Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Associate Faculty Honored for Five Years of Service


Last week, three of our associate faculty were honored for having taught for five years. These are David Alonso (below), Earl Hansen (above right), and Michael Nolt (above left). Alonso earned his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Notre Dame in 1993 and was teaching full-time at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan when he first agreed to help us out with our organic chemistry laboratories. Earl Hansen received his PhD. in 1968 from Michigan State University, has over thirty years of experience in industrial environmental chemistry, and has chaired national conferences. Hansen is a regular instructor of general chemistry laboratories and also helps with the freshman lecture course for science majors. Michael Nolt earned a M.Ed. from Lehigh University in 2001 and has been teaching high school chemistry in Goshen Community Schools for the past 13 years.  He routinely teaches one of our natural world chemistry courses as part of IU's general education suite of courses.  Here's what Alonso has to say about teaching here:

"I enjoy teaching at IUSB because of the strong chemistry program.  The program is exceptional and is designed to give students the hands on experiences necessary to enter the workforce or participate in advanced studies. The students are dedicated and have a strong desire not only to learn the theory presented in lectures, but also its application in the laboratory.  It has truly been a pleasure to teach at IUSB over the past few years."
And it has been a pleasure working with these three gentlemen. We truly appreciate their expertise and the rigorous instruction they provide. It is our hope that they will remain as associate faculty for many years to come. Thank you for your efforts!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

2014 Undergraduate Research Conference

This year marked another year of success for undergraduate research in our department.  Although Professor Grace Muna was one of the conference organizers, Gretchen Anderson moderated a set of oral presentations, and several faculty served as judges, it was our hardworking students who made it a success last Friday morning.  


Biochemistry majors Hala Sirhan and Nigel Guerra [both above left] presented a poster on the "Extraction of Steroid Hormones from Saint Joseph River Water for Analysis" detailing their contributions to Muna's extensive work on the subject. Ashley Compton [above right], another biochemistry major, posted her summer 2013 work titled "Investigating the Mechanism of Aldehyde-Deformylating Oxygenase for Hydrocarbon Production" completed at Penn State as part of an REU.


Also presenting posters were several students under the guidance of Anderson who focused themselves for many weeks on an original problem as part of their biochemistry laboratory class.  Biochemistry major Jac Miller [above left] went solo on a project for the "Recovery of Mutant IDH1 Activity through Synthetic Antigen Binders" while the multidisciplinary team of Preston Rose (biochemistry), Rachel Warrell (chemistry), and Amanda Warren (biology) [all above right] presented their collaboration on "Comparative Analysis of Cell Lysis Methods: Ultrasonification versus Chemical Detergents".

Congratulations to all the students for their hard work. Thank you for representing our department at this year's URC.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Faculty Focus - Fengrong Ma

Professor Fengrong Ma stands out from among the rest of the chemistry faculty as the only one who can be called “doctor” for two reasons. During her clinical rotations in medical school, Ma was disappointed by the limitations of the current medicine used to treat cancer and autoimmune patients. So when she graduated with an M.D. she decided not to practice medicine, but rather to attend graduate school to research better therapeutic approaches for such patients.

Ma soon obtained a Ph.D. in immunology in 1998 from the Peking Union Medical College and Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences.  She then received an invitation from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute of Harvard Medical School researching the immunology of tumors:

“My job was gene cloning of a novel protein which was expressed more abundantly in a B lymphoma cell line.  Using an IgM antibody that was specially developed in our lab, the lymphoma cell line undergoes a unique cell death that is different from programmed cell death. The antibody crosslinks the antigens, leading the lymphoma cell line to swell and lyse, which exhibits oncosis (a type of cell death). I successfully cloned the gene and we called it Porimin, which means pore inducing antigen. I also developed Porimin gene knockout mice whose porimin gene was deleted.”

After several years at Harvard, Ma moved to Indiana and temporarily changed her focus from work to home where raising three children became her full-time job.  Six years later she was redirected to IU South Bend as an adjunct professor teaching the freshman chemistry course CHEM-C 102 which combines organic chemistry and biochemistry, mostly for nursing and dental hygiene majors. Ma enjoys teaching this course and is very excited to use her knowledge to help people again.  She says that her biggest reward come from students when their eyes brighten by a sudden understanding of a topic and also from students who start to get interested in chemistry. 

Our department is very thankful for Ma’s expertise, experience, and years of teaching.  We hope she will continue to work at IU South Bend for many years to come to prepare our health-related students for their careers – and also to interest some of her students in a career in chemistry or biochemistry. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Alumnus Doug Sisk Wins Award

Dr. Doug Sisk was named the 2014 Local Section Outreach Volunteer of the Year for the St. Joseph Valley section of the American Chemical Society (ACS). Sisk graduated from IU South Bend in 1973 when the campus offered only a BA in chemistry. He furthered his studies at The George Washington University to earn a Ph.D. in psychology and now teaches chemistry at Marian High School. Sisk  has attended workshops and even secured a grant from the University of Notre Dame to continue to improve instruction and have a greater impact on his students. For the last ten years Sisk has headed the organization of the Chemistry Olympiad in the St. Joseph Valley and several schools have joined this program under his leadership.  Congratulations Dr. Sisk!


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Preparing for graduate study

Applying to graduate school is a nerve-wracking endeavor with GRE tests to be taken, personal statements to be written, letters of recommendation to be requested, and then ... the waiting.  But it pays off once the acceptance letters start to roll in. Here we would like to highlight the success of our graduating class.  

Rachel Warrell will attend The Ohio State University to earn a Ph.D. in the chemistry.  She acquired a lot of research experience at IU South Bend with organic professors McMillen and Plummer, and even had an REU at Miami University (in Ohio), but Rachel says her main interest is materials chemistry.

Jaq Miller has decided to head to the cold northwest of Montana State University in search of a Ph.D. in biochemistry.  She has spent many hours in the lab of biochemist Anderson, but must have been inspired a bit by inorganic chemist Feighery because her interests are metallo-biochemistry.


Ashley Compton accepted an offer from MIT and plans to research for her Ph.D. in biochemistry with a focus on either metallo-biochemistry or physical biochemistry. Like the others, Ashley also had undergraduate research experience, working with Anderson on campus and earning an REU at Penn State University.


All three students have been offered extra support from the accepting universities besides traditional stipends, but it was just announced today the Ashley won the very prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program award that will (generously) support her for the first three years of her studies. Congratulations to all of you on your glorious entry to graduate school.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

High-school student works with Professor Muna

In our department, it isn’t uncommon to find students researching with faculty - but they usually aren’t high school students. Bridget VerVaet is a senior at Marian High School and has been working with Professor Muna since Fall 2012. Their collaboration started when Bridget needed a mentor for her high school research class.  She often comes to IU two or three times a week and is now working on their second project.  Here’s what Bridget has to say about their research:

“My goal was to find the conditions for the optimal separation of steroid hormones, specifically four estrogen compounds commonly found as contaminants in the environment. When estrogen compounds enter the environment, they can have very negative effects of wildlife. Most notably, feminization of fish populations can occur, as has been observed with the population of small mouth bass in the St. Joseph River. For this reason, efficient detection is important for possible later prevention of these contaminants. This year, I have worked with Dr. Muna on coupling the HPLC method to electrochemical analysis. Electrochemical analysis is a more sensitive means of detection and can better detect the minute amounts of estrogen compounds in real samples from the St. Joseph River.”

Bridget will enroll in IU Bloomington this Fall.  She has long considered a career as a veterinarian, but more recently has been eyeing a doctorate in physical therapy.  However, Bridget realizes that as an incoming college freshman she has plenty of time to explore different subjects and think about her future and she wants to explore all of her options. Her interest in science (biology, in particular) began at an early age and we are very pleased that IU South Bend could encourage and cultivate her interest.  We wish you success as you finish your project with Dr. Muna and the best of luck as you begin (officially) your college career downstate.  

Friday, February 28, 2014

Senior Seminars Begin


A new group of seniors are on target to graduate this spring and have been working hard on their presentations and reports for the CHEM C301 Senior Seminar capstone course.  Biochemistry major Michael Partridge gave the first presentation Thursday and showered his classmates and faculty with background information and experimental data from recent literature regarding intracelluar signalling proteins that mediate the transformation between GTP and GDP. At the end of his talk, Professor Anderson dubbed him "the happiest student on campus" for having finished this portion of the coursework.

Earlier this semester, alumni Denisse Hernandez (Chemistry, 2012) and Calvin Streeter (Biochemistry, 2011) returned to campus to give advice and encouragement to the seminar students.  "Don't procrastinate", "seek help from your coach", and "rehearse your talk" are timeless advice that can't be overemphasized. Each Thursday showcases a different student with a different topic.  At the conclusion of the course, the faculty will choose the winner of the annual Joseph H. Ross Seminar Award.

This year students are presenting the following topics:

     Mutant K-Ras Protein in Human Cancer
     T-Cell Receptor Specificity in Cancer Vaccines
     Effects of Crosslinking and Remelting Polyethylene
     Copper Amine Oxidases
     Bisphosphonate Treatment in Paget’s Disease of the Bone
     Macrocyclic Scavengers for Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
     Proton-Coupled Electron Transport in Ribonucleotide Reductase
     Mutant Myocillin in Relation to Glaucoma