Friday, May 19, 2017

Biochemistry Alumni at Montana State University


IU South Bend biochemistry 2014 graduates Angela Patterson (left) and Jac Miller (middle) independently landed at Montana State University to pursue their graduate studies. Jac followed the footsteps of Dr. Gretchen Anderson and studied enzymes involved in nitrogen fixation with Dr. John Peters. Jac earned her Master’s degree in Biochemistry and is now teaching, doing research, and bringing up her baby daughter Adelaide (in the carriage!) and her horse. Angela is an expert in mass spectroscopy and metabolomics working with Prof. Brian Bothner. She will most likely finish her Ph.D. in 2019. Gretchen Anderson (right) had a chance to catch up with both alumni as well as Dr. Jennifer DuBois, formerly at Notre Dame, and with whom Anderson spent a sabbatical leave in 2008.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Professor Muna is "Getting the Lead Out"!

 
Professor Grace Muna (above) is finishing her research sabbatical at Notre Dame where she is teamed with Professor Marya Lieberman (below left). They've been working on ways to detect lead in paint samples.  The picture above is a screenshot from part two of a special news report from WSBT, channel 22.  The news report can be found online here at WSBT while two videos from the report can also be found on YouTube: Part 1 and Part 2 (features Muna).  This summer Muna returns to IU South Bend to continue her research with several undergraduate students.  Congratulations to Muna for making the news and contributing to such an important project. 
 
 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Rizk Presents at Protein Folding Conference

 
Undergraduates Michele Costantino and Maggie Fink accompanied biochemistry professor Shahir Rizk to the 12th Annual Midwest Conference on Protein Folding, Assembly and Molecular Motion.  This conference is held every year at Notre Dame and attracts protein scientists from across the Midwest including Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa. Rizk presented work from his lab on engineered antibody fragments that can be used to modulate protein interactions in order to rescue the function of a mutant enzyme involved in cancer. The conference is a great opportunity for undergraduate students to see new areas of research and how science is communicated.

Anderson Teaches STEM at Starbase


Led by Dr. Gretchen Anderson, a class of about twenty at-risk students used their measuring and observational skills to determine just how much water a diaper can absorb. The answer is a lot more than you would think! But if there is salt in the water (normal saline concentrations) then the diapers are barely better than paper towels. Anderson helped students collect data and come to conclusions about the role of sodium ions and water in polyacrylate gels.
 
Special thanks to the staff and students at Starbase, a federal-sponsored program that promotes and offers education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics - the STEM subjects. Starbase provides 25 hours of curriculum over 5 weeks, with various schools rotating in and out of Starbase to spark interest in STEM education and careers. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Associate Faculty are Honored for Service

 
Three of our associate faculty were honored yesterday in a reception for their years of service. Pat Boettcher (left) has taught general chemistry and organic chemistry laboratories for us for the past five years.  Both Pete McCasland (center) and Clark Hartford (right) have been with us for 15 years. McCasland and Hartford routinely teach freshman laboratory classes but have also taught lecture courses: both have taught the introductory course for health science majors and Hartford has, on occasion, taught the upper-level analytical chemistry and instrumental analysis lectures and laboratories.  We are very grateful to have these men - and all our other associate faculty - diligently and proficiently teaching for us. Without them, it would not be possible to offer as many courses as we do. The years of experience of our associate faculty, often in industry, nicely support and complement the more academic experience that the full-time faculty have.  We hope that they will continue to teach with us for many years to come.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Rizk Publishes in Scientific Reports

 
Professor Shahir Rizk recently published in Scientific Reports of the Nature Publishing Group. This effort began in a post-doctoral position at the University of Chicago and finished here at IU South Bend. As main author, Rizk collaborated with several researchers with connections to the University of Chicago, the New York University Langone Medical Center,  and the New York University School of Medicine - scientists that he continues to collaborate with.  Rizk explains the article's theme in the following paragraph, but you can read the abstract and full paper by clicking here.
 
Many diseases result from a mutation that causes an enzyme deficiency. This typically impairs the function of an essential enzyme, leading to disease manifestation. In many cases, the mutation impairs the ability of the enzyme to adopt the correct 3D structure required for proper function. This article addresses the question: How can we bring an enzyme that has been disrupted by mutation back to life? We focused on Isocitrate Dehydrogenase I, a metabolic enzyme that is mutated in a large percentage of individuals with brain tumors. The goal was to restore function to the mutant enzyme by trying to force it to adopt the correct 3D structure. We used a technique called phage display, which allowed us to engineer an antibody fragment that binds to the natural 3D structure of the enzyme. When added to the mutant enzyme, the engineered antibody fragment was able to restore natural function to the mutant enzyme. While this study was done in the test tube, it is a fist step in the design of "activator molecules" that can hopefully help restore function to a large number of mutant enzymes. 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Work Study Positions



Pictured above are Biochemistry majors Victor Gutierrez-Schultz (left) and Khai Pham (right).  They are both working with Professor Anderson this semester to develop and trouble-shoot experiments for Anderson's upcoming freshman-level nanotechnology course CHEM-N 190 Natural World - Introduction to Nanochemistry.  Gutierrez was able to participate in this work as part of our Work Study Program which offers part-time employment to students who meet certain criteria and have completed a FAFSA form.  Working in your department not only provides a source of income, it also develops skills and knowledge relevant to your discipline.  If you are interested in a work study position, please contact a faculty member in your department - they may know of a position suitable to you.

Friday, April 7, 2017

2017 Undergraduate Research Conference

Last week the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry was represented by five students at the annual  IU South Bend Undergraduate Research Conference.  Biochemistry major Alexandra Hochstetler won the poster prize while Chemistry major David Aupperle received an honorable mention for his poster.  For the presentations, Biochemistry major Michele Costantino was awarded an honorable mention in the Natural Sciences category. Aupperle and Costantino both presented work done on campus with faculty from the department (Professors Muna and Rizk, respectively) while Hochstetler's research came from her summer experience at the IU School of Medicine.  David Aupperle (left) explains the how to best make a glassy carbon electrode below.



Also presenting were Biochemistry students Victor Gutierrez-Schultz and Khai Pham.  Gutierrez-Schultz had spent his last summer working on campus in Professor Anderson's laboratory while Pham spent her summer on an internship at Leco Corporation.  We are very proud of all our student researchers and are glad that they have had these opportunities to shine outside of the classroom.  Khai Pham (right) discusses gas chromatography and mass spectrometery in the picture below.


DAVID AUPPERLE
Electrochemical Detection of Steroid Hormones

MICHELE COSTANTINO
Reversible Self-Assembly Using Protein Conformational Changes

VICTOR GUTIERREZ-SCHULTZ
Developing a Non-enzymatic Decontamination Method of Arsenic

ALEXANDRA HOCHSTETLER, SARA SANTIGUEL, DANIEL LEE, WOAN LOWE, MARGARET SCHWARZ MD 
Role of AIMP1 in Pulmonary Morphogenesis

KHAI PHAM, DAVID E. ALONSO, CHRISTINA KELLY, JOE BINKLEY
A Novel Benchtop Time of Flight GC/MS System For High Throughput Qualitative And Quantitative Analysis of Drugs of Abuse in Human Urine

In the photograph below we see Victor Gutierrez-Schultz stand by his work (in more ways than one) with arsenic oxidizing enzymes.



Monday, March 6, 2017

Rizk Offers Insight into Graduate School

 
Last week, Professor Rizk gave a presentation titled "So you wanna go to grad school, eh?" at the request of the TriBeta and Biology-Chemistry Clubs.  Some of the items he discussed were ...
 
  • Why you might want to go to graduate school.
  • What tests to take now to prepare for applications.
  • When and where you should apply.
  • The timeline of a typical program.
  • The master degree option.
  • You get paid - up to $30,000 per year at some schools!

If you missed this talk and are interested in graduate school, please contact any of your professors for more information (we've all attended - and graduated!).

Friday, January 6, 2017

Muna to Research at Notre Dame

This semester Professor Grace Muna is taking a research sabbatical to work in Professor Lieberman's group at University of Notre Dame to develop electrochemical paper-based analytical devices that screen pharmaceutical drugs as contaminants in water samples. Muna has successfully recruited and trained IU South Bend students in her laboratory over the years, but now she lends her experience to another laboratory where she can learn a few new skills as well.
 
 
Electrochemical detection for paper analytical devices is attractive because it offers excellent attributes such as high sensitivity and selectivity while providing low detection limits of the target analyte compared to colorimetric detection. Paper-based electrochemical detection also requires inexpensive instrumentation and portable hand-held potentiostats are commercially available for on-site measurements.  Both latter two features make these devices especially attractive in developing countries. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Anderson To Develop Nanochemistry Course


If you are looking for a class with Professor Gretchen Anderson this semester, then you will have to wait.  Anderson is taking a break from teaching this semester to design a new freshman level course: N190 Introduction to Nanochemistry.  This survey course will have a laboratory component and will be based on a highly successful course developed by Professor George Lisensky at Beloit College. While surveying the remarkable applications of nanochemistry in industry and medical research, students will synthesize their own solar cells (partially from raspberry juice and titanium dioxide), conductive thin films, gold and silver nanoparticles, and a variety of semiconductors. This course will be one of a trio of courses to constitute a Nanoscience concentration as part of Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Biology BS degrees:

    Introduction to Nanochemistry (under development - an N190 course)
    Nanotechnology (offered Fall 2016 for the first time - an N390 course)
    Nanobiomedicine (under development by the Biological Sciences)
 
The nanoscience concentrations in various departments are expected to better serve the campus by introducing current students to this relatively new field - but are also expected to help grow the university by attracting students that otherwise might leave the local area in search of instruction in nanoscience and nanotechnology. Two of the three courses are designated "Natural World" courses to satisfy general education requirements.
 
Pictured at the top of this post is an artist's rendition of single-walled carbon nanotubes.  Each is essentially a sheet of graphene (one-atom thick version of graphite) rolled into a tube. The image is taken from the front page of the Journal Nanomaterial Chemistry and Technology. These nanotubes are remarkable in many ways: stronger than steel and excellent conductors of heat - some of them are even excellent electrical conductors. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

McMillen Promoted to Associate Vice Chancellor

Organic chemist Doug McMillen has been promoted to Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. He starts his new position this Spring semester, but will continue to lecture organic chemistry this semester only.  In the photograph he is receiving congratulations from Dean Dunn of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
 
McMillen has been a vital part of our department for two decades as our only organic chemist and has dominated the instruction of our sophomore chemistry students.  But during the last decade he has taken on part-time administrative duties and assumed temporary roles as dean when vacancies required someone to step up and take charge.  While we are sad to see McMillen leave teaching for administration, that is only because we will lose a dedicated and experienced teacher; we are very happy that he has this opportunity to grow professionally within the university and serve our students in a new manner.  Congratulations and Happy New Year!