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
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
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, 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.
Monday, July 21, 2014
In the past our department's contributions to the general education curriculum were limited mainly to environmental, health, and nutritional aspects of chemistry. No longer. This summer Professor Jake Plummer is teaching a brand new course to showcase the scientific analysis made famous in television shows like CSI. Plummer is pulling out all the stops and not limiting his course to chemical applications because, as he states: "...forensic science is a multidisciplinary science, [so] we will cover concepts from physics, chemistry, biology, and mathematics." His course includes a laboratory component where students get an introduction to exciting field topics such as fingerprinting and blood splatter analysis. The photograph below shows Plummer ready to strike a "blood"-soaked sponge to create a splatter for analysis. Our department is very excited about this new course and we can only guess that the students are rather excited as well.
Sunday, July 20, 2014
Last weekend several IU South Bend scientists went on a field trip to view chemistry in action. After sampling the chemical fermentation products of several Michigan breweries, the intrepid explorers stopped by the Journeyman's Distillery in Three Oaks, MI. There, they saw industrial strength distillation in action. Shown here is a large distillation column. The group was gratified to see metric units being used throughout. The temperature of the vapor at the top of this column was a steady 80 degrees Celsius. The group confirmed through taste testing that the aging of whiskey in barrels affects the final attributes of the distillate.
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Just a few weeks ago, Ms. Connie Fox was honored for her thirty years of service at IU South Bend. She is responsible for nearly all of the chemicals and equipment used in our student laboratories and is director of the freshman labs. Though the freshman students receive different leadership in the lecture courses from fall to spring semesters, she is the rock in the laboratory courses, giving the prelab lectures both semesters and teaching lab sections as well. Fox remembers well what it is like to be a student at IU South Bend because this is where she earned her undergraduate chemistry degree before heading to Northwestern for graduate study. As retirement looms in the future, it seems unlikely that we will be graced with another thirty years of service from Fox, but we will enjoy every year that she gives to our department.