Looking Back on 2018

Happy New Year! As we enter 2019, a new year of innovation and achievement, let’s take some time to appreciate some of the wonderful things that took place in the Department of Chemistry during 2018.

NOBCChE Outreach at Marietta High School Science Night

On Thursday, November 1st, the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE) at Emory University attended Marietta High School for their annual Science Night. The event, featuring classroom demos and science fair projects, welcomed volunteers from local universities to share about their STEM opportunities.

The Emory NOBCChE representatives who attended the event spent the evening handing out flyers and engaging with enthusiastic students and parents over some particularly exciting carbon dioxide chemistry. With do-it-yourself lava lamps and bouncing soap bubbles, guests were both entertained and inspired to learn more.

ChEmory Wins ACS Green Chemistry Student Chapter Award

ChEmory, our undergraduate ACS club, has won a Green Chemistry Student Chapter Award! This award recognizes student chapters that participate in three or more green chemistry outreach or educational activities throughout the year.

Photo from Ashley Diaz, ChEmory President

Firstly, ChEmory hosted a liquid nitrogen ice cream booth at the Student Activities Fair. While teaching visitors about the crystallization process of ice cream and recruiting new members to join the club, they made ice cream in reusable bowls and handed out samples in compostable cups. At the Fernbank Museum, ChEmory took their gastronomy a step further, making edible whiskey droplets. The only waste generated from the making of the whiskey droplets were the droppers themselves, which were disposable and recyclable.

Photo from Ashley Diaz, ChEmory President

At the Atlanta Science Festival, the group made slime from borax and polyvinyl alcohol. Because the slime was made with nontoxic and widely-available reagents, ChEmory members took the opportunity to teach about the concept of biodegradable, low-waste chemistry. Finally, in collaboration with the Artisan guild, club members used biodegradable, all-natural materials to make their own soap. By designing degradable products and utilizing renewable source materials, participants left the event with both a better understanding of green chemistry and a handmade bar of soap to use at home!

Congratulations, ChEmory!!

Interested in learning more? Check out ChEmory on Facebook!

 

2018 Atlanta Mini Symposium on Theoretical and Computational Chemistry

On Saturday, September 8th, the Emory University Department of Chemistry teamed up with Georgia Tech to host the 2018 Atlanta Mini Symposium on Theoretical and Computational Chemistry. The event, organized by Francesco Evangelista (Emory) and David Sherrill (Georgia Tech) brought together theoretical and computational chemists across metro-Atlanta for connection and collaboration. Attendees heard talks from invited speakers and spent the afternoon sharing ideas with fellow chemists in the field. The group plans to make the conference an annual event for the local theoretical chemistry community.

Atlanta Science Festival: Beatrice the Biologist and Science Communication

The Atlanta Science Festival brings STEM out of the lab and into the Atlanta community with two weeks of events culminating in the “Exploration Expo” regularly attended by over 18,000 people. ASF was founded in 2014 by a group of Emory staff and faculty, including former chemistry (now ASF!) staff Meisa Salaita and Sarah Peterson and chemistry faculty member David Lynn. Chemistry has sponsored at least one festival event every year. This blog series covers just some of chemistry’s involvement in the 2018 festival.

Beatrice the Biologist (a.k.a Katie McKissick) discusses a comic concept with postdoc Claire Jarvis (Wuest Group).

As part of the festivities, the Department of Chemistry at Emory welcomed Katie McKissick to learn about her career as author and illustrator of Beatrice the Biologist. Katie’s visit was initiated by chemistry graduate student Anthony Sementilli (Lynn Group) as an outgrowth of the Emory “Chemmy” seminars that seek to bring speakers to campus with student hosts. Anthony felt that Katie’s work would interest other students looking towards a career in outreach or seeking to share their day-to-day work via a social media presence. Anthony received support for Katie’s visit from Emory’s Hightower Fund, AWIS, the ILA, and Biology as well as the Atlanta Science Festival. “Anthony was able to help cover his costs through multiple funding sources, but more importantly, he was successful in engaging a wide community with what Katie has to teach,” says chemistry outreach coordinator Kira Walsh, who provided administrative support for the visit. “It was great to see students from across Emory benefiting from Katie’s perspective. And the Atlanta community also got into the act with the standing room only comics workshop at historic Manuel’s tavern.”

Before Beatrice the Biologist, Katie was a high school biology teacher. During her time as an educator, she found that she was incredibly passionate about the way in which the information was taught. Specifically, she appreciated the process of lesson planning and preparing scientific information in a format that would be more approachable and interesting to her students. “I enjoyed thinking about how people learned more than I liked actually teaching” says Katie. This prompted her to start her blog, Beatrice the Biologist.

As Beatrice the Biologist grew in popularity, Katie was recruited to blog for Scientific American, worked in the Communications Office for the School of Engineering at USC, and later for NASA’s jet-propulsion laboratory where she wrote about space for children and adult audiences. Katie now writes for the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and produces her own podcast called “Science Brunch”, co-hosted by Mae Prynce.

During her visit to Emory, Katie gave students the chance to get to know the face behind Beatrice the Biologist. She taught multiple workshops about how to draw science cartoons and how to use blogs to build an online presence. She also gave a career seminar about pursuing scientific outreach. Katie’s love of teaching was apparent in her approach—she gave students a list of action items that she found to be the most valuable during her journey into scientific communication and encouraged them to think in depth about possible audiences, content strategy, platforms, and branding. In the comics workshop, students generated a draft comic on the spot!

“My audience,” says Katie, “are people like my former students who think they don’t like science only to discover that they actually do.” She reaches this audience using short, digestible content in the form of fun comics that focus on commonly misunderstood concepts. She explains that her comics can capture the attention of people who either already know the information and, therefore, appreciate the humor or people who don’t already know the information and can then learn something new.

Of course, effective science communication depends on more than just the quality of the content. Katie also provided the audience at her blogging workshop with insight into how to grow a brand and develop a far-reaching online presence. “We live in an amazing time when people are actually so accessible,” says Katie, emphasizing the importance of social media for disseminating information.  She even provided attendees with advice on how to “navigate rough waters” when it comes to social media faux pas. “You never want to assume people have context,” says Katie, “Especially if you are trying to make jokes!” Katie helped students to define their approach by encouraging them to complete a mission statement that could guide the curation of their online presence.

Katie’s visit to Emory gave students and faculty the unique chance to get to know the person behind Beatrice the Biologist and to learn all the best tips and tricks of science communication. She showed us how passion and creativity evolved “nerdy” science comics into a dynamic and entertaining platform for “cultivating curiosity and appreciation for science and nature one giggle at a time.”

To check out more from Beatrice the Biologist, click [here].

Atlanta Science Festival: Chemistry Carnival Recap

The Atlanta Science Festival brings STEM out of the lab and into the Atlanta community with two weeks of events culminating in the “Exploration Expo” regularly attended by over 18,000 people. ASF was founded in 2014 by a group of Emory staff and faculty, including former chemistry (now ASF!) staff Meisa Salaita and Sarah Peterson and chemistry faculty member David Lynn. Chemistry has sponsored at least one festival event every year. This blog series covers just some of chemistry’s involvement in the 2018 festival.

One particularly fun event, the Chemistry Carnival, provided children and families with an evening of entertainment and education through a series of hands-on activities. The Atwood Commons was abuzz with enthusiastic young learners playing games, asking questions, and learning about science and technology.

Some highlights of the carnival included Peptide Jenga, where participants learned about attraction and repulsion, Pin the Tail on the Substrate, where guests were blindfolded and tasked with “pinning the polar-head to the [3.3.0] bicycle-octene”, and Electron Transfer Ring Toss, complete with glow-sticks and illuminated Erlenmeyer flasks. On the second floor of the commons, visitors could Build a Bio Material out of clay, play the Bacteria Board Game, or pop balloons with darts in Superbug Pop.

The event wouldn’t have been complete without a few science-y sweets. Guests could enjoy hand-spun cotton candy or Dippin’ Dots made with liquid nitrogen.

A huge “Thank you!” to everyone who helped make the Chemistry Carnival such a successful and fun night! We couldn’t have done it without you!

More: Read postdoc Claire Jarvis’ (Wuest Group) interview with festival organizers Anthony Sementilli and Elaine Liu on the Emory Postdoctoral Association blog!

Pin the Tail on the Substrate
Peptide Jenga
ALEX visited the Science Commons Library
Colorful Ring Toss chemistry props
Bacteria Board Game
Students welcoming guests to the Chemistry Carnival
Build a Bio Material
Superbug Pop
Liquid nitrogen Dippin’ Dots
Laser Maze, Photo by Mallory Theis
Laser Maze, Photo by Mallory Theis
Laser Maze, Photo by Mallory Theis

Atlanta Science Festival: Frankenstein and the Future of Science

The Atlanta Science Festival brings STEM out of the lab and into the Atlanta community with two weeks of events culminating in the “Exploration Expo” regularly attended by over 18,000 people. ASF was founded in 2014 by a group of Emory staff and faculty, including former chemistry (now ASF!) staff Meisa Salaita and Sarah Peterson and chemistry faculty member David Lynn. Chemistry has sponsored at least one festival event every year. This blog series covers just some of chemistry’s involvement in the 2018 festival.

The classic science fiction novel “Frankenstein”, written by Mary Shelley, is commonly thought of as an entertaining story about a scientist and the monster he creates. While laced with grandeur and fantasy, the novel raises important questions and has ignited conversations about ethics and modern science. In light of its relevance for the world of chemistry and the future of the field, the novel has recently inspired several artistic creations ranging from animations to anthologies.

As part of the Atlanta Science Festival, three Atlanta playwrites explored the themes of the novel in the context of scientific research being conducted here at Emory in “Frankenstein Goes Back to the Lab”. The three animated art pieces, “The Rites of Men” by Edith Freni, “Indian Maeve” by Neeley Gosset, and “A Light Beneath Skin” by Addae Moon, were enjoyed and discussed by ethicists, scientists, and artists. The conversations tackled topics including cloning, evolution, epigenetics, apotheosis, morality, and more.

Similar topics were addressed in a recently published anthology, Frankenstein: How a Monster Became an Icon, the Science and Enduring Allure of Mary Shelley’s Creation. Emory faculty explored the topics of science, society, and philosophy that are woven throughout the book. The anthology, co-edited by Sidney Perkowitz and Eddy Von Mueller, features chapters collected from 17 experts across the country.

One of the featured experts is chemistry’s own David Lynn, who co-wrote a chapter with Jay Goodwin entitled “What Would Mary Shelley Say Today?” “Chemistry professor David Lynn writes about how his own work, to uncover the molecular basis of life, echoes ideas expressed in Frankenstein,” writes Carol Clark, author of the Emory News feature It’s Alive!.

In his chapter, David writes:

“Neither Shelley nor the scientists of her time could have imagined the molecular scale we now understand to be so critical to ultimately designing new forms of life, now within the domain and promise of systems and synthetic biology.”

To read the full It’s Alive! feature, click [here].

To purchase Frankenstein: How a Monster Became an Icon, the Science and Enduring Allure of Mary Shelley’s Creation, click [here].

Looking Back on 2017

Happy New Year! As we welcome 2018, let’s reflect on some of the great things that happened during 2017.

CCHF SACNAS and Outreach Events

Along with facilitating conversations about synthetic organic chemistry between professionals across a global platform, the NSF Center for Selective C-H Functionalization (CCHF), based at Emory University’s Department of Chemistry, also strives to increase scientific awareness to broader audience. They explain on their website, “A large part of the Centers mission is to bring C–H Functionalization into the mainstream of organic chemistry and one of the key ways we are seeking to do that is informing future generations of scientists by engaging students from K through 12.” By partnering with various organizations in outreach initiatives, the CCHF can connect with the community and share some of their fascinating scientific happenings.

Recently, some members of the Emory Department of Chemistry travelled to Utah to attend the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) conference. During the event, our representatives, in collaboration with the CCHF, participated in recruiting, dissemination of infomercials, research seminars, and poster judging. Dr. Cora MacBeth gave a presentation in a technical symposium organized by alumni, Omar Villanueva. Emory University even had a booth at the event where Dr. Lloyd Munjanja of the CCHF, Monica Kiewit of the Dyer Group, and Bryant Chica of the Dyer Group could interact with visitors.

During the conference, the Center partnered with the Leonardo Museum of Creativity and Innovation in an outreach event organized through the collaborative effort of the Directors of Education, Outreach, and Diversity from 3 NSF Centers for Chemical Innovation, Dr. Lloyd Munjanja (CCHF), Dr. Danielle Watt (CaSTL), and Christopher Parsons (CCE). CCHF members from the Sigman and Du Bois research labs interacted with over 100 middle school students and their teachers through a series of hands-on chemistry activities and demonstrations. One activity involved the students building molecules from marshmallows and toothpicks!

Some photos from the SACNAS conference and the outreach event at the Leonardo Museum of Creativity and Innovation are shown below.

       

Dr. Widicus Weaver: Outer Space and Outreach

Scientific outreach events give us the opportunity to disseminate our ideas, share our scientific discoveries, present collaboration opportunities, or even inspire the next generation of scientists. On Wednesday, November 8th, Dr. Widicus Weaver shared her passion for astrochemistry, biology, and space with a room full of enthusiastic second graders at Westchester Elementary School. She discussed topics ranging from star formation to molecules in space, drawing from her research on pre-biotic astrochemistry. The children even had the chance to look through hand-held spectroscopes!

Outreach events like this one allow scientists the unique chance to bring awareness to the scientific endeavors taking place here at Emory and provides those in the community the chance to learn a new topic from a true expert. The children who attended Dr. Widicus Weaver’s seminar got an exclusive look into the amazing science happening far beyond our planet.  Some photos from the event are shown below.