The Quilting Legacy of Prof. Maggie Geselbracht

Prof. Maggie Geselbracht lecturing on crystal field theory in Vollum Lecture Hall, and 9 quilts that Maggie made between 2007-2014 (framed and mounted by Prof. Gerri Ondrizek & Reed art students).

Prof. Maggie Geselbracht lecturing on crystal field theory in Vollum Lecture Hall, and 9 quilts that Maggie made between 2007-2014 (framed and mounted by Prof. Gerri Ondrizek & Reed art students).

The middle of spring break, a time to pause, and take a deep breath before the dash to Thesis Parade. One year ago, during Spring Break 2015, our building underwent a quiet, but profound, change. Just a few months earlier we had said good-bye to the best of friends and colleagues, Prof. Maggie Geselbracht [chemistry 1993-2014], but when we returned from Break we discovered that her Quilt Project 2007-2014 had appeared along the main staircase of the chemistry building, much like the cherry blossoms that greet visitors to Eliot Circle each spring.

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Reedies at Spring ACS Meeting – Denver 2015

For the past several years the Reed Chemistry department has been ramping up its efforts to get student research on display at scientific conferences. This included the most recent national meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Diego (Spring 2016), but the practice goes way back. Here is a (long overdue) profile of work presented at last year’s (Spring 2015) meeting in Denver based on information provided by the attendees themselves.

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Arlene Blum ’66 urges action on toxic chemicals

Arlene is founder and executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute in Berkeley, California. In her editorial, “Tackling toxics” (Science , 11 Mar 2016, DOI 10.1126/science.aaf5468), she points out that toxic chemicals have been identified in many consumer products, and yet the chemical industry’s response has sometimes been to replace them with another toxic compound. This approach, which presumes every chemical innocent until proven otherwise, fails to protect the public. In fact, toxicity often runs in families, and Arlene calls out 6 families of chemicals that are added to consumer products and that are often harmful to health: “highly fluorinated chemicals, antimicrobials, flame retardants, bisphenols and phthalates, organic solvents, and certain metals.”

22 March update: A crystal ball for chemical safety” (Science, 12 Feb 2016, DOI 10.1126/science.351.6274.651) describes a new predictive toxicology tool that can help chemists identify potentially harmful chemicals before they are made in the lab.

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Julia Chamberlain ’03 Lands at UC Davis

American Chemical Society meetings are always fun because they give so many chances to re-unite with Reed chemists, and last week’s meeting in San Diego was no exception. I met up with Vyom Shukla ’14, now in his 2nd year of graduate work with Prof. Dale Boger at the Scripps Research Institute, and made the acquaintance of Alex Oxyzolou ’85, who predated my arrival at Reed. Alex, who is known to his Pierce College (Los Angeles) students as “Dr. Oxy”, teaches chemistry and is interested in using molecular models in his courses. The record-holder for crossing paths with me, though, was Julia Chamberlain ’03. We saw each other several times over several days at CHED sessions. It’s great to have Julia back on the west coast.

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Kris McNeill weighs in on UC Berkeley name change

Ring the alarm. The Borg are coming.

According to C&ENews (7 Mar 2016, p. 9, “Is UC Berkeley’s College of Chemistry in danger?“) the administration of UC Berkeley is considering doing away with its venerable College of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering (est’d. 1872). The chemical enterprise will remain, the story says, but it will be absorbed into the Borg Collective, better known as the College of Letters & Science. C&ENews quotes Kris McNeill (BS Reed ’92, PhD UC Berkeley ’97) as saying,

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Mark Ptashne ’61 Eliot Awardee & Lecturer

Prof. Mark Ptashne (Memorial Sloan-Kettering) knows a thing or two about genes. You might even say he wrote the book. Two books even: A Genetic Switch (now in its 3rd edition) and Genes & Signals (written with Alexander Gann).

Mark is also this year’s receipient of the Thomas Lamb Eliot award, an award given by the college in recognition of “distinguished and sustained achievement by a Reed College graduate” (this marks two years in a row that Reed chemists have won the Eliot award), and he will be delivering a lecture on “Genetic Switches” on Thursday night, Feb. 4, in Vollum Lecture Hall.

So how did a Reed chemist become one of the world’s top experts on genes and gene regulation? I never thought you would ask…

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Kris McNeill ’92 on solving the future’s problems now

Kris is currently a professor of environmental chemistry at ETH. He sat down recently with a reporter from the American Chemical Society to discuss his research. The interview appears in the current issue of ACS Central Science, “A Conversation with Kristopher McNeill” by Mark Peplow (ACS Cent. Sci., 2016, 2(1), 4-5, DOI 10.1021/acscentsci.5b00405.

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Marty Mulvihill ’02 Looks Back

Marty Mulvihill (BS Reed, PhD Berkeley) is stepping down from the position he created five years ago at UC Berkeley: Executive Director of the Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry (BCGC). Marty takes a thoughtful look at his green chemistry experiences at Berkeley in the January 2016 BCGC newsletter. His story begins, “I first fell in love with molecules in my sophomore organic chemistry course. I remember commenting to my lab partner that organic chemistry problems were much more interesting than crossword puzzles, and  they should be included in newspapers (with spelling as poor as mine, crosswords were never very fun).” Continue reading

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Derek Oldridge ’07 Hunting for Cancer’s Causes

Derek graduated from Reed in 2007 with a license to run the Reed nuclear reactor and a BA in Chemistry/Physics, but three years later he had placed his feet on entirely different path: studying for a MD/PhD in the Genomics and Computational Biology program at U. Pennsylvania. Derek just wrote to us the other day with all kinds of news, personal and professional.

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Luke Kanies ’96 Shepherds Puppet Labs towards IPO

Luke Kanies ’96 and his wife, Cindy, first met in a Reed seminar during his junior year. As she tells it, “he always had something to say about everything.” His outspoken ways in the classroom made her seek out the most comfortable spot she could find: whatever seat was as far as possible from his.

But times have changed… Luke still has his passion for computers and bicycles, but Cindy and Luke are now married, living in the Alameda area, and parenting twin daughters. And Luke, after a string of short-term jobs, has become founder and CEO of Portland’s Puppet Labs, a 400 employee company housed in a newly remodeled high-rise in downtown Portland. Lately Luke has been juggling two all-consuming tasks: taking Puppet Labs public (the IPO is currently scheduled for 2016) and maintaining his iconoclastic lifestyle: the family man who can bike or walk 4 miles to work and find time to root for Arsenal. You can learn more about the formerly-mohawk-topped Reed biochemist in “Puppet Labs CEO Luke Kanies: Comfortable as iconoclast” (Mike Rogoway, Oregonian, 5 Dec 2015).

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