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Chemistry Department

As a chemistry student, you’ll enjoy small classes (including introductory chemistry), significant original research experiences in our modern laboratories, wide ranging student-faculty collaboration, varying teaching methods that serve diverse learning styles, and opportunities to teach others through our mentor program.

Differences Foster Friendship

Christine Ajinjeru ’14 traveled nearly 8,000 miles to get to Grinnell College. Sarah Burnell ’14 went less than 8 blocks. Despite their differences—cultural, geographic, and otherwise—or perhaps because of them, the two Academic All-American track stars have become best friends.

Christine Ajinjeru ’14

Choosing Grinnell

One thing they did have in common was that neither of them thought they would go to Grinnell — Ajinjeru because she’d never heard of it and Burnell because it was too close to home.

Ajinjeru thought that since much of her education had been in the British system, she might go to a commonwealth school. After speaking to a representative of Grinnell who visited her school and talking with current Grinnell students also from Uganda, she made up her mind without even visiting.

For Burnell, though, the visit made the difference, even though it was a very short trip. “I just felt the connection at Grinnell. I sensed community here,” Burnell says.

Running Track

They didn’t come to track in the same way either. Burnell had been running since high school, both track and cross country. Ajinjeru didn’t try track until she got to Grinnell. Both were on the 4x400 team, and both went to nationals — Burnell for the 1,500 meter run and Ajinjeru for the 400. Both were named to the Academic All-America list. They would share a hotel room during away track meets, and watching an episode or two of Say Yes to the Dress became a regular pre-meet ritual.

They grew closest during their senior year through track events. “We went to nationals together, a huge thing. You are sharing your dreams,” Burnell says.

Both women believe that their differences deepened their friendship. “In my opinion, coming from different parts of the world drew us closer since we each had an opinion or view that was different. But when we talked, we each realized how valuable the other person's opinion was,” Ajinjeru says.

Sarah Burnell ’14

Post-Grinnell

After graduation, there’s always a fear of losing touch with your college friends. But with a friendship forged in competition, it’s going to take a lot more than distance to separate these two.

Burnell is staying in Grinnell for now. She works for the College as the coordinator of commencement and conferences.

Ajinjeru is entering a joint Ph.D. program in energy science and engineering at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. She plans to take her knowledge and experience back to Uganda, where she will focus on sustainable energy and potentially setting up extracurricular programs that encourage creativity and innovation among students.

Christine Ajinjeru ’14 is a chemistry major from Kampala, Uganda.
Sarah Burnell ’14 is an anthropology major from Grinnell, Iowa.

 

 

 

Exploding the Binary

Tweeting, the Inez Louise Henely 1914 Best in Show-winner at the 2014 Bachelor of Arts Exhibition (BAX), is a series of 14 pieces of handmade paper with watermarks of text from Twitter.

The artist, Delia Salomon ’14, explains what led her to create this work. “When I learned how to make paper in Chemistry of Artistic Materials, I was fascinated by how it was originally a hand-made process.” The juxtaposition between the instantaneous nature of modern social media and the lengthy, laborious process of papermaking struck her.

Although Salomon is a prize-winning artist, her major is based in the Noyce Science Center rather than the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts. Her parents’ artistic natures rubbed off on her, but in the academic world she was drawn to science. That’s not to say that she necessarily sees art and science as a binary with a gulf in between. After she came to Grinnell and started studying both more, she realized that “the artistic process and the scientific process are pretty similar, and I think a lot of people don’t realize that.”

“Developing both an artistic and a scientific way of thought has helped me immensely. Even in a science class, my experience with art — making art — reminds me that there are other people out there, which is easy to forget when you’re doing science,” Salomon says.

Grinnell provides a climate that encourages students to stretch, whether that means participating in sports, playing music, or taking a class in an unfamiliar discipline.

Salomon sees art as a practice and a mode of thought that connects her with the rest of the world. “My professors always say ‘art doesn’t exist alone.’” Art helps Salomon appreciate and understand why she pursues science. Both the scientific and artistic perspectives are useful in gaining perspective on the world. “Art and science used to be very closely tied — the study of anatomy, for example,” she says. “Each uses different tools, but both demonstrate a desire to understand the world around us.”

During her semester abroad in Valparaiso, Chile, Salomon found that not all colleges support work in multiple disciplines the same way Grinnell does. An art professor in Chile asked Salomon what her major was, and when she said it was biology, he laughed. Salomon said that she gained a great deal from the experience of studying abroad, but it also gave her an increased appreciation for how supportive Grinnell’s professors are. She is especially grateful to professors Jeremy Chen and Lee Running. Both encouraged her in her artistic pursuits and pushed her when she was hesitant to submit an entry for BAX.

Looking to the future, Salomon plans to serve in the Lutheran Volunteer Corps, with a placement in San Francisco. She intends to use her free time to train to swim the English Channel, a feat she first attempted at the age of 16.

BAX is an annual professional exhibition of mature student works in the creative arts, including visual and performing arts. It is held towards the end of each academic year in Faulconer Gallery.   

Tweeting by Delia Salomon '14, Grinnell College's best in show BAX winner 2014

After Science, There’s Laundry

Judith Klinman

Judith Klinman, professor of the graduate school and chancellor’s professor at the University of California, Berkeley, is presenting two lectures on Wednesday, Nov. 20:

Scholars’ Convocation:  noon in Rosenfield Center Room 101.

Chemistry Lecture: 4:15 p.m. in Noyce 2022.

Both events are free and open to the public.

In her convocation lecture, Klinman will describe “a personal and scientific odyssey,” exploring her family background and how enzymes work generally. She will also talk about women in academics and science, and how women can balance bread, family relationships, and research.  Although her focus will be mainly on women in academics and science, says Elizabeth Trimmer, associate professor of chemistry, “I hope that men would also be interested in attending.”

In her second lecture, Klinman will discuss her research into enzymes that use copper to catalyze their reactions, including one that catalyzes the conversion of dopamine to norepinephrine, a very important reaction in neurotransmitter biosynthesis. 

A chemistry professor of the Graduate School Division of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Structural Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, Klinman studies proteins and enzymes, looking for the fundamental properties that underlie reactions in the human body. Her current research in enzyme catalysis with her research group focuses on hydrogen tunneling, methyl transfer, and protein dynamics, protein- and peptide-derived cofactors, and oxygen activation.

In 1978, Klinman became the first woman professor in the chemistry department of the University of California, Berkeley. She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and is the former president of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Klinman is 2013 Danforth Lecturer at Grinnell. The Danforth lectureship was established in honor of Professor Joe Danforth, who taught chemistry at Grinnell from 1947 to 1979.Traditionally, the Danforth lecturer has given two presentations, a departmental talk and a general interest lecture. The speaker also interacts significantly with our biological chemistry and chemistry majors.

Are Arabs Sexist?

Institutions, and not popular beliefs, cause the political and economic inequalities faced by women in the Arab world, argues Danielle Lussier, assistant professor of political science.  In “Are Arabs sexist? The institutions, perhaps, but not the people,” she, Steven Fish of University of California-Berkley, and Rose McDermott of Brown University, present results from their research in Lebanon.

“We find no evidence that the beliefs and values of ordinary Lebanese are responsible for the substantial inequities women encounter in political life and in the workforce,” they conclude.

From the article:

Arab societies are often regarded as bad places for women and girls. According to many observers, Arabic and Islamic culture can combine to foster attitudes that are inhospitable to gender equality.

The results of a survey experiment we are conducting may challenge common assumptions. Women do face special difficulties in Arab lands, which are reflected in bleak statistics about inequalities in political and economic life. But we find little evidence that popular attitudes are to blame. Our data from Lebanon, with its mix of Muslims and Christians, may be particularly illuminating.

Are Arabs sexist? The institutions, perhaps, but not the people, AlJazeera.com

The Person Behind the Discovery

 

First-year students in Martin Minelli's tutorial, The Person Behind the Discovery, are going deeper than the textbook entries to explore the personalities and background of people who've made outstanding contributions to science.

They will be “studying the historical setting these people worked in, their family background, their education, their professional career, and how they made their significant contribution to science,” says Minelli.

The students will read three biographies together:

  • The Man Behind the Microchip: Robert Noyce and the Invention Silicon Valley by Leslie Berlin;
  • Marie Curie and Her Daughters: The Private Lives of Science's First Family by Shelley Emling; and
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

Students will then read biographies of scientists of their choice.

By the end, the students will work together to write a biography about a person for whom no formal biography exists. 

Adult Community Exploration Series offering free summer courses

Tuesday, Jun. 8, 2010 11:30 am | Contact: To register, send email to calendar@grinnell.edu; for questions, call 641-269-3178.

GRINNELL, IA—Grinnell College will offer the Adult Community Exploration Series (ACES) throughout the summer with courses taught by faculty in political science, English, and chemistry. The courses are free, and registration is requested to assist instructors in preparing for class needs. All ACES classes will be held on Wednesday mornings from 10 to 11:30 a.m. in the Pioneer Room of the college's Old Glove Factory, located at 733 Broad Street in Grinnell, unless otherwise noted. To register, send email to calendar[at]grinnell[dot]edu; for questions, call 641-269-3178.

Courses for summer 2010 include:

“Can Technology Save Democracy?”

June 16, 23

Taught by Barbara Trish, associate professor of political science

The Internet age has created politics marked by abundant information and new paths and techniques for political actors to compete. Citizens, journalists, campaigns, and government also jockey to capitalize on Internet opportunities, seen by some as the key to political success and by others as the key to effective democracy. This course will explore the new Internet-based politics and consider the extent to which these developments are fundamentally new or the high-tech version of politics-as-usual, and whether technology can save democracy.

Barbara Trish teaches courses on U.S. politics, research design, and quantitative reasoning. Her scholarship focuses on political parties and campaigns, and she has most recently examined Organizing for America, the governing-era iteration of President Obama’s campaign organization. Trish is an administrator of the college's Program in Practical Political Education (PPPE) and is actively involved in Grinnell's long-standing relationship with Nanjing University.

“What’s Love Got to Do With It?”: Studies in the African American Sonnet Tradition"

June 30, July 7

Taught by Shanna Benjamin, assistant professor of English

Literary critics and historians have argued that prosody, the rhythm and intonation received from America’s colonial masters, faced a powerful insurgency in the 19th century with Whitman’s sweeping “Song of Myself” and Emerson’s declaration of artistic independence from “the courtly muses of Europe.” African American poets sought ways to imbue so-called “white” forms with the rhythm and imagery of black life. This course will examine representative poems by Claude McKay, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Wanda Coleman to understand how they adapt the sonnet to express the vibrancy and vulnerability of African American life.

Shanna Greene Benjamin teaches African American and American literature and culture and seminars on neo-slave narratives, black women writers, and black literature beyond race. A graduate of Johnson C. Smith University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Benjamin serves as faculty coordinator of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) program for students of color interested in college teaching.

“Mass Spectrometry and Magnetic Resonance: From CSI to MRI, the science behind ‘popular’ spectroscopy”

July 14, 21

Taught by Andrew Mobley, associate professor of chemistry

Please note: this course will be held in the Robert N. Noyce ‘49 Science Center, Room 2022

This course will cover the basics of the science behind the mass spectrometry seen on popular TV shows that feature forensic science such as “CSI,” “Law and Order,” or Mobley’s personal favorite “Bones.” The modern imaging technique called Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) will be covered from the standpoint of its chemistry equivalent, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR). By the end of the course, participants should have a basic understanding of what these techniques can and cannot do, by analyzing data from Grinnell College instrumentation.

Andrew Mobley has taught organic chemistry at Grinnell since 1999. He received a B.A. from Carleton College and then worked with Professor Robert Bergman at the University of California at Berkeley where he received his doctorate. He became interested in his specialty, NMR spectroscopy of organometallic compounds, during a post-doctoral fellowship in Germany.

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Robert N. Noyce ’49 Science Center

The facility includes refurbished teaching and research laboratories, classroom and office space, a science library, a computer laboratory, and several study areas. The addition connects two of the wings with a courtyard in between. The building houses the departments of biology, chemistry, mathematics and computer science, physics, and psychology. Containing modern scientific equipment and instrumentation, the facility has laboratories, classrooms, and seminar rooms, which are equipped with electronic and other modern instructional tools. The building also houses the Kistle Science Library and the Physics Historical Museum. In the northeast section of the building, a greenhouse is used as an instructional and research facility.