Wednesday, December 16, 2015

New Laboratory Equipment for the Biochemistry Program

Our newest addition, Biochemistry Professor Shahir Rizk, was given funds by the college to prepare his laboratory for research - and now his laboratory boasts some new additions.  Because Rizk works with proteins he must first grow cells which are the plantations from which he harvests his macromolecules.  These cells are grown in his MaxQ 4000 temperatuare-regulated shaker (top right).  He then applies high-g forces to suspensions of the broken cells in his Sorvall ST-8R cooled centrifuge (top left) to separate protein from nucleic acid and broken membrane.  Next Rizk can send his solutions through his AKTA Stat protein purification unit (bottom right) for further separation.  Finally he can analyze his purified protein with his new NanoDrop 2000 UV-visible spectrophotometer (bottom left) to quantitatively determine how much protein he ultimately collected.  This last instrument mimics the traditional spectrometers, but without the need for a cuvette and uses much less material - actually a microliter (not nano!) amount of solution.  All of the instruments are sold by Thermo Scientific except for the protein purification unit which is sold by General Electric.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Community Outreach for National Chemistry Week

In celebration of National Chemistry Week (Oct 18-24) and Mole Day (October 23), the Biology-Chemistry Club of IU South Bend hosted hands-on activities for kids on the theme "Chemistry Colors Our World!".  More than twice as many children as last year came to the River Park Public Library last Saturday to try their hand at making an Alka-Seltzer lava lamp, marker chromatography, micelles with food coloring and soap, Gobstopper dye separation, and learned about the many colors in leaves. They left with a bag of colorful treat bags to try some of the experiments at home. Our college students deserve a special "thank-you" for their efforts to reach the future science students that will one day study at IU and many other campuses. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Students Flock to Rizk's Lab

Professor Shahir Rizk, our new biochemist, has been teaching for just over two months and hasn't yet finished setting up his laboratory for research. Nevertheless, he has already attracted two students to his research group.  Sophomore chemistry major  Riley Bigelow (left) and senior biochemistry major Kourtney Kemmerling (right) are shown here trying out their new pipettes and personal protection equipment - a must for any laboratory. To support his research, Rizk is bringing in several new pieces of equipment such as a nanodrop UV-visible spectrometer (for spectral analysis of very small samples), an incubator for growing cells (from which to harvest enzymes and other protein), and a cooled table-top centrifuge (to help in the actual harvesting). 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Are Your Grades Dropping? Help is Available!

There are just seven weeks left in this Fall semester.  To make sure you get the most from your courses, please be aware of all the opportunities for help.  Here are some:
(1) Your instructor's office hours.
      After-hour appointments may be possible.
(2) Tutoring at ACE's Learning Center in the administration building.
(3) SI sessions often available once a week for freshman courses.
      Consult your professor for details.
(4) ACE's "Study Smarter" sessions are available.
(5) Form a study group with classmates - two heads are better than one.
      But stay on task and don't let it degenerate into a social event.
Additionally, the library is now hosting a Monday evening (6:00 to 8:00) chemistry tutor in the Dorene Dwyer Hammes Media Commons and CafĂ© area. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

2015 Nobel Prize Winners

The winners of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry were recently announced. Three men shared the prize this year and they were all biochemists who explored how enzymes help to repair damaged DNA. An article describing their achievements can be viewed at the website for Chemical and Engineering News (C&EN). The image above highlights the history of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry and shows how many awards have been given in each area of chemistry. It also lists each prize winner and the reason for the award.  Click here for the full image at C&EN.  How many scientists have won the prize twice? How many women prize winners can you find? How many minority prize winners have there been? In what year will you win?

Monday, September 28, 2015

New York Times Spots Alumna

Alumna Celeste Warrell (Biochemistry, 2011) was a star student at IU South Bend winning several awards and engaging in undergraduate research.  She then earned a masters degree in biochemistry in 2013 from Michigan State University in the lab of Professor Rober Hausinger.  But the call to science could not compete with a higher calling that she heard and Warrell joined the Sisters of St. Francis (of Perpetual Adoration) right here in South Bend.  New York Times photographer, Damon Winter, caught her on film (third from the left) as she waited for a chance to see the Pope during his visit to Philadelphia.

Monday, September 21, 2015

NSF Fellowship Winners are Honored

On September 10, two alumni from our department were honored at a gala with three other students for winning the very prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships. Pictured third from the left is Ashley Tong [Compton] (Biochemistry, 2014) who won her award as a graduating senior at IU South Bend.  Ashley went straight to MIT to research proteins of the photosynthetic pathway of purple bacteria with Professor Gabriela Schlau-Cohen using ultrafast spectroscopy.  The day after the gala, Ashley gave a wonderful presentation on her work to the students of our department.

Third from the right is Bonnie Huge [Jaskowski] (Chemistry, 2010) who worked as a research assistant at the University of Notre Dame for a few years before starting her graduate work. Bonnie researches with Professor Norman Dovichi in Notre Dame's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry developing instrumentation.  Our department is extremely proud of Ashley and Bonnie and wish them great success in their research and studies.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Biochemistry Program Grows with Professor Rizk

The department eagerly welcomes its newest full-time tenure-track member: Assistant Professor Shahir Rizk. In fact, we welcome him back, because Rizk graduated from IU South Bend in 2000 with a B.S. in Biology. Rizk later received his PhD in Biochemistry from Duke University in 2006 for his thesis on rational design of biosensors and multi-sensor arrays.

Once the long, but necessary, period of education and training had ended, Rizk served as a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institutes of Health at the University of Chicago in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology where he worked on engineering antibodies and drug delivery in cancer. In 2012, he joined the faculty at the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Notre Dame as a Research Assistant Professor and Director of External Programs at the Boler-Parseghian Center for Rare and Neglected Diseases. Rizk’s collaborations at the University of Notre Dame allowed him to apply his work in antibody engineering to study the pathogens that cause malaria and Ebola.

Rizk's research program at IU lies in the area of protein engineering, specifically the design of new antibodies that can recognize different conformations of the same protein. His seminar on this subject during his interview last year impressed both students and faculty. He is also working to develop biosensors for environmental pollutants. If Rizk has some free time, he might continue some of his non-academic interests such as painting and music; he plays both guitar and bass.

Rizk's position is the first [necessary] duplication in the department. For years we have had a single professor for the various sub-disciplines, but our growing biochemistry program demands more than one biochemist. We are very excited for this new addition to our faculty and are confident that Rizk will have an outstanding inaugural year.  Welcome "home" Rizk.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Chemistry Administration

The leadership skills of the chemistry faculty are remarkable.  Recently Bill Feighery (our inorganic chemist) chaired the Department of History and Doug McMillen (our organic chemist) served as Dean for the College of Health Sciences.  Both Feighery and McMillen have also served as assistant or associate dean for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. For the past six years, Gretchen Anderson (our biochemist) has chaired our department. These three professors make up half of the full-time faculty and their leadership is still desired across campus.  

For the 2015-2016 academic year McMillen will continue as one of three associate deans for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.  Feighery takes the reins as chair of our department, though he is not a newcomer to the role of chair having lead us for many years before Anderson.  He is very excited to welcome our new hire, Shahir Rizk, as our second biochemist, who will help maintain and develop our growing biochemistry program. Feighery's immediate plans are to make curriculum changes to maintain our American Chemical Society accreditation under their new requirements and to find ways to attract new students to our programs.

Anderson embarks on a role new to her and new to the campus: Director of Science Initiatives. Her biggest task is probably the pursuit of new science programs such as nanoscience, pharmecutical science, and pharmacy. Anderson will make new connections with industry and arrange for collaborations and internships for all of the science departments. She will also continue to foster relationships with the IU Medical School, IU Cancer Center, and other medical centers - particularly in the area of scholarship and research opportunities.  Anderson is eager to work with physicist Jerry Hinnefeld who was named the Chancellor's Professor for 2015-2016 as they advance the Year of Science.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Professor Muna ReceivesTenure

Assistant Professor Grace Muna was recently promoted to Associate Professor and has also received tenure. Muna is known for her ability to take struggling students and motivate them to succeed. She is our only analytical chemist and is solely responsible for the two upper-level courses C-310 Analytical Chemistry and C-410 Instrumental Analysis which combine lecture and laboratory components. Muna is one of our most active researchers and routinely mentors undergraduate students in research. This summer she is working with SMART student Chris Warkentin

Their summer research involves testing the analytical performance of biometallic modified glassy electrodes in the hopes that they will offer improved analytic detection of aqueous steroid hormones over nickel modified electrodes. The metal combinations are Pt/Ni, Pd/Ni, and Pt/Pd.

In addition to her (1) ongoing research this summer, Muna is (2) teaching the summer section of our freshman general chemistry course C-106, (3) developing a new course for freshman students who are in the awkward position that they have placed out of, or already taken, C-101 but are not yet ready for C-105, and (4) preparing a proposal for her research sabbatical in the Spring 2017 semester. With a summer like this, she must be eager for the fall semester to begin.

Congratulation Professor Muna on your promotion and tenure!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

SMART Students!

Congratulations are due to our two SMART (Student Mentor Academic Research Team) award winners, Jared Larue (Biochemistry) and Chris Warkentin (Chemistry). The SMART awards have routinely provided financial support to our students for summer research.  Such an experience can be vital in securing enrollment in one's graduate school of choice.

The goal of Jared's work is to optimize the functionality of the arsenite oxidase enzyme to further research in potential decontamination methods. He will work with fellow student Cheri Stalcup (biochemistry) under the guidance of biochemist Dr. Gretchen Anderson.  They will begin by analyzing the DNA sequence obtained last summer for the large and small subunits of arsenite oxidase. If any mutations are found, they will use site-specific mutagenesis to correct them. Then they will vary the conditions in which E. coli are grown to optimize the production of active forms of arsenite oxidase. This won't be easy because both subunits contain weird cofactors (such as a molybdopterin cofactor, a 3Fe-4S cluster, and a Rieske-type 2Fe-2S cluster). The E. coli cells need to not only fold the proteins correctly and keep them solubilized, but also make and insert the appropriate metallo-cofactors. 

Chris's research will continue and build upon work done by analytical chemist Dr. Grace Muna, along with other IUSB students and alumni, on the development of nickel-modified glassy carbon electrodes (Ni-GCE) for the electrochemical detection of steroid hormones in local surface waters. He plans to explore whether the use of bimetallic nickel modified electrodes (Ni/Pt-GCE and Ni/Pd-GCE) will offer improved steroid hormone detection in terms of sensitivity and longer term electrode stability compared to Ni-GCEs. Chris is currently working on a BS Chemistry degree. After graduation, he plans to pursue a Ph.D. in materials and nanoscience with applications in sustainable energy systems, specifically fuel cells, batteries, and photovoltaic cells. Further congratulations are due to Chris: a few months ago he was awarded an honorable mention in the prestigious 2015 Barry Goldwater Scholarhip and Excellence in Education Program.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Awards and Graduates 2015

Another proud group of chemistry and biochemistry graduates will be receiving their diplomas at tomorrow's graduation ceremony. They have worked long and hard for this reward and we hope they will be successful in their future endeavors.

Last Friday, our department held its own mini-celebration to acknowledge our graduates and also the accomplishments of some who have not yet graduated. Below is a list of the awards our department conferred this year.

Zeider Excellence in Biochemistry Scholarship
   Krista Schilling
Chemical Rubber Company Chemistry Achievement Award
   Anthony Hanner
George V. Nazaroff Scholarhip
   Voleta Black (pictured third)
Joseph H. Ross Seminar Award
   Geoffrey Taghon (pictured last)
Student Excellence Award in Biochemistry
   Angela Patterson (pictured first)
Undergraduate Award in Analytical Chemistry
   Carrington Boyd (pictured second)

Students Receive Off-Campus REUs

Janae Lee (chemistry) and Geoffrey Taghon (biochemistry) were both awarded REUs (Research Experience for Undergraduates) for this summer. Janae secured an NSF-funded opportunity at Notre Dame University for aspiring analytical chemists. The program is called Analytical Chemistry REU: Chemical Analysis for a Developing World and will give Janae experience in developing paper tests for counterfeit antibiotics. 

Geoffrey's REU is the result of a new IU South Bend award previously announced in this blog: the RC MedReview Fellowship. He is the first recipient of the award. Geoffrey will work with Dr. Robert Stahelin (of the Harper Cancer Research Institute) on the inhibition of reversibly-bound membrane proteins involved in cancer metastasis. Geoffrey is looking forward to continuing his study in osteopathic medical school next year.  

Congratulations to both students for securing these competitive research awards. We hope your experiences will be rewarding.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Adjunct Faculty Awarded for 10 Years of Instruction

Last week the Vice Chancellor honored Merilee Britt (pictured) and Jim Noffsinger for a decade of service to IU South Bend.  While we are very thankful for their loyalty, we are even more thankful for the excellent instruction they provide. Noffsinger, an application scientist at Bayer HealthCare, routinely teaches organic chemistry laboratories for the sophomore students while Britt, a science teacher at Penn High School, instructs freshman chemistry students in the laboratory. 

Adjunct faculty, like Britt and Noffsinger, are a vital part of our faculty and we could not teach all our students without them. Furthermore, evening hours (which full-time faculty usually don't enjoy) are just right for adjunct faculty looking for opportunities outside their standard profession - and this gives working students more flexibility to schedule classes. Thank you both for your dedication to IU South Bend.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Anderson wins the Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award

This morning Professor Gretchen Anderson was presented with the 2015 Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award. The committee responsible for the award remarked that "Gretchen stands out due to the amazing impact she has had on her advisees lives over the course of many years." Anderson has a variety of plans for students with different desires and needs. These plans go by the unofficial names below.

Associate Dean Monika Lynker adds that Anderson "encourages her advisees every step of the way, and helps them prepare for life after college whether that’s graduate school or a job ...[providing them with] an all-around and all-encompassing approach to academic advising, and the result is that her advisees in their letters all say in one way or another that they would not be where they are now if it hadn’t been for Gretchen.” Advising is just one of the many ways that Anderson contributes to student success outside of the classroom and our department is very thankful for her hard work as professor, scientist, and administrator.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Another biochemist for Montana State University

Angela Patterson will be going to Montana State University (Bozeman, MT) to pursue her PhD in biochemistry. On her interview, she was very impressed with the university, the biochemistry program, and the friendly faculty. She also liked the surroundings, even in March. Angela will go there already knowing people in the program; IU alumna Jaq Miller (2014 Biochemistry) started her PhD studies there last year.  

Angela graduated from IU South Bend (BS Biochemistry) last December and has been doing research with David Wilkes, Biology Department, on molecular motors (dyneins) that walk along specialized tracks within cells. Angela is also our 2015 winner of the Excellence in Biochemistry award. Congratulations on both accounts, Angela!

Friday, April 17, 2015

IU South Bend hosts the 2015 Chemistry Olympiad

The Chemistry Olympiad is a yearly event sponsored by the American Chemistry Society that begins at high schools throughout the country and ends in an international competition. Each high school nominates just two students and this year IU South Bend is once again holding one of the many national exams to find the best of the best.

The top twenty students from all over the nation will study together for two weeks at a summer camp at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado and then the top four will go to the 47th international competition in Baku, Azerbaijan. 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. More information about the competition can be found at the American Chemical Society webpages.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

From Middle School to College

IU South Bend has a program called College Immersion Day in which middle-school students are invited to the campus to learn what college has to offer in the hopes that they will be motivated to stay in school, work harder, and consider IU South Bend for their future education. Professor McMillen has always been an excellent showman for our department and spokesman for the university in the various administrative roles he has filled, so it was no surprise that last Friday it was he that spoke to a group of young students from Jefferson Intermediate School.  His audience was an eighth-grade chemistry class and he got their attention early on by igniting a hydrogen-filled balloon as he routinely does in his organic chemistry class. Will we see any of these students in our department five years from now? No one can tell, of course, but if there was potential interest, then surely McMillen tapped it and lit a spark!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Science Trivia Night

The IU South Bend chapter of the Tri Beta Biological Honor Society hosted a fundraiser on Feb 26 in the evening. Three teams of professors faced off in a Jeopardy-style friendly competition featuring questions from biology, chemistry, and physics with pizza and soda for all who came. Tri Beta organized the three teams as Anderson-Bushnell (Biochemistry-Biology), Marr-Marmorino (Biology-Chemistry), and Davis-Wilkes (Physics-Biology). Professors Davis and Wilkes won the contest with the closest (11) to correct answer (10) for the final question "How many dimensions does string theory predict?" Thanks to all the members of the Tri Beta Society for their efforts in preparing questions and setting up the event (especially the dynamic emcee Umron Alkotob) which was enjoyed by students and faculty. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Bench Chemist’s Adventures in Pharmacopeia

On Presidents' Day, 2008 chemistry alumnus Danny Brooks gave a talk to our undergraduates about the pharmaceutical industry.  He is currently a process development scientist at Par Pharmaceuticals near Detroit after working for several years at Boehringer Ingelheim in Ohio. Brooks enjoys the sometimes high-pressure, but very rewarding, responsibility of making sure that drugs are developed in a timely manner so they can be delivered and used on schedule to the millions of those in need. Knowing his audience well - and not wishing to neglect any of his former instructor's specialties - Brooks highlighted aspects of pharmacy that relate to each of chemistry's sub-disciplines.  He also discussed the impact of various levels of education (BS, MS, and PhD) to job type and availability. With all of our full-time faculty being completely immersed in academics it was especially rewarding to have Brooks describe the ups and downs of industry. Also attending the presentation were two of this fellow 2008 chemistry graduates, Tina Shepherd (below center) and Jennie Polk (below right), and it was a pleasure to visit with them again after many years.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

IU South Bend Fellowship / REU Opportunity

This year marks the first time IU South Bend will offer the RC MedReview Fellowship.  This award provides $4000 to a pre-med student to conduct full time summer research in a biomedical field. Although research at the IU Medical School or the Harper Cancer Research Institute is encouraged, the research may be done at any institution, including Notre Dame.  The minimum requirements are a GPA of at least 3.2, completion of Molecular Biology and 2 semesters of Organic Chemistry and completion of at least 30 credit hours at IU South Bend before summer 2015. Successful candidates will also be expected to have some experience in the medical field (e.g. physician shadowing, hospice work, hospital volunteer, etc.). Please click here for the application link. The deadline is February 20, 2015.  

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Faculty Focus - Pat Boettcher

Like most of our adjunct instructors, Professor Pat Boettcher brings decades of industrial experience to his classroom that our full-time faculty cannot. Boettcher retired from industry in 2011 and has been a great aid to our department each semester since then by teaching freshman and sophomore chemistry laboratory classes.  In fact, for two years, he served as a visiting lecturer because our need was so great.  Boettcher enjoys the student interaction that the lab courses offer and delights in seeing the growth of students from the freshman general chemistry courses to the sophomore organic chemistry classes.

Although Boettcher is relatively new to us, IU South Bend is not new to him.  He graduated from our campus with a BA chemistry degree in 1974 (when we did not yet offer a BS) and because he worked part-time to support himself during his college career he well knows the troubles many of our students face.  Even before he earned his degree he had his foot in the door for a career in chemistry with his work in formaldehyde polymers at Kordell Industries of Mishawaka.  Boettcher later worked at several chemical industries mainly in the role of quality control manager and routinely troubleshooted the transition from research & development to manufacturing. Between his graduation and retirement, Boettcher returned to IU to earn an M.B.A. from our business school while working for Bayer Corporation. 

Boettcher is very active in the American Chemical Society and serves as treasurer of the local section. We appreciate his life-long dedication to chemistry and are grateful for his many semesters of teaching in our department.  He is a joy to work with and we hope to continue working side-by-side with him for many years to come.