2007-2008 Faculty and Staff Activities
David G. Alberg, 1993-, Professor and Chair. B.A., Carleton College; Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley.
I am thrilled to be handing off the department chair duties to Will Hollingsworth soon, but it has been an honor to serve the department these past three years. It is a bit of a shame to “retire” from the chair just as I am beginning to get the hang of the job, but, on the other hand, three years is enough!
Teaching is what I like to do best, and I enjoyed another great year in the classroom and lab. In the fall I taught my upper-level Chemical and Biosynthesis course, and I twice taught Organic Chemistry II, back-to-back, in the Winter and Spring Terms. I also enjoyed co-directing a comps group with Dani Kohen. Our comps “subject” was physical chemist Professor Steven Boxer, from Stanford University. The group focused on his work on electron and energy transfer in the photosynthetic reaction center. I must admit, this topic was a bit of a stretch for a lowly bioorganic chemist, but, as is always true with comps, I learned a tremendous amount. It was great to work with Dani and a terrific group of seniors.
It was a slow year in my research lab. I do not have students working with me this summer since I will be beginning a yearlong sabbatical at the end of July. However, senior Michael Duyzend did research with me during the school year, and he put the final touches on work that we hope to write up for publication, probably after I return from sabbatical.
Speaking of sabbatical, Gretchen and I are thrilled to be moving our family to Aarhus, Denmark, for the year. We will be working in the laboratory of Professor Karl Anker Jørgensen at the Center for Catalysis at Aarhus Universitet. Professor Jørgensen’s research involves the development of new catalysts for various organic transformations. Gretchen and I are excited to learn a new area of chemistry, with the long-term goal of developing a new joint research program in this area.
Our summer is currently consumed with getting ready to leave Northfield for the year. Although we are a bit overwhelmed, we have dealt with most of the major arrangements, and I think we will be ready for our departure on July 30. I look forward to telling about our experiences in Europe in next year’s annual report.
James Blair, Fall 2007, Visiting Instructor. B.A., Carleton College; Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley.
Last spring, as the end of my time in graduate school loomed on the horizon, I went looking for a new challenge: I wanted to teach one more time. Just when I exhausted my leads here in San Francisco, opportunity presented itself. I hadn’t been away from the Carleton Chemistry Department too long – I graduated in 2002 – when Dave recruited me back as a visiting instructor for the Fall Term. Owing to the larger-than-expected enrollment of 80+ students in Orgo I, the department needed a second instructor. Somewhere between luck and fate, I found exactly the right fit for an interim teaching position.
What an amazing experience! Working closely with Gretchen, I taught the four sections of Orgo I lab, while Gretchen covered the lecture portion of the course. For the first time, I had my “own” class, and I relished the opportunity to try new things. Certainly, a class of 80 intimidated me at first, but in no time, I was smoothly sailing. This was in no small part due to Brian and Julie’s expert assistance and the ever-helpful, excellent TAs I had. I really enjoyed sharing my experiences in graduate school, both what graduate school has been like for me and the little synthetic chemistry techniques I learned to make life in lab easier, such as an easy trick to ensure evenly loading NMR solvent in an NMR tube. I tweaked a few of the Orgo I labs, with the reworked stilbene bromination lab being my favorite. Of course, I can’t talk about my time teaching without mentioning the stellar students I had, who, with patience, handled the highs and lows of a first-time instructor. Outside of class, I had a fantastic time getting reacquainted with Northfield. For all the other alumni who haven’t been back to Northfield recently, I can happily report that Blue Monday’s is still awesome. I spent my time running through the Arb, trying to solve the “cooking for one” dilemma, and spending time getting to know the other new faculty members.
It’s been a big year since I left Carleton in November. While at Carleton, I squirreled away my paychecks to buy an engagement ring, and I proposed to Brooke Olson (a Tommie, not a Carl) the day I returned to San Francisco. We’re getting married in September. I returned to lab, wrote my dissertation (Chemical Genetic Tools to Measure and Regulate Cellular Kinase Activity), and graduated over Memorial Day weekend. This summer, I plan to take three months off to relax, refocus, and recreate. In October I will start a postdoctoral research position in Prof. Lucy Shapiro’s lab at Stanford. I will study the histidine kinase signaling pathways that regulate the cell cycle of Caulobacter crescentus, a ubiquitous freshwater bacterium, with hopes of developing small molecule tools to dissect these pathways. This will be a departure from my organic chemistry roots – Lucy’s lab studies are primarily developmental biology – but I’m excited about the challenge.
Michael Burand, 2007-, Visiting Assistant Professor. B.S., University of Minnesota, Duluth; M.S., Ph.D., University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.
This past year, I had the opportunity to teach CHEM 123, “Principles of Chemistry,” in the fall and spring, as well as CHEM 122, “An Introduction to Chemistry,” during the Winter Term. This was my first time working with Carleton students, and they proved to be a joy to teach. I had a wonderful time teaching these courses; it was particularly enjoyable to be able to do several lecture demonstrations, and in the case of 123, to work closely with students in the laboratory. Additionally, during the Winter Term I taught two laboratory sections of Professor Alberg’s CHEM 234 (Organic Chemistry II) course. This turned out to be a great way for me to get to know more of the chemistry students and to relearn some organic chemistry which I first studied so long ago. These laboratory sections also provided the opportunity to teach students various instrumental techniques such as MS, IR, and NMR.
In June I taught CHEM 1233, a week-long course for high school teachers who will be teaching AP chemistry for the first time. I was fortunate to have a co-instructor for the course, Patsy Mueller, who teaches AP chemistry in Lake Forest, IL. We had 18 students in the class. These students were very upbeat and eager to learn, despite the demanding lecture and laboratory schedule. It was a great experience, and it allowed me a glimpse into the world of high school chemistry education.
The Chemistry Department faculty members have been incredibly helpful during my time here, and I thank them for their continuing support and patience with my many questions. I am looking forward to teaching at Carleton again next year. In addition to the introductory courses, I will be teaching CHEM 306, “Spectroscopic Characterization of Chemical Compounds.” A major topic of this course will be NMR theory, in addition to hands-on instrument use for students. I did quite a bit of NMR spectroscopy as a graduate student, and I look forward to teaching these techniques to others.
Charles H. Carlin, 1966-2004; Charles “Jim” and Marjorie Kade Professor of the Sciences, Emeritus, 2004-. B.A., Carthage College; Ph.D., The Johns Hopkins University.
I have been busy learning the intricacies of piloting a 20 ft. pontoon boat through the winds and waves of Cedar Lake. The bass fishing was dramatic and prolific until the season opened this year. Elder son Matthew (and Missie) are expecting a daughter to be born in August - to be named “Charlie,” which is only accidentally reminiscent of me. Reporting on retirement activities seems to border on the raw edge of boredom - so I'll save some paper and won’t.
Marion E. Cass, 1987-, Charles “Jim” and Marjorie Kade Professor of the Sciences. B.S., Fort Lewis College; Ph.D., University of Colorado, Boulder.
Once again, I taught two of the three terms at Carleton. During the Fall Term, I traveled with my husband Steve throughout the West, intermittently working and hiking, and ultimately landing in Boulder, Colorado, in early November where Steve was appointed as the Vice President of the Energy Resources Team at the Rocky Mountain Institute. In October, I was touched to be invited back to my alma mater, Fort Lewis College, to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award. I spent several days in Durango, reconnecting with my undergraduate mentor, John Ritchey, and then giving a seminar in the Chemistry Department. While traveling, I continued to work on computational projects using a Web Interface (WebMO developed by Will Polik from Hope College) to our server running Gaussian 03 at Carleton. Over the last year and a half I have been examining the Bailar Twist and Rây-Dutt mechanisms: two non-dissociative mechanisms that racemize and/or isomerizes chiral tris chelates. In the late fall, our paper, “In Search of The Bailar Twist and Rây-Dutt Mechanisms that Racemize Chiral Tris-Chelates: A Computational Study of Sc(III), Ti(IV), Co(III), Zn(II), Ga(III), and Ge(IV) Complexes of a Ligand Analog of Acetylacetonate,” was published in Inorganic Chemistry. In May, an interactive web site that I designed to teach about the properties of chiral tris chelates was published in the webware release of the Journal of Chemical Education Online.
Since early October, I have been studying these same mechanisms, but now I am looking for computational verification that the choice of the ligand in chiral tris-chelate (ML3) complexes will influence whether a Bailar Twist mechanism is preferred relative to a Rây-Dutt mechanism. I was invited to present this research (which was inspired by a question posed by my postdoctoral mentor, Ken Raymond) at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in April in a symposium organized to honor the life and work of Ken Raymond, the recipient of the 2008 ACS Award in Inorganic Chemistry. It was a wonderful experience to celebrate with Ken and to reconnect with many Raymond group members.
At Carleton, I team-taught the Quantum Spectroscopy Laboratory with my colleague Will Hollingsworth (to 42 students, a record enrollment!), and I supervised a comps group working with five great Carleton seniors: Felix Amankona-Diawuo, Matt Cich, Maraia Ener, Bill Mitchell, and Eric Nordland. Our group studied the published work of Professor Clark Landis (University of Wisconsin, Madison) and focused on his computational and experimental studies on the asymmetric hydrogenation of enamides using rhodium and iridium catalysts. In April, Clark visited Carleton to work with us and present a seminar on his current research. After hours, he was also treated to the “Hartwig Group” comps talk and a late night meeting of “Chemists at the Cow” with most of the senior chemistry majors.
In the Spring Term Gretchen Hofmeister and I team-taught Inorganic Chemistry to a group of 27 senior and junior chemistry majors. We also team-taught the Laboratory in Advanced Inorganic Chemistry which had a large enrollment of 19 students. I had a blast team-teaching this course with Gretchen. We experimented heavily, trying out new topics and intellectual approaches, with an ultimate goal of developing new ways to organize, prioritize, and motivate the material we believe is fundamental to the understanding of inorganic chemistry.
Joseph W. Chihade, 2003-, Associate Professor. B.A., Oberlin College; M.A., Ph.D., Columbia University.
I was on leave during the Fall and Winter Terms this year, which were spent mostly in the lab, but a few other activities also got my attention. As part of the college’s review of its overall curriculum, in the fall I was a member of a “curricular design team” charged with creating a potential set of graduation requirements. It was a great opportunity to think through what a Carleton education is all about along with faculty from a range of departments. Although the particular set of requirements we came up with is unlikely to be adopted in its entirety, I hope we provided some ideas that may be adopted over the next few years. I also did a bit of Midwest centered travel in the fall, attending a Carnegie sponsored meeting on liberal education in Indiana, a Sloan sponsored meeting on why students leave science majors in Wisconsin, and my first MACTLAC (Midwest Association of Chemistry Teachers at Liberal Arts Colleges) meeting, also in Wisconsin. Finally, I wrote up a paper on a portion of the Biological Chemistry lab course with Greg Muth, who teaches a similar course at St. Olaf. The article came out this May in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education.
My time in the lab focused on following up work on alanyl-tRNA synthetases (AlaRSs) initiated last summer by the biggest research group I have yet had at Carleton. Seven students were in the lab. Karen Borchert (’08) and David Anderson (’09) worked on determining the ability of human mitochondrial AlaRS to aminoacylate mutant tRNAs, with the goal of finding unique features required for specific recognition. Maraia Ener (’08) and Lucas Riley (’09) worked on optimizing the purification of the human mitochondrial enzyme and a series of truncated versions of the protein that had been designed by previous students in the lab. Yirong Zhu (’09) broke his shoulder in a bike accident early in the summer, so he ended up doing a significant amount of work on the computer, comparing the sequences of AlaRSs from a wide variety of species and finding some interesting patterns, including one that might have identified the basis of tRNA specificity in cytoplasmic AlaRSs. Finally, Julie Brown (’08) and Nakita Natala (’09) broke in the Storm phosphorimager, a new instrument housed in the Biology Department for quantitating radioactive material. Their experiments focused on using controlled RNA degradation to elucidate secondary and tertiary structure patterns in mitochondrial tRNAs. All seven students presented their work at national meetings in the spring; Maraia and Julie traveled to the ACS National Meeting in New Orleans, while I accompanied the rest of the group to San Diego for the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology national meeting, where the students won an “honorable mention” in the undergraduate poster competition. Over the fall and winter, I was able to make a little bit of progress on all of these fronts, and I’m looking forward to continuing the work this summer with the five students who will be in the lab.
In the spring, I again taught Chem 320, Biological Chemistry, and the associated Chem 321 lab course. Both classes were on the large side, with 35 in the lecture and 18 in the lab. I was excited to try out the “wiki” feature of our course management software for the first time, using it to allow students to create a set of online presentations about the basis of enzymatic catalysis.
This year also marked the first (of hopefully many!) ski trip with my children. Winter Park, Colorado, got about 16 inches of snow over the week we were there in December, but nothing is quite so memorable as watching Margo (5) and Sofia (3) snow-plowing down the bunny hill.
William C. Child, Jr., 1956-1990; Emeritus Professor, 1990-. B.A., Oberlin College; Ph.D., University of Wisconsin.
Nancy and I continued to enjoy the friendship of other condo owners and our excellent view of the Cannon River during our second year at the Village on the Cannon. Last August I was treated to an 80th birthday celebration in our community room by our elder son and his wife. Cross country skiing was unusually good during the winter, with snow lasting much longer than usual. Biking and hiking are part of the daily routine during the warmer months.
During the past year I have taken three courses in the Cannon Valley Elder Collegium and completed a second and final term on the Board of Directors. Musical activities continued as before: membership in two orchestras and a woodwind quintet, and service as personnel manager in one of the orchestras. Another great experience in playing chamber music took place again early this summer at the Montana Chamber Music Workshop in Bozeman, Montana.
Steven M. Drew, 1991-, Professor. B.A., St. John’s University; Ph.D., University of Colorado.
This past year I’ve had the pleasure of being on sabbatical. It’s been quite refreshing to concentrate on research for an extended period of time. My goals have been to finish up my research on chiral platinum(II) double salts and explore some new research ideas. For my sabbatical I am continuing my collaboration with Kent Mann at the University of Minnesota. I commute to Minneapolis three days a week to work in his lab exploring new research ideas and helping his group advance their research agenda. The rest of the week I work in my lab at Carleton and take some time to relax now and then. After all, the meaning of sabbatical is to “take a rest from work.” There have been some research successes as well as some failures over the past year, but overall I feel good about the whole experience as I continue to develop my skills in materials chemistry. As I come to the end of my sabbatical, I’m starting to do more writing that will continue into the next year. This will hopefully include a few more publications and a grant application. Wish me luck!
This past summer I finished up work on my American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund grant “The Synthesis and Characterization of Chiral Platinum(II) Extended Linear Chain Materials and Their Potential Application as Gas Sensing Transducers.” Ryan Martinez (’08), Matt Cich (’08), and Yui Takeshita (’08) joined me for the summer to work on the synthesis and characterization of some chiral extended linear chain solid-state materials based on platinum square planar metal-ligand complexes. These materials are of interest to me because they are highly colored and undergo significant structural and electronic change in the presence of solvent vapors thus altering the material’s UV-visible absorption and fluorescence characteristics. Ryan, Matt, and Yui helped me explore some new synthetic derivatives that included platinum(II) cations composed of terpyridine or bipyridine ligands as well as chiral isonitriles. While the derivatives we studied didn’t display any enantiomeric selectivity that we could detect, they were still much more stable than the tetrakisisonitrile derivatives we have also been studying. Ryan and Matt presented their work at the American Chemical Society National Meeting in New Orleans this spring.
In addition to my research, I also worked this past summer with Will Hollingsworth and Kit Zall (’08) to construct a prototype of a pulsed LED luminescence lifetime spectrometer. The prototype was a success, so we built three for use in the kinetics laboratory this past fall. The experiment was a hit with the students, and Kit also presented a poster on his work at the American Chemical Society Meeting in New Orleans. He had many inquiries about his work and was encouraged to publish his results and the pulsed LED circuit we designed with the help of Tom Baraniak in physics. I hope to work on this more in the coming year.
Other professional activities have kept me busy the past year. I attended the Council on Undergraduate Research National Meeting at the College of St. Benedict here in Minnesota in June. I presented a poster summarizing my recent research in collaboration with undergraduates titled “Evidence for Enantiometric Selectivity in a Luminescent Extended Linear Chain Vapochromic Material that Responds to Volatile Organic Compounds.” In addition, I reviewed manuscripts for the Journal of Chemical Education and the journal Sensors. I also reviewed a National Science Foundation proposal and attended the annual Minnesota Analytical Professors Society Meeting. Finally, I had a great time presenting a chemistry show for a local Cub Scout troop. Talk about enthusiasm! It was buckets of fun, but it makes me appreciate even more the subdued nature to college teaching.
Tricia A. Ferrett, 1990-, Professor. B.A., Grinnell College; Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley.
This year I was mostly on sabbatical - my first in ten years! In Fall Term I had one course release to direct the Carleton Interdisciplinary Science and Math Initiative (CISMI) and our fifth Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) grant. Summer and fall 2007 were full with preparing a proposal to HHMI for our sixth four-year grant, which was funded at $1.5 million last May! Over 50 people contributed to the proposal; coordinating their terrific ideas was a great joy. The new HHMI grant (2008-12), centered on the scientific theme of modeling complexity, will provide critical funds for student summer research, a new Summer Science Institute for high school students, several new cohort programs that broaden access to science for students from groups underrepresented in science, and funds for faculty to learn about and develop new curricular experiences for students related to modeling, neuroscience, and environmental science. During the fall I also participated in one of three faculty teams that crafted creative proposals to “modernize” the college’s curriculum and graduation requirements. That work is now feeding into a college-wide curriculum review. I also helped interview candidates for the position of Director of Intercultural Life.
I began my full-year sabbatical in January 2008. I continue to pursue the study of student learning that integrates science learning with compelling real-world issues and “pedagogies of engagement.” My major project involves writing and editing a book of scholarly essays titled “Connected Science: Strategies for Integrative Learning in College.” The scholarship in this book grew from the 2005 Carnegie Scholar Program in which I participated with 20 other faculty from across the world, mentored by six senior scholars. From this group - which studied integrative learning in many contexts and disciplines - I recruited 15 co-authors. I am a Visiting Scholar at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, spending most of my time in Northfield, with monthly week-long writing retreats at the foundation in Palo Alto, CA. Finally, I am working with other scholars of teaching and learning on a project funded by the Teagle Foundation on social pedagogies and adaptive expertise - look up these terms to expand your education vocabulary!
My professional travel adventures included facilitating a faculty workshop on the scholarship of teaching and learning at Gustavus Adolphus College with Michael Smith (Ithaca College) in the fall. In January, I attended an AAC&U meeting in D.C. on “Intentional Learning, Unscripted Challenges: Knowledge and Imagination for an Interdependent World.” In February, I gave a keynote talk with Joanne Stewart (Hope College) on our scholarship at a Mellon-funded meeting in St. Paul, where faculty and deans from over 20 liberal arts colleges gathered to talk about interdisciplinary learning. I also helped design and organize this conference. Also in February, I gave a talk on my “connected science” book project at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Most recently, I attended a one-day conversation (with Susan Singer, biology), sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, on the future of biology undergraduate education.
This has been a good year for family, travel, and health. Adam (6) and Alex (5) are growing up fast. Adam just completed kindergarten and Alex is ready to start it in fall 2008. The boys continue to make the world fresh for me every day. I took my traditional spring break trip this year to Tulum, Mexico, with my research partner Joanne Stewart. We slept in a palapa on the beach, read books, hiked, biked, ate guacamole, talked, and did yoga. I took a wonderful book writing retreat to the North Shore of Lake Superior in April, where I rented a lake condo and wrote by the fireplace as two gnarly blizzards pounded my abode. I also just ended a year of free yoga at a local studio – I got much more serious about yoga. I am now studying Iyengar yoga with Matt Sanford, an inspirational yoga teacher and philosopher who became paralyzed from the chest down when he was 13 years old.
James E. Finholt, 1960-2001; William H. Laird Professor of Chemistry and the Liberal Arts, Emeritus, 2001-. B.A., St. Olaf College; Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley.
Nothing very exciting has happened to the Finholts in the past year. Bev has Parkinson’s, and the disease has produced both physical and cognitive problems. I am quite busy just keeping our household running. I am involved with applied chemistry every day as I gradually improve my cooking skills. I still love to teach, and I spend much of my free time helping seniors learn how to use computers at the Northfield Senior Center. I also serve on the Senior Center board.
The tulip bloom this spring was spectacular. It has inspired me to make plans to plant another 50 bulbs this fall.
It is a treat to hear from former students. My email address has changed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send a message when you have a minute or two.
Deborah S. Gross, 1998-, Associate Professor. B.A., Haverford College; Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley.
This has been a super-busy year. I have been involved in many (too many?) things, each of which took up a great deal of time and energy. I had the pleasure of teaching two sections of Chem 230, one in the fall and one in the spring (more on this one later), and an upper-level elective, Environmental Analysis, in the winter. All were fun, and all three were very different.
In addition to teaching and maintaining an active research group studying the composition of atmospheric aerosol particles, I led one of the three teams of faculty appointed to help in the college’s process to develop new distribution requirements, for which we submitted a proposal in January. I am looking forward to seeing how this process plays out. I also was the faculty mentor and instructor for a new program instituted at Carleton called “Focusing on Cultivating Scientists” or “FOCUS.” The first FOCUS cohort, nine members of the class of 2011, are all students interested in the sciences, interested in issues of diversity in the sciences, and who didn’t enter the college with a significant level of pre-college preparation (i.e., not many AP or IB courses, etc.). The cohort was a real pleasure to work with, and I taught them in a year-long colloquium, in which they did a project on modeling real-world systems with exponential growth/decay curves, investigated and wrote a report on the science of smell, and wrote their own science autobiographies as well as the biography of a science faculty member. These students became like family to each other and to me this year, and I look forward to working with them throughout their Carleton careers. I will also mentor the second FOCUS cohort, in the class of 2012.
In terms of teaching in chemistry, Chem 230 was pretty normal in the fall, although 90% of the class was juniors and seniors, which is unusual. They were fun to work with. The spring class, however, was more challenging, in that there were 80 students. Each one individually was a treat to work with, but goodness, there were just so many of them! We had enrollment challenges in the sophomore classes all year (Organic I in the fall was also inordinately large), and I got to experience them in the spring. To allow us to handle a class this size, we were lucky to be able to hire Stephanie Ota (chemistry major, class of 2000) to come back to Carleton for the term to teach three of the four lab sections for the course. Stephanie was a real pleasure to work with and made the whole thing possible. In the winter, I had a small class of sophomores, juniors, and seniors, and together we read quite a lot of literature about analytical measurements of various compounds in the environment. The six intrepid students who took the lab were such good sports that they went out and collected 150 snow samples from roadsides all around Northfield for chloride ion analysis on the coldest day of the year. Even hot cocoa at Blue Monday’s seemed insufficient to help them recover afterwards, but they did eventually thaw out.
My research has continued, and I have added a few new collaborators to the list of those I work with regularly (one at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and one at NASA Ames Research Center). I traveled with three of my research students, Beth Friedman, Juan Medrano, and Claire Liepmann, to the American Geophysical Union National Meeting in December, in San Francisco. Each of the students presented a poster in the Atmospheric Science section, on particle composition detected north of the arctic circle in Sweden, particle composition detected in a Swiss alpine valley, and particle emissions from an engine burning ethanol/gasoline mixtures, respectively. This meeting was great fun, and not only because there are so many Carleton alums to meet up with there! My fourth student this past year, Nick Brown, presented a poster on emissions from an engine burning biodiesel containing fuels at the American Chemical Society National Meeting in New Orleans, in March. We’ve all been busy. This summer is proving to be just as busy as the academic year, with four students working in the lab on combinations of data analysis and experimental projects. We hope to continue to make good progress on the various fronts.
Personally, this year has been a blur. Markus and I have traveled a little bit for fun, and a bit more for work, with the best trip being to visit a college friend of mine in Alaska last summer. Otherwise, I feel like I’ve barely been home! This feeling is corroborated by the unruliness of our vegetable garden this year; we have not been able to harvest our early crops as diligently as we should. I look forward to bringing some order to it in the near future.
Gretchen E. Hofmeister, 2002-, Associate Professor. B.A., Carleton College; Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley.
In 2007-08 I taught Organic I in the fall and winter (with comps) and co-taught Inorganic Chemistry with Marion Cass in the spring. There were over 80 students enrolled in the Fall Term organic course, so we hired Jimmy Blair (’02) to teach the lab sections while I taught the lecture, along with extra problem-solving sessions. Jimmy worked with me on continuing to tweak the laboratory experiments for Organic I, and we are pretty close to being the new set of established labs for this course. In particular, he incorporated a greener synthesis into the “Stereospecificity of Bromination Reactions” experiment, along with analysis of yields using “green metrics.” I enjoyed having someone to talk with on a daily basis about the course and the students’ progress in it.
The teaching highlight of my year was team-teaching Inorganic Chemistry with Marion Cass. We tried to integrate structure and reactivity throughout the course, with more success at the beginning of the term and a bit less as the term progressed. Suffice it to say that AFTER finishing the course, we have a plan of what would be the “perfect” inorganic course at Carleton. Based on our experience, we are continuing to work together to flesh-out more units for this course that Marion (or both of us, if possible) can continue to use in the future. We also invested significant energy in the laboratory, and as a result we have plans for more research-like laboratory experiences for students in the future. One of the other positive results of this collaboration is that it has encouraged me to experiment more with my teaching.
My comps group this year studied the research of John Hartwig, who has developed new palladium-based catalysts that enable incorporation of functional groups, such as oxygen, nitrogen, and boron, into organic compounds. I felt particularly close to my comps students this year, because I knew them well as students in my classes and as lab assistants and/or prefects over the last several years. Most of all, I really had FUN with them – even as they were having their marathon (until midnight) comps-talk practices, their sense of humor enabled it to be entertaining and enjoyable throughout all of the hard work. John’s visit dovetailed with his visit to the University of Minnesota as a Gassman lecturer, so the group was able to travel to the University for his talks earlier in the week, spending one entire day asking him questions related to the papers they had read, before he came to Carleton to give another seminar. It was an exciting week, overall.
My research group continued to make good progress over the past year; Bill Mitchell (’08) finished up his work in my laboratory and passed the torch to Jennifer Bigelow (’09) and Ryan Babbush (’11). The goal of my research is to develop new metal-based reagents that will selectively control the outcome of organic transformations or polymerization reactions, similarly to how biological enzymes selectively control the transformation of biological metabolites or the synthesis of biological polymers. My group has been studying the catalytic role of titanium trisphenolate complexes in the preparation of poly(lactic acid), a biodegradable polymer. Bill has studied and characterized the initiation period in this reaction, perhaps raising as many new questions as he has answered! He will now move to Berkeley for graduate study at the University of California. This summer, Jennifer is going to more fully characterize the thermodynamic relationships among at least three different complexes of titanium(trisphenolate) that are routinely observed, and Ryan is going to perform kinetic studies in NMR tube reactions; we are hoping that this will enable us to get more consistent results than we have in the past.
Next week will be my last meeting as part of the 2008 Organic Exam Committee. We will meet at Asilomar (near Monterey, CA), so I am taking my family along for a short vacation.
My biggest news is that the 2008-09 year will be spent with my family in Aarhus, Denmark, where Dave and I will do research in the laboratory of Karl Anker Jørgensen. Jørgensen is an established researcher, who started his career in organometallic catalysis and who more recently has been working on developing small organic catalysts for accomplishing selective organic transformations. Our plan is to learn more about this area of chemistry and to develop a new joint research project in the area of small molecule catalysis. I look forward to updating you on the sabbatical in next year’s annual report!
William E. Hollingsworth, 1986-, Professor. B.S., B.A., University of Texas, Austin; M.S., Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley.
After a few summers working on modeling activities for use in teaching, I was pleased to be able to implement a few of these ideas in the fall when I taught an ENTS first-year seminar, “Painting the Environment by Numbers.” With the use of some Vensim rate-modeling exercises, GIS software, a few guest speakers, and readings from scientific texts and literature, our class explored some of the issues of the global environment, in particular, focusing on the greenhouse effect. In addition to this seminar, I also co-taught the kinetics lab with Dani Kohen. In it, we were able to implement a new pulsed-fluorescence experiment looking at the levels of quenching of some ruthenium complexes, the result of a project undertaken over the past year with Steve Drew and Kit Zall.
In the winter I taught a historically large quantum class (43!) and shared an equally large spectroscopy lab with Marion Cass. Teaching these classes is an intense experience no matter the size of the class, but I hope you can imagine the extra intensity conferred by these numbers. Luckily, normal numbers returned in the spring in teaching Chem 128 (Principles of Environmental Chemistry), and I was able to try out some new Vensim modeling exercises for teaching aspects of kinetics and equilibrium. I also supervised Jessica Jauw during the year on her nice comps paper looking at the possibility of drug delivery using biodegradable polymers.
While not teaching, I was involved in other activities at Carleton, including a few hiring committees and participating in ENTS activities. On January 31, Carleton participated in Focus the Nation, a nationwide attempt to focus some attention on greenhouse warming and climate change. I presented some information on the science behind the greenhouse effect for a Carleton panel as well as at another time during the year.
After a few years away on the above curriculum and modeling projects, I am excited to be returning to my chemistry research program this summer by working with students Lauren Jarocha and Emily Ruff. We hope to extend earlier pilot work studying the dissociative properties for Mn2(CO)10 in the near ultraviolet, scanning through the region of several different absorptions using doubled output from a YAG-pumped dye laser. The method involves time-of-flight mass spectrometry coupled with multiphoton absorption from the focused laser light, and the hope is to work out more details about the competition between two wavelength-dependent photodissociation channels.
Julie Karg, 1988-, Chemistry Technician. B.S., Mankato State University.
This past year, I continued to co-manage the chemistry stockroom – preparing laboratory experiments, supervising student workers, and providing assistance to laboratory and research classrooms. I worked with professors to develop and prepare new laboratory exercises for their courses and upgrade previously performed experiments. I improved guidelines and signage designed to assist professors, lab assistants, and students and generated improvements that allowed the lab floor to run more smoothly and efficiently. I turned over management of the electronic version of the Chemistry Department’s “Annual Report” to Wendy Zimmerman and became the department’s overall website manager.
Daniela Kohen, 2002-, Assistant Professor. B.A., Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina; Ph.D., University of Notre Dame.
Life this past year has been good: full of learning and fun times both at work and at home.
I taught Chemical Thermodynamics and Kinetics Laboratory (with Will Hollingsworth) in the fall, Principles of Chemistry (Chem 123) in the winter, and Computational Chemistry in the spring. In the winter I also co-supervised a “comps” group that studied the work of Steve Boxer (Stanford University) on photosynthesis. As it has became usual at Carleton, I loved teaching these classes and interacting with the students. I learned so much from all of them, and I am pretty sure the students learned quite a bit as well! There were so many good questions asked and so many cool moments in the lab and in the classroom…it was a pleasure!
Research is progressing nicely. My group’s research focuses on using atomistic simulations to understand and characterize at the molecular level how small gas molecules interact with pure CO2 in the pores of zeolites (molecular sieves), and how this interaction changes in the presence of other gases present in the atmosphere. The goal of these studies is to provide a basic understanding of the processes that underlie the use of molecular sieves as filters to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Last summer, David Selassie (’09) and Felix Amankona-Diawuo (’08) continued to do computational work in my group, although Felix did so from Ames, Iowa. (Felix worked with Mark Gordon, a renowned quantum chemist on a collaborative project trying to develop a more sophisticated description of the zeolite/gas interactions.) As it has become a tradition for my group, the summer culminated with our participation in the Midwest Undergraduate Conference in Computational Chemistry, this time at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Over the academic year I was able to put some of my group’s work in perspective and after some very intense and long hours I finished a manuscript. The paper entitled “Atomistic Simulations of CO2 and N2 Diffusion in Silica Zeolites: The Impact of Pore Size and Shape” has already been accepted for publication in the Journal of Chemical Physics C and has five Carleton students as co-authors. It was a thrill to work on this article, to follow the students’ leads and to pursue an understanding of some puzzling findings. I love doing research! Furthermore, I was able to present my group’s results both at a Gordon Conference on Nanoporous Materials and at the national American Institute of Chemical Engineers meeting. This summer, Lindsey Madison (’10), Colin Russell (’10), and Henry Heitzer (’10) are working in my group. I am looking forward to continuing a productive summer with them, full of challenges, learning, and discovery.
All in all, another stimulating year has gone by. I am definitely looking forward to another year like this at Carleton.
Brian T. Mars, 1983-, Laboratory Manager. B.A., California State University, Chico; M.Th., Andersonville Theological Seminary.
Ordinary tasks occupied me this past year. The only change in the lab curriculum was the switch of spectroscopy and kinetics in Advanced Lab. This caused a slight crisis in scheduling of instruments which was handily sorted out by Julie – the great organizer. Other than that, I continued to work on updating safety training.
Jerry R. Mohrig, 1967-2003; Herman and Gertrude Mosier Stark Professor of the Natural Sciences, Emeritus, 2003-. B.S., University of Michigan; Ph.D., University of Colorado.
After a delightful month-long trip that Adrienne and I took last August in Washington and British Columbia, we have stayed closer to home. Of course, there were trips to Texas, where both Sara and her family and David and Chiu-Mi live. My eight-year old grandson Nate, his uncle David, and I will be in southern Utah for a week in July searching for dinosaur bones on an intergenerational Elderhostel program. Later this summer Adrienne and I will spend three weeks in Quebec on another Elderhostel program. We continue to enjoy life.
The second in the series of my post-retirement research articles was published this year. It covered the research of eight Carleton alums on the stereochemistry of base-catalyzed 1,2-elimination reactions of isotopically-labeled β-tosyloxy esters and thioesters. The reviewers said kind things about our discoveries.
Another manuscript that occupied a goodly amount of time concerns a new guided-inquiry organic chemistry capstone project on the synthesis and transfer hydrogenation of a series of chalcones. The manuscript should be published in the Journal of Chemical Education within the next few months. The project grew out of our workshop at the University of California, Irvine, on teaching guided-inquiry labs, which we ran again last summer. Because one of the participants at the 2006 workshop was taken with the chalcone project, it has been successfully class tested at the University of Florida with 550 students and 36 graduate-student TAs, an important step in having research universities see the utility of the guided-inquiry approach to organic chemistry labs.
In May and again in June, I spoke on achieving more effective learning in undergraduate laboratories. The first time was on the occasion of my receiving the 2008 Minnesota ACS Section Brasted Award for outstanding contributions to undergraduate teaching, and the second time was at the biennial conference of the Council on Undergraduate Research, held at the College of St. Benedict.
I continue to be a member of the selection committee for the James Flack Norris Award for Achievement in Teaching Chemistry, as well as a member of the Congregational Care Council at the First United Church of Christ, Northfield. A friend and I helped to establish a men’s discussion group at First UCC last year, which has been meaningful to more than a dozen men at the church. In March I was elected to the board of our local homeowners association at the Village on the Cannon, where we now live, and am currently serving as its president.
Stephanie Ota, Spring 2008, Visiting Instructor. B.A., Carleton College.
This past spring I had the opportunity to take a break from my studies to teach Chem 230 lab with Deborah Gross. We had a great group of students, and I enjoyed working with them tremendously. The time flew by, and I’m back at the University of Oregon continuing my research into the uptake of gases to the air/water interface. I’m looking forward to visiting Carleton again soon.
Richard W. Ramette, 1954-1990; Laurence M. Gould Professor of the Natural Sciences, Emeritus, 1990-. B.A., Wesleyan University; Ph.D., University of Minnesota.
This is written at the onset of our first monsoon season in the Sonoran Desert, having sold our Minnesota cabin last summer. One can almost sense the eagerness of our parched neighborhood quail, roadrunners, bunnies, coyotes, and javelinas.
In the past months I gave a slide show of our 2003 Carleton alumni trip to Japan to the Green Valley Travel Club and to the Public Library program. No chemistry, except for some email tutoring of my 13-year-old grandson Joshua, who is eagerly learning how to make smokes and smells. No special travel, but I’m planning a fall river cruise in France with University of Minnesota alumni.
I’m still active, with a bronze in Senior Games shuffleboard, and three golds in swimming (80-plus age group). I’m a monitor for the GV Computer Club and a monitor and fitness orientation instructor for GV Rec. Current project: instituting Functional Fitness Testing for this community.
Wendy J. Zimmerman, 1970-, Administrative Assistant.
Working with me in the office again this year was my student assistant, Matthew Fink (’10). I continue to be the editor of this report and “The Weekly Beaker,” the department’s weekly newsletter, and I help manage the department’s web site.
Funke, T.; Healy-Fried, M. L.; Han, H.; Alberg, D. G.; Bartlett, P. A; Schönbrunn, E. “Differential Inhibition of Class I and Class II 5-Enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate Synthases by Tetrahedral Reaction Intermediate Analogues,” Biochem. 2007, 46, 13344-13351.
Blair, J. A.; Rauh, D.; Kung, C.; Yun, C. H.; Fan, Q. W.; Rode, H.; Zhang, C.; Eck, M. J.; Weiss, W. A.; Shokat, K. M. “Structure-Guided Development of Affinity Probes for Tyrosine Kinases Using Chemical Genetics,” Nat. Chem. Biol. 2007, 3, 229–38.
Rzepa, H. S.; Cass, M. E. “In Search of The Bailar Twist and Rây-Dutt Mechanisms that Racemize Chiral Tris-Chelates: A Computational Study of Sc(III), Ti(IV), Co(III), Zn(II), Ga(III), and Ge(IV) Complexes of a Ligand Analog of Acetylacetonate,” Inorg. Chem. 2007, 46, 19, 8024-8031. DOI 10.1021/ic062473y. Addition/Correction: Inorg. Chem. 2007, 46, 24, 10444. DOI 10.1021/ic701900f.
Cass, M. E.; Rzepa, H. S. “Visualizations to Examine the Structure and Symmetry of Metal Tris Chelates: Symmetry Operations, Chirality, and Mechanisms (Bailar Twist and Rây-Dutt) that Racemize the D and L Isomers,” J. Chem. Educ. 2008, 85, 5, 750-751. The animations can be accessed on the JCE-Online Website.
Cass, M. E.; Rzepa, H. S. “A Computational Study on the Ligand Imposed Preferences for the Bailar vs the Rây-Dutt Twists in GaL3 Complexes.” Presentation and published abstracts, 235th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, New Orleans, LA, April 6-10, 2008. Abstract INOR-0395.Muth, G. W.; Chihade, J. W. "A Streamlined Molecular Biology Module for Undergraduate Biochemistry Labs," Biochem. Mol. Biol. Educ. 2008, 3, 209-216.
Pappenfus, Ted; Hermanson, Bethany; Helland, Tyler; Lee, Garett; Drew, Steven M.; Mann, Kent; McGee, Kari; Rasmussen, Seth “Reduced Band Gap Dithieno[3,2-b:2',3'-d]pyrroles: New n-Type Organic Materials via Unexpected Reactivity,” Org. Lett. 2008, 10, 1553-1556.
Mohrig, J. R.; Alberg, David G.; Cartwright, Craig H.; Pflum, Mary Kay H.; Aldrich, Jeffrey S.; Anderson, J. Kyle; Anderson, Shelby R.; Fimmen, Ryan L.; Snover, Amy K. “Stereochemistry of 1,2-Elimination Reactions at the E2-E1cB Interface − tert-Butyl 3-Tosyloxybutanoate and its Thioester”, Org. Biomol. Chem. 2008, 6, 1641-1646.