Panel Discussion: Out in Stem PDX

What stereotypes do each of us hold about STEM (Science – Technology – Engineering – Mathematics) professionals? Does the mention of STEM bring to mind someone who is … Male? Straight? Nerd?

I will stop right there. Because, contrary to whatever you might think of me (he/him and nerd), STEM fields are becoming increasingly diverse and (one can only hope) increasingly welcoming to all people with a STEM interest. I can see this happening around me in Portland, Oregon, and especially on the Reed College campus.

Portland’s Q Center explored this topic one evening last week (“Out in STEM PDX”, 8 Aug 2019) by gathering an LGBTQ+ panel of STEM professionals and inviting the Portland community to hear their “stories, insights, and conversations … about their experiences of navigating the STEM world.” Among the panelists was Reed College chemistry professor Kelly Chacón (she/her or they) [2015-].

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Chemistry News from the Reed Magazine, March 2019

The March 2019 issue of the Reed Magazine, From Here to There, is a reminder of the many ways that Reedies can fascinate. Dip inside and you will discover the seldom told story of Inez Freeman ’48 in “Black Student, White City“. In the years immediately following World War II, Inez was Reed’s sole African-American student and only the second African-American to graduate from Reed, following in the footsteps of Geraldine Turner ’32. Or, you can cruise the bike lanes of Southern California alongside urban anthropologist Adonia Lugo ’05 and examine these lanes through an equity lens in “What’s Wrong with Bike Lanes?”. (Having grown up in the 1960’s as a bike commuter in the east San Fernando Valley, I learned that more things had changed for cyclists than the addition of bike helmets.) And there’s plenty of chemistry news to fascinate the reader as well.

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Brent Michel ’17 Driving Towards Counseling Degree

Brent will be leaving Portland in the next few days and he will be traveling light.

After 7 years in Portland, including the usual 4 years as a Reed chemistry student, and post-Reed work as an after-school science educator and first-responder to calls at a local crisis hot line, Brent has zeroed in on his career ambition: to study for an advanced degree in mental health counseling and provide people in need with professional counseling.

So he is packing up the car, and telling his well-used furniture and Portland friends ‘see ya’ later‘, and driving cross-country to Raleigh, North Carolina where he will enter the North Carolina State University’s Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program in mid-May.

Wave to him as he drives by.

Bon voyage, Brent!

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Lisa Frueh ’15 – Eastward Ho!

Lisa has been working in the Portland area since graduation, primarily as a research chemist in the lab of Prof. Michael Riscoe at OHSU, a project that included close mentorship of a Reed thesis (see “Rose Gonoud ’17 Tackles Drug-Resistant Malaria“).

Now Lisa informs us that she is about to start a new adventure. She will be relocating to Cambridge, MA where she will begin studies in the Master’s of Public Health program at Harvard in the fall.

Best wishes, Lisa!

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Chemistry News from the Reed Magazine, December 2018

The cover photo for “Rising”, the December 2018 issue of the Reed magazine, shows a partially flooded road in Louisiana. The pavement rises less than an inch above the two large bodies of water on each side, daring the driver on. According to author Elizabeth Rush ’06, this is the new future that awaits more coastal communities if we do not (and perhaps even if we do) step up our efforts to slow the pace of climate change (cover story). The last page of the magazine (p. 48) contains an image (two really) that is almost as provocative (Objects of Study). We live in the age of Big Data, and the inkspot-like images illustrate a data analysis tool that Prof. Kjersten Whittington [sociology, 2007-] teaches her Reed students to navigate. Reed chemistry students straddle both worlds, the data from our senses and the data generated from computer analyses of large databases. Here is a guide to chemistry news items from the December issue…

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Great Reed Bake-Off Winner: Maryam Ahmad ’19

Not to be outdone by Brits baking their hearts out in a tent-covered meadow, Reed College mounted its first Great Reed Bake-Off this Winter. You can read all about it (and find more photos) here.

Congratulations to all of the participants who proved beyond any doubt that there are alternatives to Commons food! And a special large flour-y pat on the backs of the championship team: Mélange Ethnique. The M.E. team was comprised of three students from the class of 2019, chem major Maryam Ahmad ’19, bio major Edward Zhu ’19, and linguistics major Ally Watson ’19.

Mélange Ethnique (L to R: Ahmad, Zhu, and Watson) pensively await the judges’ decision.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to taste the goods that M.E. baked, but I absolutely love the headgear. I can’t help but think that they were inspired by the sight of a beret-capped organic chem prof who is seen all about campus.

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2018 Undergraduate Poster Symposium and Career Fair

As our alumni well know, the typical Reed chemistry “undergraduate” spends a lot of time in the research lab. Senior thesis. Summer research. Need I say more?

Ever since his arrival in Portland, Oregon, retired chemistry Prof. David Reingold has been spearheading an annual Undergraduate Poster Symposium and Career Fair under the mantle of the Portland ACS section. The symposium/fair has been held at PSU every year in October, and Reed students have always made a fine showing (see Maileen Nakashima ’19 Explores Sulfur/Iodine Flux Synthesis for a description of the 2017 fair).

The 2018 symposium/fair featured, if anything, more Reed participation than ever and several Reed students also won prizes. Here’s a link to the 2018 Program Book which describes the full event. The Reed presenters are listed below, and several won prizes (link to photos, ** = 1st prize poster, * = 2nd prize poster):

  • Biochemistry
    1. ** Characterization of NiaR: A regulator of NAD biosynthesis, Dorothy Cheng ’19, Maileen Nakashima ’19, Prof. Arthur Glasfeld
    2. * Bioinorganic investigations of chalcogen detoxification proteins, Hayden Adoff ’19, A. Majumdar, Prof. Kelly Chacón
  • Chemical Education
    1. ** Interactive web-book design in R chemical pedagogy, James Vesto ’20, Dr. Danielle Cass, Prof. Natasja Swartz
  • Inorganic Chemistry
    1. Evaluation of air-free glassware using the ketyl test, Lexi Carlson ’20, Prof. Miriam Bowring
    2. ** Assessing catalytic activity of roadside samples, Josephine Keller ’20, Marayam Ahmad ’19, Oleksandr Lushchyk ’17, Hunter N. Wise ’18, Prof. Miriam Bowring
  • Organic Chemistry
    1. * C-H functionalization of saturated cyclic amines, Charis A. Roberts ’19, Jose B. Roque, Prof. Richmond Sarpong (UC Berkeley)
    2. An adventure in phosphate ligand coordination to bismuth(III), Zesean M. Ali ’20, Gabriela M. Bailey ’20, Nicole P. Kretekos ’20, Elena A. McKnight ’20, Claire Milander-Mashlan ’20, Jake L. Stromberg ’20, Prof. Rebecca L. LaLonde
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Arlene Blum ’66 Inducted into California Hall of Fame

When I encounter something tall and massive blocking my path I look for a path around it, but not Arlene Blum ’66. She is more likely to climb right to the top and take in the view before deciding where to go next.

This inclination towards elevation once led her to the summits of some of the world’s tallest mountain peaks, but now it takes her into science-based advocacy for consumer and environmental protection through the non-profit organization she founded, the Green Science Policy Institute.

Arlene was recognized for her life of accomplishment Dec. 4, 2018 in a ceremony “Honoring Californians who change the world” at the California Museum in Sacramento. There, alongside Joan Baez, Belva Davis, Thomas Keller, Robert Redford, and Fernando Valenzuela, Arlene was inducted into the California Hall of Fame by Governor Jerry Brown.

You can watch a recording of the Dec. 4, 2018 induction ceremony here (skip ahead to minute 38 or 39 if you’re in a hurry). You can also learn more about Arlene’s life and how she learned of her selection from these stories in the Bay City News and the SF Chronicle. And you might even be motivated to learn more about the six classes of toxic commercial chemicals that contaminate so many modern consumer products (children’s pajamas, furniture upholstery, and more) at

2 Photos from the induction ceremony and another from the California Museum exhibit honoring Arlene:

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X-ray Diffractometer is Operational

For the past 20+ years, students doing crystallography projects in Prof. Arthur Glasfeld‘s [1989-] lab have relied on instrumentation made available to them by generous friends at OHSU.  That will remain true, except the OHSU instrumentation will now live at Reed.  As the structural biologists at OHSU have shifted to electron microscopy, thanks in large part to an NIH national facility housed at the university, the x-ray set-up was no longer getting much use. Through the generosity of Peter Barr-Gillespie ’81, the chief research officer at OHSU, the instrument was donated to Reed this Fall. Together with Randy Hicks (laboratory & department manager) and Rob Jensen (instrumentation chemist), Arthur spent the early part of this month setting up the device in its new home in the Chemistry building.

Arthur describes the instrument and its capabilities as follows: “We now have a fully functional single crystal x-ray system with a cryo-system for flash cooling crystals and doing data collection at cryogenic temperatures. Four successful data sets have already been collected from test protein crystals and from the independent study project of Dorothy Cheng ’20. We can also collect data on small molecule crystals, and I hope to learn more about processing that data and doing structure solutions in the coming weeks.”

This instrument complements the x-ray powder diffractometer that had been the department’s sole method for performing diffraction experiments for many years.

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Chemistry News from Reed Magazine, September 2018

Sometimes life at Reed seems like it comes right out of Lewis Carroll. In Through the Looking Glass the White Queen informs Alice that in her (the Queen’s) youth she could believe “six impossible things before breakfast”.

Life at Reed can make similar demands on a person’s imagination. After years of discussion the Hum 110 faculty approved (another) significant revision. The revised curriculum includes readings from Mexico City 1500-2000, and the Harlem Renaissance. Impossible? Then consider this … last summer construction workers dug up a two foot tall, 100+ pound stone rabbit that had been buried underneath the sidewalk fronting Eliot. Impossible? Well, how about … two new science majors being added to the Reed curriculum in the past year: Computer Science plus an interdisciplinary major in Neuroscience.

Are these things impossible? Of course not. Very little is impossible for Reed, but you know that already if are a regular reader of the Reed magazine. Here is a summary of chemistry-related news from the September 2018 issue, “Constructing Gender”:

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