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Chemistry

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A scientist's journey to a career in technology

Nicole Lee Snoeberger '09 addressed summer research students in the sciences thanks to the Alumni in the Classroom program. During her lecture on May 31, "Leveraging Research in Chemistry into a Career in Technology Transfer," Snoeberger spoke about the process of technology transfer and how her research led to her career.

After graduating from Grinnell College, Snoeberger stayed on campus as a Mellon Post Bac in the lab of Professor of Chemistry Elaine Marzluff, then she entered graduate school at Yale University and earned a doctorate in chemistry. Snoeberger is currently working as a technology licensing associate in the MIT Technology Licensing Office.

During her visit, Snoeberger also met informally with students after her talk and had meetings with Marzluff's current research students (pictured) and several chemistry faculty. 

Summer Research in Chemistry is Underway

Chemistry summer research has begun! Thirty-five students are working with ten faculty mentors in the chemistry department on a variety of projects, such as conductivity of lithium electrolytes, dynamics and synthesis of biological molecules, biogeochemistry in aquatic systems, and the use of metal oxides as photocatalysts.

Safety training is a priority before lab work commences. One session involved all participating students practicing to use a fire extinguisher. 

Besides literature searches and bench work, chemistry's summer program also involves presentations from research groups and a culminating poster session. The department will host two social picnics throughout the summer as well. 

Research projects are funded by various sources, including Grinnell College's MAP program and Erickson fund, and grants from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation's Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation. 

Chemistry Alumnus in the Classroom

Nathaniel Rosi '99 lectured in the Department of Chemistry thanks to the Alumni in the Classroom program. Rosi's visit included two days with Professor of chemistry Martin Minelli's CHM-423 Advanced Inorganic Chemistry course, lunch with the CHM-423 students, dinner with chemistry faculty, a presentation during the weekly chemistry seminar, and a side trip to Pella and the Neil Smith Wildlife Preserve. During class, Rosi showed a crystal structure of one of his large clusters, which was best viewed with 3D glasses.

Nathaniel Rosi '99 in front of a large sundial and yellow tulips in Pella, IA.

Rosi is professor of chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh, where his research focuses on developing methods for controlling the structure and function of nanoscale materials. His seminar talk was titled "Building Structural and Functional Heterogeneity into Mesoporous Metal-Organic Frameworks."

Chemistry Research Presented at National Meeting

Every spring, chemistry and biological chemistry students and faculty from Grinnell College present research discoveries at the American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting. This spring the meeting was in San Diego.

Eighteen students and six faculty participated in the poster session and many other events. For students, the meeting also provides an opportunity to network with alumni who have chosen careers in chemistry. 

Sparking Interest in STEM

Faculty from the Department of Chemistry presented demonstrations and information as part of the nearby Tama County Family STEM Festival 2016, held on April 3. This outreach event used interactive activities to introduce children and parents to careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Grinnell College's representatives engaged the public with several demonstrations. 
 
Erick Leggans ’05, assistant professor of chemistry, demonstrated the density of invisible gasses by pouring carbon dioxide into a container with lit candles. The candles need oxygen in our air to keep burning. If the carbon dioxide is lighter than oxygen in the air, the candles will stay lit, but if the carbon dioxide is heavier than oxygen, it will sink to the space around the candles and they will go out. Observers could see for themselves what happened.
 
Blown-up balloons and liquid nitrogen, which is extremely cold, were used by Cori Ortiz, assistant professor of chemistry, to show how volume is related to temperature. This relationship is known as Charles' Law, named after the scientist who came up with the formula in the late 1700s. 
 
In the activities led by Elaine Marzluff, professor of chemistry, color was used as an indicator to test the pH of liquids. Being able to see a change in color is also helpful for knowing when chemical reactions change the acidity of liquids. Red cabbage was used as the indicator to test different liquids such as water and juice. In one experiment, dry ice was added to tap water to observe a change in pH. 
 
The demonstrations chosen by the chemistry faculty for this festival were intended to be accessible concepts for young minds and to get them thinking about science in everyday experiences. 
 

Changing State, Federal Roles in U.S. Electric Power Sector

David Kathan ’78, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), will present “Changing State and Federal Roles in the U.S. Electric Power Sector” a noon Friday, March 11, in Robert N. Noyce ’49 Science Center, Room 2024. David Kathan holds a doctorate in public policy and management from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He is an economist in the Office of Energy Policy and Innovation at FERC.

Recent developments in environmental and energy sustainability policy, along with the creation of a modern grid, are changing the relative roles and jurisdictional responsibilities of states and the federal government.

Kathan will provide examples of shifts in state and federal governance of these issues. He will focus on several recent Supreme Court cases and decisions that have the potential of further blurring the lines between state and federal jurisdiction, such as the recent FERC v. EPSA demand response decision. Kathan will discuss the implications of these blurred lines and shared responsibility for future environmental and energy policy.

Kathan joined FERC in 2002 after more than 20 years in energy consulting. At FERC, he works on market design issues, including demand response, smart grid, scarcity pricing, and resource adequacy.

Kathan has been the project lead for the commission’s annual demand response reports required by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, and was the FERC staff lead on the National Action Plan on Demand Response. During 2013, he was on temporary assignment to the White House Council on Environmental Quality, where he focused on federal agency demand management issues, and was responsible for the issuance of a Presidential Memorandum on federal agency energy management in December 2013.

Prior to joining FERC, Kathan was a principal at ICF Consulting, where he consulted on economic, environmental, and quantitative issues related to the electric power industry, with a focus on demand response and electric system modeling.  He has also held posts at National Economic Research Associates, Synergic Resources Corporation, and the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment.

The Department of Chemistry is hosting the free, public event.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities.  You can request accommodations from the event sponsor or Conference Operations and Events.

Sharing Neuroscience Research with the World

Grinnell students, faculty, and alumni joined more than 30,000 colleagues from more than 80 countries at 2015 Society for Neuroscience (SfN) Annual Meeting.

Faculty joined the students as they presented their Mentored Advanced Projects (MAP) research at the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience poster session, and met with alumni at an event sponsored by the College.

The Society for Neuroscience is the world’s largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system, and the annual meeting is billed as the premier venue for neuroscientists to present emerging science, learn from experts, forge collaborations with peers, explore new tools and technologies, and advance careers.

Students and professor in front of poster titled Effect of High-fat Diet-induced Obesity on Spatial and Declarative MemoryGrinnellians at the conference included professors Mark Levandoski (chemistry, biological chemistry, and neuroscience), Clark Lindgren (biology and neuroscience), Nancy Rempel-Clower (psychology and neuroscience), and Andrea Tracy ’99 (psychology and neuroscience).

Their MAP students included Tom Earnest '16, Mike Fitzpatrick '16, Anthony Mack '16, Takahiro Omura '17, Marissa Yetter '16, and Jacob Ziontz ’16.

At least 14 alumni also attended, ranging from the classes of ’00 to ’15.

The SfN meeting is one of many professional events where Grinnell students have had the opportunity to share their research and meet others with similar interests.

Photos courtesy of Takahiro Omura '17.

Danforth Chemistry Seminar

Dale BogerDr. Dale L. Boger, Department of Chemistry at The Scripps Research Institute will present a free, public talk, “Discovery of a New Therapeutic Target in an Academic Setting” at noon Thursday, Nov. 12, in Joe Rosenfield '25 Center, Room 101.

In this general talk, he will discuss how a new therapeutic target for the treatment of pain was discovered in an academic setting by curiosity-driven research.

Professor Boger is internationally recognized for his work in organic synthesis, heterocyclic chemistry, natural products total synthesis and biological evaluation, synthetic methodology development, and medicinal chemistry, and has made seminal contributions to improving the glycopeptide antibiotics and the understanding of DNA-drug interactions of naturally occurring antitumor-antibiotics. 

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Rosenfield Center Rooms 101 is looped to supports telecoils. You can request accommodations from the event sponsor or Conference Operations.

 

A Greener Grinnell

For the past decade, Grinnell College has prioritized environmental sustainability, which is itself a social justice issue, in both constructing new buildings and maintaining century-old ones.

Building a Sustainable Campus

The Conard Environmental Research Area’s Environmental Education Center was the College’s first major sustainability effort. “It was a smaller building and gave us a chance to do everything right,” says Chris Bair 96, environmental and safety manager. “Plus, if you can’t build an environmental education building sustainably, what can you do?”

The Environmental Education Center was the first LEED gold-certified building in Iowa and was the College’s first building with a wind turbine, water reclamation, and geothermal heating and cooling. Now the College’s preschool and pool buildings also use geothermal heating and cooling. The Noyce Science Center and the Bear Recreation and Athletic Center have cisterns that collect rainwater. Noyce’s provides water to the greenhouse and the Bear’s is used to water the football fields.

Facilities management is also working on a number of solar projects, including the recent installation of a 20-kilowatt solar unit on the facilities management building in addition to the solar hot water unit of Eco House. “And we’re exploring the possibility of putting 200 kilowatts worth of solar power on campus,” says Bair.

Global Research and Collaboration

Six students conducted research on sustainability in several German cities during spring break. They were accompanied by Bair and facilities manager Rick Whitney, as well as Lee Sharpe, associate professor of chemistry, and Liz Queathem, a biology lecturer. In this group Mentored Advanced Project, each student focused on a different aspect of sustainability with the intent to make recommendations to the College:

  • Sophie Neems ’16 examined how change happens and what societal factors in Germany have caused increased sustainability efforts that just aren’t happening in the United States.
  • Emma Leverich 16 looked at the efficacy of a waste-to-energy process that uses biodigesters; the methane gas that the biodigesters produce would be siphoned off and burned for fuel.
  • Zhi Chen ’17 investigated the potential implementation of solar energy on campus by surveying the available space and calculating the cost of installation.
  • Ben Mothershead ’16 and Liza Morse ’15 compared the building certification programs and building codes of the United States and Germany. They spoke with several architects in both countries about their experience with sustainable design.
  • Samantha Snodgrass ’16 researched storm water reclamation and infiltration.

When the students returned, they each wrote a paper on their research and presented the papers to the local city government, the Grinnell Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Iowa Economic Development Authority.

Importance of Visibility

One of the major lessons learned on the trip was the importance of making sustainable efforts more visible. If students are more aware of the resources they are consuming, they are likely to do more to curb their consumption.

Many of the College’s ongoing sustainability efforts are significant but may go unnoticed by students. Each summer facilities management updates a residence hall with LED lights, low-flow toilets, and efficient showerheads. They also connect each hall to the College’s central building automation and add set points to thermostats and window sensors that shut off the heat or air conditioners when windows are open.

In Germany, virtually every hotel in which the students, faculty, and staff stayed had a display in the lobby indicating how much energy had been produced by the building’s rooftop solar panels.

Starting this summer, facilities management will install submeters in residence halls to monitor water and electricity use. The hope is that once that information is on display, students will be more aware of their consumption. There has even been talk of starting conservation competitions between halls. “Renewable energy is out there and everyone is bragging about it,” says Bair. The group also took tours of green roofs and rainwater collection features.

“On Grinnell’s campus, you’re always aware of the social justice implications of pretty much everything,” says Bair. “I’d like sustainability to rise to that level.”

Sophie Neems ’16 is an anthropology and Spanish double major from Iowa City, Iowa.
Emma Leverich ’16 is a chemistry and anthropology double major from Clive, Iowa.
Zhi Chen ’17 is a computer science and history double major from Oakland, Calif.
Ben Mothershead ’16 is an economics major from Falls Church, Va.
Samantha Snodgrass ’16 is a biology major from Des Moines, Iowa.

 

Best Practices for Diversity, Inclusion in Sciences

Grinnell College will host a national conference June 19-20 that seeks innovative ways to train faculty and to develop creative approaches that foster diversity and inclusion in the sciences.

The conference includes four free, public keynote talks in Noyce Science Center, Room 2022:

Friday, June 19
9-10 a.m.

Denise Sekaquaptewa, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan

Social Psychological Research on Factors Shaping the Climate for Diversity in STEM
2-3 p.m.

Nilanjana Dasgupta, professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Thriving Despite Negative Stereotypes: How Own-Group Experts and Peers Act as Social Vaccines to Protect Against Implicit Bias
Saturday, June 20
8:30-9:30 a.m.

Becky Wai-Ling Packard, professor of psychology and director of the Weissman Center for Leadership at Mount Holyoke College

From Microaggressions to Microaffirmations: Framing Constructive Feedback to Students
2-3 p.m.

Sian Beilock, professor of psychology at the University of Chicago

Anxiety, Attitudes and Motivation: Helping Students Perform their Best under Stress

About the Conference

Grinnell College will welcome faculty and staff members involved in teaching and learning at the 15 member institutions of the Liberal Arts College Association for Faculty Inclusion (LACAFI). These schools share similar challenges in addressing diversity concerns yet have similar goals in these areas and similar resources for meeting them.

“The goal of our conference is to empower educators to initiate diversity and inclusion efforts on their campuses," said Mark Levandoski, co-chair of LACAFI and professor of chemistry.

The conference also will include sessions on stereotype threat and implicit bias as well as successes and failures. Small-group discussions will enable different colleges to share best practices. In addition, institutional teams will work to develop their diversity and inclusion action plans.

Accessibility Accommodations

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Accommodation requests may be made to conference operations.