Friday, September 8, 2017

Student Spotlight

Michele Costantino is a senior biochemistry major who has returned to school after obtaining a BA in graphic design from our partner campus in Bloomington. Like many of our students, she works part-time, but she does so teaching courses in graphic design as an adjunct instructor at Ivy Tech Community College! Her prior academic experience and maturity has surely given her an advantage in pursuing her second degree, but there can be  no doubt that raw ability is also powering her excellent performance. 
In the spring semester, Costantino earned an honorable mention at the IU South Bend Undergraduate Research Performance for her oral presentation Reversible Self-Assembly Using Protein Conformational Changes on her research last summer with Professor Rizk that was supported by an IU South Bend SMART grant.  Also last spring, she was awarded an honorable mention in the national Barry Goldwater Scholarship Program. She is the second student at IU South Bend to have won such an honor. By the end of the spring semester she had also acquired two more honors: the Bender Scholarship Award and an undergraduate summer research fellowship. The Bender Scholarship Award honors students who have demonstrated multidisciplinary activities, community involvement, and leadership - in addition to high academic performance. Her summer research at IUPUI's Integrated Nanosystems Development Institute (INDI) was sponsored by the National Science Foundation.
At IUPUI, Costantino worked with Dr. Horia Petrache in the biophysics department. Dr. Petrache’s work focuses on the effects of organic molecules on lipid membranes. Over the ten weeks of research, Costantino calculated the polarizability (the susceptibility to change of a molecule's dipole moment) by measuring the density, refractive index, and concentration of analyte solutions. In addition to these calculations, she used dynamic light scattering to measure the size of lipid vesicles and the surface charge of the vesicles in solution. While the program spanned only ten weeks, Costantino’s research was part of a larger project studying the relationship between organic molecules, such as adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and lipid membranes. Dr. Petrache’s lab continues to study these interactions using 2D NMR and x-ray diffraction and plans to present these findings at the 62nd Annual Meeting of the Biophysical Society in San Francisco this February. Outside of her research, Costantino was also able to speak to researchers working the Big G project studying gravity and work with students in the program who intend to patent their work.
This fall, Costantino will apply to graduate schools to study protein engineering. Her summer research will help her stand out from the crowd by showing her ability to work on interdisciplinary projects. In addition, it will further her graduate studies, giving her experience in biophysics that could not otherwise be obtained in a standard undergraduate curriculum. Costantino gained not only experience and education, but she maintains contact with the other REU students and will see them again at this year’s Louis Stokes Midwest Center of Excellence 2017 Annual Conference in October where she will present her summer's work. 
If you are interested in a PAID summer research program like this one please contact a faculty member as soon as possible to identify suitable programs and to prepare a competitive application.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Welcome Professor Gopeekrishnan Sreenilayam

Our department gladly welcomes Professor Gopeekrishnan Sreenilayam as a one-year visiting professor to teach our sophomore organic chemistry sequence. He earned his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from the University of Iowa in 2011. While Sreenilayam is no greenhorn at teaching, having served as an adjunct lecturer position at the College at Brockport (State University of New York), he brings to us vast research experience from postdoctoral fellowships at both Temple University and the University of Rochester. Sreenilayam’s most recent work investigates an unusual type of organic synthesis where rather than make use of typical organic reagents, he and his colleagues rely on a biochemical approach in which they use the heme center of hemoglobin essentially as a chiral complex ion to catalyze organic reactions to produce chiral products. We have only one concern regarding Sreenilayam: will he be able to refill that bowl of candy on his desk fast enough to accommodate the horde of organic students that will be visiting him? 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Solar Eclipse on the First Day of Class

There was a great turnout at IU South Bend for the solar eclipse.  Even though there was only 87% occlusion at South Bend, it was still a memorable sight. Gretchen Anderson's freshman nanotechnology class made pinhole viewers which were quite a popular way to indirectly view the eclipse to avoid eye injuries. But even more impressive were the thousands of pinhole viewers made by light filtering through the trees (bottom left). Even colanders (bottom right) and kitchen strainers were used to view the eclipse. Special thanks to the Physics Club and the Department of Physics and Astronomy for setting up telescopes and to-scale models. And don't worry if you missed the eclipse because you'll get another chance in 2024 which should be even more impressive with almost 97% occlusion!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Anderson and Feighery take on new roles

While it may seem like there is a power struggle in the department, that couldn't be further from the truth; Professors Anderson and Feighery both personify collegiality and have taken up the role of chair when it was necessary to do so. But now Anderson has once again taken the helm of the ship that is called the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry - and based on her previous tenure as department chair we know she won't be sitting down on the job.  And to top it off, Anderson will also chair the search committee this fall for our new organic chemist.  On the other hand, Feighery, who was chair, has moved his office from Northside Hall to Weikamp so he can better serve the campus in his new position as Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.  Fortunately, Feighery will continue teaching as our department's inorganic chemist.   We wish success for both Anderson and Feighery in their new roles.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

LSAMP at South Bend

The Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) is an NSF-funded initiative designed to increase the number of under-represented minorities (URM) in the STEM workforce. IU South Bend began participating in this program for the first time this spring with college students visiting local high school classes to speak about their academic experiences and hopefully attract potential future students. This summer then saw two students engage in research: biology major Keon Jones (left) working with chemistry professor Grace Muna to coat electrodes with nanoparticles to improve electrochemical detection of lead in water and soil; and physics student E-Lexus Thornton (right) researching nuclear reactions with physics professor Jerry Hinnefeld.

Visitation of high schools is planned to continue this fall. Additionally the university will recruit advanced URM students to provide peer-mentoring and tutoring to beginning URM in STEM disciplines. As the university begins the search for next summer's LSAMP research scholars, both Thornton and Jones plan to present this summer's research results at the Louis Stokes Midwest Center for Excellence annual conference in Indianapolis.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Outreach of the Biology and Chemistry Club

This evening the IU South Bend Biology and Chemistry Club reached out to the community at the River Park Library at the northeast corner of the campus.  Our students helped over 100 children make bags of ice cream.  Both children and students were then entertained by the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man (an aspiring biochemistry major) who swung by later in the evening.  We are thankful that our students are willing to devote their time and energy to the community to inspire children who may one day take their place as students at IU South Bend.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Summer research in the Muna lab

Professor Muna's first team consists of Chemistry majors David Aupperle and Joseph Williamson. They are working jointly to study the effect of self assembled monolayers (SAMs) of thiol molecules on gold electrodes modified with electrodeposited palladium nanoparticles (PdNPs). Their goal is to investigate whether the presence of SAMs improves the electrochemical behavior of gold electrodes modified with PdNPs by enhancing the analytical signal during the electrocatalytic oxidation of steroid hormones.

The second group in the Muna lab teams up Chemistry major Abigail Praklet with Biology major Keon Jones. Together they are trying to develope a sensitive and stable electrochemical method to detect lead in both water and soil samples using glassy carbon and screen-printed carbon electrodes modified with bismuth nanoparticles. The developed method will be tested by determining the levels of lead in local samples. Abigail is the fourth student in our department to be awarded a SMART grant this summer. Keon is the recipient of an LSAMP Summer Research Fellowship.