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

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

First-Semester Chemistry Offered This Spring

The departments of biology and physics have long offered both courses of their freshman year-long sequences in both seasons, but the department has not done this for over a decade. This semester marks a change as Professor Anderson takes the initiative as department chair to give our students more opportunities.

The main reason for this offering is to accommodate those students in the chemistry and biology programs who could not take the fall course because of limited enrollment or failure to meet prerequisites.  The spring offering of the first course, followed by a summer offering of the second semester course, will enable such students to complete the first-year general chemistry sequence on time and be ready to take organic chemistry next fall. Professor Marmorino is teaching the lecture course (CHEM C105) and Professors Muna and Hartford are teaching the laboratory (CHEM C125).  

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Faculty Focus - Clark Hartford


Clark Hartford earned his undergraduate degree in chemistry at East Tennessee State University and then eventually moved north and settled in Elkhart working at Miles Laboratory. At night he took chemistry courses at the University of Notre Dame to earn his masters degree. Hartford also took many additional specialty courses in analytical chemistry that helped him gain a promotion to head the Mile's analytical research team. Later in his career he worked in New Jersey as the manager of one of Rhodia's food ingredients analytical research laboratories.

Hartford's expertise in analytical chemistry is a great boon to our department and he has taught upper-level courses three times when our analytical chemistry position was temporarily vacant. When not rescuing our department in this manner, Hartford routinely teaches a couple of freshman laboratory classes each semester. and has been doing so for the past twelve years. We are ever thankful for the skill and expertise of our adjunct faculty.  The industrial experience that most of them have is a great benefit - and Hartford has a lot.

There's more to this man than just chemistry, however, for Hartford is a master of more than one trade. Though Hartford joined our department in 2002, our campus was not new to him, for he had continued his education, this time in business, and obtained an MBA with concentrations in finance and accounting from IU South Bend. With this expertise he assisted his director of research and development with business matters and even worked professionally for several years preparing tax returns.

Thank you, Clark, for your excellent service to our department.  We look forward to many more years of continued work side-by-side.