An anonymous member of the Class of 2016 takes a much needed break. (photo by A. Glasfeld)
It’s the last week of classes for Spring 2016. Senior theses are due on Friday after which the campus will celebrate, as it does every year, with a raucous Thesis Parade, and a not-to-be-missed Renn Fayre.
But… until then, seniors crouch over their laptops chasing down spectra, gel photos, and literature citations, writing figure captions, and make the final edits that will earn them that most coveted of Reed College prizes: the laurels of a completed thesis.
54 years ago, in the spring of 1962, a Reed chemistry student named Virginia Oglesby submitted a senior thesis titled, “The Synthesis of Heterocyclic Imidochlorides.” This week marks the end of yet another thesis season, but for Virginia (now Hancock), it celebrated the end of a completely different kind of project: three decades spent leading the choral program at Reed as a Professor of Music. Last night in Kaul Auditorium she conducted her last spring choral concert as a Professor of Music. From now on, each time she lifts a baton it will be as Reed College Professor Emerita. Thank you, Ginny, for all these years of beautiful, thoughtful music.
The number of pooches in the chemistry building is booming once again which raises a perennial pet question: do chemists show their affection differently than other dog owners?
Jeff will visit Reed on Tuesday and Wednesday this week (Apr 5-6) as the 2015-16 guest speaker for the Division of Mathematics & Natural Sciences. Jeff, who is a Research Scientist/Engineer at the Sandia National Laboratories (Livermore, CA), received the Dept. of Energy’s inaugural Innovator in Residence Fellowship. He will be presenting two talks:
- “Multidisciplinary Innovation in Action: 5 Inventions From the Research Group of Jeff Koplow”, 4:30 pm, Tu, Apr 5, Bio 19
- “A Reproducible Methodology for Serial Innovation: Good luck not required”, 7:30 pm, W, Psych 105
Students will also have a chance to join Jeff for lunch on Tuesday. Interested students should come to the foyer of the Chemistry Building a few minutes before noon to join the lunch party.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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…