Chemist Aaron Puri Receives Simons Foundation Early Career Award

Chemist Aaron Puri Receives Simons Foundation Early Career Award


“I am honored to receive this award and excited to join the community of researchers supported by the Simons Foundation to answer fundamental questions about microbial ecology and evolution.” says Aaron Puri, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry and the Henry Eyring Center for Cell and Genome Science and one of five awardees for 2024.
The Simons Foundation Early Career Investigator in Aquatic Microbial Ecology and Evolution Award recognizes outstanding researchers in the fields of microbial ecology, microbial biogeochemistry, and microbial evolution in marine or natural freshwater systems. Its purpose is to promote the careers of investigators who contribute to understanding these areas.

Puri joined the College of Science faculty in 2019 after working as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington. He earned his Ph.D. in Chemical and Systems Biology from Stanford University in 2013, and his B.S. from the University of Chicago in 2008. Puri has also received the NIH Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award and the NSF CAREER Award. 

“This award will enable our research group to work at the interface of biology and chemistry to decipher the molecular details of interactions in methane-oxidizing bacterial communities,” says Puri. His research aims to solve big problems with microscopic solutions. “These communities provide a biotic sink for the potent greenhouse gas methane, and are a useful system for understanding how bacteria interact with each other and their environment while performing critical ecosystem functions.” The Simons Award is an indicator that this is only the beginning of Puri’s research successes.


by Lauren Wigod


Matthew Sigman Receives The 2023 Patai-Rapport Lecture Award

Patai-Rapport Lecture: Matt Sigman


He received this award at the 22nd European Symposium on Organic Chemistry. According to, the "European Symposium of Organic Chemistry" includes key scientific events that since the 70s have been organized every two years in different cities in Europe. Every edition had an attractive multidisciplinary scope and worldwide attendance from industry and academia.

The Patai - Rappoport Lecture celebrates the vision of Saul Patai and Zvi Rappoport in creating and advancing the book series "The Chemistry of Functional Groups," providing chemists with a highly valuable tool for advancing their research. Founded in 1964, the series has grown to over 150 volumes with 1,750 chapters on a wide range of functional groups and compound classes, contributed by expert authors from more than 50 countries. The current chief editor of the series is Professor Ilan Marek. The Patai – Rappoport Lecture is supported by John Wiley & Sons.

Read more about Sigman Research Group.

Originally posted at

Vahe Bandarian – 2023 ACS Fellow

Vahe Bandarian has been selected as one of the 2023 American Chemical Society (ACS) fellows.

Associate Dean for Student Affairs in the College of Science, Bandarian arrived at the University of Utah in 2015, and his work at the U currently centers on developing molecular level understanding of biosynthesis of complex natural products. Specifically, his lab has reconstituted the key steps in the biosynthesis of the modified transfer RNA base, queuosine, which is found in all kingdoms of life. Future directions in this area will include probing the biological role of this and other ubiquitous RNA modification. Additional new areas of research being initiated will focus on mechanistic studies of enzymes involved in complex radical-mediated transformations.

Bandarian graduated with a B.S. from California State University-Los Angeles in 1992 then went on to get his Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1998 followed by an NIH postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan.

ACS began this fellowship tradition in 2009 as a way to recognize and honor ACS members for outstanding achievements and contributions to science. Read more about the American Chemical Society and the 42 selected fellows here.

Originally announced on

AAAS Membership

Valeria Molinero elected to the american academy of arts and sciences

Valeria Molinero, Distinguished Professor and Jack and Peg Simons Endowed Professor of Theoretical Chemistry, is among the 252 newly elected members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The Academy honors excellence and convenes leaders from every field of human endeavor to examine new ideas, address issues of importance to the nation and the world and work together.

Among those joining Molinero in the Class of 2021 are neuroscientist and CNN medical correspondent Sanjay K. Gupta, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones of the New York Times and media entrepreneur Oprah Winfrey.

Molinero joins 16 other members affiliated with the U, including Nobel laureate Mario Capecchi, Huntsman Cancer Institute CEO Mary Beckerle and Distinguished Professor of Anthropology Kristen Hawkes. The U’s first member was chemist and National Medal of Science recipient Henry Eyring, elected in 1958. Molinero currently directs a center for theoretical chemistry named for Eyring.

“I am surprised and elated by this recognition,” Molinero said. “My most pervasive feeling is gratitude:  to my trainees and collaborators for sharing with me the joy of science and discovery, to my colleagues and scientific community for their encouragement and recognition, and to the University of Utah for the support that has provided me throughout all my independent career.”

Molinero and her lab use computational simulations to understand the molecule-by-molecule process of how ice forms and how polymers, proteins and other compounds can either aid or inhibit the formation of ice. In 2019, the U awarded her its Distinguished Scholarly and Creative Research Award. In 2020, she and her colleagues received the Cozzarelli Prize from the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for finding that the smallest nanodroplet of water that can form ice is around 90 molecules. Their research has application ranging from climate modeling to achieving the perfect texture of ice cream.

“This is not surprising, as Vale is just an outstanding scientist and colleague,” said Matt Sigman, chemistry department chair.

“Vale Molinero is among the most influential theoretical and computational chemists of her generation,” said Peter Trapa, dean of the College of Science. “ Today’s announcement is a fitting recognition of her exceptional career.”

The College of Science now features eight Academy members, including five from the Department of Chemistry.

The Academy was founded in 1780 by John Adams, John Hancock and others who believed the new republic should honor exceptionally accomplished individuals and engage them in advancing the public good. Studies compiled by the Academy have helped set the direction of research and analysis in science and technology policy, global security and international affairs, social policy, education and the humanities.

Current Academy members represent today’s innovative thinkers in every field and profession, including more than 250 Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners.

first published by Paul Gabrielson in @theU