Alumni News from Reed Magazine, September 2015

The search for alumni news continued in The Art of the Conference in the September issue of the Reed magazine. Conferences have held a time-honored place in chemistry courses for at least 50 years, but the conduct of “conference” has always been malleable, embracing whatever tweaks seemed in the interest of students and subject matter at the time. Over the years, problem-solving, group work, and more, have all found places under the Conference Tent.

My first glimpse of a chemistry alum came with decidedly mixed feelings on p. 1 of the magazine, the Table of Contents. The Table was topped with pictures of the 12 members of the Class of 2015 being profiled in the What Is a Reedie Anyway? feature on p. 26. Smack in the middle, with his trademark tinted hair, off-kilter hat, and ever-present smile was a photo of the late Mark Angeles ’15. Sadly, Mark was taken away from us only a few days after his graduation when a truck struck him and his bicycle in a fatal collision. As I read the profile of Mark on p. 37, I was reminded of the wonderful things that Reedies accomplish during their four years at Reed. Mark’s life was filled with gusto and joy, and he shared his passion for living with an open heart. Mark’s family and friends have established a very fitting memorial: the Angeles Fellowship that 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.”

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Alumni News from Reed Magazine, June 2015

It’s been a long time since I’ve dipped into the Reed magazine for news about Reed chemists so it seems appropriate that the title of the summer 2015 issue was Rediscovering A Master, and the cover featured a photo of one of Reed’s master teachers, Prof. Sarah Wagner-McCoy [English 2011-].

“Reedies Unite to Honor Chemistry Prof” (p. 12), a feature article about the legacy of Prof. Maggie Geselbracht [1993-2014] could, perhaps, be squeezed into the ‘rediscovery’ category, but it would be a tight squeeze because it still feels like Maggie is working away … just a bit further down the hall than I can see. Maggie’s story has been told elsewhere, but it is still remarkable to recall that she was the first woman to earn tenure in the Reed chemistry department. One sign of the deep affection and respect that all of us held for Maggie was the establishment of the Maggie Geselbracht Women in Chemistry Fund. This fund, which was established by Maggie’s husband, Tom Armstrong, underwrites summer research for women chemistry students and provides money for traveling to conferences to present their research. The first honorees were Natalie Keehan ’15 and Eve Mozur ’15, both of whom attended the national ACS meeting in Denver. As of June 2015, the fund had received gifts from 139 donors and raised more than $140,000. Gifts can still be made to the fund at

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Prof. Kelly Chacón “on Tap” with Biochemistry

The Clinton Street Theatre near the Reed campus is currently offering Science on Tap, an evening lecture series that features an inviting beer-and-soft-chair approach to learning science. This past week’s celebrity scientist “on tap” was Reed’s newest biochemistry professor, Kelly Chacón (2015-), who spoke to a large crowd about metals in our bodies, the environment, and superbugs. As Kelly told Channel 2 (KATU), “This was an enormous challenge because what I want to do is not get lost in the weeds. I think a lot of time with scientists it’s really easy to get too bogged down by details, but I also want to be accurate.

Watch the video of Kelly and Science on Tap appearing on yesterday’s KATU 6 o’clock news. It wasn’t all biochemistry and heme proteins. There was beer, audience members having a good time, and even someone taking notes. (Insiders: watch carefully for the cameo appearance of Reed biology prof, Sarah Schaack at 2:02)

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Welcome Dr. Subhasish Chatterjee

Dr. Chatterjee will be joining the Reed chemistry department later this month as a visiting assistant professor of chemistry. He did his undergraduate work in materials chemistry at the University of Kolkata in India before moving to the City University of New York to do his graduate work in physical biochemistry. He has extensive experience in spectroscopy and NMR, and has worked on a range of projects including DNA dynamics and NMR analysis of plant tissue. He’ll be teaching Chemistry 102 with Arthur Glasfeld this Spring, and then next year he’ll be replacing Kelly Chacón, who will be on sabbatical.

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What is an Ethical Chemist?

Prof. Jeffrey Kovac ’70 (Chemistry, U. Tennessee) is an internationally recognized scholar of ethics in chemistry. Earlier this fall the Swiss Academy of Sciences invited him to give the inaugural SCNAT Ethics Lecture on “What is an Ethical Chemist?” at 6 Swiss universities. A high-quality video was made of the lecture (45 min) and the discussion (45 min) that followed at ETH-Zurich, and the video can be viewed here (Creative Commons copyright). The text of the lecture will appear in the journal Chimia in January (see update below). Here is the abstract:

Almost all decisions made by chemists, and all other scientists, in their professional lives have an ethical dimension. In both the practice of chemistry and the education of students it is essential that chemists understand the moral complexity of real-world situations, apply the relevant moral standards, and have the moral courage to make difficult choices, or the foundation of trust essential to the scientific enterprise will erode. In this presentation I will develop the fundamental concepts of scientific ethics and show how they apply to both the practice of chemistry and the relationship between chemistry and society.  I will consider both day-to-day ethical problems such as authorship and the treatment of data and larger questions such as the choice of research problems and the social responsibility of scientists.

March 7, 2017 update: “What is an Ethical Chemist?” J. Kovac, Chimia, 71(1/2), 38-43 (2017), DOI 10.2533/chimia.2017.38

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Meet Chemistry Alumni – Attend the Department Seminar

It is always a treat to have our graduates return and tell us about the work they do. Alumni reports (and reports from current students about summer research projects) seem to have grown even more frequent over the last few years. Two cases in point: Dr. Lyndsey Earl ’07 (“Mining Uranium from the Sea: Polymer Sorbent Design and Synthesis,” Sept 15) and Dr. Daniel Gamelin ’09 (“Doped Semiconduct Quantum Dots: Experiments at a Frontier of Inorganic, Physical, and Materials Chemistries,” Sept 22) were the speakers at our last two weekly department seminars. Seminars are generally held in the biology lecture hall, Room 19 (downstairs), and start at 4:15.

This is also a chance for me to plug some of the new ways you can keep in touch with what is going on at Reed. Continue reading

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Kevan Shokat ’86 Finding a Pathway for KRas Inhibition

Wikipedia: The protein product of the KRas gene performs an essential function in normal tissue signaling: it acts as a molecular on/off switch. In the ‘on’ position, KRas recruits and activates proteins necessary for the propagation of growth factor and other signaling pathways, however, the mutation of a KRas gene also happens to be an essential step in the development of many cancers.

C&EN (6 June 2016, cover story): “KRas, part of a family of proteins commonly mutated in cancer, is one of the most desirable drug targets in the pharmaceutical industry. It is also one of the most maddeningly difficult targets; after a long period of failures, many scientists simply stopped trying to develop drugs that block KRas.”

The C&EN cover story also describes how the first real break in the KRas story came in December 2011, when Dr. Ulf Peters, a postdoc in the Shokat lab at UC San Francisco, was able to determine an x-ray structure of a KRas-small molecule complex. Peters sent the coordinates to Shokat by email, but what he didn’t know was this: Shokat had been caught in an early winter Lake Tahoe snowstorm, and was stuck in his car at the bottom of a slick, steep hill. Continue reading

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New Chem Lab Opens

The Arthur F. Scott Chemistry Building is going strong in its third decade. Aside from small and occasional lab/office retrofits, no major changes ever seemed to be in order. Then, over winter break, a major ground-floor renovation project gave Room 106 an entirely new look and purpose. Once imagined as a laboratory space for retired faculty, and actually used as a home for the EHS office, Room 106 and some adjoining rooms were converted into the Scott building’s newest teaching lab.

Chemistry 394 , Spring 2016 in Rm. 106 (biochemistry lab)

Chemistry 394 (biochemistry lab), Spring 2016 in Rm. 106

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Seen at the Reunion

Reunions 2016 (and maybe thoughts of a rainy Rose Parade) have brought lots of alumni back to campus. You can see who’s coming to the Reunion here. Among the visiting chemists …

Harry Traulsen ’11 and Grant Trenary ’11 made their way up the Woodstock hill to relive the joys of Otto’s fine food. Harry is working for Google in New York, and Grant is a nurse at Good Samaritan Hospital in NW Portland … Joe Kliegman ’06 stopped by to say he’s taking his Ph.D. to a new coast this summer (look for him to pop up in D.C. around August) … I bumped into Claire Remington ’11 near the Bookstore and learned that she’s working with another Reedie, Sasha Kramer ’99, on SOIL in Haiti … Paul Whittredge ’12 took a short break from his job at Novartis to say hi and discuss life as a married man … Arlene Blum ’66 stopped by the Chemistry building on Saturday and told us about her hiking plans for Alaska later this month (“I’m going to visit the Brooks Range with my bad knees. Then I’m giving a lecture at the regional ACS meeting, ‘Chemistry Under the Midnight Sun.’“). She also said that the Green Science Policy Institute that she directs in Berkeley is on a solid financial footing and she’s looking for expert help. If you’re a mid-career (or even an early career) chemist with an interest in the crossroads of environmental science and policy, give Arlene a call.

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Grants Support New Faculty Research

All three of the new chemistry faculty who have been hired in recent years have successfully garnered financial support from outside the college for their research projects. If you missed it, here’s a rundown:

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