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.

Summer research in the Anderson laboratory

Biochemistry major Victor Gutierrez-Schultz is continuing work on an ongoing project to clone the genes for the enzyme arsenite oxidase into E. coli, and induce these bacteria into making the enzyme in an environmentally friendly manner. This enzyme has the potential to be used in water purification methods to remove arsenic from groundwater. The original host, Alcaligenes faecalis, makes the arsenite oxidase enzyme only when the growth medium contains the arsenite so that growing A. faecalis to isolate the enzyme generates many 55 gallon drums of arsenic-containing toxic waste. By transferring the genes into E. coli, Victor will induce expression of the protein IPTG, a non-toxic inducer of the lac operon. Previous attempts at cloning the arsenite oxidase genes into E. coli generated new mutations, which could affect the structure and activity of the enzyme. Victor is repairing the introduced mutations through site-specific mutagenesis. Subsequent experiments will aim to find the best conditions for inducing enzyme synthesis, correctly folding the two subunits of the enzyme, and properly inserting the [3F-4S] cluster, the molybdopterin cofactor, and the [2Fe-2S] Rieske center into the enzyme. Congratulations to Victor for being awarded a SMART grant to support his summer research with Dr. Anderson.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Summer research in the Rizk lab

It is crowded in the Rizk lab this summer as three award-winning students work side-by-side with each other and Professor Rizk. While relatively new to the department (he joined in 2015), Rizk was quick to start a research program that attracted several undergraduate students.

Biochemistry major Maggie Fink (left) was awarded the Carolyn & Lawrence Garber Summer Research Scholarship. Her project focuses on using protein engineering tools to generate molecules that self-assemble in a reversible manner. The aim is to find a set of mutant proteins based on the bacterial maltose binding protein that can form large structures when the sugar maltose is added, and then disassemble when the sugar is removed. The project will explore the ability of protein engineering tools to develop dynamic nano-structures based on biological molecules for a number of applications that include drug delivery and biosensing.
Another biochemistry major, Mary Sobieralski (second from the left), received a SMART grant for the summer to work on developing engineered proteins known as antibody fragments (Fabs) that can modulate the activity of human enzymes. She is focusing on trying to identify Fabs that can reverse the effects of deleterious mutations in the enzyme cystathionine beta synthase (CBS), which lead to a condition known as homocysteinuria. This disease causes problems with vision as well as heart disease due to the inability of the body to metabolize derivatives of the amino acids cysteine and methionine. Mary will attempt to examine the factors needed to rescue the function of CBS mutants as a first step in addressing homocysteinuria and other so-called enzyme deficiencies.
Biology major Pierre N'Guetta (right) is continuing his project from last summer on developing biosensors for glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide RoundUp. Pierre began the project last summer in the Rizk lab, then during the fall of 2016, students enrolled in the CHEM-C 486 biochemistry lab tested some of the reagents he generated last summer. Pierre hopes to wrap up the project by characterizing a number of biosensors for glyphosate that change their fluorescence profile when exposed to the substance. He is also working on enhancing the sensitivity of the sensors to enable detention of small amounts of glyphosate in the environment. Like Mary, Pierre was also awarded a SMART grant for this summer.