The Sandia National Labs reported (12 Nov 2015) that Jeff Koplow has been selected as the inaugural recipient of the Innovator in Residence Fellowship by the SunShot Initiative, a DOE enterprise to make solar energy fully cost-competitive with traditional energy sources by 2020. Read more here.
The Reed Magazine blog has reported that Kenneth Koe ’45, one of the principal scientists on the Zoloft discovery team at Pfizer, passed away at his daughter’s home earlier this month. He was 90 years old.
I remember meeting Dr. Koe in person in 2008 when he returned to campus to accept the Howard Vollum Award for Distinguished Accomplishment in Science and Technology. Although advanced in years, he was intellectually sharp, friendly and curious about the current generation of Reed scientists, and gracious towards all.
It was a privilege to welcome this Portland native who had done so much for so many back to campus and to honor his achievements in this distinctly Reed-like way. We have lost a friend and colleague.
Kenneth Koe’s Howard Vollum award acceptance speech
“Breaking Depression’s Icy Grip,” Reed magazine, Winter 2009
The latest issue of C&E News (Sept. 14, 2015), the American Chemical Society’s news magazine, contains an article with the intriguing title, “Opening Up About Stress in Graduate School.” It almost goes without saying that the opportunity to do graduate-level research in your profession is incredibly rewarding. It’s tempting to think, therefore, that whatever the personal costs of this education might be, they must be worth it, but that is an open question. As the article points out:
According to a 2011 survey by the nonprofit group Grad Resources, 43% of U.S. graduate students who participated reported experiencing more stress than they could handle. And a 2014 study conducted by the Graduate Assembly of the University of California, Berkeley, found that 47% of UC Berkeley Ph.D. students who responded to the survey reached the threshold considered to be depressed.
A few voices from the C&E News article:
It’s election season once again, but I don’t mean the one you’re thinking about. The American chemical Society is holding elections for its Board of Directors. One of the candidates for Director-at-Large is Mary Jo Ondrechen, ’74. You can find out more about Mary Jo’s ACS connection and her candidate’s statement here.
In late May, shortly after graduation, chemist Mark Angeles ’15 was tragically killed by a motorist while riding his bicycle near campus (see Remembering Mark Angeles).
Reed’s Sallyportal blog updated this story last week with the news that Mark’s family and friends have established a memorial fellowship in Mark’s name:
“The Angeles Fellowship will support a SEEDS student intern, whose work on campus continues Mark’s legacy of volunteerism and commitment to physical engagement as a component of service. Gifts can be made online or by mail. Please make checks payable to Reed College, and in both instances note that the gift is for the Mark Angeles Memorial Fellowship.
Send donations by mail to Reed College Office of College Relations, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd, Portland OR 97202-8199.”
Two features in the March issue of the Reed Magazine caught my eye. First, Interstellar Odyssey (p. 24) mined what was once my favorite literary vein: science fiction. If I remember correctly, my first big read was Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (I had just seen the film). Of the top of my head, I can’t recall SF stories with strong chemistry themes, but I’m sure they are out there. Any thoughts on that?
A second notable feature, The Pacifist Menace (p. 30), profiled Reed’s declining fortunes during World War I. Much is made of President William Trufant Foster‘s unsuccessful tangles with Portland’s pro-war leaders, exemplified by the Oregonian. We are reminded once again that the loftiest of principles, when unpopular, rarely prove a match for the mob.
Dodecahedrane has the formula: C20H20. Every carbon atom is bonded to one hydrogen (not shown) so the molecular formula can also be written: (CH)20.
Dodecahedrane is also highly symmetric. Every carbon is physically and chemically equivalent to every other carbon. The same is true of the hydrogen atoms. This means if one hydrogen in the molecule is replaced with a chlorine (making C20H19Cl), it doesn’t matter which hydrogen you replace because the result is always the same molecule. However, if you replace two hydrogens with chlorines, or wilder yet, three, how many different isomers of C20H18Cl2 (or C20H17Cl3) could you generate?
Prof. John Hancock [chemistry 1955-1989] was interested in theoretical matters like these and it led him into a collaboration with David Digby ’57 which resulted in the construction of Reed’s first digital computer. Briefly stated, Hancock procured relays from pinball machines that the local sheriff had confiscated, Digby designed a computer that used these relays as its logic elements, and Reed students wired the whole thing together. As Digby tells the story in “DIMWIT and Doctor John” (Reed Magazine, June 2015), “It worked—sort of. It took about 5 minutes to get an answer, which was correct about 10% of the time.”
No doubt this is why John named the machine Dodecahedrane Isomer Machine With Internal Translation (DIMWIT).
The Reed Magazine for December 2014 will be etched in my memory as one of the saddest issues ever published. On p. 51 Chemistry’s Catalyst shared the news of Prof. Maggie Geselbracht‘s untimely passing with the larger Reed community. The article began, “Reed College lost a cherished colleague and great friend when Prof. Margret Geselbracht [chemistry 1993-2014] passed away on September 11, 2014, after a long and hard-fought struggle against lymphoma.” While it would be a tragedy to remember my very dear friend only with sadness, I confess I cannot call on her memory without feelings of grief. The retrospective in the Reed magazine gives a very good sense of the joy, passion, and energy that “Chemistry’s Catalyst” brought to our department for so many years.
Another type of remembrance can also be found on p. 14 in Elegant Pro(o)f, a look back at the career of retired physics professor Nicholas Wheeler ’55 [physics 1963-2010]. Nick grew up in The Dalles, a small town situated on the Columbia River east of Portland. After being selected as a finalist in the Westinghouse Science Talent Search in high school, people in The Dalles began encouraging Nick to apply to Reed. What happened next must be one of the classic tales of Old Reed:
Quadrivial Pursuit, the title article for the Sept 2014 issue of the Reed magazine, is a multiple-choice exam (p. 24) that tests your Reed IQ. Questions for chemists include: #10 – Subsequent to its founding, in what year was Reed’s Seventh Annual Nitrogen Day celebration held? And, #21 – The fuel stockpile for Reed’s nuclear reactor comprises what? (Answers on p. 63.)
The real Reed IQ test in my mind, however, lies on p. 17 where Prime Exponent describes the ongoing tale of retiring math professor, Joe Roberts. Joe began teaching at Reed in 1952 (a little bit before I was born) so I should think that Reed alumni would have had ample time to learn the answers to these simple fill-in-the-blank questions:
- Joe holds degrees in __________ and mathematics from Case Western and the University of Colorado.
- Joe was a one-man math and __________ department at the University of Wyoming in Sheridan.
- During World War II, Joe worked as a __________ in the plutonium plant at the Los Alamos National Lab.
Ready to check your answers?
It’s summertime. Which means that its time to go to the beach and curl up with a good read, like back issues of the Reed magazine (June 2014).
One year ago, the summer issue of the magazine looked back at Rev. Thomas Lamb Eliot, “the intellectual godfather of Reed College.” Eliot was a visionary and capable of persuading the fantastically wealthy Simeon and Amanda Reed to do something extraordinary, and something that was not at all in the self-interest of these consummate capitalists, namely, to bequeath their $2 million estate for the establishment of “an institution of learning” in Portland. Our board of trustees struggles with these same issues of self-interest and the greater good: should the endowment be invested in coal and other fossil fuels?