Friday, December 18, 2009

A Graduate School Posting sent to the Chemistry Department...

Graduate Research Assistantship NSF-funded project: “Genomic Approaches to Identify Insect Resistance Genes in Poplar Trees”

Applications are invited for graduate student positions (Ph.D. or M.Sc. level) to study plant-insect interactions in the laboratory of Dr. Steven Ralph ( at the University of North Dakota (UND). A Graduate Research Assistantship is available immediately to investigate the molecular basis for resistance to insect pests in poplar trees using a forward genetics strategy. This project is funded by a new three year grant from the National Science Foundation. One of the most successful approaches to identify genes responsible for variation in a trait of interest is to produce mutants that are then screened for alterations in such traits. Our previous research identified several dozen activation tagged mutant poplar lines that are resistant to feeding by defoliating insect larvae. In this project, the modified gene in these insect resistant (IR) lines will be identified and functionally characterized. The roles these genes play in mediating IR will be systematically examined in poplar through both gene knock-down and over-expression studies. Furthermore, mutant plants will be subject to thorough phenotypic characterization that includes evaluation of global changes in gene expression and measurement of insect feeding performance and larval development. It is expected that these studies will provide new insight into the genes and pathways that enhance resistance to feeding insects. Identification of specific IR genes will facilitate breeding of improved tree varieties in the future. The successful candidate will receive training in plant tissue culture, plant transformation, insect feeding/development bioassays, gene cloning and heterologous expression, bioinformatics, microarrays, and real-time PCR among other techniques. This project involves collaboration with researchers at North Dakota State University and the University of Florida and will require periodic travel to both institutions.

Successful candidates should have a strong interest in research areas such as ecological and functional genomics, forest tree biology, plant-insect interactions, biochemistry and molecular biology. Candidates should possess good written and verbal English skills, be capable of working independently, and have demonstrated the ability to work as part of an interactive group. Successful candidates will be invited to submit a formal application for admission to the graduate program at UND (deadline February 15, 2010;

The Graduate Research Assistantship starts at $17,000 (M.Sc.) or $20,000 (Ph.D.) per year and includes medical health insurance and a full tuition waiver.

How to apply:
Please supply a cover letter stating your interests, a CV describing your education and skills, undergraduate transcripts (unofficial is acceptable), and contact information for three referees. Send applications to Dr. Steven G. Ralph, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Biology, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, North Dakota, 58202-9019,
email, phone: 701-777-4673.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Aluminum + Ice = Rocket Propellant?

Here's a C&ENews story about a novel fuel idea. Talk about a stressful experiment!

Chemistry Project Christmas Ornaments

The Nov. 30 issue of Chemical & Engineering News (C&ENews) has a Newscripts article describing fun chemistry projects resulting in Christmas ornaments. You can read it by clicking here. A close-up view of a borax crystal ornament is shown at right. The color comes from whatever pipe-cleaner you choose as a form. The photo is from the October 2006 Owlhaven blog.

The Logic of Chemistry -- Here's a quick riddle for you

Elementary Discoveries

Four scientists, Cavendish, Moisson, Priestley, and Rutherford, discovered four elements, fluorine (F2), hydrogen (H2), nitrogen (N2), and oxygen (O2). Each of these elements has a different property: One is one of the least reactive elements, one is the most reactive element, one is the most abundant element in the body, and one is the most abundant element in the universe. Can you determine who discovered what element and what each element’s property is?

a. Fluorine, which was not discovered by Cavendish, isn’t the least reactive element.
b. Nitrogen, which was not discovered by Priestley, isn’t the most abundant element in the universe.
c. The four scientists are: Priestley, Rutherford, the discoverer of fluorine, and the discoverer of the element most abundant in the universe.
d. The element found to be the most abundant in the body wasn’t discovered by Moisson and isn’t nitrogen or hydrogen.

Dr. Bob Hanson

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Bulletin Board Updates

Dr. Abdella has placed new browsing/reading material on her bulletin board outside of RNS 362. When you return from break, take a look at these, I think there's something for everyone...

New on the board:
The Dawn of Academic Chemistry
Science from Art
Silly String (yes, the real thing!)
Tools for Protein Folding
Missing the Target (targeted cancer therapy)
Old Drugs, New Tricks
Careers and Chemists (a series of short letters)
Chemical Synthesis (Editorial)
A Whiff of Knowledge (Cognitive Enhancing Nasal Spray??)
African Americans and Science (Editorial)
DNA Shape Directs Proteins
Molecule Controls Worms with a Flip of a Switch
A Coating that Fights Ice (soon to be useful)
New Helper for Bulky Amino Acids

Continuing their run on the board: The Chemistry of Forensics, Amide Stacking Rivals H-Bonds, and Considering an M.D., D.D.S., Pharm. D....Why Not a Ph.D.?

Student Work Job Applications Intereim and Second Semester

Student Work for Interim and Second Semester are on line now. Please fill these out and turn into my office RNS 336 as soon as you can. Thank you.

Second Semester


Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Ever wonder what regulates your sleep/wake cycles? Or, why you have trouble concentrating at certain times of the day? Come to the seminar on Monday, November 23rd at 4pm in RNS 310 to find out. Karla Marz from Gustavus Adolphus will present her findings on the biochemistry of the cryptochrome proteins, the cellular regulators of the circadian clock. Karla earned her PhD in biochemistry from Washington University and completed postdoctoral research at the University of Virginia. She is very interested in meeting St. Olaf students who might want to chat about circadian rhythms, graduate school in biochemistry, or life in science!

If you'd like to chat with Dr. Marz, Professor Listenberger is organizing an informal gathering prior to the seminar. Contact Prof Listenberger for details.

This seminar will count towards the Chemistry Major

Laura Listenberger, PhD
Assistant Professor of Biology and Chemistry
St. Olaf College


Phi Beta Kappa

Eight out of the seventeen initiates came with a chemistry major! Congratulations to the following and best wishes in your continued high quality pursuit of a liberal education.

Kris Elbein - Chemistry w/ Asian Studies Concentration
Anna Larson - Chemistry and Spanish
Michael Marty - Chemistry and Math
Joseph McDevitt - Chemistry, Economics, Math w/ Stats Concentration
Benjamin Meyer - Chemistry and Ancient Studies
Jacob Nelson - Chemistry and Biology
Lauren Seline - Chemistry and Biology
Bryant Torkelson - Chemistry and Math

Tutors for Organic Chemistry Needed

Hello again,

Many thanks to those who rose to the challenge last week when the ASC was short on Chem 121 and 125 tutors! This week we have a greater need for organic tutors. If there's any chance you'd be willing to spend a little time helping a fellow student to navigate the Wonderful World of Organic Chemistry please read on...

These are paid positions (at student work rates) that count toward a student work award, but there is no requirement that tutors have a student work award. Each tutoring situation requires meeting with a tutee three times per week for about an hour each time (meeting times determined by the tutor and tutee).

If you're interested in becoming a Chemistry Tutor may apply online by going to:

Peder Bolstad

Friday, November 6, 2009

Elements on Facebook?!

Did you know that each element on the Periodic Table has its own page on Facebook? You can read facts about the element, see a photo (where applicable), post comments, become a fan of the element, etc. So far the top five fan-favorites are carbon, titanium, aluminum, nitrogen and potassium. How fun is that?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Chemistry Tutors Needed

The Academic Support Center (ASC) is looking for Chemistry Tutors for beginning chemistry (Chem 121 and 125). These are paid positions (at student work rates) that count toward a student work award, but there is no requirement that tutors have a student work award. Each tutoring situation requires meeting with a tutee three times per week for about an hour each time (meeting times determined by the tutor and tutee).

Students interested in becoming a Chemistry Tutor may apply online by going to:

and clicking on "Tutor Application or Update."

Call the ASC at 507-786-3288 with any further questions or concerns. Thanks for considering this opportunity!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Summer Industrial Internships - 2010

From the American Chemical Society.....
Exceptional sophomores and juniors majoring in chemistry and chemical engineering are encouraged to apply for a prestigious 10-week internship through the SCI Scholars Program. Twenty-one scholars will be chosen for summer 2010. SCI Scholars will receive $6,000-$9,000 for a ten-week internship, a certificate, and an additional $1000, which can be used for any purpose, such as participation at an ACS or AIChE meeting. Applications are due January 15, 2010. Interested students should visit for more information and to apply. (Faculty can also download a program flyer from this site.)

Lancaster and Sheffield programs

Chem majors -- Did you know you can go abroad AND fulfill requirements for
the chem major -- and more? Get some research experience, perhaps, and get
credit for it. Take a semester of biochemistry in the English countryside.
Ride the trains. See Europe during breaks.

Come to the Open House Wednesday, November 4th (tomorrow) at 4:30 in the Black and Gold Ballroom for more information, or talk with program advisers Bob Hanson
(Lancaster) or Gary Muir (Sheffield).

-- Robert M. Hanson
Professor of Chemistry

Friday, October 30, 2009

Visualizing the Size of an Atom

Frequently, scientific notation and metric prefixes hide the size of the molecules with which we deal. I recently ran across this flash applet that helps to compare the sizes of various small objects - down to the size of a single carbon atom.

How big is a carbon atom?

And, of course, I couldn't leave out the classic video, Powers of 10, which not only shows the size of atoms, but our planet's size in relation to the cosmos.

Chemistry GRE Preparation

Attention all students planning on taking the Chemistry GRE on November 7th.

Your professors have planned review sessions Nov. 2-5 from 7-9PM in RNS 316.

Monday Nov. 2nd Organic with Dr. Pearson
Tuesday Nov. 3rd Analytical with Dr. Walczak
Wednesday Nov. 4th P-chem with Dr. Nat "entropy" Schaefle
Thursday Nov. 5th with Dr. Miessler

If you have additional questions, please contact a chemistry faculty member

Good Luck!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Chemistry Alumna News

We have just been informed that 1983 chemistry alumna Kristin (Nelson) Wobbe, the John C. Metzger Jr. Professor of Chemistry at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), has been named Associate Dean for the First Year Experience. Dr. Wobbe has co-developed and co-taught one of the First Year Seminars, a course titled "Feed the World." Dr. Wobbe is a member of the Interdisciplinary Plant Research Group at WPI. Her research explores a number of different ways to augment a plant's production of artemisinin, a potent antimalarial compound. Congratulations!

Monday, October 26, 2009

South Dakota State Chemistry Day



Refreshments and Registration




Introduction and Department Overview

· General Description

· Faculty, Staff, Students

· Facilities

· Instrumentation and Other Resources


Graduate Program Overview

· Requirements

· Application Procedure

· Curriculum

· Assistantships

· Living in Brookings


Faculty Research Discussions

· Environmental/Analytical

· Bio/Organic Chemistry

· Chemical Education




Campus Tour

· Student Union

· Library

· HPER/Wellness Center

· Art & Ag Museums

· Performing Arts Center

· Research Park


Graduate Student Posters, Department Tour

· Research Labs

· Instructional Labs

· Instrumentation and Other Facilities


Refreshments, Q&A, Wrap-up


Distinguished Alumni Lecture, Dr. Scott Kohl, Technical Director, ICM, Inc.

Sessions to be held in Room 260 of the University Student Union.

Campus maps are available at

Friday, October 23, 2009

MPR features green chemistry at St. Olaf

A Minnesota Public Radio story focuses on how St. Olaf is using fewer toxic solvents and creating less hazardous waste in its chemistry labs, a move that’s not only environmentally friendly but also saves the college thousands of dollars each year. The story notes that with fewer toxic reactions, less energy is used to ventilate the science complex and fewer resources are needed for hazardous material disposal.

"It almost seemed like a no-brainer," Professor of Chemistry Bob Hanson tells MPR. "The students react to this very favorably and very much like, well 'why would you want to do this any other way? This is so obvious.'"

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Registry of Undergraduate Researchers

Dear Students:

The Council on Undergraduate Research hosts a Registry of Undergraduate Researchers. The purpose of this registry is to facilitate matchmaking between undergraduates who have research experience and a desire to pursue an advanced degree, with graduate schools seeking high quality students who are well prepared for research. The Registry is open to students and graduate schools in the fields of Chemistry, Biochemistry, Biology, Physics/ Astronomy, Mathematics/Computer Science, Economics, Geosciences, Engineering, Psychology, Sociology, Humanities and Anthropology/Archaeology.

Any undergraduate may go to to fill out a simple curriculum vitae form. There is no charge to the student and records will be made available to bona fide Graduate Schools that contract with CUR for this service. Organizations or companies seeking the students’ information for other marketing purposes will not be granted access. Graduate School representatives may contact students to invite applications or visits to the campus and laboratory, or to share information about their research programs and financial support opportunities.

An institution-wide annual subscription fee for access to the entire database is $1,500 and departments can subscribe for $300 on their own for their discipline, if they choose.

Graduate schools may provide a link to their websites, and may provide a short description of opportunities, such as research fields and fellowships. It will also be possible for institutions to place an ad on the database website if the content is related to the mission of CUR and the Undergraduate Registry.

We hope that students who are currently in their junior or senior year will register now. Juniors will be able to update their listing at the end of the summer and during their senior year, to include any summer research experience or information about Senior Theses and test scores. We also welcome submissions by students who are engaged in Masters' Degree programs now but who plan on going on to a PhD program. Just fill out the information on the form including the date you intend to enter a PhD program and your date of completion of your undergraduate degree. Upload a link to your CV that contains complete information about your MS/MA degree activity (school, subject, thesis topic (if applicable), and advisor).

CUR believes that this service will be a great benefit for both students and graduate schools by narrowing the search for the right match. So if you are interested in graduate school, please take a moment to register now. Be sure to include a statement of your research interests, as this will be important for making the match.

Please feel free to contact me, should you have any questions.


Robin Howard
Senior Director, Membership Services
Council on Undergraduate Research
734 15th St NW
Suite 550
(202) 783-4810x203
(202) 783-4811 fax

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Summer Internship Opportunity

Announcing a new summer internship program, SCI Scholars, for chemistry and chemical engineering undergraduates.

The program is a joint effort of the Society of Chemical Industry (SCI) America International Group (AIG), the American Chemical Society (ACS), and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), and was developed to introduce chemistry and chemical engineering students to careers in the chemical industry.

Exceptional sophomores and juniors with a GPA of at least 3.5 and who are majoring in chemistry or chemical engineering are encouraged to apply.

Program details:

* Twenty-one scholars will be chosen for internship positions in the summer of 2010.
* SCI Scholars receive $6,000-$9,000 for a ten-week internship.
* Students will be awarded a certificate and an additional $1000, which can be used for any purpose, such as participation at an ACS or AIChE meeting.
* Scholars nominate a high school chemistry teacher for recognition. Teachers will be awarded a certificate from SCI and $1,000, which can be used for professional development or classroom materials.
* Applications are due January 15, 2010.
* Interested students should visit to fill out an application and get more information.

Monday, October 19, 2009

National Chemistry Week

Join the St. Olaf Chemistry Society (SOCS) in celebrating!

-Titration Contest-
Challenge your professors and compete for ultimate bragging rights! All are welcome, but titration stations will be first come, first serve. We will also have some of last year's SOCS shirts for sale.

Thurs, Oct 22 @ 11:30 a.m. in RNS 3rd floor atrium

-Demo Day-
Come watch Prof. Gittins and Prof. Epp do some amazing demonstrations. Can anyone say combustion reaction?

Thurs, Oct 22 @ 4:15 p.m. in RNS 4th floor atrium

-Coloring Contest-
Pictures can be found at the Chem Week bulletin board outside Karen's office (RNS 336). Submissions are due to the box by 12:30 p.m., Thurs Oct. 22. Pause bucks will be awarded to the winners, who will be announced at Demo Day.

-Hunt for the Golden Beaker is back!-
One clue per day will be posted on the Chem Week bulletin board outside RNS 336. First to find it wins a fabulous prize! Winner will be announced at Demo Day.

-Vote for Your Favorite Element!-
Going along with the theme for the week, we will have a ballot box outside RNS 336 on the Chem Week bulletin board. Submit your favorite element, and tell us why you like it. Results will be posted after Fall Break, along with the most interesting answers. Be creative!

Finally... Don't forget to celebrate Mole Day on Friday, Oct. 23!!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Chemistry Seminar

Chemistry Seminar in RNS 150 Thursday, October 22, 2009 at 3:15 p.m. with refreshments prior to seminar.

HPLC-MS/MS analysis of pharmaceutical residues and protein adducts in aquatic and terrestrial organisms: novel biomarkers of environmental exposure

Dr. Kevin Chambliss
Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry
Baylor University 

Biographical Information: Ph.D. in analytical chemistry – Colorado State University (1998)
Postdoctoral Fellow – Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Appointed to Baylor Faculty (2001).

Research in the Chambliss group represents balanced interest in pure and applied analytical chemistry. All projects are broadly focused in the area of chemical separations and analysis.  The primary objective of research in our laboratory is the development of novel analytical tools that inform scientific questions of industrial and environmental significance. Current projects are focused on: 1) improved fundamental understanding of enzymatic and microbial inhibition in biomass-to-biofuel conversion processes, (2) occurrence, fate, and transport of emerging environmental contaminants, and (3) a biologically-inspired electrochemical sensing strategy for electroinactive ions in aqueous solution.

Abstract:  Analysis of polar contaminants is a rapidly advancing area of environmental mass spectrometry.  To this end, our group has recently developed a novel high performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (HPLC-MS/MS) screening method for pharmaceuticals and select metabolites in fish.  Knowledge of contaminant occurrence in fish tissues has obvious implications for human health.  Fish are also an integral component of aquatic food webs and can potentially facilitate the transfer of contaminants from aquatic to terrestrial ecosystems via trophic transfer.  This talk will summarize results of a national pilot study of pharmaceutical accumulation conducted in collaboration with U.S. EPA.  Results of a more recent study focused on uptake and biotransformation of explosives in earthworms will also be presented.  Both of these investigations provide definitive examples of the analytical challenges affiliated with quantifying trace levels of chemicals in complex matrices.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

New Bulletin Board Postings

If you haven't noticed, there's a lot to read on the bulletin board outside of Dr. Abdella's office (RNS 362). New postings include:
"You Smell" Have you studied your odorprint?
"Amide stacking rivals H-bonds" in protein structures
"Celebrating Chemistry" National Chemistry Week Oct 18-24 theme = Chemistry: It's Elemental
"Chemical Biology Teamwork" at the National Cancer Institute
"Considering an M.D., D.D.S., Pharm. D....Why not a Ph.D.?"

plus more!

All of these articles come from American Chemical Society publications. Some are multiple pages, feel free to take them somewhere to sit and read, but bring them back! So, take a study break sometime to learn about something that's not in your textbooks.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Internships in green chemistry for January 2010

Organization, Title of Internship, Location, Date(s)

Organization: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency;
Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics;
Economics, Exposure, and Technology Division;
Industrial Chemistry Division;
Green Chemistry Program

Position Title:  Green Chemistry Program Intern

Location: U.S. EPA Headquarters
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW 
Washington, DC  20460 

Date:  January 2010

(Academic) Internship Opportunity

Description of major duties and opportunities during experience

Volunteer Internships in Green Chemistry Available for January 2010.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, DC has openings for up to four college student interns to join its Green Chemistry Program during the month of January.  The position is volunteer, not paid, but offers a unique opportunity for training in green chemistry.  During December, EPA will receive nominations for the 2010 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards; during January, EPA staff and interns will read all of the nominations, write a brief review of each nomination, discuss the nominated technologies in multidisciplinary group meetings, and prepare the nominations for the judging panel convened by the American Chemical Society.  Because the work is highly technical, interns need to have a strong science background including at least one year of organic chemistry.  For general information about the program and summaries of previous nominations, visit  If you have questions or would like to be considered for an internship, please send email to

Clarify whether students will be supported should they choose to receive credit for the experience

The position is a volunteer one, but the two senior PhD chemists who work in EPA’s Green Chemistry Program have worked with a number of summer and January interns previously and can provide educational support.  One of these chemists has college-level teaching experience. 

  • Sophomore, Junior, or Senior with strong academic record in science.
  • At least one year of organic chemistry; majors might include chemistry, biochemistry, biology, pre-med, but other majors will be considered.
  • Strong analytical abilities, ability to extend knowledge and skills to a very broad range of cutting-edge technologies related to chemistry.
  • Evidence of effectiveness working independently; demonstrated self-starter.

Other Useful skills:
  • Ability to learn quickly
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills
  • Ability to interact well with all kinds of people
  • Understanding of and respect for diversity

This is an unpaid internship. 

Application Materials (apply by email to
Cover letter including a statement of interest in this internship
Transcript listing science courses and grades (does not have to be official)
Contact information (phone and email) for 2-3 references

Application Deadline and Process 
EPA is making this opportunity available to college students who are available during January (i.e., students at schools with J-terms, interim January terms, etc.).  We have up to four openings and will consider applicants as we receive them.  Students will get the most from the internship if they are at EPA for the four weeks between January 4 and January 29.  Internships with different start and end dates may be considered.

Deadline:  As appropriate for January term applications at your institution or November 13, whichever is earlier.  The Program may make an “early decision” and offer positions to exceptionally qualified candidates prior to the deadline.

Please send email to

Friday, October 9, 2009

Chem 391: Biophysical Chemistry

With registration fast approaching, we want all students aware that Chem 391: Biophysical Chemistry will be offered in the Spring '10 semester.  The prerequisite for the course is Chem 371: Physical Chemistry.  Historically, the course has been offered T and Th from 8-9:20.

Course Description:
Did you know that a single base-pair in DNA is hydrated by about 70 water molecules?  Or that high temperatures can unfold proteins, but cold temperatures can as well?  And what is up with A- or B- DNA and RNA?

In Chem 391: Biophysical Chemistry, you will have the opportunity to answer these questions and delve into others relating to the physical chemistry of nucleic acids, proteins, and membranes.  Chem 391:Biophysical Chemistry advances the thermodynamic topics you learned in Chem 126 and 371, which makes the course incredibly relevant to anyone interested in experimental biochemistry, biological chemistry, and physical chemistry.

The course is divided into two sections: the first two-thirds of the course involves lecture and group discussions while the remaining one-third of the course involves a research project.  The research project does not need a full-blown research proposal.  In the past, students have just selected topics from lecture and ran with their ideas in the lab.  Research projects have ranged from variants of the lysozyme experiments in Chem 357: Physical Chemistry Lab to predicting protein-protein binding energies using molecular dynamics simulation. The culmination of the course is a poster presentation of the class's research projects to the FNSM community.

If you have an interest in the course or want to know more about the course, don't hesitate to contact me.

Jeff Schwinefus

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Job Opportunity

We are a small company located in Lakeville, Minnesota and have a full-time job opportunity for an entry level chemist.  I have included a job description.

John Hofstad
Operations Manager
(952) 469-4965

Welcome Erik Epp!

The St. Olaf Chemistry Department welcomes Erik Epp. Erik graduated from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor with an honors B.S. in chemistry. He then proceeded to the University of Chicago, where he earned a M.S. in physical chemistry for computational chemistry modeling of interstellar gas clouds. Most recently, he hails from Purdue University where he is finishing a doctorate in chemical education research, dealing with how students learn physical chemistry through the use of hypermedia technology. He greatly enjoys teaching and has been energized by interactions with students in his Chem 121 and 125 classes at St. Olaf College. Stop by his office (RNS 328) to meet him and play with some puzzles. Clicking on the title of this post will take you to a longer blurb about Erik and other members of the St. Olaf Chemistry Department.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Welcome Dr. Listenberger!

The St. Olaf Chemistry Department would like to welcome Dr. Laura Listenberger. Laura graduated from Hope College in Holland, Mi with a B.S. in Chemistry. She then attended Washington University in St. Louis, Mo where she got her PhD in Molecular Cell Biology and became a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals. She spent a year at Kalamazoo College as a Visiting Assistant Professor before pursuing research postdocs at Stony Brook University (in NY) and Torrey Pines Institute of Molecular Studies (in CA). Her research utilizes techniques in biochemistry and cell biology to understand how cells store excess fat. Laura moves to Northfield with her husband and two young daughters. She looks forward to working with students in Chem 373, Chem 379, and CH/BI 126 and 127 this year. Students can find Dr. Listenberger on the third floor of Regent's Hall, in office 380. Clicking on the title of this post will take you to a longer blurb about Dr. Listenberger and other members of the St. Olaf Chemistry Department.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Midstates Consortium for Mathematics and Science

Reminder September 25th is the last day to apply for the MIDSTATES CONSORTIUM FOR MATHEMATICS AND SCIENCE
The University of Chicago
November 6-8, 2009
Undergraduate Research Symposium in the Physical Sciences, Mathematics,& Computer Science

Undergraduate Research Symposium in the Biological Sciences & Psychology

Reminder that tomorrow, September 25 is the deadline to apply if you wish to attend
Washington University in St. Louis
October 30-November 1, 2009

Medicinal Chemistry in Jamaica

There are still spaces available to join the trip to Jamaica this January for our cultural immersion into medicinal chemistry.

You must complete both semesters of organic to be eligible.

Application materials are waiting for you in the International and Off Campus Studies Office.

Please contact Prof. Muth if you have any questions.

Special Opportunity in Forensics!

If you've always wanted to be the victim of a brutal crime (and who hasn't?), apply to be a dead person for the Forensic Science course this spring. Dr. Abdella is looking for someone to play the part of a murder victim in a staged crime scene. Expect to be sketched, photographed, and gaped at. It would be fantastic if you were interested in lab assisting for Forensics and/or in planning the types of evidence that should be found at the crime scene. But, remember, we can't really have a pool of blood on the floor of Regent's Hall! If you have good ideas on how to mimic such evidence, see Dr. Abdella! Priority will be given to students with the following interests/experiences:

has completed Analytical Chemistry (Chem 255 and 256)
interested in being a lab assistant for Forensic Science lab this spring
available Monday afternoons 2:00-5:00 for Forensic Science lab
available Tuesday afternoon, February 16 approximately 1:20-2:45 to be dead
interest in forensic science as a career

Email Dr. Abdella ( to apply for this position...and yes, we realize that some of you may not be able to commit to particular time slots in the spring term until AFTER registration! But, we can do some planning now and hope that it works out!

Graduate Fellowships

If you are thinking about graduate school consider applying for a graduate fellowship. There are several deadlines coming up in the next month or so:

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship:

Hertz Foundation Graduate Fellowships:

UNCF/Merck Science Initiative Research Scholarships and Fellowships: (NOTE: this program also offers undergraduate fellowships)

If you think you might want to apply to one of these programs talk to a chemistry faculty member.

--Mary Walczak

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

PCR Song

If you know what "PCR" is (Polymerase Chain Reaction) and you enjoy music and you have a sense of humor, you'll enjoy this YouTube video. Just click on "PCR Song" in the title of this blog post.

Undergrads Can Join the American Chemical Society!

The American Chemical Society has changed from offering a "Student Affiliate" membership (which had small annual dues, but also fewer benefits than a full membership), to offering full membership to undergraduate students at a very low price. There is a new website especially for undergraduate members. There are lots of perks to membership, if you are interested. Because of the current "Member-get-a-Member" promotion, have a current member sponsor you if you want to join...the current member can get a nice gift! See

The 2009 Undergraduate Student dues are only $23 (without a subscription to C&EN), or $44 (with the subscription). You can see C&EN magazines in the offices of most chemistry faculty (and some excerpts on Beth Abdella's bulletin board).

From the ACS website:

"Members receive discounts on a number of ACS professional products and services including meetings registration, courses, and books.

Members can also take advantage of a broad array of ACS group benefits through Affinity Programs that include renters' insurance, travel programs, financial services and discounts from FedEx Kinko's."

If you are planning on graduate school in chemistry, you continue to get discounted dues for the duration of your graduate program.

Chemistry Seminar Thursday, September 24th

Please welcome:

John W. Moore
W.T.Lippincott Professor of Chemistry
University of Wisconsin-Madison

"The Chemical Education Digital Library: Online Resources for All!"

Seminar will be held in RNS 150 at 3:15, with refreshments served prior to start.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Chemistry Seminar Tomorrow September 17th

The Chemistry  Department will be hosting their first seminar tomorrow, at 3:15 p.m. in RNS 310 with refreshments to be served prior to the start of the seminar.

Dr. Gavin Brown
Lancaster University
"Getting Clearer - Molecular Organisation of the Cornea"

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Seminars and YOU (by Bob Hanson and Beth Abdella)

The St. Olaf Catalog lists as one requirement for the chemistry major, the "attendance during junior and senior years at 12 departmental seminars." This means 12 seminars over 2 years, not 12 seminars each of 2 years.  Our goal is to explain the reasoning behind this requirement and to share with you some tips that will help make this experience a good one for you, your professors, and your invited seminar speaker alike. First the why, then the how.
First, seminars are educational. Speaking for the faculty in the chemistry department, we strongly believe that all of us—students and faculty—benefit from taking the time each week to listen to the story of science being told by someone from beyond our local environs. It’s simply impossible for a group of about a dozen faculty members in a department to cover all of the various perspectives of chemistry. By bringing in speakers from other academic departments, various companies and chemistry-related governmental agencies, we try to gain insight into what chemistry is like "in the real world." We want to learn about areas with which we aren’t very familiar. By setting aside this time and encouraging you as a student to join us, we are saying to you, "Learning chemistry is a life-long endeavor. Keep it up!" In addition, just as anyone learning to write should read, those hoping to better their own speaking skills should listen to others speak.  Listening to seminar speakers do their thing (some of whom will be great) gives us useful tips for making effective presentations ourselves. If nothing else, it gives us an appreciation for how hard it is to get up in front of a group of strangers and say anything meaningful.
Second, quite frankly, the reason we have the requirement of seminar attendance is that it’s necessary. We all have the same tendency to do only what we need to do to get the job done. In the case of earning a chemistry major, that means taking the courses and getting the grades, right? Seminars are a bit like brushing your teeth. Their benefit may not be immediately obvious, but, done regularly, listening to seminars will really produce results. Seminars are such a different sort of experience—one few high school students ever have—that it takes some time to understand how much can be gained from them. By requiring twelve seminars attended over the course of two years, we figure that you will either (a) realize how important (and difficult!) speaking and communicating science is, or at the very least (b) learn a little about the world that you never would have learned listening to the bunch of us rattle on in class about how cool chemistry is.
Now for the How: Virtually all of our seminars will occur in rooms that have doors at the front of the room (RNS 310, 390, 150). This is problematic for speakers and listeners alike.  Here are a few tips for handling a late entry to or early exit from a room where the doors are at the front.  First, it’s OK to come late or leave early.  We all have busy schedules.  But, what should you do in order to remain as unobtrusive as possible?  For a late arrival:  take a peek in the window of one door and see where the action is--usually projection will be happening in the center of the room, but check to be sure before sneaking in.  Also, while peeking in the window, be looking for which door gives easier access to a seat.  Turn off your cell phone while still in the hall.  Dig through your backpack for paper and pen before coming into the room.  Quietly enter the room from the door that interferes least with the presentation and find a seat with as little commotion as possible.  The doors close rather noisily when left to their own devices...try to minimize the noise by staying just inside the door and helping it close gently.  Do not stop to sign the seminar book or get a treat to’re late...just find a seat!  You can take care of signing the seminar book when the seminar has been completed.  Especially if your entry brings more upheaval than you planned, it would be appropriate to apologize to the speaker for your late entry, after the seminar is over.  It can be unsettling to a speaker to be processing major upheaval in the audience and trying to maintain their train of thought.

What about leaving early?  This is often a bigger problem.  Our seminar speakers are asked to keep their presentations to 45 minutes plus the ever-present question and answer session.  This does not mean that they all manage to wrap things up in a timely fashion.  Common courtesy requires that the audience stay present and attentive until a speaker is finished AND while others are asking questions.  If you know in advance that you will need to leave early it is most polite to introduce yourself to the speaker before the seminar and simply say, "Hi, I'm Bonnie Hills.  I just thought I'd let you know that I may have to leave early in order to catch my ski team bus for practice this afternoon, but I didn't want to miss your talk."   EVERY speaker appreciates this.  Now, follow this up by sitting at a place from which a quick and easy escape can be made.  There's simply nothing more unsettling for a speaker than to have people sneaking out of a seminar half-way through.  What did I say?  Is my presentation that boring?  Not pleasant thoughts when you are up in front of a crowd of strangers.  Faculty members often forewarn seminar speakers about our schedules, needing to keep tabs on lab students, running to a meeting in another building, etc.  You can join us in trying to make every speaker’s visit to our department as pleasant as possible.

What about asking questions of the speaker?  Please do!  It's a good idea to always plan to ask at least one question.  Always plan to stay for the question/answer period and make it more fun and educational by asking your question.  The question/answer period won’t be shorter if you don’t ask your question, because faculty members will step in with questions of their own.  It’s actually polite to ask a few questions...the speaker will feel better connected to the audience.  Questions can be about the science, how the science fits in to other topics, or about the person's career or institution, etc.  One easy question to ask is how the speaker became interested in the topic, whatever it is.  Speakers love students who ask questions.  You'll be surprised to find how pleased you'll be with your efforts.  Some speakers invite questions during their presentation.  If this is the case, raise your hand, wait to be acknowledged, and ask a question pertinent to the current topic of the presentationIf the speaker doesn’t notice you and moves on...lower your hand and save your question for after the presentation.  If your question will be asked after the presentation, it is a good idea to jot it down (come prepared with paper and pen) and make a note about the current slide, if appropriate to the questionBe thinking about questions during the whole seminar. 

If the question/answer period has already gone on for some time and you have a really important question to ask, consider keeping it to yourself to allow the seminar room to be dismissed, and then approaching the speaker with your question (introduce yourself first) after the room has emptied.  You will have the benefit of the speaker's full attention and your colleagues will be free to pursue their other commitments.

Did we mention lunch?  Very often our seminar speakers are here for lunch and are most interested in being accompanied by students.  You can explore their area of science or their area of the country.  You can get their take on what courses are most important for your interests.  You can find out what they like most about their jobs or what jobs their graduate students seem to prefer.  There's a lot to learn about the world out there and this is a great opportunity to perform a bit of research for your future.  If you are interested in an occasional lunch-time chat with a seminar speaker, just let Karen Renneke know!  Its fun to eat at the King's Room instead of Stav Hall from time to time.  Some of our seminars are on Thursdays, others on if you are free at lunch time on either day (or both), volunteer to take speakers to lunch.

See you soon, enjoy the donuts!