Seminars & Events

Throughout the academic year, the department hosts several seminars whose presenters range from department graduate students to internationally renowned professors and scientists. The calendar below includes all of our department seminars and events. It is updated frequently with titles and abstracts — you can subscribe using Google Calendar by clicking the "+GoogleCalendar" button in the lower right. 


Friday Colloquium Series

Faculty members and graduate students invite professors from other institutions throughout the country and the world to speak at Brown on a Friday afternoon. Friday colloquiua topics span the various fields of chemistry represented by the department. Sometimes, a colloquium seminar is hosted jointly with another department or institute, such as IMNI, the Institute for Molecular and Nanoscale Innovation. Friday afternoons, 4:00pm - 5:00pm, MacMillan Hall 115. Refreshments served at 3:45pm.

Organic Chemistry Seminars

Organic chemistry graduate students are required to give at least two seminars. The first is a literature seminar on a topic of recent interest, and the second is the candidate's thesis research. Invited guests frequently present their research at Organic Seminars as well. Tuesday afternoons, 12:00pm - 1:00pm.

Inorganic Chemistry Seminars

Inorganic chemistry graduate students are expected to present one seminar per year on their own research or on another topic of current interest in inorganic chemistry. Research associates, faculty and invited guests often present inorganic seminars as well. Thursday afternoons, 12:00pm - 1:00pm.

Physical Chemistry Tea Sessions

Physical chemistry graduate students are expected to present one seminar per year. Topics covered include the graduate students' topics of interest with regard to current research, as well as their own research. Thursday afternoons, 3:00pm - 4:00pm.


Upcoming Events

  • Chemically accurate thermochemistry for actinide atoms, molecules, and complexes

    Abstract: Using accurate composite ab initio thermochemistry approaches such as the Feller-Peterson-Dixon (FPD) methodology, kcal/mol or even kJ/mol accuracy in thermochemical properties can be readily achieved for molecules composed of elements from the first few rows of the periodic table when coupled cluster approaches are reliable. This is made possible by the systematic recovery of all major contributions to the property of interest, e.g., valence and outer-core electron correlation, relativistic effects, diagonal Born-Oppenheimer corrections, etc. Over the last several years, we have extended the FPD approach to heavy elements with an emphasis on the actinides. Applications will be presented involving various small molecules and complexes using the CCSD(T) method with either the DKH3 or X2C scalar relativistic Hamiltonians. Accuracies within 3 kcal/mol are obtained for properties such as bond enthalpies, ionization potentials, electron affinities, and heats of formation, which are often competitive with the best experimental results. Results in the 1 kcal/mol range were obtained in the few cases where electron correlation beyond CCSD(T) were possible. In addition to the usual importance of accurately recovering electron correlation effects, the calculation of spin-orbit coupling is one of the most challenging aspects.

    Chemistry Colloquium • Kirk Peterson • Washington State
  • Oct

    Title: Development and Study of New Physiologically Useful Hydropersulfide (RSSH) Donors

    Abstract: Although the physiological signaling associated with the endogenous generation hydrogen sulfide (H2S) has been well studied over the past 20 years, the biochemical mechanisms associated with its physiological actions are still not clear. Recently, it has been found that H2S-related or derived species are highly prevalent in mammalian systems and that these species may be responsible for some, if not the majority, of the biological actions attributed to H2S. Among the most prevalent and intriguing of these species are hydropersulfides (RSSH), which can be present at significant levels. Indeed, it appears that H2S and RSSH may be intimately linked in biological systems. Given the inherent reactivity of RSSH, these species cannot be used directly and donor molecules are required for in situ generation. This presentation will focus on the development of new RSSH donors and their potential use as cardioprotective agents.

    Chemistry Colloquium • John Toscano • Johns Hopkins
  • Computing with Molecules:
    Storage and Computation Using Small Molecules and Their Reaction Networks


    As transistors near the size of molecules, computer engineers are increasingly finding themselves asking a once idle question: how can we compute using chemistry? In this talk, I will discuss recent progress my Brown Molecular Informatics team and I have made demonstrating how mixtures of small, unordered molecules can process information. During the first portion of this talk, I will illustrate how combinatorial chemical synthesis combined with high resolution mass spectrometry can be harnessed to store GBs of information in small molecules and metabolites. I will then turn to describing how basic principles of chemistry, such as mixing, acid/base complementarity, and autocatalysis, can be exploited to realize fully molecular neural networks for machine learning and image processing. I will end with a discussion of the challenges molecular computation faces that may be resolved with clever doses of synthetic and theoretical chemistry, and the connections molecular computation has to the field of systems chemistry. I will furthermore use this talk as an opportunity to highlight the many contributions that members of the Brown community have made to this project over the years.



    Dr. Brenda Rubenstein is currently the Joukowsky Family Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Brown University. While the focus of her work is on developing new electronic structure methods, she is also deeply engaged in rethinking computing architectures. Prior to arriving at Brown, she was a Lawrence Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellow at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. She received her Sc.B.s in Chemical Physics and Applied Mathematics at Brown University, her M.Phil. in Computational Chemistry while a Churchill Scholar at the University of Cambridge, and her Ph.D. in Chemical Physics at Columbia University.

    Chemistry Colloquium • Brenda Rubenstein • Brown University
  • Oct

    Redox-Switchable Ring-Opening Polymerization Catalysis

    Abstract: Redox-active catalysts are described whose chemoselectivity for ring-opening polymerization reactions can be altered with the choice of metal precursor and oxidation state of the catalyst. Control over polymer composition, sequence, and architecture can be achieved through judicious choice of monomers and with in situ application of redox equivalents. Replacing chemical redox reagents with electrochemical potential provides access to redox-switching that is more amenable to automation and that is also suitable for surface-initiated polymerization reactions. Aspects of catalyst design, polymerization mechanism, and materials applications of the resulting polymers will be discussed.

    Chemistry Colloquium • Jeff Byers • Boston University
  • Title: Are we there yet? Preparing for a Golden Age of Computing in Chemistry and Biology
    Abstract: With journals and popular media awash in computing accomplishments, can we really calculate whatever we want in, say, structural biology? Success in this realm would yield mechanistic insights for biochemistry and genetic syndromes, as well as in silico drug design platforms. While straightforward molecular dynamics simulations of proteins today can reach unprecedented timescales (multiple us), typically these remain orders of magnitude shy of true biological timescales (ms and beyond). On the other hand, enhanced methods have been developed that are reported to break such barriers readily. We show how one of the simplest enhanced approaches, weighted ensemble (WE) simulation, quantifies long timescales and mechanisms in complex systems in a rigorous way. The WE approach is scale-agnostic and also can be applied to systems biology or quantum mechanical problems, among others.
    Chemistry Colloquium • Daniel Zuckerman • Univ. of Oregon
  • Title: Water Effects on Atmospheric Reactions

    Abstract: Water has a significant impact on many processes that occur in the Earth’s atmosphere. It is one the most abundant resources in our atmosphere and, because of its ability to be both a hydrogen bond donor and acceptor, water can form very stable complexes. The formation of these complexes can dramatically affect the chemistry in the atmosphere, including heterogeneous removal and alteration of the photochemical properties of the atmospheric species, the formation of water droplets and aerosol particles, as well as the participation of complexes in chemical reactions. This talk will review both experimental and theoretical investigations of water vapor effects on gas phase reactions, with an emphasis on those pertinent to the atmosphere. A goal of the talk is to provide an understanding of the fundamental concepts underlying potential water effects, imparting a framework to better understand global effects of water chemistry in our atmosphere.

    Clapp Lecture • Joseph Francisco • Univ. of Pennsylvania
  • A Fresh Look at the Chemistry Behind Acid Rain

    Abstract: The two major components of acid rain are sulfuric acid (H2SO4) and nitric acid (HNO3). Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is the main precursor of H2SO4. Atmospheric sulfur dioxide is oxidized homogeneously by reaction of SO2 with OH and O2 leading to SO3, which then reacts with water to form sulfuric acid. This is the now accepted acid rain mechanism for generation of atmospheric sulfuric acid. In this talk we will review the traditional acid rain mechanism and we will introduce a new acid rain mechanism that relies on the photochemistry of SO2 and show how this new chemistry can be an important ingredient in the overall mechanism of acid rain formation not yet considered by current atmospheric models.


    Sulfur dioxide has been proposed in solar geoengineering as a precursor of H2SO4 aerosol, a cooling agent active in the stratosphere to contrast climate change due to the anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse carbon dioxide. Considering the introduction of SO2 in the stratosphere, the photochemistry of HOSO is critical to understanding the role of SO2 mitigating climate change. The spectroscopy and photochemistry this new species provide important insights that help to better understand SO2 chemistry in earth’s upper atmosphere.

    Chemistry Colloquium • Joseph Francisco • Univ. of Pennsylvania
  • Nov