Saturday, October 18, 2014

Publication in Electroanalysis


Professor Grace Muna and her team of students researchers have published another research article in the research journal Electroanalysis. This manuscript, Electrochemical Detection of Steroid Hormones Using a Nickel-Modifies Glassy Carbon Elecrode (click link for abstract) is the result of two years of work from a variety of students working at different times. Her team includes biochemistry students Michael Partridge (2014 graduate), Hala Sirhan (2014 graduate), Nigel Guerra; biology major Holly Garner; and high-school student Bridget VerVaet (2014 high school graduate).  Muna and her students have demonstrated that their method for detecting steroidal hormones is not just a proof-of-concept example, but suitable for practical applications such as river water analysis. Congratulations to Muna and the many students who have worked with her!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Undergraduate Research This Past Summer

This past summer several students enjoyed the opportunity to research with Professor Anderson. Biochemistry majors Krista Schilling, Letty Black, Jose Zalaya, and Daniel Chupp worked on cloning the genes for arsenite oxidase so that eventually enough enzyme could be produced artificially (rather than in the native organism) for structure/function studies. This research combined molecular biology, microbiology, and biochemistry techniques as well as classic column chromatography. The plan was to isolate the three genes from Alcaligenes and place them into E. coli (using Gateway Topo-A cloning) to direct E. coli to synthesize the enzyme on demand. Anderson anticipated plenty of pitfalls because of the large size of the gene and the several unusual cofactors in the protein and remarks that it was a perfect project for introducing students to research because of its challenges and trouble-shooting opportunities. Now that the summer has passed, here is what Krista Schilling (pictured) has to say about the experience:

"Undergraduate research gave me the opportunity to really work with the science I'd been learning in my classes. I was able to use techniques I'd learned in class labs and more importantly I learned many things you just don't come in contact with unless you participate in this sort of independent, active learning. My favorite part was having to really figure things out to make our experiments work - I felt so invested in the outcome and very proud when I was able to contribute meaningfully to problem-solving. Having worked on a project like this makes me feel capable and ready to tackle harder upper-level classes and to pursue my long-term goals in science."

We look forward to the possibility of a Spring presentation at our campus's annual Undergraduate Research Conference.  If you are interested in working on a research project, please contact one of the professors in our department. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Biochemistry Major Goes Anabolic!

The department's first two biochemistry degrees were awarded in 2007 after Professor Gretchen Anderson developed this bachelor of science program. Since then there has been only growth and it is now larger than the chemistry program. About 40 current students have declared biochemistry as their major and last semester ten of these students made the deans' list. 

There is now so much interest in biochemistry that this fall the first semester lecture (CHEM C484) holds a class of 37 students and the laboratory class (CHEM C486) had to be offered as two sections. This was only possible due to visiting professor Jake Plummer who is now teaching the lecture course so that Anderson can teach both sections of the laboratory. With Anderson as the only permanent full-time biochemist, the biochemistry major is not sustainable as the rigorous and preparatory program to which our students are accustomed. Fortunately the university has given our department permission to hire a new faculty member as a second biochemistry professor. This position will also us to better accommodate students in the classroom, but also open new avenues for student research. The ad is posted in several places - here is a post in HigherEdJobs.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Biology-Chemistry Club has BIG plans!


The joint club of the IU South Bend Biology and Chemistry Departments has big plans this semester.  As in previous years they will host a youth outreach event at the River Park Library as part of National Chemistry Week (Oct 19-25) with the theme: CANDY: The Sweet Side of Chemistry.  The club plans to have a second outreach at the Natatorium as part of the IU South Bend Year of STEM: Science in the City.  If these events interest you, or you just want to meet some other students who share your interest in the physical sciences, please contact an officer to attend the first meeting scheduled for Thursday, September 18 at 4:00 PM in NS 060.  For more up-to-date information please visit their Facebook page

Friday, August 22, 2014

Why Earn a Chemistry Degree?


Check out our new VIDEO advertisement (click here) to learn why you should earn a chemistry degree. It features current students (Krista Schilling and Jose Zelaya) and graduates (Kasey Clear - 2011, Roxanne Sirhan - 2013, and Calvin Streeter - 2011). You'll also discover what Pope Francis and Godzilla have in common!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Professor Anderson gets an uncommon look at NMR

Gretchen Anderson attended an NSF workshop on medicinal chemistry at the University of Minnesota. The university's NMR facilities were part of the tour. A 60 MHz NMR magnet had been cut apart to show the inner magnet and shielding chamber, a sight most people don't see (shown below left).  


Most people also do not see the large room housing multiple high field NMRs, including a 900 MHz NMR (shown above right). The magnetic field from these NMRs is so high, it can be easily detected outside. So much so, in fact, that bushes had to be planted strategically around the building to discourage people from getting too close to the underground facility, especially those with pacemakers (not to mention anyone carrying objects containing iron). 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tracy Huggins wins SMART award for summer research

Tracy Huggins, a double major in physics and mathematics, was awarded a summer SMART grant from IU South Bend to research matrix eigenvalues problems with Professor Marmorino, our physical chemist. Junior and senior chemistry majors might recognize the matrix shown as very similar to the ones used in Huckel Molecular Orbital (HMO) theory. 

In HMO theory the gamma parameter is replaced by the number one and each "1" indicates the energetic interaction of a carbon 2p-orbital with a parallel 2p-orbital on an adjacent carbon. The eigenvalues of an N-dimensional matrix approximate the energy levels of the conjugated electrons of a molecule with N carbons involved in alternating single and double bonds - when gamma equals one, that is. When gamma is zero, there is no cooperation between the double bonds and each acts like that of an independent ethene molecule.  

Huggins has been working with Marmorino to get explicit expressions for the eigenvalues of arbitrarily sized-matrices when gamma lies between zero and one - between the simple limits of no conjugation and complete conjugation. The plan is to use these eigenvalue expressions to relate the parameter gamma to the energy difference of an electronic transition - and thus wavelength of light. This wavelength can be measured spectroscopically and then gamma can be determined and insight into the amount of conjugation is gained. Marmorino hopes to incorporate the results of this research into a physical chemistry experiment for undergraduates to replace a traditional one in which the wavelength of the transition is used to estimate the length of the carbon chain by applying the particle-in-a-box quantum model.  

This research has given Huggins and Marmorino many surprises. It was relatively easy to obtain exact expressions for matrices of odd dimension, but we have found that the even dimensional matrices do not reveal exact solutions. It is quite interesting that the difficulty lies not in the size of the matrix, but rather where its dimension is even or odd. In the search for ways to approximate the elusive eigenvalues, Huggins has unearthed many mathematical theorems and delved into complex analysis.