Saturday, October 18, 2014

Publication in Electroanalysis

Professor Grace Muna and her team of students researchers have published another research article in the research journal Electroanalysis. This manuscript, Electrochemical Detection of Steroid Hormones Using a Nickel-Modifies Glassy Carbon Elecrode (click link for abstract) is the result of two years of work from a variety of students working at different times. Her team includes biochemistry students Michael Partridge (2014 graduate), Hala Sirhan (2014 graduate), Nigel Guerra; biology major Holly Garner; and high-school student Bridget VerVaet (2014 high school graduate).  Muna and her students have demonstrated that their method for detecting steroidal hormones is not just a proof-of-concept example, but suitable for practical applications such as river water analysis. Congratulations to Muna and the many students who have worked with her!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Undergraduate Research This Past Summer

This past summer several students enjoyed the opportunity to research with Professor Anderson. Biochemistry majors Krista Schilling, Letty Black, Jose Zelaya, and Daniel Chupp worked on cloning the genes for arsenite oxidase so that eventually enough enzyme could be produced artificially (rather than in the native organism) for structure/function studies. This research combined molecular biology, microbiology, and biochemistry techniques as well as classic column chromatography. The plan was to isolate the three genes from Alcaligenes and place them into E. coli (using Gateway Topo-A cloning) to direct E. coli to synthesize the enzyme on demand. Anderson anticipated plenty of pitfalls because of the large size of the gene and the several unusual cofactors in the protein and remarks that it was a perfect project for introducing students to research because of its challenges and trouble-shooting opportunities. Now that the summer has passed, here is what Krista Schilling (pictured) has to say about the experience:

"Undergraduate research gave me the opportunity to really work with the science I'd been learning in my classes. I was able to use techniques I'd learned in class labs and more importantly I learned many things you just don't come in contact with unless you participate in this sort of independent, active learning. My favorite part was having to really figure things out to make our experiments work - I felt so invested in the outcome and very proud when I was able to contribute meaningfully to problem-solving. Having worked on a project like this makes me feel capable and ready to tackle harder upper-level classes and to pursue my long-term goals in science."

We look forward to the possibility of a Spring presentation at our campus's annual Undergraduate Research Conference.  If you are interested in working on a research project, please contact one of the professors in our department. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Biochemistry Major Goes Anabolic!

The department's first two biochemistry degrees were awarded in 2007 after Professor Gretchen Anderson developed this bachelor of science program. Since then there has been only growth and it is now larger than the chemistry program. About 40 current students have declared biochemistry as their major and last semester ten of these students made the deans' list. 

There is now so much interest in biochemistry that this fall the first semester lecture (CHEM C484) holds a class of 37 students and the laboratory class (CHEM C486) had to be offered as two sections. This was only possible due to visiting professor Jake Plummer who is now teaching the lecture course so that Anderson can teach both sections of the laboratory. With Anderson as the only permanent full-time biochemist, the biochemistry major is not sustainable as the rigorous and preparatory program to which our students are accustomed. Fortunately the university has given our department permission to hire a new faculty member as a second biochemistry professor. This position will also us to better accommodate students in the classroom, but also open new avenues for student research. The ad is posted in several places - here is a post in HigherEdJobs.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Biology-Chemistry Club has BIG plans!

The joint club of the IU South Bend Biology and Chemistry Departments has big plans this semester.  As in previous years they will host a youth outreach event at the River Park Library as part of National Chemistry Week (Oct 19-25) with the theme: CANDY: The Sweet Side of Chemistry.  The club plans to have a second outreach at the Natatorium as part of the IU South Bend Year of STEM: Science in the City.  If these events interest you, or you just want to meet some other students who share your interest in the physical sciences, please contact an officer to attend the first meeting scheduled for Thursday, September 18 at 4:00 PM in NS 060.  For more up-to-date information please visit their Facebook page

Friday, August 22, 2014

Why Earn a Chemistry Degree?

Check out our new VIDEO advertisement (click here) to learn why you should earn a chemistry degree. It features current students (Krista Schilling and Jose Zelaya) and graduates (Kasey Clear - 2011, Roxanne Sirhan - 2013, and Calvin Streeter - 2011). You'll also discover what Pope Francis and Godzilla have in common!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Professor Anderson gets an uncommon look at NMR

Gretchen Anderson attended an NSF workshop on medicinal chemistry at the University of Minnesota. The university's NMR facilities were part of the tour. A 60 MHz NMR magnet had been cut apart to show the inner magnet and shielding chamber, a sight most people don't see (shown below left).  

Most people also do not see the large room housing multiple high field NMRs, including a 900 MHz NMR (shown above right). The magnetic field from these NMRs is so high, it can be easily detected outside. So much so, in fact, that bushes had to be planted strategically around the building to discourage people from getting too close to the underground facility, especially those with pacemakers (not to mention anyone carrying objects containing iron). 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tracy Huggins wins SMART award for summer research

Tracy Huggins, a double major in physics and mathematics, was awarded a summer SMART grant from IU South Bend to research matrix eigenvalues problems with Professor Marmorino, our physical chemist. Junior and senior chemistry majors might recognize the matrix shown as very similar to the ones used in Huckel Molecular Orbital (HMO) theory. 

In HMO theory the gamma parameter is replaced by the number one and each "1" indicates the energetic interaction of a carbon 2p-orbital with a parallel 2p-orbital on an adjacent carbon. The eigenvalues of an N-dimensional matrix approximate the energy levels of the conjugated electrons of a molecule with N carbons involved in alternating single and double bonds - when gamma equals one, that is. When gamma is zero, there is no cooperation between the double bonds and each acts like that of an independent ethene molecule.  

Huggins has been working with Marmorino to get explicit expressions for the eigenvalues of arbitrarily sized-matrices when gamma lies between zero and one - between the simple limits of no conjugation and complete conjugation. The plan is to use these eigenvalue expressions to relate the parameter gamma to the energy difference of an electronic transition - and thus wavelength of light. This wavelength can be measured spectroscopically and then gamma can be determined and insight into the amount of conjugation is gained. Marmorino hopes to incorporate the results of this research into a physical chemistry experiment for undergraduates to replace a traditional one in which the wavelength of the transition is used to estimate the length of the carbon chain by applying the particle-in-a-box quantum model.  

This research has given Huggins and Marmorino many surprises. It was relatively easy to obtain exact expressions for matrices of odd dimension, but we have found that the even dimensional matrices do not reveal exact solutions. It is quite interesting that the difficulty lies not in the size of the matrix, but rather where its dimension is even or odd. In the search for ways to approximate the elusive eigenvalues, Huggins has unearthed many mathematical theorems and delved into complex analysis.

Monday, July 21, 2014

New Course: N190 Crime Scene Science

In the past our department's contributions to the general education curriculum were limited mainly to environmental, health, and nutritional aspects of chemistry. No longer. This summer Professor Jake Plummer is teaching a brand new course to showcase the scientific analysis made famous in television shows like CSI. Plummer is pulling out all the stops and not limiting his course to chemical applications because, as he states: "...forensic science is a multidisciplinary science, [so] we will cover concepts from physics, chemistry, biology, and mathematics."  His course includes a laboratory component where students get an introduction to exciting field topics such as fingerprinting and blood splatter analysis.  The photograph below shows Plummer ready to strike a "blood"-soaked sponge to create a splatter for analysis.  Our department is very excited about this new course and we can only guess that the students are rather excited as well.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Michiana Chemistry - Distillation Done Tastefully

Last weekend several IU South Bend scientists went on a field trip to view chemistry in action. After sampling the chemical fermentation products of several Michigan breweries, the intrepid explorers stopped by the Journeyman's Distillery in Three Oaks, MI. There, they saw industrial strength distillation in action. Shown here is a large distillation column. The group was gratified to see metric units being used throughout. The temperature of the vapor at the top of this column was a steady 80 degrees Celsius. The group confirmed through taste testing that the aging of whiskey in barrels affects the final attributes of the distillate.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Thirty Years of Service from Connie Fox

Just a few weeks ago, Ms. Connie Fox was honored for her thirty years of service at IU South Bend.  She is responsible for nearly all of the chemicals and equipment used in our student laboratories and is director of the freshman labs. Though the freshman students receive different leadership in the lecture courses from fall to spring semesters, she is the rock in the laboratory courses, giving the prelab lectures both semesters and teaching lab sections as well. Fox remembers well what it is like to be a student at IU South Bend because this is where she earned her undergraduate chemistry degree before heading to Northwestern for graduate study.  As retirement looms in the future, it seems unlikely that we will be graced with another thirty years of service from Fox, but we will enjoy every year that she gives to our department.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Awards and Graduates

Once again it is time to say goodbye to another group of excellent students. This year our department awarded 2 chemistry (BS) and 6 biochemistry (BS) degrees. Some will continue their study of chemistry or biochemistry in graduate school, some will enter new fields of study such as pharmacy, and still others will bravely head into the workforce. We also want to recognize those students who were awarded departmental scholarships or awards this year. 

Zeider Excellence in Biochemistry Scholarship
   Jose Zelaya
Chemical Rubber Company Chemistry Achievement Award
   Anthony Sergio
Joseph H. Ross Seminar Award
   Ashley Compton (graduating)
Student Excellence Award in Biochemistry
   Ashley Compton (graduating)
Student Excellence Award in Chemistry
   Rachel Warrell (graduating)
Undergraduate Award in Organic Chemistry
   Rachel Warrell (graduating)

Additionally, biochemistry major Krista Schilling won the merit-based Gerkin Scholarship for next fall from our own College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Congratulations to you all for your excellent performance and have a wonderful summer!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Periodic Table for the Dinner Table

There are many different ways to present the periodic table and a quick image search on the internet or a look at the Wikipedia article Alternative Periodic Tables reveals many. But most scientists probably prefer an edible version like this one baked by biochemistry major (and soon to be graduate) Ashley Compton. Though her creation is quite impressive, the faculty feel obligated to make two remarks:

(1) The chocolate chip cookies suggest Ashley's preference for the plum-pudding model of the atom over the nuclear model. We will continue to support the latter model until we see more evidence - such as a plum pudding version of the periodic table.  

(2) Most of the elements are not radioactive, and yet, Ashley's cookies all disappeared rather quickly!

Our department actually hosts a number of cooks and this is not the first time an edible periodic table has crossed our path. Just yesterday, Professor Anderson baked rectangular cookies decorated as electrophoresis gels (below) and biochemistry student Jaq Miller (also graduating soon) routinely brings baked goods to share.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

More postgraduate plans

Graduates from our department certainly aren't limited in their career options. While many pursue advanced study in the field of chemistry or biochemistry (see link here), others students have different plans. Medical school and immediate employment are some of the more common pursuits, but this year Michelle Ross (left) and Joshua Strychalski (right) show us two more options.

Michelle Ross already has a job. She has been working since 2007 at DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc.,  (a Johnson & Johnson Company) in Warsaw where they test and manufacture artificial joints. Ross has been taking chemistry classes part-time to earn her B.S. Chemistry degree for which she will be promoted from Assistant Scientist to Scientist. In this semester's senior seminar capstone course, Ross showcased her specialized knowledge of the chemistry of artificial joints and made it clear that her promotion is well deserved.

Joshua Strychalski was the winner of last year's first Brian A. Zeider Excellence in Biochemistry Scholarship.  He has been working at Meijer's in-store pharmacy while finishing up his coursework and this year he graduates with a B.S. Biochemistry degree. He has already been accepted to Butler University's Doctor of Pharmacy program where he has another four years of study to complete. Fortunately his biochemistry degree makes him well prepared and we are confident he will succeed.

Good luck to both of you and to all our 2014 graduates!

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.

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.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Quantum chemical calculations just got easier

Quantum mechanical calculations on molecules are routine nowadays and our department has recently upgraded from a few individual licenses of outdated Gaussian and HyperChem software to a three-year site license of Spartan.  This windows-driven student-version software allows for Hartree-Fock, density functional theory, and more advanced calculations to be performed on molecules to determine energy levels and optimum geometry. It also enables the prediction of IR and NMR spectra.  The software was primary acquired for use in the upper-level inorganic chemistry and physical chemistry courses. Nevertheless we anticipate the spectra generating ability will be especially useful in the sophomore organic chemistry course and we would like to introduce students to the software as early as their freshman chemistry course when they are introduced to molecular orbitals.  Professor Feighery will introduce the software this semester in his inorganic chemistry course CHEM-C335.  Limited licenses of the more advanced Spartan'14 are also available on faculty computers and in the chemistry computer lab. The picture depicts the HOMO of phosgene.