Friday, November 16, 2012

Michiana Science and Technology Center, Inc.

Michiana Science and Technology Center, Inc. (MSTCi) is a local organization designed to support and foster interest in science, technology, engineering, and math.  They plan to occupy the downtown Ivy Tower.

Just last week they offered an event called "How does it work?" at the South Bend Union Station.  Professor Doug McMillen was there demonstrating chemistry by taking a look at the water-absorbing ability of polymers found in diapers.  MSTCi plans for two events in the Spring: "Energy" and "What's new in science, math, and technology?"  Dates have not been announced.  For more information about MSTCi please visit their website or Facebook page.  The South Bend Tribune reported on last week's events; click here for their story.

Start thinking about summer research

If you are graduating this year then you should have already started applying for graduate school or looking into the job market.  But those of you who still have one or more fine years of schooling left can get busy too.  Research experience is important in securing admission and fellowships for graduate study.  There are opportunities for research during the fall, spring, and summer.  
Each summer some students work with familiar professors on campus - and a select few get funded by a campus SMART grant.  But many more opportunities are available off campus at larger institutes and are known as REUs - Research Experience for Undergraduates.  REUs serve to educate undergraduate students across the nation and also to advertise the sponsoring university as a potential graduate school to the top-notch undergraduate who gains the lucky summer position.  The University of North Texas is offering one such REU.  You can read about it here to get an idea about REUs in general.  REUs not only combine valuable experience with a paycheck - they often provide housing as well. There are many more opportunities so start Googling and contact your professors.

Friday, November 9, 2012

IU South Bend students help fruit growers fight virus

IU South Bend students once again make an impact with research.   As the only biochemist in our faculty, Professor Gretchen Anderson is in charge of two semesters of biochemistry lecture and one semester of biochemistry laboratory.  In addition to using standard laboratory experiments, she gives her students the opportunity to tackle real-world problems.  In recent years their efforts have taken an agricultural turn.  The tomato ring spot virus infects more than just tomatoes and is a serious threat to orchards.  Work with Dr. Bill Shane of the Michigan State University Extension Center has shown that the virus can be detected in dandelions growing around the tree. It is much easier to work with soft dandelions than the hard bark and roots of fruit trees. Furthermore, the method is completely non-destructive - for the tree, at least. 

Click here to read the full story written by Professor Anderson for the South Bend Tribune.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


After struggling with a 60-MHz instrument with a problematic magnet for many years the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry eagerly welcomes its new 90-MHz instrument.  It was purchased from Anasazi Instruments, Inc., and features a permanent magnet. 
This new spectrometer easily runs proton and C-13 spectra and - give it a moment - it can analyze other nuclei as well. Students will soon become adept at the DEPT procedure to distinguish carbon atoms of different degree of substitution. They will be cozy at interpreting two-dimensional spectra from COSY experiments.  Students are introduced to NMR theory and operation in the sophomore level organic chemistry course and continue using it in upper -level chemistry courses.  Perhaps the person most excited about this new instrument is Professor McMillen, who spent countless hours preparing our previous unstable machine each week before heavy use in the student labs.

Student Club Recognized in the News

The IU South Bend Biology-Chemistry Club has been extremely busy this fall. The students have taken a trip to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago and celebrated Mole Day at 6:02 PM on 10/23 in the Student Activity Center. They have brought in guests to speak about medical school and sustainability, and have also arranged for the showing of American Chemical Society videos.  

Just this past week they celebrated National Chemistry Week with a science outreach program at the local River Park Public Library.  The photograph is possibly of two future scientists who attended this event.  The local Fox news station gave a short report of the club's event:  Fox news story.  Thank you students for your efforts on campus and for the community.  It is an obvious statement that isn't stated enough: Without our students, our campus is nothing.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Internships at Underwriters Laboratories

Paid internships are available at UL's drinking water analytical laboratory. Sophomore, junior, and senior chemistry and biology students are encouraged to apply.  Real world experience in an industrial setting is something that you cannot get from lectures, laboratory classes, or even academic research.  The laboratory is just about a mile northwest of IU South Bend.
An internship looks very impressive on a resume and will give you insight into what type of career you might pursue (or avoid) when you graduate.  Such an experience might even help you decide whether to pursue an advanced degree or go straight into the workforce.  An internship sometimes leads to a job at the company after graduation. Several of our chemistry students have joined Underwriter's Laboratories after graduation and are enjoying their work.  Click here to find more information or to apply.  Note: the summary heading in the job description states "Full Time", but if you read further the position is obviously a part-time internship.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Promoted to Glory

Professor Darrell H. Beach passed away and was "promoted to glory" on September 18. Beach received his masters degree from Harvard University and his doctorate from Laurence University, both in education.  He taught chemistry at the Culver Military Academy for 35 years where he held the Eppley Chair of Chemistry for 23 years. After retiring from the Academy in 2000, Beach joined IU South Bend as an adjunct professor to teach freshman chemistry labs for nine years.  
Beach published many chemistry articles including five in the Journal of Chemical Education and four in School Science and Mathematics.  He was also proclaimed as one of the top 40 contributors to Chem13 News on its 40th anniversary; you can try his 1997 quantum crossword puzzle if you like.  Beach was respected and appreciated by students and faculty alike. Perhaps the best tribute we can give him is that left by students at the country-wide teacher evaluation site known as

Dr. Beach makes chemistry extremely enjoyable!  I never knew I could have fun in a subject I was not sure I would like to begin with! However he changed my mind and made it possible for me to succeed in my future undertakings! Thank you dearly Dr. Beach!!!

Dr. Beach is the most awesome professor I've ever had.  He wears the cutest little bowties, ya just want to hug him.  Plus, he's really understandable.  He works with the student if they have a problem.  Two huge thumbs up!!!!

The BEST!  Loved his lab.  Had so much fun and learned at the same time. So awesome! Take him if you get the chance! ... 

dr beach is the coolest, most hilarious prof. i've ever had.  he knows chemistry like the back of his hand.  the man cracked me up with his jokes in lab.  i even started a styrofoam cup on fire and he was really cool with it. notorious YOU ARE THE MAN

Professor Beach was a man full of character and charisma, in addition to experience and knowledge.  It was a pleasure to have him teach in our department. For more information regarding his life, please see the South Bend Tribune for his obituary.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Undergraduate Team Publishes Again

In the summer of 2011, mathematics major Doan Le and chemistry majors Tyler Krause and Abdullah Almayouf worked on two projects with Professor Matt Marmorino.  Results from the first project, an unusual application of the Temple lower bound to the ground-state energy, were published earlier this year.

The second project sought to bound properties other than the energy, such as moments of position which are used to determine the size and dipole moment of atoms and molecules.  The results of this second project have just been published in the October issue of the Journal of Mathematical Chemistry - click here for the abstract.  Congratulations to Doan, Tyler, and Abdullah!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Who's New This Fall

Organic chemistry professor Doug McMillen continues to serve as interim dean for the School of Nursing this fall and will continue through the spring. Physical chemistry professor Matt Marmorino is on sabbatical. The freshman general chemistry class has grown from less than a hundred students several years ago to 140 students this semester.  How is the department coping with its temporary lack of instructors and increase in students?  

Department Chair Gretchen Anderson has spent seemingly countless hours working out options for us. For the physical chemistry students, she has arranged something very special: a live and interactive broadcast of the physical chemistry course at Bloomington's campus.  These students also participate in the discussion sections and can attend office hours in a way very much like a video conference.  This setup is attracting a lot of attention from administrators.

Anderson has also been arranging more traditional alternatives such as finding more instructors.  Biochemists Lance Hellman and Jill Voreis have both been recruited to teach CHEM C102 (freshman organic and biochemistry).  Lance Hellman graduated with his doctorate from the University of Kentucky and currently works as a post-doc in Professor Brian M. Baker's laboratory at the University of Notre Dame.  Jill Voreis finished her graduate research under Professor Holly V. Goodson at Notre Dame and she will be receiving her doctorate shortly.  Filling in for McMillen to teach the sophomore organic chemistry class is Professor Steven Warren who comes out of retirement from Andrews University (in Berrien Springs, MI) to bring us his many years of experience. Warren earned his Ph.D. from Arizona State University.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Sabbatical for Professor Marmorino

As classes begin there is one professor who is not preparing a syllabus or marching off to meet a classroom of students.  It is a long-standing tradition that professors are periodically given rest from teaching in order to focus on their research.  Marmorino has begun his first research sabbatical and will resume teaching in the spring.

Marmorino's goals are two-fold.  The first is to continue his current research into upper and lower bounds to properties of atomic and molecular systems.  The main property of interest is the energy because differences in energy levels provide chemists with spectral lines or peaks with which to identify materials.  The second goal is to expand his research from non-relativistic treatment to incorporate relativistic effects.  This is very important because electrons, which essentially determine an atom's properties, move at speeds close to the speed of light.  Furthermore,  the spin of an electron is a natural consequence of relativistic theory.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Value of Research Experience for Students

The IU South Bend Foundations magazine for alumni and friends highlighted undergraduate research in its spring/summer 2012 issue.  Our department encourages students to get involved in research and with one faculty member devoted to each of the principle areas of chemistry we are able to give students a fair choice in research topic.  Research experience is a plus on any graduate's resume - whether they are looking for a job or graduate studies.  

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Summer Research Begins

Some of our students are researching with faculty this summer. Rachel Warrell won a SMART grant for her work with Professor Doug McMillen to design and refine oxidation reactions designed for certain organic functional groups.  

Michael Partridge and Holly Caparell (a biology major) are helping Professor Grace Muna design an electrochemical analytic technique for detecting steroidal pollutants in the environment. Professor Muna was awarded a faculty research grant to support this work.  Senior Roxanne Sirhan will be working hard as well, but not on campus. She was awarded an REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) and is spending the summer at the University of Illinois at Chicago where she is joining the effort to develop a biosensor for cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers in the stunts of hydrocephalic patients.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Laboratory Vessels - A Double Donation

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry recently received a donation of laboratory glassware from Mrs. Robert Lerner of South Bend.  The glassware had been collected by her late husband, Robert Lerner, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Colorado A & M College (now Colorado State University).  Reminiscing about his career, Mrs. Lerner told of his work in the 1970’s in which he developed a process used by the Library of Congress to preserve books.  Later, while he was with Stauffer Chemical Company, he collaborated with chemists at Uniroyal to develop a rubber tire that would not puncture.

Mrs. Lerner also donated a cross-stitched stamp (pictured left) that she made for her husband to hang in his office.  The stamp (pictured right), entitled “Laboratory Vessels”, was issued in April, 1976 to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the American Chemical Society.  We will display it proudly!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Awards and Graduates 2012

Another year has passed and once again we see the transition of students into alumni. Our department awarded 4 Chemistry degrees, 4 Biochemistry degrees, and several Chemistry minors.  While some of our graduates will seek employment, others are off to graduate schools such as Miami University [of Ohio] and Georgia Tech.

Several students, not all graduates, were recognized for outstanding performances, first at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Honors Night event, and then later with just the faculty and students of the department (pictured below).  These students are:

Zeider Excellence in Biochemistry Scholarship
   Ashley Compton
Chemical Rubber Company Chemistry Achievement Award
   Valerie Warrell
Joseph H. Ross Seminar Award
   Denisse Hernandez (graduating)
Student Excellence Award in Chemistry
   Adam Grandison (graduating)
Student Excellence Award in Biochemistry
   Mitchell Moseng (graduating)
Undergraduate Award in Analytical Chemistry
   Roxanne Sirhan

Making Soap with Kathryn Haas


By teaching the inorganic chemistry lecture and lab to upperclassmen and the organic chemistry lecture to underclassmen, Professor Kathryn Haas rescued our department this semester from the absence of Professors Doug McMillen and Bill Feighery.  She closed the semester with a soap-making event for the organic chemistry students which was such a success that there was a request to make this an annual event. Soap was made in papers cups by mixing olive olive and a sodium hydroxide solution and then scented with essential oils. Haas's appointment at IU South Bend was only for this semester, but she will continue teaching and researching in the area as a tenure-track professor at Saint Mary's College. Her extraordinary efforts and energy this semester are a sure sign that her career will go far, even though she will remain close.  Thank you, and good luck, Professor Haas.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Chemistry Student Receives SMART Grant

Chemistry major Rachel Warrell showed her chemical prowess as a freshman when she won the 2010 Chemical Rubber Company Chemistry Achievement Award.  She continues to excel in her all her endeavors and continues to research with organic chemist Professor McMillen this summer.  

It was just announced that Rachel has been awarded a SMART (Student Mentor Academic Research Team) grant for their two projects this summer.  The first project concerns the activation of elemental iodine for the oxidation of alcohols.  The second project is to extend the N-iodosuccinimide - potassium carbonate oxidation (currently limited to alcohols) to compounds such as aldehydes, ketones, and esters.  Congratulations Rachel - and good luck!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

2012 Undergraduate Research Conference


This year there were three poster presentations by students in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.  Biochemistry major Ashley Compton (pictured right) presented Arsenite Oxidase Genes from Alcaligenes faecalis to E. coli: Gateway Cloning which described her 2011 summer work under Professor Gretchen Anderson under a SMART grant awarded by the university.  Also involved in this project was biochemistry student Mitchell Moseng and Biology Professor Kirk Mecklenburg.  Ashley won an honorable mention for her presentation.

Students Joshua Strychalski, Ryan Lubelski, and Aaron Gill from Anderson's C486 biochemistry laboratory course  summarized experiments that began as part of the course, but continued into the following semester. Their poster was titled Restoring Normal Function to Mutated Isocitrate Dehydrogenase.

Last, but not least, was the poster Electrochemical Analysis of Estrogenic Phenolic Compounds presented by biochemistry major Roxanne Sirhan (pictured left) who has researched, and published, with Professor Grace Muna.  The particular work she presented was done in collaboration with fellow students Bonnie Jaskowski, Adam Kaylor, and Craig Kelley.  All of these students made wonderful presentations and we are proud of their work. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Professor Grace Muna Receives Research Grant

Professor Grace Muna has just been awarded an internal Faculty Research Grant for this summer. Steroidal hormones are environment pollutants that disrupt the endocrine system.  Muna's research combines nanochemistry with electrochemistry using nickel deposited on a carbon electrode to develop an analytical technique for the detection and quantification of steroidal contaminants.  

Muna will also be training students to help her with this research, giving them a chance to learn new skills and master techniques to solve real-world problems in a setting more realistic than our standard laboratory classes.  As they will be analyzing water from the Saint Joseph river, don't fish there until they report their findings!  

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Chemistry-Physics Interdisciplinary Research

For several years, Professor Feighery and chemistry students have been working with physics professor, Ilan Levine, in the search for WIMPs - weakly interacting massive particles - that are hypothesized to be a component of the mysterious and  hypothetical dark matter.  Most recently Josh Benkhe (2011 chemistry graduate) and Adam Grandison (chemistry senior) were acknowledged for their technical support in an article just accepted, and soon to be published, in the Journal of Physics B.  

Tina Shepherd (2008 chemistry graduate) and Cynthia Muthusi (2006 chemistry graduate) have also contributed.  While Levine and his group of physicists have taught our students much that we could not, the exchange of knowledge has been two-way.    The physicists have come to depend on our students in certain areas of the research, such as operating and maintaining the GC-MS.  The following is a list of articles to which our students have contributed.  Josh Benkhe is also associated with another paper that is in preparation.

2012   Benkhe and Grandison, Physics Letters B, accepted
2011   Benkhe, New Journal of Physics, 13, 043006
2011   Benkhe and Shepherd, Physical Review Letters, 106, 021303 
2009   Shepherd, Physics Letters B, 682, 185-192 
2008   Shepherd, New Journal of Physics, 10, 103017
2005   Muthusi and Feighery, Physics Letters B, 624, 186-194
2005   Feighery, Physics Research A, 555, 184-204

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Faculty Milestone Service

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry relies heavily on its adjunct faculty to teach many of our high-enrollment service courses. Their continued service and quality teaching is vital to our department. On Thursday, April 19, three of our adjunct faculty will be honored for their milestone service in the annual Associate Faculty Reception. This event will take place at 4:00 in the Alumni Room of the Administration Building.

Clark Hartford (M.S. University of Notre Dame, 1967) and Pete McCasland (Ph.D. University of Notre Dame, 1971) have been teaching with us for a full decade. Rita Harnish (M.S. University of Maine, 1983) has taught for five years, often at our Elkhart campus. Thank you for your dedication to IU South Bend.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Talk about Graduate School

The Biology-Chemistry Club has arranged for two speakers to discuss their experiences regarding graduate school. Kara Primmer, an IU South Bend adjunct faculty, represents the biologists, while Notre Dame graduate student, Kasey Clear, represents the chemists.  Kasey graduated as a chemistry major from our department in 2011 receiving a Student Excellence Award in Chemistry.

Kasey is now pursuing a Ph.D. in organic chemistry. Get a preview of Kasey Clear in this advertisement for Southwestern Michigan College, from which he received an associates degree (while in high school!) before transferring to IU South Bend.  The talk is at noon on Tuesday, April 10, in NS 036.  Juniors: Come to hear about the application process and what the interviews are like. Seniors: Come to hear what to expect immediately after summer vacation.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Dr. Catherine Rakowski has been teaching for our department ever since she earned her Ph.D. from St. Louis University in 1971. This Spring semester will be her last as she has decided to retire.  In her forty years of service to IU South Bend she has taught chemistry to non-science majors, science majors, nursing majors - as well as biochemistry to upper-level chemistry majors.  

In recent years she is known best for teaching the C102 lecture which combines the fundamentals of organic chemistry and biochemistry for pre-nursing majors.   Rakowski enjoys encountering her previous students in the workforce and has met several of her pre-nursing students in later years. She is looking forward to using the time that retirement will offer to share with her new and growing grandchildren.  Without Rakowski, and other adjunct instructors like her, our department simply would not function.  Thank you for your years of excellent service!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Chemistry and Math Students Publish Together

Math major Doan Le and Chemistry majors Abdullah Almayouf and Tyler Krause finally see their work from last Summer appear in print as Optimization of the Temple Lower Bound in the 2012 April issue of the Journal of Mathematical Chemistry. This article reports their work on the first of two projects with Professor Marmorino.

The final part of their second project was finished by Marmorino late last year and has just been submitted for publication.  Congratulations on your work and your upcoming graduation.  Perhaps we'll see more of you at our campus's Undergraduate Research Conference next month.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Brian A. Zeider Excellence in Biochemistry Scholarship

Brian Zeider was a chemistry and biology double major from IU South Bend. He received his PhD in biochemistry from Western Michigan University in metalloprotein biochemistry and started his post-doctoral studies before his untimely passing. At IU South Bend, Brian is remembered for his willingness to help others, his penchant for travel, and his diligence and perseverance. Brian engaged in undergraduate research at IU South Bend and summer research at the Ohio State University before applying for PhD programs.  

Scholarships will be a minimum of $1,000 per recipient, for one year. Scholarship recipients may reapply.  The number, amount, and recipient(s) of the Scholarship will be determined by The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. The Scholarship may be applied toward tuition in the upcoming academic year.  To apply, please send an email to Dr. Gretchen Anderson (, and include your name, student number, and description in 500 words or less that describes your interest and accomplishments in biochemistry. Talking points might include a description of your research in biochemistry, biochemistry topics of interest to you, outreach efforts, how you’ve helped others reach their goals, and/or your career plans.  

· Recipients must have a minimum GPA of a 2.5 on a 4.0 scale.
· Recipients may be attending IU South Bend on a part-time or full-time basis, but must be taking at least 6 credit hours per semester.
· Recipients must be working toward a degree.
· Recipients must have completed one semester of a 2 semester organic chemistry course. 
· Preference will be given to biochemistry majors.


If you need money for tuition, then consider applying for scholarships.  IU South Bend offers many scholarships for students based on a wide variety of factors.  A listing of these can be found here.  The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences offers some of its own scholarships.  The following two are of interest to chemistry and biochemistry majors. 
(2)  Gerkin Scholarship ($1,000)

There are even scholarships within the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.  This year the department is pleased to announce the Brian A. Zeider Excellence in Biochemistry Scholarship ($1,000) which was spearheaded by 2003 alumnus Mark Royer.  Details about this scholarship will be announced soon.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Basketball and Chemistry

That's right - basketball, not buckyball. What's the connection?  In the past three years our department has had the opportunity to teach four of the women's basketball team in the freshman general chemistry course.  And several years before that we had a Lady Titan graduate with a chemistry degree.

This past weekend, Professor Marmorino was invited by chemistry student and Titan Emily Strilich to be honorary coach for the home game against the St. Xavier Cougars.  The Cougars started the game very strong and established a lead in the first half.  In the second half the Titans stunned their guests by quickly scoring the first six points.  For the rest of the game, our team fought hard and kept the Cougars from furthering their lead.  If you have time, please come out to support the team as they play out the remaining games of the season.  Check out the schedule for the women's (click here) and men's games (click here).  Games continue until the end of February.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Advice for Senior Seminar Students

Professor Betty Lise Anderson, from The Ohio State University, was invited again to share her secrets for a terrific technical talk.  She has been contributing to our department's senior seminar course for many years. Her dynamic speaking skills and immensely practical suggestions are hard to forget.  We hope students will heed her advice as they prepare for oral presentations that start at the end of February.   

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Senior students prepare for seminars

Biochemistry alumnus and winner of the 2011 Ross Seminar Prize, Calvin Streeter, returned as an invited speaker to the Senior Seminar class. He provided tips and suggestions from his perspective on how to approach  the senior seminar and it’s accompanying paper. His ultimate take-home message was: “Have fun and enjoy it.”  Because students are able to choose their own topic and focus on the particulars that interest them, this goal is well within reach.  Good luck to all you graduating seniors - we look forward to reading your reports and listening to your presentations.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Welcome Dr. Kathryn Haas

This semester, the attentions of Professors McMillen and Feighery have been redirected to pressing concerns leaving our department's organic and inorganic chemistry courses without instructors - that is, until Dr. Kathryn Haas came to the rescue.   Haas spent a year as a post-doc studying the toxicological effects of cadmium on glow worms after graduating with a Ph.D. from Duke University in 2010. 

Haas will start a full-time professorship at Saint Mary's College next Fall, but this Spring she is teaching organic chemistry lecture and both the lecture and laboratory of inorganic chemistry here at IU South Bend.  You might find her snowboarding in the snow that cancelled class as she taught this skill for eight years - but she also likes knitting and fun group fitness activities.  Not pictured are her two cats: Peaches and Bad Kitty - I wonder if she has a favorite?   Haas says she loves to teach and we wish her and her students a wonderful Spring semester.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tutoring for lower-level courses returns

The Academic Center for Excellence is again stocking itself full of outstanding students to tutor students in freshman and sophomore chemistry courses.  The schedule provided may change during the semester, but gives a good idea of the coverage provided.  Please contact the center for more details

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Software for the New Year

We begin the Spring semester with new software for drawing chemical structures.  Several months ago our department purchased ChemSketch from ACD Labs and it is now part of the standard build on student lab computers throughout the campus.   In addition to being able to draw structures, students can generate various types of three-dimensional images of their structures and rotate them with the push of a button.  This should greatly help students appreciate concepts like steric hindrance and symmetry.  The picture shows two different 3D views of a chlorinated and alkylated dibenzofuran.  Also handy is a tool that "optimizes" the geometry of a poorly-drawn structure so that our lack of artistry is not apparent.  Students can find this software under the class-specific folder at the START menu of lab computers.