Sunday, April 11, 2010

ACS - San Francisco

I've been a bit busy for the past three weeks, and am only now getting the photos from our visit to San Francisco off my camera.  In late March, a group of students and faculty from the Chemistry department attended the National American Chemical Society meeting.  I think this year we might have had the largest group ever from CSU to attend a national meeting, with 5 students giving poster presentations and seven faculty along for the ride.  Dr. Rivas and I were able to break our travel curse, and we are thankful for that.  (For those of you who don't know, all of American Airline's MD80 planes were grounded on the day we were to return to Chicago from the 2008 ACS meeting in New Orleans.  It turned out to be quicker to drive back, so Dr. Rivas and I did our own Blues Brothers road trip with a few of the students in the back seat.)  In any case, here are a few shots from the poster sessions:

Quiana presented our recent work on making a new copper based photosensitizer for Dye Sensitized Solar Cells.
Rachel begging Dr. Rivas that he make sure I don't choose the restaurants anymore.  (Rachel loves spicy Thai.)
Amanda and Latris had some good foot traffic during their poster session, and they made it very clear they wanted me to do something other than take pictures while they were talking shop... did Dr. Kanis, when I spotted him speaking with CSU alum Alan, who is currently working in Robert Grubbs' group at Cal Tech.
Gilbert didn't even notice I was taking his picture, as he was too focused on speaking about his molecular modeling of cobalt catalysts.  All in all, it was pretty clear that I was no longer needed and that our students were doing a great job representing CSU and showing off what our school has to offer.  So, I played hooky the last day and visited the aquarium, where I could hang out with other ... stars.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

On Physics students and conferences....

In February, the Chicago State Group made the trip from the snow and cold of Chicago to the snow and cold of Washington, DC to attend the 2010 Joint meeting of the American Physical Society and the American Association of Physics Teachers.  Six students, and two faculty members from CSU attended the meeting and presented their work in SPS Outreach (Erica), Nuclear High Energy Physics (Neli and Macario) and Physics Education Research (Virginia, Sean and Geraldine).  This was the largest group CSU had ever brought to the meeting.  Professors Garcia and Sabella made arrangements for flights and hotel rooms and remarkably everyone arrived in DC, in the snow, without a glitch – kind of. 

The entire CSU group stayed at the Normandy Hotel which had espresso machines and provided great opportunities for exercise that involved hiking over mounds of snow, and sliding along icy paths on the bridge over Rock Creek Park to get to the conference.   

Sunday was the first big day with all the students sleeping late and missing Dr. Garcia’s Sunday morning APS talk.  Later in the afternoon, Sean and Virginia missed the bus to their workshop with the Physics Education Group from the University of Washington but got there in time by trekking through the snowy streets of DC.   Sunday night was Erica’s poster about the work she completed last summer during her internship at SPS.  Monday was a big day with Macario and Neli presenting their research during the SPS research session.  Their work, partially funded by two SPS research grants involved detecting cosmic rays at CSU.  On Monday night, Virginia presented her poster on a new Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) course we did last summer for Chicago area teachers.   Tuesday, Sean presented his work on assessing the effectiveness of new instructional techniques CSU is using in our introductory physics classes.  CSU’s last talk was Wednesday morning with Geraldine driving 5 hours on Tuesday night, presenting her talk Wednesday morning on collaboration in the physics class, getting back in her car and driving another 5 hours to get back to her job at the Science House in NC.

 It was fun to bring a big group to the meeting.  We believe that going away to a conference is one of the ways you can instill excitement and help students appreciate the life of scientists and science educators and help them understand and appreciate the diverse work being done by the physics community.  Once we all got back to our homes it was back to classes and work … until the next conference.  (CSU Physics, photos taken by Sean Gallardo)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Spreading the word about Solar Science

This past Friday, Quiana Moore ('09) participated in CIMBY's Environmental Leadership Workshop.  CIMBY (Calumet Is My Back Yard) is a result of community advocacy in the late 1990's that promoted the use of extracurricular programming to increase awareness of and responsibility for the fragile beauty of the Calumet area.  Today, CIMBY combines leadership training, ecology, and stewardship into environmental restoration projects that City of Chicago high school students can participate in as part of their 40-hour service learning requirement.

Quiana spent the morning with three groups of 15 students each and discussed with them her research on designing dye sensitized solar cells (DSSCs).  Funded by the Department of Defense, Army Research Lab, Quiana's research is part of a bigger solar cell collaborative between Chicago State and American Science and Technology to develop flexible solar cells for portable power generation.  When Quiana told the students that the work she is doing may one day allow for solar-cell fabrics to be woven in to clothing and apparel, the students became excited about being able to charge their cell phones while walking down the street.

After learning a bit about the components of the DSSC, the students broke up in to smaller groups to discuss how the devices are made now, and what advances need to be made to reach our goal of flexible solar cells.  They quickly learned that a lot of improvements need to be made, and only through collaboration between multiple research groups can these advancements be achieved in a reasonable amount of time.

Kudos to Quiana for showing off Cougar Science and at the same time getting local high school students interested in their education!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

And the winner is...

This semester, the Inorganic Chemistry students were required to memorize the periodic table.  Why, one might ask?  Well because those who could would receive the rights to brag about their skills at memorizing the periodic table.  Oh and there was a prize.

Without further ado, the Master of the Periodic Table for fall of 2009 was awarded to Laurence Quinn.  In honor of his noble work, Laurence received a pair of periodic table socks, much like the ones I have been known to wear.  (Don't worry, I'm fairly certain he's got the new pair and I'm still wearing the older ones.)

Overall, I was very impressed with the students' efforts this semester, with most of them able to make a periodic table with only a few minor errors (note, the runner up in the Master of the periodic table competition had two hydrogens and no helium on his entry, ahem Brian).  Laurence's entry is below.  Who will be able to beat this next year?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Getting the word out

Dr. Mardis recently published a review article with her Argonne National Laboratory colleague, David Tiede, in the journal Photosynthesis Research.  The paper describes their use of the Advanced Photon Source at ANL to perform X-ray scattering experiments in solution.  Like X-ray crystallography, the technique is used to determine molecular structure.  The figure below, taken from their paper, provides an overview of the experiment.

High energy X-rays from the APS are directed towards a molecule in solution.  In the review, Dr. Mardis and co-authors focus on biological molecules like proteins and DNA.  X-rays "bounce" off the dissolved molecules, forming a 2D diffraction pattern.  That data can be further processed into a 1D spectrum of intensity versus frequency.

As if focusing high brilliance, high energy photons from a synchrotron source onto a temperature-controlled solution of biological material weren't difficult enough, the data from the experiment, at first glance, don't mean a whole heck of a lot.  That's where Dr. Mardis comes in.

Dr. Mardis is the computational chemist at CSU and she performs molecular dynamics simulations on a rather high-powered computer cluster.  [Note: I've been asking her for months now to host a Call of Duty 4 tournament, but she claims the NIH would not buy the argument that gaming would increase productivity.]  Molecular dynamics is the study of how molecules move, and Dr. Mardis' computational simulations of molecular motion can be used to explain experimental observations.

In X-ray crystallography, the diffraction pattern can be converted into a single structure of a molecule.  However in solution, a molecule is moving, stretching, vibrating, and spinning; and each orientation contributes differently to the 1D pattern of the X-Ray scattering experiment.  With molecular dynamics, Dr. Mardis determines a whole bunch (say, 1000) of structures that a molecule can exist in and then predicts the X-ray scattering pattern for each structure.  After averaging all those patterns together, she gets a final graph that looks pretty darn close to what her experimental colleagues find in the lab.

Dr. Mardis recently spoke about this publication at a departmental seminar.  Spending the summer at a national lab (and the hope of playing video games at break-neck speeds) is just one of the advantages of working in her research group.  If you'd like to read the article, you can find it here if you have access to the journal or contact Dr. Mardis for a copy (this link sends you to the CSU Chemistry and Physics faculty contact info).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Advising time is here

Advising and Registration season is upon us. Please log-in to to make an advising appointment. No door sign-up sheets will be used.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Students Lobby the State Legislature to Restore MAP Money

This post was submitted by David Kanis.

Three students from the Department of Chemistry and Physics joined two dozen CSU students and thousands of students from campuses across the State to lobby the State to restore MAP (Monetary Assistance Program) for the spring semester.  Rachel Hawkins (chemistry), Bryant Ukaigwe (chemistry), and Christopher McDaniel (chemistry) joined Dr. Kanis in the Springfield lobbying effort.  MAP is the State program which provides financial aid to nearly 140,000 low income students annually.  Lawmakers totally cut the MAP Program out of the State budget beginning in the spring semester.  If the MAP money had not been restored, numerous CSU students would have had to drop out of college, and thus this group went to Springfield to make their voices heard on this important issue.

The group left CSU at 8:30 am on October 15, took a three hour bus trip to Springfield, and joined in a large rally next to the State capitol.  At the end of the rally the departmental  group shook hands with Governor Quinn, with Rachel Hawkins getting her picture taken with the grand poobah himself!  The departmental group visited the offices of their elected State Representatives as well as those representing districts in the vicinity of the campus.  The group visited both houses of the legislature while they were in session, and then went over to the Senate side and visited the offices of their senators.  They spent 15 minutes talking to Senator Kwame Raoul (Hyde Park) about CSU.  The entire CSU group also met with Senator Donne Trotter (Chatham, and Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee).  While traveling to Senator Trotter’s Office, the CSU group was frightened when the elevator they were in fell two stories!  The group, visibly shaken, quickly exited the elevator and used the stairs for the remainder of the day! 

Every legislator the group met with talked about the importance of restoring the MAP money.  The group was present when the Senate debated and then passed the resolution demanding that the Governor to restore the MAP funds.  The House had passed the resolution earlier in the day.  After a very busy and tiring day, the group took the three hour bus ride back to CSU while watching the movie Transformers I.  On October 19, 2009, the governor signed the bill restoring $200 million in MAP money for the spring semester!  Kudos to our students for doing such a great job on behalf of thousands of CSU students who could not attend the event!

Thanks to Brent Jones, CSU photographer, for the picture of our CSU representatives under the dome.