Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Professor Rizk Publishes Research

Earlier this month, the Journal of Biological Chemistry published work done by biochemistry professor Shahir Rizk as part of team investigating ways to force proteins to adopt particular configurations. The two pictures shown above (click on image to enlarge) illustrate two different synthetic antibodies (blue) attaching themselves to the maltose-binding protein, MBP, (teal).  Because the antibodies are different, they bind to MBP in different spots and affect MBP in different ways. On the left we see the antibody holding MBP in its closed state after it has captured a molecule of maltose (red), while on the right the antibody is holding MBP in its open state.  Rizk continues to research interactions like this and has had many students help with this endeavor.  Some of these students have been supported by summer SMART grants. Congratulations to Rizk and his colleagues on their publication. You can read the abstract and access the full paper from this link using a university computer.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Research Experience for Undergraduates

Learning science is one thing, but actively doing science is another.  Would you like an experience beyond homework problems and routine laboratory experiments? Would you like to have a hand in scientific discoveries and advances? Would you like to get an edge over other students appling for graduate school or a job? Would you like to get paid for all of this?  If so, then an REU - or Research Experience for Undergraduates - may be for you. But these paid opportunities are competitive, so find out what they are, and what you need to do to apply, ASAP. Contact your favorite professor to learn more, watch out for announcements from the biology-chemistry club, and view this video from biochemistry professor Shahir Rizk.

We Have A Winner!

Congratulations to Alysha Muhleisen who won $100 for her video on why she loves biochemistry. Not surprisingly, Muhleisen is a biochemistry major, but a love for biochemistry is shared by faculty and students on our campus outside of the major: some of the contest videos were submitted by biology students and chemistry professor Matt Marmorino majored in biochemistry as an undergraduate.  To learn more about Muhleisen and why she loves biochemistry, please see her video on Facebook.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Alumna Earns Doctoral Degree

2010 chemistry graduate Bonnie Huge just successfully defended her doctoroal dissertation Preparative Capillary Zone Electrophoresis as the final step to her Ph.D. in chemistry. Here she is pictured with her mentor and colleagues just after her defense. She has been researching in Dr. Norman Dovichi's group in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Notre Dame doing a mixture of analytical and physical chemistry. After graduation Dr. Bonnie Huge will continue working with Dovichi (pictured far right) but her days as a student are over; this time she will be a postdoctoral researcher guiding new graduate students. Congratulations on the fruits of your hard work. Our department is extremely proud and happy to have you close by.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Chemistry Appreciation Luncheon

On Friday, the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry hosted a luncheon to thank students for their service to the university and the department.  From left to right in the photograph are Pierre N’Guetta (research), Dr. Shahir Rizk, David Aupperle (research & tutor), Maggie Fink (research & work-study), Abigail Praklet (research), Joey Williamson (research), Dr. Gretchen Anderson, Evan Bickel (work-study), and Dr. Gopee Sreenilayam. There are at least five ways students can serve the department and university (see below) and students don't have to be a chemistry or biochemistry major to serve.
Tutoring: The Academic Center for Excellence (ACE) provides tutors to students taking freshman and sophomore chemistry courses. The chemistry tutors operate on the fourth floor of the library and typically provide help for a wide range of courses.
Supplemental Instruction: ACE also employs students to provide intensive support for a particular course by offering weekly group review or question-answer sessions. These students typically sit in on the course they are helping with to better understand the teacher's unique perspective and offer more detailed support than a general tutor.
Research: Several students help professors conduct research projects during the semester. This activity requires a bit of dedication because such positions are usually unpaid and the pressures of homework and exams in one's classes can severely limit a student's time in the research laboratory. However, research experience is a great line on one's resume when applying to graduate school or an industrial position after graduation.
Work-Study Positions: Instructors sometimes seek help in handling large classes or intensive laboratories and have been known to hire students to help grade quizzes or prepare reagents for experiments. Sometimes there are opportunities for webpage support/development, designing laboratory floor plans, or even help with chemical inventory.
LSAMP: Professor Grace Muna is one of the coordinators of a program (Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation) designed to engage minority students in STEM research, tutoring, and outreach to local schools.  This is a relatively new program to IU South Bend that began just this spring.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Student Outreach for National Chemistry Week

Students from the IU South Bend Biology and Chemistry Club kicked off National Chemistry Week (October 22-28) with a program at the River Park Public Library on Saturday October 21. The theme for National Chemistry Week this year was chosen by the American Chemical Society to be Geochemistry. This was a good choice because we all know that "Chemistry Rocks!". At the library, our college students helped children explore the chemistry of rocks and minerals with hands-on ACS-approved experiments and demonstrations. Thanks to the club and its dedicated members for providing this opportunity to the community.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Students present at LSMCE conference

Analytical chemist Grace Muna accompanied three students to the 5th annual 2017 Louis Stokes Midwest Center of Excellence (LSMCE) Conference this October where she served as one of the judges for the student poster competition. Physics major E-Lexus Thornton (shown presenting his poster, above left) and Biology major Keon Jones (with Muna, above right) showcased their summer work under the LSAMP program at IU South Bend. Award-winning biochemistry major Michele Costantino also attended the conference to present her summer work under an REU at IUPUI. Presenting at a conference is a great way to end a project, like icing on a cake, but can also be a great way to start new beginnings by making contact with students and faculty from other institutes. Special thanks are due to these three students for representing IU South Bend and showing the Midwest states what quality students our campus has. Abstracts of the students' posters are given below.

Michele Costantino (Poster #55)
The effect of ionic solutions on surface potential of lipid membranes

Cellular membranes provide a barrier between two environments and are composed of a variety of lipid molecules. The composition of the membrane determines its function and as such can be influenced by ions and molecules in the surrounding environment. Amongst the factors affected is the electric charge and the surface potential (zeta potential) of the membrane. The mechanism by which the zeta potential of membranes is affected by water soluble ions and molecules involves, not only the net electrical charge, but also a physical property called electrical polarizability. In the lab, we use a method by which electrical polarizability is determined from measurements of index of refraction and mass density as a function of solute concentration. This research will provide understanding in how polarizability of a molecule affects a cellular membrane by observing the zeta potential of a lipid vesicle at varying concentrations of one molecule in solution. The dioleoylphosphatidylserine (DOPS) lipid was utilized, which contains two monounsaturated hydrocarbon chains with eighteen carbons each and a negatively charged head group that consists of both an amine and carboxylic acid. The results showed that while the vesicles maintained approximately a -60 mV charge in water, addition of ions altered the zeta potential in the positive direction as the concentration increased. However, this trend does not immediately appear upon adding ions, instead the charge fluctuates at lower concentrations. The trend has been observed in both divalent chlorides and adenosine triphosphate solutions. Future research will focus on other divalent chlorides—including magnesium, manganese, and cobalt—as well as organic phosphates and phospholipids with different head groups such as dilauroylphosphatidylcholine (DLPC), a neutral lipid. This research will help us to further understand how molecules and ions in the surrounding environments affect cellular membranes in regards to zeta potential, size, and formation of multilamellar vesicles (MLVs). Funding: National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Award #1659688

Keon Jones (Poster #82)
A sensitive electrochemical method to determine lead in water and soil

Lead is one of the most toxic heavy metal in the environment. Its presence is due to human activities notably, lead in gasoline, lead-based paint, lead-containing pesticides, lead in ammunition and sinkers, and incinerator ash or water from lead pipes. Lead poisoning can cause a number of adverse human health effects but it’s particularly detrimental to the neurological development of growing children. Therefore, frequent testing and precise monitoring of Pb in soil and water is important to assess and control lead contamination. We hereby report on developing a stripping voltammetric method using glassy carbon electrodes modified with bismuth nanoparticles (GC-BiNPs) to detect lead in drinking water and soil. Voltammetric stripping measurements have historically utilized mercury in the forms of hanging mercury drop and mercury film electrode to measure heavy metal ions. This is mainly because clean surfaces can be easily be regenerated with a new mercury drop. However, because of mercury toxicity and risks associated with its disposal its use as an electrode material for stripping measurements is severely restricted. We’re utilizing the unique properties of bismuth such as its ability to form alloys with different metals, to develop a sensitive method to detect lead. Preliminary results show that using GC-BiNPs we can detect low levels of lead down to 1 parts per billion in water. The research findings on the stripping voltammetric method development will be presented. Funding: LSAMP; SMART ; IUSB

E-Lexus Thornton (Poster #119)
Modification of the microchannel plate (MCP) detectors in the recoil mass separator St. George

The Recoil Mass Separator St George in Notre Dame’s Nuclear Science Laboratory (NSL) is being used for the study of low level (α,γ) reactions using inverse kinematics to better understand the helium burning processes in a star. ST GEORGE has two MCP detectors that amplify and multiply electrons into electrical pulses that can be seen on an oscilloscope. To make the MCP detectors display a better pulse, and to make the MCP detectors conveniently easy to remove from the mass separator, we decided to modify the makeup of both MCP detectors and add two delay boards and a basic circuit board to both MCP detectors. The Autodesk Inventor software was used for the drawing process and the circuit board was designed by hand. The process and/or results of the modifications and new additions will be described. Funding: NSF Grant PHY-0959816