Monday, April 22, 2013

2013 Undergraduate Research Conference

This year the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry was represented by several students in the poster presentation portion of the annual Undergraduate Research Conference. Michael Partridge (chemistry) and Holly Caparell (biology) displayed a poster titled "Electrochemical Analysis of Steroid Hormones in Water" that showcased their work under research supervisor analytical chemist Dr. Grace Muna. Rachel Warrell (chemistry) exhibited the poster "NIS Oxidation of Alcohols to Carbonyls" that detailed her summer experiemnts with organic chemist Dr. Doug McMillen. Ashley Compton (biochemistry) and Keith Steinkellner (biochemistry) presented the poster "Nested PCR Detection of X-Disease in Michigan Fruit Orchards" of work done with fellow student Michael Partridge. These three were supervised by biochemist Dr. Gretchen Anderson. Last, but not least, was the poster, "Development of a Biosensor for Diagnosis of Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus", shown by Roxanne Sirhan (biochemistry) who presented her summer work with colleagues at the University of Illinois at Chicago under a competitive REU award (Research Experience for Undergraduates). Congratulations to all these students for their quality presentations and the many hard hours of research that brought them here. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Connie Fox wins the 2013 Campus Sustainability Award

As part of Earth Day's celebrations, Ms. Connie Fox will be presented with the 2013 Campus Sustainability Award at a campus reception April 22 for her tireless efforts in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.  Since 1984 she has served as the department's laboratory director and oversees the teaching labs (with some 300+ students every semester) and plays a critical role in the research labs of faculty. Her many responsibilities include ordering chemicals, updating inventory, and arranging for disposal of the chemicals. She is also in charge of laboratory safety, updating laboratory manuals, and routinely teaches laboratory and discussion sections for some of the freshman courses.  A few years ago Fox found a simple and cheap way to implement the new inventory system introduced by the division of chemical safety at IU Bloomington. This lets us easily keep track of what chemicals we already have so we can avoid duplication.

The following are examples of what Fox has done to deserve this award:

Reduce: Fox has scaled down experiments in our many freshman classes, especially those for non-science majors where qualitative and semi-quantitative analysis is often sufficient. Well-plates and droppers replace test tubes and burets without sacrificing results. Few experiments now deal with heavy metals and mercury thermometers are a thing of the past.

Reuse: Decades ago disposable equipment was all the rage. Now the attitude is reversed and cheaper disposable pipettes and droppers are reused to lessen waste. Rather than recycle emptied chemical bottles for their glass value, Fox keeps them on hand as free waste jars and disposal containers.

Recycle: Fox has organic chemistry students distill waste acetone to recover it for the next year. This has become a routine part of our teaching program and not only cuts costs and reduces waste, but instills in students the expectation that recycling is a central feature of any chemistry experiment.

Recover: Unfortunately (or fortunately), federal and state law prohibits the burning of chemical waste by schools to recover the heat energy stored within them. Otherwise, we are are sure Fox would find a way to take advantage of this final "R" in waste management!

Under Fox's initiatives we have not only reduced our landfills, but our lab costs as well. Thank you, Ms. Fox, not only for the efforts that led to this award, but your devotion to chemical safety and rigorous instruction. To say that our department would be at a loss without you is an understatement - our department could not function without you!

Friday, April 12, 2013

IU South Bend hosts the 2013 Chemistry Olympiad

The Chemistry Olympiad is a yearly event sponsored by the American Chemistry Society that begins at thousands of high schools and ends in an international competition. This year IU South Bend is holding one of the many national exams in which only two students per high school can compete.  

The twenty best students from all over the nation will study together at a summer camp and then the top four will go to the 45th international competition at Moscow State University. Students spent the morning taking written exams on campus, took a break for lunch, and finished with a practical exam in the laboratory in the afternoon. Laboratory supervisor Connie Fox and assistant Brenda Beatty prepared instruments, equipment, and chemicals for the competitors who were overseen by coordinator Douglas Sisk from Marian High School.   More information about the competition can be found at the American Chemical Society webpages.

Friday, April 5, 2013

New FT-IR Spectrometer

With the gradual decay of two older Fourier-Transform Infrared (FT-IR) spectrometers, our department eagerly welcomes the newest addition to our suite of instruments.  The Cary 630 FT-IR spectrometer is equipped with three accessories that can be interchanged in less than a minute. The first is a standard transmission module that is pictured to the right with a gas cell. The second, in the middle of the photograph, is a diffuse reflectance accessory that obviously allows analysis of reflected, rather than transmitted, light.  Finally there is a diamond attenuated total reflectance (ATR) module, that also relies on reflection. This   accessory is shown attached to the main body of the instrument.  Details on the spectrometer and each accessory can be found at Agilent's websites:

Instrument brochure:

Accessory brochures:

The George V. Nazaroff Scholarship

Congratulations are in order for Rachel Warrell, a junior chemistry major, winner of this year's George V. Nazaroff Scholarship. Rachel has already received much attention on our blog, first as the 2010 recipient of the freshman Chemical Rubber Company Achievement Award (while she was a senior in high school) - and more recently as the 2012 winner of a summer SMART grant.  It was high time we advertised the winners of this scholarship and began doing so this year with the plaque held by both Rachel and Professor Emeritus George V. Nazaroff that will hang in the chemistry hallway.

George Nazaroff received his Ph.D. in 1965 from the University of Wisconsin, trained as a theoretical and computational chemist. He then served as professor of chemistry at Michigan State University for six years where he graduated two Ph.D. students. Next he began his teaching career at IU South Bend as chair of the department. Nazaroff was the original physical chemist on our campus and with others he introduced honors sections for the freshman general chemistry sequence and courses in essential oils and aromatherapy. Though others had been department chair during his tenure, he returned to this duty at the end of his career. Nazaroff retired in 2002 and in his honor his colleagues set up this scholarship in his name. Because his efforts at IU were well-known, outside funds poured in to fund the scholarship.

Several years ago Nazaroff came out of retirement to teach part time as an adjunct professor for us.  He is noted for his unique and rigorous approach in the freshman course CHEM C101 Elementary Chemistry for non-science majors.  Public comments on his teaching of this course include ...

   "He is willing to do whatever it takes to help you understand the work ..."
   "Nazaroff was willing to come in on days off and help for hours ..."
   "He has a genuine interest in helping his students pass."
   "He was extremely helpful and made chemistry fun!"

Professor Nazaroff will be honored on April 18 for his five years of service as an adjunct professor after his retirement.  We hope he will continue teaching for our department for many years to come.

The first George V. Nazaroff Scholarship was awarded in 2005 and Rachel is the eighth student to be honored.  Rachel shares with Nazaroff some of the traits mentioned by students above as evidenced by her diligent work as a chemistry tutor for our department. She plans to attend graduate school and has expressed an interest to become a professor. Congratulations again, Rachel! We are looking forward to an excellent senior year with you.

Student Roxanne Sirhan Wins Volunteer Award

Senior biochemistry major Roxanne Sirhan and two other students were honored Wednesday with the Women Helping Women: Honoring Student Volunteer Leaders Award given by Women's Philanthropy Council of Indiana University.  First Lady (of the university) Laurie McRobbie presented the award during a luncheon. Sirhan was honored for her volunteer work at Memorial Hospital and $250 was given to the hospital in her honor.  The full story, with photograph, is available at Indiana University Foundation Newsroom. Please visit the Women's Philanthropy Council Facebook page for more information about this IU organization.