Earlier this year the American Chemical Society announced the recipients of its 2018 national awards. Over 50 areas were recognized, ranging from scientific inventions and discoveries to contributions to the art of teaching, from exceptional work by graduate students and early career investigators to senior researchers who have blazed trails for others to follow.
UC Santa Barbara professor and Reedie, Alison Butler ’77, recipient of the Alfred Bader Award in Bioinorganic or Bioorganic Chemistry, stands squarely in the trailblazer category. Her award citation reads: “For elucidating the bioinorganic chemistry of the marine environment, including the chemistry of siderophores and vanadium haloperoxidases.”
Home Away from Home, the March 2018 issue of the Reed magazine, focuses on the newest, large construction project to hit campus. Located at the north end of the “bouncy bridge” and rising several stories into the sky, Reed’s newest dormitory building is already taking shape summer with completion scheduled for 2019. The cover article (p. 20) explains the special features that went into the building’s design, and calls attention to the fact that the new dorm will make on-campus housing available to nearly 80% of the current student body, a status that has not been achieved since the 1920’s (see graph p. 26-7).
The December 2017 magazine that appeared on my doorstep over winter break was titled “Into Oblivion” and contained sad news to match: an obituary for Reed College’s longtime tai chi teacher, David Barrett ’79.
I received my first tai chi lessons from Dave back in spring 2003, standing in the gym alongside half a dozen Reed students, spending the entire year learning the full hand form, and then continuing to practice with Dave, his new batch of Reed students, and (when my schedule permitted) his off-campus regulars. Every April Dave would take some time out of class to share stories about the Renn Fayres of his student days in the late ’70’s. These nearly always included a nod in my direction, accompanied by the question, “am I right, Professore?” Dave’s message was always on point: enjoy the end of classes and stay healthy and safe. As the start of classes approached each fall, I always looked forward to reuniting with him on the South Lawn to talk about tai chi practice, his summer travels, our families, and anything else that came to mind. He was a terrific teacher. He was also a wise, good friend and, like everyone who crossed his path, I miss him dearly.
Chemistry-related news was sparse in December ’17, but the random bits that emerged had their own distinctive flavor. Continue reading
Take a step back in time… once upon a time you were a Reed College student. What were your days like? Perhaps your most vivid memory is of signing up for classes, or searching for missing lecture or lab notes, or visiting a prof during office hours for the first time? The first alumni letter in the September 2017 issue of the Reed Magazine, “Gene Hunter,” is from Steve Doob ’63, who reminds us that not every Reed memory is academic. Reflecting on his time in Hum 110 , he writes, “My experience with it in 1959 was not so pleasant. Much of the reason for my displeasure was the subjects we were studying. But the main reason humanities was unpleasant for me was the smoking. It seemed like everyone smoked in the class, including the professor.”
zinc-site of iron-dependent regulator (IdeR) protein extracted from tuberculosis mycobacterium (Zn = red sphere, C = white, N = blue, S = orange, O = red, H2O = yellow)
The smoke disappeared from Reed classrooms years ago (see summer memory at bottom), but memories are obviously a big part of every issue of the Reed Magazine, and so are reports on current campus events. Each issue weaves together threads from many disciplines, from Hum 110 to biochemistry. For example, at the other end of the magazine from Mr. Doob’s letter, just inside the back cover (p. 56) is a full-page image of a computer model of a zinc-containing protein that Prof. Arthur Glasfeld [chemistry 1989-] presents to his students in Chem 391, Structural Biochemistry. The image beautifully illustrates the different graphical tools that chemists rely on for depicting molecular structure, and the distinction that always exists between experimental data (blue mesh) and conceptual models.
Last November, about the time when serious rain returned to Portland, 10 Reed scientists, 3 faculty + 7 students, made their way across the Cascades to sunny Spokane, Washington for the Murdock College Science Research Conference.
The Reed crew included chemistry professors Rebecca LaLonde ’01 and Miriam Bowring, as well as biology professor Anna Ritz, and students from different disciplines presenting results from their summer research projects. The students (Reed chemists in bold) and their presentation titles are listed below. Special congratulations to senior Joshua Tsang ’18 (2017 Arthur F. Scott scholar) who won a blue ribbon and a cash prize for his poster presentation in the Analytical / Inorganic / Physical Organic / Computational chemistry category.
- Joshua Tsang ’18 – “Hydrodefluorination and Hydrogenation of Fluorinated Arenes by Rhodium Catalysts” (off-campus mentor: Kris McNeill ’92, ETH)
- Brianna Dobson ’19 – “Encapsulation of Reactions in a Tetrahedral Ga Supramolecular Cage” (Reed mentor: Rebecca LaLonde , co-authors: Gayle Chan ’19, Johnathan Sheiman ’18)
- Ellis Douma ’19 – “Benzophenone Blues: Proton Tunneling and Ketyl Test of Air-Free Methods” (Reed mentor: Miriam Bowring; co-author Zachary S. Mathe ’17)
- Maileen Nakashima ’19 – “Sulfur/Iodine Flux Synthesis of Indium Antimony Sulfide” (off-campus mentor: Susan Lattumer, Florida State U.; co-author Ryan Groom)
- Jo Keller ’20 – “Isolation and Quantification of Heck Catalysis Coupling Products” (Reed mentor: Miriam Bowring; co-author Oleksandr Lushchyk ’17)
- Avehi Singh ’18 (biology) – “The relationship between host mutation and microbiome composition in Daphnia magna” (Reed mentor: Sarah Schaack, co-author: Nicholas Thayer ’20)
- Nick Egan ’19 (sociology) – “Pepper Pathway: Visualizing Proteins of Influence in Cancer Pathways” (Reed mentor: Anna Ritz)
The Reed contingent would also like to thank the behind-the-scenes work of Dean Nigel Nicholson (who also attended the conference), Kayla Johnston, Jane Woodcock, and Matthew Packwood. Top-notch administrative support is what makes these special events possible.
óChildhood interests sometimes go unrecognized and life takes another path, sometimes several paths, before those early interests finally rise up and take flight. Such is the story arc of Reed’s newest biochemistry professor, Prof. Kelly Chacón [2015-].
Kelly is currently taking a junior sabbatical break from teaching in order to spend some extra time in her research lab, but she recently spent a few minutes discussing her past, present, and future, with a reporter from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s (ASBMB) Minority Affairs section. The Minority Affairs interview appeared on 1 Sept 2017 under the title, September Research Spotlight on Kelly Chacón, Ph.D..
Among the many things you might learn about Kelly … After dropping out of high-school at 15, she didn’t discover biochemistry until 9 years later when, as a student at a local community college, she read about the Miller-Urey spark chamber experiment … Her road from college to college professor was anything but smooth (Reed students who feel like “imposters” might be reassured to know that the highly trained and well-organized instructor at the front of the class has dealt with those very same fears) … Some favorite pastimes include sewing and steel-tip darts … And the heroine and role model who inspires her, and the app that keeps her focused.
Recent posts about Kelly Chacón:
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society, recently announced the election of 46 chemists to be Fellows of the Society. “Election as a Fellow honors members whose efforts on behalf of the advancement of science or its applications in service to society have distinguished them among their peers and colleagues,” and the 2017 list includes Kristopher McNeill ’92, professor of chemistry at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. A complete list of the 2017 Fellows can be found in the “AAAS News & Notes” section of Science, Nov. 24, 2017.
The Portland section of the American Chemical Society held its 4th annual Undergraduate Poster Symposium and Career Fair at Portland State University’s SRTC building on October 22. There were cash prizes, free pizza and pastries, but most of all, the chance to show off what you have been doing to Portland’s local chemistry community, and to see what others have been doing as well.
Last summer Maileen traveled to Tallahassee, Florida, home of Florida State University, to study flux synthesis of solid state materials, a research area in Prof. Susan Latturner’s laboratory. Maileen said that the pace of research was a good fit for her summer plans, and she especially liked the direct link between the x-ray techniques she learned in Chem 212 lab last spring and the techniques she applied in the Latturner lab.
Life, by its very nature, constantly surprises, but certain aspects of life would seem to be under our personal control: what to study, how to apply that knowledge. As a young chemistry professor at U. Tennessee, Jeffrey Kovac, thought he knew where his professional path was headed: a “conventional research agenda” in the laboratory, and a teaching schedule devoted to the staples of the chemistry curriculum.
Jeff’s path took an unexpected turn in the late 1980s, however, when he began developing a new course for his undergraduate students. “I was teaching the capstone course in chemistry that was supposed to look at the field from a broader perspective,” he said. “There were stories of scientific misconduct in the press, so I decided to introduce ethics into the course.”
The larger story of how Jeff turned these stories into his 1993 book, The Ethical Chemist, and the three decades of surprises he found along this unexpected path, can be found in An Ethical Chemist by Grant Currin (The Key Reporter, 25 Oct 2017).
Shades of Paul Whitredge ’12! Another Reed biochemist, Trevor Soucy ’18, has shown that when it comes to being fleet of foot, chemists have the right stuff.
Trevor, along with his teammates on Reed’s distance team (“The Running Jokes”), tied on his running shoes last Sunday for the Portland Marathon and pounded his way from downtown Portland, up and over the St. Johns bridge, and through north Portland down to the Willamette bluffs, before retracing his steps all the way back to the start on the 26 mile course.
Biochem major Trevor Soucy ’18 ran his first marathon in just over 3 hours.
Trevor was running his first marathon ever, but newbie jitters didn’t stop him from turning in the fastest time for a Reedie on Sunday: 3:00:36. Perhaps we will see him running in Boston next? The qualifying time for the Boston Marathon is 3:05 and Trevor beat that standard with minutes to spare.
But for now it is back to the lab for Trevor. His senior thesis, investigating the role of the protein PerC in pathogenic bacteria, is calling.