Alumni of the Month


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Dr. Ioana Ungureanu

Dr. Hauh-Jyun Candy Chen

Dr. Songnian Lin

Dr. Scott Kuduk


 

   Dr. Scott Kuduk

ScottkudukScott is a native Long Islander and joined the Ojima group in 1992. Scott was one of the early membersSK1 of the taxol team working on the beta-lactam synthon method.  He joined right after the initial coupling with protected 10-DAB had been conducted and worked on the optimization and extension to a number of analogs all over the baccatin core and side chain.  The taxol team had a lot of success with the project leading to compounds such as “ortataxel”. Scott reflects on his time as a graduate student and says, “I learned the most from the challenging efforts that didn’t work and were unpublished and buried back in my thesis.”  He also loved teaching Professor Ojima’s classes when he was traveling, and that was easily one of his favorite breaks from the lab.  
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As an Ojima group member, Scott valued Professor Ojima’s ‘work hard, play hard’ attitude, and strived to exemplify this during his graduate study.  Some of his favorite times were the group trips to the beach and the annual Thanksgiving celebration.  Scott says, “How often does one see sushi and turkey on the same table?”  Scott also appreciated the multi-cultural environment that everyone in the group was exposed to in the Ojima lab. He relays that it was a very positive experience that has benefitted him in his ability to interact and collaborate across a broad spectrum.  Also, as part of the educational experience, Professor Ojima encouraged travel to and presentations at meetings, an essential and enjoyable part of development.  Scott also mentions that he made friends for life who shared in the experience, some of which we’ve lost along the way. He says, “Dora Fracchiola and Maria Tzamarioudaki were classmates and dear friends that I still think of often.”

SK2Upon obtaining his PhD in December 1996, Scott completed post-doctoral training with Sam Danishefsky at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Research Institute in New York City.  He describes that as another fantastic experience as he was able to work on a number of total synthesis projects encompassing natural products such as the epothilones and complex carbohydrates for the preparation of immunogenic cancer vaccines encompassed in 13 manuscripts from his time there.  He was the first Ojima alum to work with Sam and there was a steady stream of Stony Brook to MSKCC post-docs after that. Scott is pleased that he was able to set a positive precedent for other members of group to follow.

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Currently, Scott is a director of medicinal chemistry at Merck in West Point, PA where he has been for 14 years.  He has worked predominantly on neuroscience programs in pain, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, and sleep having put multiple compounds into human clinical trials encompassing four distinct mechanisms of action.  He is also currently leading two programs which have both internal chemists as well as CRO partners in Shanghai. Since joining Merck, Scott has published 21 patent applications and over 30 research articles.  He has also given over a dozen invited lectures at meetings such as the Medicinal Chemistry Gordon conference and has organized/chaired a number of sessions at external meetings. 
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Scott is happy to report that he and his wife, Kathy, have three great kids: Elizabeth 12, Audra 10, and James 7.  They thoroughly enjoy their family vacations, including recent ones to the beach in Delaware, Maine, Boston, Washington DC, and Orlando.  When he is not working, Scott spends his free time with his family, such as coaching his son’s baseball team.  Scott misses fishing in the Great South Bay that he grew up doing, but his new favorite hobby is working in his garden generating a bounty of produce.

 

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Dr. Songnian Lin

Songnian Lin

Songnian was born and raised in a small village in Southern China. He graduated from the University of Science and Technology of China with a BS in Chemistry in1994. Songnian then came to the US in the summer of 1994 and went to the State University of New York at Stony Brook for his PhD where he graduated in 1999. Songnian joined Professor Ojima's group in the summer of 1995, one year after he started his graduate study in the Chemistry Department at Stony Brook. His PhD research with Professor Ojima spanned several areas including the design & synthesis of 3’C-linked macrocyclic taxoid-epothilone hybrids, the synthesis & structure-activity relationship (SAR) studies on nor-seco taxoids, pseudo-taxoids, methano-/oxirano-taxoids, and 3’-difluoromethyl taxoids, as well as the design & synthesis of a non-radioactive bifunctional photoaffinity probe (BPP) of taxoid.Songnian in Lab He also worked on the synthesis of fluorinated taxoids as comformational probes and for metabolism study, the synthesis & SAR studies on taxane-based multi-drug resistant (MDR) reversal agents, and the synthesis of isoserine derivatives and polyfunctionalized heterocycles via ring-opening and ring-expansion of b-lactam skeleton. Songnian obtained his PhD degree in chemistry in summer of 1999, and he stayed briefly with Professor Ojima as a post-doctoral research fellow.

While remaining in Professor Ojima's group, he moved to work on the synthesis of taxoids via kinetic resolution coupling of baccatins with racemic b-lactams as well as the design & synthesis of 3’N-linked macrocyclic taxoid-epothilone hybrids.

Together with Professor Ojima and collaborators, Songnian published 14 original research articles in internally recognized scientific journals, including J. Org. Chem., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USAJ. Endotoxin Res.Bioorg. Med. Chem. Lett.J. Am. Chem. Soc., Tetrahedron Lett.Org. Lett., J. Med. Chem., etc. Songnian also co-authored two book chapters and two research reviews.

Songnian then moved to Dr. Samuel Danishefsky's Laboratory at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer center in New York City in early 2000 as an US Army Breast Cancer Research Fellow in early 2000. He briefly studied a novel methodology for the synthesis of b-substituted-b-hydroxycarbonyl compounds from chiral epoxides before turned his attention to the total synthesis of complex natural products of biological interest. Later in 2001, Songnian accomplished the first total synthesis of anti-tumor natural products TMC-95 (proteasome inhibitors), molecules that were pursued simultaneously by multiple accredited research groups internationally. TMC-95 During the course of the synthesis, Songnian discovered a novel transformation (intramolecular proto-desilylation rearrangement reaction) that led to stereospecific synthesis of cis-enamides, which were among the most challenging synthetic targets. The work was published in Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. Engl. early in 2002, and was the subject of a commentary in Chemistry & Engineering News immediate after its publication.

Shortly after the completion of the synthesis of TMC-95, Songnian embarked on another challenge to finish a second natural product, a diterpene antibiotic Guanacastepene A. Guanacastepene A was a heated synthetic target which was sparked by its novel 5-7-6 fused rings with multiple chiral centers distributed along the scaffold.  As a surprise gift right at the time he was getting ready to join Merck, Songnian completed this first total synthesis again, by completing the 13-step in a short 5-week period of time. The work was immediately published in Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. Engl. in early 2002.Guanacastepene A

The post-doctoral tenure with Dr. Danishefsky produced 7 publications for Songnian, all in top-tiered journals such as Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. Engl. (3), J. Am. Chem. Soc. (2), ChemBioChem (1), and J. Org. Chem. (1).

Receiving multiple offers from several major pharmaceutical companies, Songnian decided to join Merck, with the encouragement from Professors Ojima and Danishefsky. In March 2002, Songnian started his pharmaceutical research career with Merck as a Sr. Research Chemist. He was initially involved in piloting the establishment of Exploratory Chemistry, a novel way of engaging chemistry early in the target validation and lead identification processes of drug discovery. To this end, Songnian accumulated significant experience and knowledge while working with a number of programs spanning a wide range of disease areas - diabetes, obesity, inflammation, hypertension, anemia, antibiotics, just to name a few.

In 2005, Songnian was promoted to Research Fellow, and in the same year, he started to lead chemistry teams that consisted of both PhD's and associates, a rare opportunity in pharmaceutical industry at such early stage of career. With his involvement, several preclinical candidates were identified and advanced to safety and clinical testing. In 2009, Songnian was promoted to Senior Research Fellow and Program Team Lead, leading project teams consisting of cross-disciplinal scientists. More recently, Songnian was appointed as a Director in Discovery Chemistry Department, Merck Research Laboratories Kenilworth site. He is currently leading a team working on the chemistry and biology interface, searching for novel biologics to better treat diabetes.

In his ten-year tenure with Merck so far, Songnian has published over 15 patent applications, 5 research articles, two book chapters, and one research review. Songnian has also delivered a number of lectures internally and outside Merck.

Songnian has many fond memories associated with Stony Brook and the Ojima research group. He states, "Stony Brook University, Chemistry department in particular, educated me, and Professor Ojima remodeled me – this is how I transformed from a shy man whose face would flash red when asked to talk in front of people, to someone who leads cross-functional teams embarking on scientific explorations, and routinely speaks/presents to a group of scientists or management teams. My five plus years of experience at stony Brook really prepared me well for my current position. The training I received, including scientific knowledge, lab technique, oral presentation and scientific writing skills, inter-personal management, are critical to my growth. I owe all these to the Chemistry Department and my Ph.D. advisor Professor Ojima. Stony Brook is my second hometown – recalling the days spent there is always heart-warming. And I am proud of being a member of Ojima family."

Songnian loves spending time with his family - he and his wife have two boys and one girl ages 9, 7 and 4. Songnian enjoys gardening, woodworking, and practicing Tai Chi and Chinese calligraphy. He also loves sports, especially basketball - a sport that he used to play but does not get much time to enjoy now. A loving husband and father, Songnian and his family reside at Middlesex County, New Jersey.

Above all, Songnian believes "…that in whatever you do you must always try your best. You also need to be accommodative to different environments as people have different personalities and opinions, and situation changes." 

        Asian pears                   Jenna

 

 

 

 

Authentic Asian pears grown on a North American wild pear tree crafted by Songnian in his backyard

                 

Jenna, Songnian's daughter, picking cherry tomatoes in backyard. Behind her is an arbor bench designed & built by Songnian and is roofed with a Concord grape vine

 


 

Dr. Hauh-Jyun Candy Chen

Candy Chen

Dr. Candy Chen was one of the first three graduate students to have received her PhD from Professor Ojima. She received her PhD in 1988, and her work focused on synthetic routes to synthesize optically pure aromatic amino acids, peptides, and their derivatives from chiral b-lactam intermediates by means of “b-Lactam Synthon Method”. Her husband, Chitsu (Jeff) Lee, is also a Stony Brook alumnus where he earned his Master degree in Electrical Engineering. Chitsu and Candy were married after Candy graduated from Stony Brook in 1989, and Candy still remembers Chitsu waiting for her at her desk while she finished working in the laboratory. Chitsu and Candy have fond memories of shopping at the Smith Haven Mall and enjoying seafood and the sunset in Port Jefferson. Candy also remembers visiting the Stony Brook Post Office to receive packages from home.

After her postdoctoral research at the National Institute of Health and the Rockefeller University, she joined the American Health Foundation (AHF) in 1992, where she became a tenured investigator. Candy returned to Taiwan in 1997 to start her academic career at the National Chung Cheng University first as Assistant Professor and was quickly promoted to Associate Professor in 1999 and Professor in 2004. Her current research interests are derived from her work at the American Health Foundation on DNA adduct formation from endogenous aldehydes. She stresses that the education she received from Professor Ojima at Stony Brook deeply influenced the way she works and runs her laboratory today. Her group works at least 6 days a week for 12 hours a day. Candy’s students are also requested to submit reports biannually, instead of quarterly.

Candy Chen Research - 1

 

Anal. Chem.201284 (5), pp 2521–2527

            Candy’s son, Weiyi, is now a junior at the National Sun Yet-San University in Taiwan.  Following his father’s path, he is majoring in Electrical Engineering. On Sundays, Chitsu enjoys working in the family’s front- and backyard while Candy cooks. To relax and exercise, Candy also enjoys walking around the National Chung Cheng  campus which she says is one of the most beautiful campuses among universities and colleges in Taiwan.

National Chung Cheng University

Image Source

Dr. Chen’s profile:  http://deptche.ccu.edu.tw/faculty/hjc.html

Note: Dr. Chen’s work was highlighted in the form of a press conference at the ACS National Meeting in Denver, August 2011.  See the following link:

http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/16991076



Dr. Ioana Ungureanu

ioana_ungureanuDr. Ioana Ungureanureceived her PhD in Organic Chemistry (Magna cum laude) from the University Louis Pasteur in Strasbourg, France in 2000. Her thesis, entitled “Reactivities of phenylaziridines and phenylazetidines and their applications to the synthesis of biologically active compounds”, summarizes her graduate work completed in Professor André Mann’s research group.

Upon the completion of her PhD in 2000, Ioana joined the Ojima group as a Postdoctoral associate and worked on a variety of projects related to new classes of linkers for fast drug release and methodology for beta-lactam N-terbutoxycarbonylation. She applied this beta-lactam N-terbutoxycarbonylation methodology to the synthesis of labeled taxoids for SS-NMR studies and also worked on the synthesis of fluorinated taxoids for SAR studies.

In 2003, Ioana began working as a Research Scientist II at Givaudan Flavors Corp in Cincinatti, Ohio. During her first few years at Givaudan Flavors Corp., Ioana was the lead scientist on multiple projects which included off-notes masking and sweetness enhancement. She also designed and synthesized new taste modifiers, probes, and molecular tools to asses various aspects of taste modification. She also developed new aroma ingredients with particular physico-chemical properties. In 2008, Ioana was promoted to Senior Research Chemist at Givaudan Flavors.

Ioana has also represented Givoudan as a presenter of the Ernest Guenther Award in the Chemistry of Natural Products. She presented the 2011 Ernest Guenther Award in the Chemistry of Natural Products at the ACS National Meeting in Anaheim, CA. The award encourages outstanding achievements in natural product analysis, structure elucidation, and chemical synthesis. The award particularly recognizes novel and creative discoveries in the field of natural product development and discovery.

Ioana ACS 2011

From left to right: ACS President Nancy B. Jackson, 
2011 recipient Robert M. Williams, and Ioana Ungureanu

Currently, as a Senior Research Scientist, Ioana continues working in the areas of taste research. Her husband, Stefan, is also a Senior Research Scientist who works mostly in the areas of chemoinformatics and data mining. Ioana describes her work in the flavor industry as extremely rewarding because once a compound with particular properties is discovered, the road to the market is fairly short. She says, “It might sound strange for medicinal chemists to hear that I switched from medicinal chemistry to flavor research but at the end of the day the fundamentals are the same: we are dealing with GPCRs, ion channels, enzymes that need a particular modulation. The fact that we can check on the physiological effect makes things a bit easier: you can just taste the compound and see if it's doing what it's intended to do.”

flavors
Image Source

As an Ojima group member, Scott valued Professor Ojima’s ‘work hard, play hard’ attitude, and strived to exemplify this during his graduate study.  Some of his favorite times were the group trips to the beach and the annual Thanksgiving celebration.  Scott says, “How often does one see sushi and turkey on the same table?”  Scott also appreciated the multi-cultural environment that everyone in the group was exposed to in the Ojima lab. He relays that it was a very positive experience that has benefitted him in his ability to interact and collaborate across a broad spectrum.  Also, as part of the educational experience, Professor Ojima encouraged travel to and presentations at meetings, an essential and enjoyable part of development.  Scott also mentions that he made friends for life who shared in the experience, some of which we’ve lost along the way. He says, “Dora Fracchiola and Maria Tzamarioudaki were classmates and dear friends that I still think of often.” 

 
 
 
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Department of Chemistry, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York 11794-3400 Phone: (631) 632-7890