Bill Wuest Named Leshner Fellow

 

Bill Wuest speaks to a reporter during the 2019-2020 AAAS Leshner Leadership Fellows orientation week.

Human augmentation. Sounds like the theme of a highly-rated, futuristic SciFi movie, right? In the realm of chemistry, however, the idea of enhancing human capability often guides some of the most impactful research. For example, research in the Wuest lab is focused on the development of new antibiotics inspired by nature. From identifying and synthesizing to characterizing and optimizing, researchers in the Wuest lab hope to improve upon natural products with the ultimate goal of commercialization. Because of their ability to alter the human microbiome, the therapeutic use of these antibiotics lends itself to improving the human function.

These research efforts recently earned Dr. Wuest the distinction of being named a Leshner Leadership Institute Public Engagement Fellow. The Leshner Fellow program was developed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to train scientists to be more active in public engagement and government policy discussions. Each year, the program selects a theme that they deem to be of importance in the realm of public engagement. The theme of the year was Human Augmentation, which followed such past themes as Infectious Diseases, Food and Water Security, and Climate Change.

Leshner Fellows visit with staff in Rep. Bill Foster’s office.

As a Leshner Fellow, Dr. Wuest was given the opportunity to participate in a week-long orientation designed to facilitate issue-specific scientific communication and to encourage attendees to serve as leaders in public engagement. Instructional modules covered topics from video production and graphics to social media. “We met with a panel of journalists to learn how to engage with them about research stories we are working on,” says Dr. Wuest. “We received training in how to engage policy makers on Capitol Hill and create one page ‘drop sheets’. We also were instructed on how to give televised interviews and participated in one recording for the Leshner video.” In addition, the meeting provided a stage for attendees to initiate collaborations with other leaders in the field.

Fellows on Capitol Hill.

“The highlight of the week was our visit to Capitol Hill,” says Dr. Wuest. He met with staff members of the Senate Commerce Committee, The House Committee on Science and Technology, and with the office of Representative Bill Foster (D-IL), with whom he was able to communicate his passion for graduate student training and the need for diversity and inclusion in the sciences (the current focus of two bills in Congress). “I focused my pitch on the specific training of graduate students through an increase in federal funding to fellowships and training grants as opposed to directly to the PI, which is the primary mode of funding graduate students currently,” he explains. This concept is also the topic of an op-ed that he is co-writing with 4 other fellows.

At the end of the orientation week, Dr. Wuest walked away with answers to such questions as “How do you engage writers and editors?”, “What is the best approach to impacting policy?”, and “What is the best way to make institutional change within your organization?”. Moreover, each fellow was guided towards developing and implementing two engagement plans for the upcoming year. For Dr. Wuest, the first plan is centered around educating the public on the issues of antimicrobial resistance and the development of new antibiotics. “My plan involves writing a number of op-eds to educate the public as well as organizing public forums around the topic,” he says. For his second plan, Dr. Wuest is focusing on the further development of a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship at Emory University. This aim, he says, is derived from his relationship with the Georgia Research Alliance. In collaboration with Emory, this organization awarded him a Distinguished Investigator endowed chair when he moved here in 2017.

“The experience has made a significant impact on how I think about communicating my science and the reach I would like my findings to have,” says Dr. Wuest. He is already capitalizing on some of the training he received during orientation, having recently engaged with a number of journalists to help share his message. He had an interview with NPR regarding a recent publication that is set to air sometime this month, and he contacted Senator Isakson (R-GA) who currently has proposed a bipartisan bill, the DISARM Bill, which seeks to address the issue of antibiotic development in the private sector.

Beyond just sharing his interest in antibiotics and research, Dr. Wuest also hopes to inspire others to take a similar approach to communicating their own science. “I would encourage not only faculty but students as well to think more broadly about public engagement in all areas, whether it be social media, SciComm, writing op-eds, emailing local representatives, etc.,” he says. “Without public support, a lot of the science we do will not be possible.”

If you are a student interested in similar programs to the one described here, check out the AAAS Fellowships website!

To read more about the research in the Wuest lab, check out this article in Emory News.

2019-2020 AAAS Leshner Leadership Fellows

All photo credit to Mary Catherine Longshore, AAAS

Atlanta Science Festival: 2019 Recap

Each year, the Emory University Department of Chemistry participates in the Atlanta Science Festival. This year, we hosted the Chemistry Carnival, an event to share about some of the amazing research taking place in our department through carnival games and fun activities. Children enjoyed playing games like Peptide Jenga and Bacterial Telepathy, while also learning about science from our enthusiastic students.

In addition to the Chemistry Carnival, we had several booths at the Piedmont Park Expo. Dr. Doug Mulford and ChEmory hosted “Pink Ping Pong Big Bang” to teach attendees about The Big Bang through a demonstration involving ping pong balls, liquid nitrogen, and boiling water. Another of our booths, “The BIG World of SMALL Bio-Machines”, was well-attended by children who enjoyed games designed to teach about proteins and their diverse functions. We also hosted “Distance Really Matters” and “Catalyst Carnival” with the CCHF.

The event was a blast for all— attendees and volunteers alike. An event like the Atlanta Science Festival is a wonderful opportunity to bring the community together over a love for science, an enthusiasm for learning, and an ever-present curiosity.

A huge “Thank you!” to everyone who helped make the Atlanta Science festival such a successful and fun event! We couldn’t have done it without you!

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!

 

CCHF and Fusion Science Theater Communicating Science Workshop

At the end of April, the CCHF hosted a Communicating Science Workshop given by playwright, chemist, and educator Holly Walter Kerby. During the workshop, Kerby provided training in the tools and concepts behind story-telling to an audience of enthusiastic students and faculty members. As Founder and Executive Director of Fusion Science Theater (FST), Kerby uses her own scientific story-telling in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) outreach. The idea behind FST is to engage children in learning science by capitalizing on the techniques of theater. Through entertaining and educational demonstrations, FST promotes curiosity in the next generation of scientists.

In the first of two workshops, Kerby’s workshop taught the techniques of FST to graduate students and postdocs with a focus on the techniques of story-telling from scientific question to conclusion. Attendees were encouraged to use their research as a “plot” to develop their own stories. Participants used small graphic visual aids to help move the story along. Kerby helped Emory scientists to see how the ability to design and deliver a story is unquestionably valuable in the scientific community. From giving a presentation at a conference to participating in outreach events, scientists are required to engage and inform a wide audience. Story-telling has been proven to be a more impactful way of sharing information, making it particularly useful in the scientific arena.

In her second workshop, Kerby helped attendees capitalize on their storytelling skills to develop demonstrations to be used at future outreach events. Students put together presentations covering topics from catalysis to C-H functionalization, primarily targeted towards young audiences. The presentations were also designed to encourage audience participation using a show of hands or a vote. Kerby explained that engaging the audience in this way peaks their enthusiasm for the material and provides meaningful feedback regarding the effectiveness of the presentation.  The afternoon was spent developing ideas, building props, and rehearsing.

When the second day of the workshop rolled around, presenters were prepared to show off their demonstrations in front of an audience. The room was filled with guests—including chemistry faculty and staff— who served as the audience for the demos and then provided valuable feedback on how to further refine them for future use. Keep an eye out for some of the unique demonstrations at next year’s Atlanta Science Festival!

Thank you to the CCHF and Holly Walker Kerby for fantastic workshop!

Interested in participating in more CCHF events? Click here!

Interested in learning more about FST? Click here!

Join the CRC Emory Freezer Challenge!

By: Elena Jordanov (EC ’18)

The Carbon Reduction Challenge (CRC) was started at the Georgia Institute of Technology by climatologist, Dr. Kim Cobb, over 11 years ago. The Challenge began as a course for students to take part in, pushing them to think of new initiatives to decrease carbon emissions in the atmosphere and develop cost-benefit analyses to incentivize Georgia Tech to engage in these initiatives.

In the past couple years, CRC evolved beyond the classroom via undergraduate and graduate students’ co-op programs with companies in the Greater Atlanta area.  As increased involvement and success of the student-led CRC occurs, it will be demonstrated that carbon reduction initiatives are feasible for large companies, universities, and developed cities to implement.

This past Spring 2018 semester was the first semester Emory University joined the challenge.  Through connections between Emory’s Climate Analysis and Solutions Team’s (ECAST) Daniel Rochberg and Dr. Cobb, the first CRC team at Emory was developed. The team includes Elena Jordanov (B.S. in chemistry, minor in philosophy), Miranda Mitchell (B.S. in environmental science, B.A. in political science) and Ken Wakabayashi (B.A in chemistry, B.S. in environmental science).

The Emory CRC team has partnered with the Office of Sustainability Initiatives (OSI) and developed an initiative to reduce carbon dioxide emissions through refrigerator and freezer management.  Project Drawdown, a multi-national research effort that assessed the viability and effectiveness of possible strategies for decreasing potential global carbon dioxide emissions, ranked refrigerant management as the #1 strategy.  After auditing a subset of the freezers and refrigerators in the Chemistry Department’s Atwood and Emerson buildings, the team estimates that at least 5.5% of these buildings’ total CO2 emissions results from powering cold storage equipment.  The two buildings together emit 650,000 lbs of CO2 per month, and spend $38,000 each month on the energy creating these emissions.

In order to decrease these emissions, the CRC team has created an Emory Freezer Challenge, based off of the North American Freezer Challenge.  In this challenge, chemistry labs will compete to implement fridge and freezer management strategies each month and gain the most points. To begin, a pilot challenge will take place from May 20th-August 31st in order to get feedback from Principal Investigators and lab managers on what works and does not work about the Emory Freezer Challenge.  The Emory Freezer Challenge is 100% voluntary, and labs can get a substantial amount of points by choosing any management methods that work best for them.  The Challenge has also been designed to not give labs with more equipment the advantage during the competition; labs get points for enrolling each of their equipment and supplying the manufacturer’s label.  The label contains the power consumption information that are used in baseline energy consumption calculations.

One innovative aspect about the Emory Freezer Challenge is that the team will obtain a holistic picture of the total CO2 emissions produced from the Chemistry Department’s equipment by supplying energy consumption meters to labs that volunteer to use them.  The team has been funded for a limited supply of meters and thus 3-4 meters will be implemented in laboratory equipment that are representative samples of different types of equipment, such as -80 and -20 freezers, 4 degree fridges and refrigerator-freezer cabinets.

Due to this structure, the first labs to volunteer for the Emory Freezer Challenge and to have a meter in their lab are more likely to win the most points.  Labs who apply for Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 are all eligible for a meter. Follow the link below to sign up your lab and join the Emory Freezer Challenge!

Sign up: https://goo.gl/forms/mdiPxIY3jztsq7hk1

Above is a great example of a before and after equipment organization from the Quave lab in the School of Medicine.  On the left, you can see a more disorganized, frosted freezer. On the right, all samples are organized in racks, which the CRC team is happy to provide.  The new, managed freezer has also been defrosted, which greatly increases the efficiency of the freezer. Also, making sure all equipment is full impacts the efficiency of a freezer or refrigerator.  Placing foam blocks or ice packs where there is free space in a refrigerator or freezer, as well as consolidating as many samples as possible into one equipment, are all viable options for improving freezer and refrigerator management.

By properly managing samples within lab equipment, the goal is to not only make refrigerators and freezers more efficient, but lab members as well.  By having a proper inventory of where items are and prioritizing accessibility, lab members will increase their efficiency during experiments.

Getting Green Lab Certified is a lot easier than most think.  Follow this link to get more information on how you can do it, and be eligible for funding to implement sustainability innovations in your lab!  The Blakey Lab and Wuest Lab in Chemistry have done it; you can too!

Green Labs at Emory

Anyone can be a part of the CRC team, including undergraduates, graduate students, and post-docs.  If interested, please email crcemory [at] gmail [dot] com or fill out the form below!

Sign Up: https://goo.gl/forms/pzkOjA8jMv7jibaX2

 

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].

Atlanta Science Festival: Lutz Group Icosahedral Photo Project Captures the Faces of the Atlanta Science Festival

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.

This year’s Atlanta Science Festival Exploration Expo took place in Piedmont Park on Saturday, March 24th. The Expo booth “The BIG World of Small Containers” celebrated the structure of the icosahedron. Visitors had the opportunity to build structures onto a 3-D printed icosahedron (twenty sides!) using legos and to manipulate a large icosahedral model.

The booth was a collaboration with Atlanta Makers and the Lutz Group in the Department of Chemistry. Visitors also had the chance to take a photo inside of the icosahedron structure. The images were used to create one giant, group photo mimicking the same structure–capturing the faces of the festival.