Tuesday, March 3, 2015

From Middle School to College

IU South Bend has a program called College Immersion Day in which middle-school students are invited to the campus to learn what college has to offer in the hopes that they will be motivated to stay in school, work harder, and consider IU South Bend for their future education. Professor McMillen has always been an excellent showman for our department and spokesman for the university in the various administrative roles he has filled, so it was no surprise that last Friday it was he that spoke to a group of young students from Jefferson Intermediate School.  His audience was an eighth-grade chemistry class and he got their attention early on by igniting a hydrogen-filled balloon as he routinely does in his organic chemistry class. Will we see any of these students in our department five years from now? No one can tell, of course, but if there was potential interest, then surely McMillen tapped it and lit a spark!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Science Trivia Night

The IU South Bend chapter of the Tri Beta Biological Honor Society hosted a fundraiser on Feb 26 in the evening. Three teams of professors faced off in a Jeopardy-style friendly competition featuring questions from biology, chemistry, and physics with pizza and soda for all who came. Tri Beta organized the three teams as Anderson-Bushnell (Biochemistry-Biology), Marr-Marmorino (Biology-Chemistry), and Davis-Wilkes (Physics-Biology). Professors Davis and Wilkes won the contest with the closest (11) to correct answer (10) for the final question "How many dimensions does string theory predict?" Thanks to all the members of the Tri Beta Society for their efforts in preparing questions and setting up the event (especially the dynamic emcee Umron Alkotob) which was enjoyed by students and faculty. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Bench Chemist’s Adventures in Pharmacopeia

On Presidents' Day, 2008 chemistry alumnus Danny Brooks gave a talk to our undergraduates about the pharmaceutical industry.  He is currently a process development scientist at Par Pharmaceuticals near Detroit after working for several years at Boehringer Ingelheim in Ohio. Brooks enjoys the sometimes high-pressure, but very rewarding, responsibility of making sure that drugs are developed in a timely manner so they can be delivered and used on schedule to the millions of those in need. Knowing his audience well - and not wishing to neglect any of his former instructor's specialties - Brooks highlighted aspects of pharmacy that relate to each of chemistry's sub-disciplines.  He also discussed the impact of various levels of education (BS, MS, and PhD) to job type and availability. With all of our full-time faculty being completely immersed in academics it was especially rewarding to have Brooks describe the ups and downs of industry. Also attending the presentation were two of this fellow 2008 chemistry graduates, Tina Shepherd (below center) and Jennie Polk (below right), and it was a pleasure to visit with them again after many years.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

IU South Bend Fellowship / REU Opportunity

This year marks the first time IU South Bend will offer the RC MedReview Fellowship.  This award provides $4000 to a pre-med student to conduct full time summer research in a biomedical field. Although research at the IU Medical School or the Harper Cancer Research Institute is encouraged, the research may be done at any institution, including Notre Dame.  The minimum requirements are a GPA of at least 3.2, completion of Molecular Biology and 2 semesters of Organic Chemistry and completion of at least 30 credit hours at IU South Bend before summer 2015. Successful candidates will also be expected to have some experience in the medical field (e.g. physician shadowing, hospice work, hospital volunteer, etc.). Please click here for the application link. The deadline is February 20, 2015.  

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Faculty Focus - Pat Boettcher

Like most of our adjunct instructors, Professor Pat Boettcher brings decades of industrial experience to his classroom that our full-time faculty cannot. Boettcher retired from industry in 2011 and has been a great aid to our department each semester since then by teaching freshman and sophomore chemistry laboratory classes.  In fact, for two years, he served as a visiting lecturer because our need was so great.  Boettcher enjoys the student interaction that the lab courses offer and delights in seeing the growth of students from the freshman general chemistry courses to the sophomore organic chemistry classes.

Although Boettcher is relatively new to us, IU South Bend is not new to him.  He graduated from our campus with a BA chemistry degree in 1974 (when we did not yet offer a BS) and because he worked part-time to support himself during his college career he well knows the troubles many of our students face.  Even before he earned his degree he had his foot in the door for a career in chemistry with his work in formaldehyde polymers at Kordell Industries of Mishawaka.  Boettcher later worked at several chemical industries mainly in the role of quality control manager and routinely troubleshooted the transition from research & development to manufacturing. Between his graduation and retirement, Boettcher returned to IU to earn an M.B.A. from our business school while working for Bayer Corporation. 

Boettcher is very active in the American Chemical Society and serves as treasurer of the local section. We appreciate his life-long dedication to chemistry and are grateful for his many semesters of teaching in our department.  He is a joy to work with and we hope to continue working side-by-side with him for many years to come.  

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 Zelaya, 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.