Prof. Kelly Chacón Talks with ASBMB’s Minority Affairs

óChildhood interests sometimes go unrecognized and life takes another path, sometimes several paths, before those early interests finally rise up and take flight. Such is the story arc of Reed’s newest biochemistry professor, Prof. Kelly Chacón [2015-].

Kelly is currently taking a junior sabbatical break from teaching in order to spend some extra time in her research lab, but she recently spent a few minutes discussing her past, present, and future, with a reporter from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s (ASBMB) Minority Affairs section. The Minority Affairs interview appeared on 1 Sept 2017 under the title, September Research Spotlight on Kelly Chacón, Ph.D..

Among the many things you might learn about Kelly … After dropping out of high-school at 15, she didn’t discover biochemistry until 9 years later when, as a student at a local community college, she read about the Miller-Urey spark chamber experiment … Her road from college to college professor was anything but smooth (Reed students who feel like “imposters” might be reassured to know that the highly trained and well-organized instructor at the front of the class has dealt with those very same fears) … Some favorite pastimes include sewing and steel-tip darts … And the heroine and role model who inspires her, and the app that keeps her focused.

Recent posts about Kelly Chacón:

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Kris McNeill ’92 Elected AAAS Fellow

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society, recently announced the election of 46 chemists to be Fellows of the Society. “Election as a Fellow honors members whose efforts on behalf of the advancement of science or its applications in service to society have distinguished them among their peers and colleagues,” and the 2017 list includes Kristopher McNeill ’92, professor of chemistry at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. A complete list of the 2017 Fellows can be found in the “AAAS News & Notes” section of Science, Nov. 24, 2017.

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Maileen Nakashima ’19 Explores Sulfur/Iodine Flux Synthesis

The Portland section of the American Chemical Society held its 4th annual Undergraduate Poster Symposium and Career Fair at Portland State University’s SRTC building on October 22. There were cash prizes, free pizza and pastries, but most of all, the chance to show off what you have been doing to Portland’s local chemistry community, and to see what others have been doing as well.

Last summer Maileen traveled to Tallahassee, Florida, home of Florida State University, to study flux synthesis of solid state materials, a research area in Prof. Susan Latturner’s laboratory. Maileen said that the pace of research was a good fit for her summer plans, and she especially liked the direct link between the x-ray techniques she learned in Chem 212 lab last spring and the techniques she applied in the Latturner lab.

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Jeffrey Kovac ’70, Ethical Chemist

Life, by its very nature, constantly surprises, but certain aspects of life would seem to be under our personal control: what to study, how to apply that knowledge. As a young chemistry professor at U. Tennessee, Jeffrey Kovac, thought he knew where his professional path was headed: a “conventional research agenda” in the laboratory, and a teaching schedule devoted to the staples of the chemistry curriculum.

Jeff’s path took an unexpected turn in the late 1980s, however, when he began developing a new course for his undergraduate students. “I was teaching the capstone course in chemistry that was supposed to look at the field from a broader perspective,” he said. “There were stories of scientific misconduct in the press, so I decided to introduce ethics into the course.”

The larger story of how Jeff turned these stories into his 1993 book, The Ethical Chemist, and the three decades of surprises he found along this unexpected path, can be found in An Ethical Chemist by Grant Currin (The Key Reporter, 25 Oct 2017).

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Trevor Soucy ’18 Runs a Three Hour Marathon

Shades of Paul Whitredge ’12! Another Reed biochemist, Trevor Soucy ’18, has shown that when it comes to being fleet of foot, chemists have the right stuff.

Trevor, along with his teammates on Reed’s distance team (“The Running Jokes”), tied on his running shoes last Sunday for the Portland Marathon and pounded his way from downtown Portland, up and over the St. Johns bridge, and through north Portland down to the Willamette bluffs, before retracing his steps all the way back to the start on the 26 mile course.

Biochem major Trevor Soucy ’18 ran his first marathon in just over 3 hours.

Trevor was running his first marathon ever, but newbie jitters didn’t stop him from turning in the fastest time for a Reedie on Sunday: 3:00:36. Perhaps we will see him running in Boston next? The qualifying time for the Boston Marathon is 3:05 and Trevor beat that standard with minutes to spare.

But for now it is back to the lab for Trevor. His senior thesis, investigating the role of the protein PerC in pathogenic bacteria, is calling.

 

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Undergraduate Research Poster – Do You Have a Story to Tell?

As the Chemistry building continues to get remodeled and renovated (more on that to come), the hallways are undergoing visible changes. Senior photos have been redesigned and hung in more prominent locations (you can even find a set of staff and faculty photos). And 4×6 posters, the story of a summer, or sometimes a years-long, research effort are being displayed in new, more appealing ways.

Posters, it should be said, do more than paper the walls. Before a poster gets hung in the hallway, it has been taken to a scientific conference and presented alongside posters from other researchers in specially designated ‘poster sessions’ where the posters can number from the dozens to the hundreds. And, no matter what you may think about the value of online media, something as seemingly old-fashioned as a paper poster has become so popular a means of communication that some conferences are entirely devoted to posters.

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Rhiana Meade ’12 Seminar This Thursday

Rhiana took her Reed chemistry degree to Tufts University where she earned her MS in Civil and Environmental Engineering in the Environmental and Water Resources Engineering program. She currently works as a Field Operations Supervisor at Cambrian Innovation, a biotech company that specializes in novel wastewater treatment technologies. She will give the Chemistry department’s seminar this Thursday (October 5, 4:15 pm, Bio 019) on “Clean Energy from Dirty Water: Transforming Waste into Resources”

For more information:  Continue reading

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Murdock Charitable Trust to Support Organometallic Research

Prof. Miriam Bowring [chemistry, 2016-] has received a $43,500 research grant from the Murdock Charitable Trust to support her research in organometallic chemistry. The grant, which will provide funds for three years, is being supplemented by a grant of $11,400 from Reed College.

Miriam plans to use the grant to investigate “whether and how atoms can behave not as particles, but as quantum mechanical waves. To do so, we are using metal-containing molecules, which hold promise as energy-efficient catalysts for green chemistry and alternative fuels.”

The project got off to a fast start this past summer. Five students – Zac Mathe ’17, Oleks Luschyk ’17, Cordero Ortiz ’18, Ellis Douma ’19, and Josephine Keller ’20 – worked in the Bowring lab this past summer, and the students working on this project successfully prepared one of the sought-after organometallic compounds, started work on making a second compound, and also began the quantum mechanical calculations that will be used to interpret their measurements.

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Alumni News from the Reed Magazine, June 2017

The summer issue of the Reed magazine was titled “Game On”, just right for summer break. Summer research students swarmed the chemistry department, bunching around benches and fume hoods, darting in and out of faculty offices, bunching again to each lunch and to exchange notes at the weekly “group meeting.” What was once schoolwork had become an elaborate game of “20 questions,” students with their experimental questions on one side, Mother Nature miming her answers on the other. Amidst all this was a large-scale renovation of “third floor” offices and labs, which is still underway. Stay tuned.

Looking deep inside the magazine … Continue reading

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Marilyn Olmstead ’65 to Deliver 2017 Tom Dunne Lecture

 U. California-Davis Prof. Emeritus Marilyn Olmstead ’65 will return to the Reed campus on Thursday, September 21 to deliver the 2017 Tom Dunne lecture (Bio 19, 4:15 pm, free, open to public).

Her talk, “Fullerenes and Art,” will examine the soccer ball-shaped molecules that chemists are making in the laboratory from several perspectives:

More than 500 years ago Leonardo da Vinci built a wooden 60-vertex closed object — a “truncated icosahedron” — and he made a drawing of it for a math textbook. A little over 30 years ago, chemists discovered a molecular, all-carbon cage with exactly this shape. The excitement and appeal of this discovery has sparked interest not only in the fields of chemistry, but also in astronomy, art, and electronic materials. Prof. Olmstead will discuss some of her crystallographic results while portraying how the fullerenes have become an iconic part of our lives.

Marilyn shared some biographical info with us ahead of her lecture:  Continue reading

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