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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It’s a dog’s life in chemistry

When I first arrived at Reed in 1989 there was one dog in the department, a very large, friendly-in-a-curmudgeonly sort of way, German Shepherd named Mercy who shared Tom Dunne’s office. Mercy could be forward, but she could also keep a low profile.

One colleague told me that, on the occasion of his first meeting with Tom, he sat down too fast in the large rocking chair that Tom kept for visitors, and plunged backwards, falling through the large palm fronds of Tom’s office plant. Just as Tom’s face disappeared behind the palm, he heard a deep rumble coming from the floor right next to him. Mercy wanted to say “hello,” or perhaps, “watch out for my tail.”

Times change. Dogs, like students and faculty, come and go. The highest-energy member of the Chemistry Dog department is Prof. Rebecca LaLonde‘s German shorthaired pointer, Izzy, the d-orbital dog.

Unlike Mercy, Izzy is fully prepared to greet you right at the office door, demand a game of tug-of-war, and gobble whatever treats you provide. Here’s a photo from last year of Izzy saying hello sans orbital lobes.

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Public Lecture: Empowering Global Scientific Engagement

Geraldine Richmond

“Empowering Global Scientific Engagement”

Presidential Chair in Science and Professor of Chemistry, University of Oregon and, recipient of the 2017 Howard Vollum Award for Distinguished Accomplishment in Science and Technology

Tuesday, August 22, 2017
4:30 p.m.
Psychology 105
>>> Free and open to the public. <<<

Ensuring a sustainable world in the face of climate change and a population soon to reach nine billion demands a major shift in how we approach our ever-expanding needs for energy, food, water, and a healthy environment. Going forward, we need to embrace innovative international research collaborations and policies that include talents and perspectives from both the developed and developing world. Richmond will share stories and insights gained from the collaborative efforts of several thousand scientists and engineers from around the globe.  Continue reading

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Alumni News from Reed Magazine, March 2017

The spring issue of the Reed magazine was an apt reflection of the season, taking a fresh look at College doings in such diverse areas as the Hum 110 syllabus, student-drawn comics (the “ultimate outsider art form”), tracking down rogue DNA, and the psychology of compassion.

Chemistry department news was non-existent, but one had to turn only as far as page 3 to find a heartfelt letter (“More Rigor!” They Cried, p. 3) from alumni chemist Philip Wilk ’95 regarding academic rigor, grade inflation. Wilk also pointed out that Mr. Praline might be consulted when dealing with wording issues that have been plaguing the magazine’s editors. [It’s interesting to see how times have changed. Olde Reed students used to recite Monty Python scripts everywhere – in the hallways, waiting for class to begin, and while working in lab – but those days have passed.]

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Prof. Julie Fry is 2017 Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar

Prof. Julie Fry [2008-], who was recently profiled in the December 2016 issue of Reed magazine under Teaching. Reaching. Inspiring., can now add another accolade. The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation has selected her as one of its seven Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholars for 2017. The award provides an unrestricted research grant of $60,000 to young faculty at primarily undergraduate institutions who are accomplished researchers and committed educators.

Those of us who see Julie day in and day out know that this award reflects her sky-high level of commitment to Reed students and to atmospheric science. What the award doesn’t say, however, is how much fun Julie brings to the department. It is a joy to have Julie as a colleague.


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Alumni News from Reed Magazine, December 2016

One of my favorite Hum colleagues, Prof. David Gerratt [1998-], graces the cover of the December 2016 issue of the Reed magazine. Characteristically, he is bent over in order to reach just a little further out … whether to make a point, to invite student participation, maybe both? … you be the judge, but he is just one of 7 Reed faculty profiled under the title article: Teaching. Reaching. Inspiring. Another one of the magnificent 7 is Reed atmospheric chemist and Arthur F. Scott Professor of Chemistry, Prof. Juliane Fry [2008-]. There you’ll learn why Julie used a sabbatical to attend law school, the foreboding nickname students have given Julie, the main driver of Julie’s research, and a whole lot more.

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Mark DeWitt ’06 Leads Sickle Cell Gene Editing Team

Sickle-cell disease (SCD) is a group of blood disorders that includes sickle-cell anemia (SCA). The disease, which affects millions around the globe and can be fatal, is noteworthy in the history of biochemistry and genetics because in 1949 Caltech chemist (and Portland, Oregon native) Linus Pauling and co-workers determined that SCA was a “molecular disease,” it was due to a change in the molecular structure of a single hemoglobin molecule: disease-free individuals carry hemoglobin A, while those with SCA carried a different form called hemoglobin S. found in red blood cells. Work by other scientists eventually established that the disease followed a distinctive genetic pattern in that it was mainly inherited from one’s parents, and that the difference between hemoglobins A and S could be traced to a single nucleotide (“point mutation”) difference in DNA sequences.

There are several treatments for SCD today, but nothing that corrects the fundamental problem: a miscoding in one’s DNA. This situation may change, however, if the work of Mark DeWitt ’06, a postdoc at UC Berkeley’s Innovative Genomics Initiative bears fruit (“With CRISPR, scientists correct genetic mutation that causes sickle cell disease,” 12 Oct 2016, LA Times).

Mark leads a study that has demonstrated that the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technology can “fix” the DNA in damaged human cells, and that the corrected cells will grow in mice. Mark tells the Times reporter, “What we have right now, if we can scale it up and make sure it works well, is already enough to form the basis of a clinical trial to cure sickle cell disease with gene editing.”

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Phi Beta Kappa Takes in Chemists from 2015-17

Every May, just two or three days before graduation, the Dean of the Faculty announces the most recent group of Reed seniors to be elected to the Phi Beta Kappa honorary society. Here are the PBK “chemists” from three most-recent classes. Congratulations!


  • Lisa Frueh – Chemistry
  • Natalie Keehan – Chemistry


  • Carlo Berti – Chemistry
  • Bailey Simon – Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
  • Jazz Weisman – Chemistry


  • Kristin Hirata – Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
  • Lauren Kupper – Environmental Studies-Chemistry
  • Oleks Lushchyk – Chemistry
  • Zac Mathe – Chemistry
  • August Staubus – Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
  • Claire Young – Environmental Studies-Chemistry
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Incompetent Blogger Unearths Emails from Ancient Reed Chemistry Civilizations

One of the great joys of my job is that I receive emails from alums and colleagues telling me about lovely changes in their lives: new jobs, marriages, babies, fellowships, and so on. Really delightful stuff. And, of course, because I also write for this blog, I hope that they will let me share their information here. Nearly everyone says ‘yes’ to my requests (thank you!) and my next step is usually to move their email into a special folder where it will patiently wait for a gap in my busy schedule. Ideally, this gap appears in the next few days, or perhaps a few weeks, and the post appears. Ideally. That is The Plan.

I decided earlier today to take a look at the folder to see what might have escaped my notice in the end-of-semester rush. Oh, woe! Buried at the “bottom” of this folder were emails that date back, well, if not to an ancient, lost civilization, at least to a time when iPads looked pretty new and cool. =(

Here, along with my apologies for overlooking your emails, are these antique notices of Reed Chemistry News for your enjoyment (from oldest to newest). I hope you will enjoy them as much as I did, then and now.

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