Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry Academic Year 2018-19 News

Graduation 2019

CONGRATULATIONS to our 2019 graduates! We wish everyone continued success.

Dr. Willie Darby poses with five graduates in full ceremonial regalia duing the HU 149th Annual Commencement. The students names are listed below.

Lauryn Christian Alexander
Jaysón Montel Davidson
Kyndall Renae Nicholas
Chanel Marie Person
Amari Nicole Whitaker
BS Chemistry/Forensics
BS Biochemistry
BS Biochemistry
BS Chemistry
BS Chemistry/Forensics

Lauren Alexander will be attending West Virginia University on a Ruby Fellowship to pursue a PhD. In Forensics. Kyndall Nicholas will be attending a post-bac program at Johns Hopkins and Chanel Person will be attending Rutgers University for a Master's in cosmetic chemistry.

New Faculty

The Department welcomed three new faculty members to our Home by the Sea in September 2018. The new members are Dr. Oluwatoyin Asojo, Dr. Insu Hahn and Dr. Vincent de Paul N. Nziko. Their CVs are available on their faculty webpage. Drs. Asojo and Hahn are new biochemistry faculty and Dr. Nziko will be teaching organic chemistry.

The Department also started a Blackboard community page to announce departmental meetings, seminars and other important activities. The community page, known as HUChem, is a way to connect to all undergraduate majors, graduate students, faculty and staff, sending content to members and sharing interests and other scientific news. Internships and summer research programs will also be shared. Content is monitored by faculty and staff.

Annual Dinner

The annual dinner was held on December 7, 2018 in the Cyber Lounge of the Student Center. Ms. Ashanti Sallee, the Chemistry Club President, started the evening with a greeting and blessing. Reflections were given by each class and Ms. Kendra Carroll entertained everyone by singing "O Holy Night". Dr. Darby presented awards to majors who had the best performance in General, Organic and Physical Chemistry courses and two students who have actively been involved in summer research programs gave presentations. Ashanti Sallee, active in the PREM program, has been working at Brandeis in Waltham, Massachusetts and Chanel Person has been working at the US Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC. Both students highlighted their research work and indicated that the summer research experience was a good opportunity for professional and personal growth.

Two smiling, young women pose for a photo at the Annual Dinner.
A professor stands to speak while those sitting listen in during the Annual Dinner.
A man is smiling towards the camera with his back to a darkened window during the Annual Dinner.

Student Accomplishments

Ms. Channel Person, a senior Biochemistry major, presented research on October 6th, 2018 at Sweet Briar College as a part of the 20th Annual Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference of Undergraduate Scholarship (MARCUS XX). Her work has also been published in the ACS Omega Journal. Titled "Restriction enzymes as a target for DNA based sensing and structural rearrangement" the co-authors include Susan Buckhout White, Igor L. Medintz and Ellen R. Goldman. The work was performed at the Center for Bio/Molecular Science and Engineering, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory Washington, DC.

Link to the research article:

Ms. Ashanti Sallee, a junior Chemistry major, is a 2018 Brandeis Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) student. She worked in Professor Bing Xu's Laboratory and describes her work in the following YouTube presentation.

Ms. Sierra Williams-McLeod, a sophomore Biochemistry major, was selected to present at the 2018 Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS), held in Indianapolis, Indiana on November 18, 2018. Her poster presentation is based on the work she performed with Dr. Michelle K. Waddell and presented at the 23rd Hampton University School of Science Research Symposium. The presentation is titled "Molecular Modeling and Drug Mapping Hemolin Protein Demonstrates Ability to Bind Dragomabin B".

Mr. Jeremy Young has recently been chosen as an ACS Scholar He is a sophomore Biochemistry major also participating in the pre-MARC program.

Hampton Roads ACS: The Hampton Roads ACS local section held its annual awards banquet at Virginia Wesleyan University (VWU) on Friday April 5th, 2019. Dr. Oluwatoyin Asojo was the keynote speaker and two Chemistry Majors, Lauryn Alexander (Forensic Chemistry) and Kyndall Nicholas (Biochemistry) were honored. Our awardees were honored with certificates for outstanding performance along with a small cash award.

Two young women pose with ACS Awards in hand.
A group of students and professors show their ACS Awards.

Faculty Accomplishments

Dr. Oluwatoyin Asojo, Associate Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry, received a $100,000 Pilot Grant from the Hampton University Minority Men's Health Initiative (MMHI). The project is titled "Structural Basis of CAP Proteins as Prostate Cancer Diagnostics and Therapeutics".

Dr. Asojo also had two publications in Fall of 2018

  • Wilbers RHP, Schneiter R, Holterman MHM, Drurey C, Smant G, Asojo OA, et al. Secreted venom allergen-like proteins of helminths: Conserved modulators of host responses in animals and plants. PLoS Pathog. 2018;14(10):e1007300. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1007300. PubMed PMID: 30335852; PubMed Central PMCID: PMCPMC6193718.
  • Zhan B, Arumugam S, Kennedy MW, Tricoche N, Lian LY, Asojo OA, et al. Ligand binding properties of two Brugia malayi fatty acid and retinol (FAR) binding proteins and their vaccine efficacies against challenge infection in gerbils. PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2018;12(10):e0006772. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0006772. PubMed PMID: 30296268.

Dr. Kesete Ghebreyessus is a co-PI on a 3.6 million dollar, 6 year grant from NSF titled Hampton-Brandeis Partnership for Research and Education in Materials (PREM). Drs. Edmund Ndip and Peter Njoki are senior investigators on this grant. The grant aims to strengthen and expand collaborative research and education between Hampton University and Brandeis University with the overall goal of increasing recruitment, retention, and graduation rates of minority students in materials science and engineering related fields.

Congratulations to Dr. Peter Njoki on his promotion to Associate Professor. Dr. Njoki recently had a paper published in the American Chemical Society Applied Nano Materials journal dated October 26, 2018, Volume 1, Issue 10. Titled "The Surface Composition of Au/Ag Core/Alloy Nanoparticles Influences the Methanol Oxidation Reaction", the paper investigates the surface composition of gold–silver nanoparticles (Au/Ag NPs) via electrochemical analysis. Dr. Njoki had a second paper published in the American Chemical Society Journal of Chemical Education titled "Transformation of Silver Nanoparticles in Phosphate Anions: An Experiment for High School Students". High school students who participated in the work were supported through the NanoHU program, funded by the National Science Foundation.

Dr. Godson C. Nwokogu published an article in the open-access journal, Current Research in Bioorganic & Organic Chemistry. The article titled "Effect of Remote Polyene Bridge Methyl Substituent on Physical Properties of Dipolar Chromophores with Conformationally and Configurationally Locked Polyene Bridge" was coauthored by Samuel Simpson. The research was supported by the United States Office of Naval Research and National Science Foundation.

Dr. Michelle Waddell attended a meeting at Jackson State University for NOBCChE (National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers). Dr. Waddell was accompanied by Stephanie Chigbu, a junior Biochemistry major. The meeting was held to increase research efforts and recruitment and retention of students in STEM at Historically Black Universities and Colleges (HBCUs) in collaboration with predominately white Universities (PWIs), specifically Auburn University, Ohio State University and the University of Pittsburgh. The HBCUs included Winston-Salem University, Jackson State University and Hampton University. The purpose of the meeting is to develop a pipeline of academic career opportunities for NOBCChE undergraduate, graduate and post doctoral members that seeks to improve representation of people of color in academia. In addition, there is an opportunity to foster new scientific and professional relationships and networks that may not have developed otherwise to benefit faculty. Dr. Waddell says that a chapter of NOBCChE will be established at Hampton to support these efforts. Learn more about NOBCChE.

Seven people on a campus tour standing together infront of an international lineup of flags.

Campus tour
A large group of people pose together during a dinner with fellow attendees.

Dinner with fellow attendees

New Instrumentation

Dr. Kesete Ghebreyessus obtained an Agilent Cary-60 spectrophotometer through the PREM program. The spectrophotometer will be used primarily for research and to supplement instrumentation in upper level Chemistry classes.

Other new equipment received this academic year includes a chemical refrigerator, general purpose centrifuges and a Genesys 30 Spectrophotometer from the HUNano program. Several Genesys spectrophotometers and analytical balances were received from the School of Science.


Ms. Reena Blade, an HU chemistry alumnae and current PhD student at Purdue visited the department on October 3, 2018 and presented current students with information on graduate school.

A representative from Thermo Scientific gave an informative seminar on the capabilities of bench-top FT-IR, Raman and NMR spectroscopy on October 25, 2018.

Dr. Laurie Conner, Assistant Professor, Molecular and Cell Biology, Graduate College of Biomedical Science, Director of Summer Undergraduate Research (SMART) and Director of Instruction, Graduate and Post-Baccalaureate Development (IMSD and PREP) presented the first departmental seminar of 2019. The title of the talk was "Research and Educational Training Programs at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas". The seminar was held in Turner Hall 214 at 4:00 p.m. on Jan. 17th. Dr. Conner spoke about NIH-funded research and educational training programs at Baylor College of Medicine. Additional information is available HERE.

Change in Faculty Positions

Dr. Willie Darby will be returning to her regular faculty position after having served for two years as the interim chair of the Department. The faculty and staff acknowledged her commitment and leadership at the last departmental meeting of the academic year by presenting her with a small memento. Best Wishes Dr. Darby! It was recently announced that the new chair of the Department would be Dr. Oluwatoyin Asojo. Congratulations Dr. Asojo!

Dr. Darby speaking at a podium during the Departmental Dinner.

Dr. Darby at the Departmental Dinner
Dr. Asojo receiving an award during the ACS Awards.

Dr. Asojo at the ACS Awards