A few days ago, I posted a picture of VIPEr tattoos, a physical manifestation of IONiC, the Inorganic Online Network of Inorganic Chemists started by Maggie Geselbracht and several collaborators across the nation. It seems, though, that a merely online presence wasn’t enough for this lot. Maggie, her six IONiC collaborators, and Ethan Benatan, Reed’s director of Computer User Services and the technical guru for the VIPEr-IONiC project, have gone hard-copy and published an article in the January 2009 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education (JCE, 2009, 86(1), 123) titled, “IONiC: A Cyber-Enabled Community of Practice for Improving Inorganic Chemical Education“.
Before the Scott chemistry building opened its doors in 1992, and even before the “old” chemistry building (the current home of the psychology department) was constructed in 1948, Reed chemistry labs occupied a privileged space under the eaves of Eliot Hall.
I was reminded of this history when I looked at the back cover of Supporters 2007-2008, an insert in the Autumn 2008 issue of the Reed magazine, and caught sight of a photo showing Reed students standing alongside a long lab bench. The dimly lit interior, rows of jars and upended bottles, and the shady outline of the Eliot roof literally “reeks” chemistry. Lab aprons appear to have a long history, but I can’t tell whether protective goggles were routinely worn in the era before World War II.
click on photo for full-size image
This low-resolution photo was generously provided courtesy of Special Collections, Eric V. Hauser Memorial Library, Reed College and may not be reprinted without permission.
Some more news from the Class Notes section of the Autumn ’08 issue:
- Barbara Ehrenreich ’63 has published a new book, This Land is Their Land: Reports from a Divided Nation (Metropolitan Books, 2008) (p. 51)
- Francis Oliver Whipple ’48 died on March 16 in Richmond, BC. He started Reed prior to WW II, then returned after the war to earn his BA in chemistry. An MS and a PhD in chemistry followed, both earned at Oregon State University. The magazine quotes him as having fallen “in love” with the humanities program at Reed. “I would have to say it was one of the highlights of my experience at Reed … I found that it influenced me a great deal in my later life. My attitude later became one – when I was a teaching assistant, when I was in graduate school – to encourage students to get a liberal education foremost, and a scientific education secondary. And I still believe that and I would certainly encourage any young person to do that.” (p. 56)
- Francis F. Wong ’50 died on July 15 in Oakland, CA. Wong served as a medic during WW II and saw service on Omaha Beach on D-Day. After the war, he entered Reed and received a BA in chemistry. This was followed by more studies at University of Portland in organic biochemistry (MS ’51). Although he would work in research labs for the next 30 years, he was also a highly regarded photographer. Wong served as the official photographer for several Bay area fire departments, including San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley, and specialized in photos that revealed the details of fire suppression in the field. (p. 56)
- Robert C. Brown ’51 died on August 2 in Danbury, CT. After completing his BA in chemistry at Reed, Brown studied law at George Washington University and University of Southern California (JD ’59). He subsequently moved to New York and spent the next 40 years as an intellectual property attorney and group patent attorney with the Union Carbide Corporation. (p. 57)
- Carol Daun Croft ’57 died on June 21 in Tacoma, WA. Croft’s academic pursuits were many and eclectic. After she earned a BA in chemistry from Reed, she studied linguistics, theology, and then chemistry again (Oklahoma State University and Washington State University) and returned to Reed to work as a research assistant from 1963-66. (p. 57)
Paging through the Autumn ’08 issue of the Reed Magazine, I came across a photo (p. 47) containing two smiling faces that I knew well: Julia, currently a 4th year graduate student at Northwestern University and her (Reed) thesis advisor, Maggie. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that the two were also showing off matching (and removable) VIPEr tattoos to a photographer at the Gordon conference on Solid State Chemistry last July.
V.I.P.E.r. is really the acronym for the Virtual Inorganic Pedagogical Electronic Resource that Maggie and her collaborators at I.O.N.I.C. (the Inorganic Online Network of Inorganic Chemists) have created. Although the public face of I.O.N.I.C.-V.I.P.E.r. is a highly useful set of web pages devoted to the teaching of inorganic chemistry, its deeper purpose is to help the Man from U.N.C.L.E. defeat the agents of T.H.R.U.S.H. To accomplish this, they distribute V.I.P.E.r. tattoos to interested chemists.
23 Mar 2016 update: Going through my old emails I came across the photo in question (and I learned that the Gordon Conference topic was Solid State Chemistry, a well-known haunt of Maggie’s). Julia and Maggie are standing in front of Maggie’s poster, and if you look carefully, you’ll see a pair of matching I.O.N.I.C. V.I.P.E.r. tattoos:
Julie was featured in a full page article in the Autumn 2008 issue of the Reed magazine, p. 36. The article described Julie’s work with the Institute for OneWorld Health, a nonprofit organization that “seeks out less-profitable drugs that others have abandoned, hoping to find cures for major diseases of the second and third world.” Current projects include developing a cheaper route to artemisinin, a highly prized antimalarial, and finding an antidiarrheal drug in an 800,000 compound library donated by the pharmaceutical giant, Roche. Although Julie’s work is mainly on the business and legal side, her Reed thesis title reveals her scientific background: “Reactions of benzalmethanedisulfonyl fluoride (2-phenyl-1, 1-ethenedisulfonyl fluoride)” (advisor: M. Cronyn).
A full-page conversation with Arlene was featured in the Dec 8, 2008 issue of C&E News, p. 35. Two excerpts:
“Blum is taking action to limit the amount of potentially toxic chemicals used in consumer products by bringing together independent scientists and industry and government decisionmakers … She is particularly concerned about hazardous halogenated chemicals. Brominated and chlorinated flame retardants are pressing concerns, she says.”
“Blum fell in love with molecules and mountain climbing when she attended Reed College, in Oregon. She wrote her senior thesis about volcanic gases, collecting samples on nearby Mount Hood in the process.”
Anyone who can work their senior thesis into a conversation with a reporter from a national news magazine is a true Reedie. Out of curiousity, I looked up the title of Arlene’s thesis: “Fumarole emanations from Mount Hood, Oregon”. The Reed library also contains two other books by Arlene: “Annapurna: A Woman’s Place” (Sierra Club, 1980) and “Breaking Trail: A Climbing Life” (Scribner’s, 2005). Arlene spoke at Reed on Nov 18, 2008 as a guest of the Reed Outdoor Club.
C&E News called me last week and asked me to tell all regarding the department’s chemistry budget for next year. Since I haven’t been told much myself, I couldn’t offer much information (the reporter said she would call back in January to get an update). You can read the complete article, Schools Face Cuts, with its passing reference to Reed, in the Dec 15, 2008 issue of C&E News, p. 7.
Ben Eder (1980-2001) entered Reed in 1998. He had grown up in Newport on the Oregon coast, an avid fisherman in a family that relied on the sea for its livelihood. His enthusiasm for life’s experiences took him all over the globe, but a tragic boating accident in 2001 stole away the lives of Ben and his crewmates.
The experiences of Ben and the rest of the Eder family have been chronicled in a new book, “Salt in Our Blood” by Michele Longo Eder. The book, the author, and the occupational hazards experienced by the Oregon fishing fleet, were recently profiled on OPB’s Think Out Loud (Nov 19, 2008). You can listen to the interview and read an incredible set of comments at the show’s web site. You can also see pictures of Ben and his family at Inside the Book. Two memorial scholarships have been established in Ben’s name and are accepting donations.
“Ultra-liberal Reed College in Oregon is doing away with textbooks” is exactly how humorist P.J. O’Rourke described us when he started his yarn on yesterday’s (Nov 15, 2008) Bluff the Listener segment on NPR’s news-comedy show, Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. His fantasy (perhaps shared by more than a few students and professors?) featured Reed getting rid of all textbooks in order to fight “the unregulated hegemony of textbook publishers” and relying on bogus web sites and web calculators to support all student work. The listener turned out to be pretty savvy and didn’t buy the story. To hear the entire segment, go to This Week’s Show and select Bluff the Listener (runs 6:24). Or, to save time, you can jump in at 3:33 and listen O’Rourke’s tale of over-enthusiastic web-based education.
As Friday afternoon ran down and the halls grew quiet, a real “alumni surprise” walked through Arthur Glasfeld‘s door: Phil Wilk. I went across the hall to listen in and heard about Phil’s academic exploits. After graduating from Reed, he went to Berkeley to work with Glenn Seaborg (Nobel ’51) and Darlene Hoffman (Priestley ’00). Sadly, Seaborg passed away in 1999, but Phil continued his work at synthesizing ultra-heavy elements and eventually earned his Ph.D.. In the last few years, he has set up shop at the Lawrence Livermore labs, a short trip from Berkeley down the freeway and through the Altamont Pass.