With 145 poster presentations, 10 student talks, 2 plenary talks by researchers from industrial sponsors, and a special presentation on the namesakes for the event, this year’s Karle Symposium on August 3 provided a comprehensive look at the breadth and depth of research in the Department of Chemistry and a nod to the impact of previous generations of grad students.

This annual event, organized by Chemistry graduate students, provides a unique venue for showcasing their research to the entire department as well as fostering new collaborations. Since 2016, this event has been known as the Karle Symposium in honor of alumni Drs. Isabella and Jerome Karle.

In the opening remarks to the 2018 Karle Symposium, Dr. Louise Karle Hanson, who is also a UM Chemistry alum (BS 1967, MS 1969), recapped the remarkable careers of her father and mother, sharing personal stories about how Isabella and Jerome helped develop X-ray crystallography as one of the most widely-used methods to determine molecular structure. [Read more about the Karles below.]

Matzer lab reunion at the Karle-- grad student Rosalyn Kent and alum Kyle McDonald, now at Dow

The Karle Plenary Lectures were delivered by representatives from Dow Chemical Company and PPG, the symposium’s industrial sponsors. These talks focused on the chemistry of coatings. Jodi Mecca, Senior Research Scientist from Dow Chemical Company, explained how Dow developed a new high throughput technique to better understand coating properties and to improve the component materials in their coatings. Steven Zawacky, Associate Fellow at PPG, talked about the development of an electro-coating catalyst as an example of the factors that drive innovation. Dr. Zawacky, also an alum of Michigan Chemistry (BS 1973), noted that Professor Emeritus Arthur Ashe once taught him organic chemistry in the same room where Zawacky was now delivering his Karle talk. “When I sat in this room and listened to the lectures, I never thought I would ever be at the front of the room. I really appreciate the chance to do it and a chance to talk to people that are just starting in their careers.” 

Malika Jeffries-EL

The keynote lecture was delivered by Malika Jeffries-EL, associate professor of chemistry at Boston University, on her work with organic semiconductors at the forefront of OLEDs and organic solar panels. “What a fabulous end to a fantastic #Karle2018 @Michigan Chem! @Chem_Diva [ Prof. Jefferies-EL’s twitter handle] killed the keynote—great science, humor & audience connection,” wrote UM Chemistry professor Anna Mapp in a tweet. “I even got the general drift,” reported a non-chemist in the room.


Several poster sessions throughout the day provided students–including high school and undergraduates working on projects during the summer–with an opportunity to share their work with other students and faculty. 


[At left: Jasmine Mumpfield, a D-RISE high school student who worked in the Pratt Lab, presents her work on road salt.]

Colleen and Allison



Dow Chemical and PPG provided travel awards for outstanding presentations. Awardees were: Megan Conner (Shultz Lab, Chemistry Education), Colleen Riordan (Bailey Lab, Analytical), and Allison Roessler (Zimmerman Lab, Materials).

“The 2018 Karle Symposium organizing committee did an incredible job incorporating student presentations, alumni engagement, industry talks, and interesting academic discoveries into a celebration of research and shared connections,” said Robert Kennedy, chair of the Department of Chemistry. “On behalf of the Department, thank you for the hard work put in by co-chairs Anuska Shrestha (Sanford lab) and Mina Jafar (Zimmerman Lab) and the entire organizing committee.  Also thank you to the sponsors of this year’s Karle Symposium: Dow Chemical , PPG, Rackham Graduate School, Michigan Chemistry and the Chemistry Graduate Student Council.”

Plan to attend the Karle Symposium in 2019!

Isabella and Jerome Karle, namesakes of our summer symposium

After earning their doctorates in physical chemistry from the University of Michigan, Isabella and Jerome Karle joined the Manhattan Project, the effort to develop nuclear weapons, in Chicago. Isabella was among the youngest and one of the few women scientists in the Manhattan Project. Later they joined the United States Naval Research Laboratory. Over careers spanning more than six decades, they were recognized many times for their work. Isabella received the Garvan–Olin Medal, Gregori Aminoff Prize, the Bower Award, and the National Medal of Science. Jointly with Herbert A. Hauptman, Jerome was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1985 for the direct analysis of crystal structures using X-ray scattering techniques. Upon retirement, both received the Navy Distinguished Civilian Service Award, the Navy's highest form of recognition to civilian employees.