Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Chemistry Administration

The leadership skills of the chemistry faculty are remarkable.  Recently Bill Feighery (our inorganic chemist) chaired the Department of History and Doug McMillen (our organic chemist) served as Dean for the College of Health Sciences.  Both Feighery and McMillen have also served as assistant or associate dean for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. For the past six years, Gretchen Anderson (our biochemist) has chaired our department. These three professors make up half of the full-time faculty and their leadership is still desired across campus.  

For the 2015-2016 academic year McMillen will continue as one of three associate deans for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.  Feighery takes the reins as chair of our department, though he is not a newcomer to the role of chair having lead us for many years before Anderson.  He is very excited to welcome our new hire, Shahir Rizk, as our second biochemist, who will help maintain and develop our growing biochemistry program. Feighery's immediate plans are to make curriculum changes to maintain our American Chemical Society accreditation under their new requirements and to find ways to attract new students to our programs.

Anderson embarks on a role new to her and new to the campus: Director of Science Initiatives. Her biggest task is probably the pursuit of new science programs such as nanoscience, pharmecutical science, and pharmacy. Anderson will make new connections with industry and arrange for collaborations and internships for all of the science departments. She will also continue to foster relationships with the IU Medical School, IU Cancer Center, and other medical centers - particularly in the area of scholarship and research opportunities.  Anderson is eager to work with physicist Jerry Hinnefeld who was named the Chancellor's Professor for 2015-2016 as they advance the Year of Science.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Professor Muna ReceivesTenure

Assistant Professor Grace Muna was recently promoted to Associate Professor and has also received tenure. Muna is known for her ability to take struggling students and motivate them to succeed. She is our only analytical chemist and is solely responsible for the two upper-level courses C-310 Analytical Chemistry and C-410 Instrumental Analysis which combine lecture and laboratory components. Muna is one of our most active researchers and routinely mentors undergraduate students in research. This summer she is working with SMART student Chris Warkentin

Their summer research involves testing the analytical performance of biometallic modified glassy electrodes in the hopes that they will offer improved analytic detection of aqueous steroid hormones over nickel modified electrodes. The metal combinations are Pt/Ni, Pd/Ni, and Pt/Pd.

In addition to her (1) ongoing research this summer, Muna is (2) teaching the summer section of our freshman general chemistry course C-106, (3) developing a new course for freshman students who are in the awkward position that they have placed out of, or already taken, C-101 but are not yet ready for C-105, and (4) preparing a proposal for her research sabbatical in the Spring 2017 semester. With a summer like this, she must be eager for the fall semester to begin.

Congratulation Professor Muna on your promotion and tenure!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

SMART Students!

Congratulations are due to our two SMART (Student Mentor Academic Research Team) award winners, Jared Larue (Biochemistry) and Chris Warkentin (Chemistry). The SMART awards have routinely provided financial support to our students for summer research.  Such an experience can be vital in securing enrollment in one's graduate school of choice.

The goal of Jared's work is to optimize the functionality of the arsenite oxidase enzyme to further research in potential decontamination methods. He will work with fellow student Cheri Stalcup (biochemistry) under the guidance of biochemist Dr. Gretchen Anderson.  They will begin by analyzing the DNA sequence obtained last summer for the large and small subunits of arsenite oxidase. If any mutations are found, they will use site-specific mutagenesis to correct them. Then they will vary the conditions in which E. coli are grown to optimize the production of active forms of arsenite oxidase. This won't be easy because both subunits contain weird cofactors (such as a molybdopterin cofactor, a 3Fe-4S cluster, and a Rieske-type 2Fe-2S cluster). The E. coli cells need to not only fold the proteins correctly and keep them solubilized, but also make and insert the appropriate metallo-cofactors. 

Chris's research will continue and build upon work done by analytical chemist Dr. Grace Muna, along with other IUSB students and alumni, on the development of nickel-modified glassy carbon electrodes (Ni-GCE) for the electrochemical detection of steroid hormones in local surface waters. He plans to explore whether the use of bimetallic nickel modified electrodes (Ni/Pt-GCE and Ni/Pd-GCE) will offer improved steroid hormone detection in terms of sensitivity and longer term electrode stability compared to Ni-GCEs. Chris is currently working on a BS Chemistry degree. After graduation, he plans to pursue a Ph.D. in materials and nanoscience with applications in sustainable energy systems, specifically fuel cells, batteries, and photovoltaic cells. Further congratulations are due to Chris: a few months ago he was awarded an honorable mention in the prestigious 2015 Barry Goldwater Scholarhip and Excellence in Education Program.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Awards and Graduates 2015

Another proud group of chemistry and biochemistry graduates will be receiving their diplomas at tomorrow's graduation ceremony. They have worked long and hard for this reward and we hope they will be successful in their future endeavors.

Last Friday, our department held its own mini-celebration to acknowledge our graduates and also the accomplishments of some who have not yet graduated. Below is a list of the awards our department conferred this year.

Zeider Excellence in Biochemistry Scholarship
   Krista Schilling
Chemical Rubber Company Chemistry Achievement Award
   Anthony Hanner
George V. Nazaroff Scholarhip
   Voleta Black (pictured third)
Joseph H. Ross Seminar Award
   Geoffrey Taghon (pictured last)
Student Excellence Award in Biochemistry
   Angela Patterson (pictured first)
Undergraduate Award in Analytical Chemistry
   Carrington Boyd (pictured second)

Students Receive Off-Campus REUs

Janae Lee (chemistry) and Geoffrey Taghon (biochemistry) were both awarded REUs (Research Experience for Undergraduates) for this summer. Janae secured an NSF-funded opportunity at Notre Dame University for aspiring analytical chemists. The program is called Analytical Chemistry REU: Chemical Analysis for a Developing World and will give Janae experience in developing paper tests for counterfeit antibiotics. 

Geoffrey's REU is the result of a new IU South Bend award previously announced in this blog: the RC MedReview Fellowship. He is the first recipient of the award. Geoffrey will work with Dr. Robert Stahelin (of the Harper Cancer Research Institute) on the inhibition of reversibly-bound membrane proteins involved in cancer metastasis. Geoffrey is looking forward to continuing his study in osteopathic medical school next year.  

Congratulations to both students for securing these competitive research awards. We hope your experiences will be rewarding.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Adjunct Faculty Awarded for 10 Years of Instruction

Last week the Vice Chancellor honored Merilee Britt (pictured) and Jim Noffsinger for a decade of service to IU South Bend.  While we are very thankful for their loyalty, we are even more thankful for the excellent instruction they provide. Noffsinger, an application scientist at Bayer HealthCare, routinely teaches organic chemistry laboratories for the sophomore students while Britt, a science teacher at Penn High School, instructs freshman chemistry students in the laboratory. 

Adjunct faculty, like Britt and Noffsinger, are a vital part of our faculty and we could not teach all our students without them. Furthermore, evening hours (which full-time faculty usually don't enjoy) are just right for adjunct faculty looking for opportunities outside their standard profession - and this gives working students more flexibility to schedule classes. Thank you both for your dedication to IU South Bend.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Anderson wins the Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award

This morning Professor Gretchen Anderson was presented with the 2015 Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award. The committee responsible for the award remarked that "Gretchen stands out due to the amazing impact she has had on her advisees lives over the course of many years." Anderson has a variety of plans for students with different desires and needs. These plans go by the unofficial names below.

Associate Dean Monika Lynker adds that Anderson "encourages her advisees every step of the way, and helps them prepare for life after college whether that’s graduate school or a job ...[providing them with] an all-around and all-encompassing approach to academic advising, and the result is that her advisees in their letters all say in one way or another that they would not be where they are now if it hadn’t been for Gretchen.” Advising is just one of the many ways that Anderson contributes to student success outside of the classroom and our department is very thankful for her hard work as professor, scientist, and administrator.