is sponsored by the OU Precollegiate Programs and is coordinated by Charles Rice, Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. The program and more details about the activities students participated in were recently featured in an article in the The Oklahoman.

May 26, 2016

Team Develops Antibiotic Formulation to Combat
MRSA and Other Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

A new antibiotic formulation developed to fight MRSA and other antibiotic-resistant bacteria was discovered by a team of faculty within the department, including principal investigator and professor, Dr. Charles Rice, and professors Robert Cichewicz and Daniel Glatzhofer. By neutralizing the MRSA bacteria, the resistance to methicillin will be eliminated.

“The use of first-line antibiotics to kill MRSA or other infectious bacteria will improve patient outcomes and lower the economic burden,” Dr. Rice said. “The discovery in our laboratory has made it possible to create an effective antibiotic that can reduce expensive hospitalization costs."

The new formula must undergo more testing and requires FDA approval. Links to more articles, videos and interviews may be found below.

May 16, 2016

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry Students Celebrate Graduation

Led by banner carriers Jennifer Nguyen and Cole Townsend, around 80 Baccalaureate graduates participated in the College of Arts and Sciences Convocation on Saturday, May 14, 2016. Cole Townsend was also selected as the CAS Carl Albert Award winner to deliver the student commencement address to the over 2,000 graduating students present, their guests and representatives from the faculty. In addition to the 120 Baccalaureate degrees in 2015-16, we also celebrate the completion of several Masters and Doctoral degrees.


2016 Banner Carriers: Cole Townsend and Jennifer Nguyen
<p align="center">Cole Townsend and Jennifer Nguyen</p>
May 6, 2016

2016 Award Recipients Recognized at Annual Spring Banquet

Departmental awards were presented at the Annual Spring Banquet on May 5, 2016. A complete list of the undergraduate and graduate student award recipients may be found on the Student Performance Awards page. 

In addition to student awards and scholarships, the Society for Chemical and Biochemical Researchers (CBR) student group recognized three outstanding individuals based on nominations by the graduate students. 

  • Outstanding Support Staff Award: Carl Van Buskirk
  • Outstanding Professor Award: Daniel Glatzhofer
  • Peer Recognition Award: Erwin Abucayon
Congratulations to all award recipients!
April 19, 2016

Cole Townsend Receives the 2016 Carl Albert Award

Cole Townsend Receives 2016 Carl Albert Award

Cole Townsend, a senior Biochemistry major, is the recipient of the 2016 Carl Albert Award; the Carl Albert Award is given to the most outstanding graduating senior from OU’s College of Arts and Sciences. Cole, a native of Ada, Oklahoma, has been an active undergraduate researcher in the laboratory of Dr. Anthony Burgett in Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry since his freshmen year.

His undergraduate research focuses on understanding how the anti-cancer compound OSW-1 inhibits cancer cell proliferation through a novel mode of action, and Cole’s multi-disciplinary approach in investigating this research question has employed a combination of biological and analytical chemistry methods. Cole is completing an Honors thesis on his research project, and he has presented on his research in several different forums, including as a representative of OU at the Oklahoma State Capitol during the 2016 Oklahoma Research Day.

Cole is the recipient of many other awards and honors, including the Chris T. Undergraduate Research Fellowship, which is a privately supported fellowship in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry designed to support undergraduate researchers. Although originally entering OU as a pre-medical student, Cole is now fully committed to a professional future as a biomedical researcher. He is planning on starting his graduate school studies at the extremely prestigious International Max Planck Research School for Molecular Biology at the University of Göttingen, Germany, which is a program that brings together the best and brightest scientific talents from across the world.

April 18, 2016

Undergraduate Researchers Named 2016 Goldwater Scholars

Two undergraduate researchers from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry have been named 2016 Goldwater Scholars. Scholarships are awarded each year based on the potential and intent of students to pursue research careers in mathematics, natural sciences or engineering.

Congratulations to Casey Cai from the Burgett lab and Jesse Coker from the Duerfeldt lab

Jesse Coker, 2016 Goldwater Scholar

Jesse Coker, a junior pursuing a B.S. in biochemistry and a B.A. in economics, is an active participant of the PE-ET Honor Society, co-chair of the College of Arts and Sciences Leadership Scholars Program and team leader for The Oklahoma Group. An ambitious student leader and research enthusiast, Jessie was a National Merit Finalist, Honors College Undergraduate Research Opportunities Grant recipient and Intramural Coordinator of the Year.

In addition to his research involvement at the Fesik Laboratory at Vanderbilt, Jesse is an undergraduate researcher for Dr. Adam Duerfeldt, where his research focuses on novel antibiotic therapies. Ultimately, Jesse plans to pursue a Ph.D. in structural or chemical biology, focusing on drug discovery. He plans to start a collaborative, research-focused nonprofit biotech that develops cures for orphan diseases, making affordable, life-saving treatments available to the public.

Casey Cai, 2016 Goldwater Scholar

Casey Cai is a sophomore biology and mathematics major with minors in Chinese, medical humanities and chemistry. In addition to her recent accomplishment, Casey is a National Merit Scholar, Medical Humanities Scholar and has received numerous honors and awards based on her research and academic achievements. She is active in organizations such as the OU Math Club, the Asian-American Student Association and the Henderson Scholars.

As a participant in the First-Year Research Experience (FYRE) program, she also works as an undergraduate researcher with Dr. Anthony Burgett to synthesize and modify natural products that inhibit the growth of certain human cancer cell lines. She aspires to complete an M.D./Ph.D. in mathematical biology, enabling her to continue researching cancer growth and treatment by way of mathematical modeling, while  teaching at a research-intensive medical school.

Dr. Donna Nelson Installed as 2016 President of American Chemical Society

University of Oklahoma Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Dr. Donna Nelson has been recently installed as the 2016 President of the American Chemical Society. The American Chemical Society is the world’s largest professional scientific society, and it is a tremendous honor to have one of our faculty members elected by the membership to serve as its president.  

For more information on the ceremony welcoming the new officers, see the Chemical and Engineering News article.

For more information on Dr. Nelson’s overall contributions see her websites: