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