2017 National Chemistry Week: Chemistry Rocks!

This week, October 22nd -28th, the American Chemical Society will be celebrating the 30th Anniversary of National Chemistry Week. The goal of National Chemistry Week is to promote the value of chemistry in everyday life. ACS members and science enthusiasts are encouraged to spread awareness of chemistry by organizing events for ACS local sections, schools, businesses, and the general community.

In 1987, former ACS President Dr. George Pimentel organized a national event to celebrate the impact of chemistry. This single day of celebrating science evolved into an annual week-longevent where the scientific community engages in education and outreach. The events of the week are accompanied by the publication of Celebrating Chemistry, a booklet designed to engage and educate children in the basic principles of chemistry and to inspire the next generation of future scientists.

The theme of National Chemistry Week for 2017 is “Chemistry Rocks!”, which focuses on geochemistry. Topics include the chemistry of salt, the types of rock within the Earth’s crust, and the difference between a rock, a mineral, and a gemstone. Some activities in Celebrating Chemistry include growing crystals from Epsom salt and testing mud samples for clay content.

Previous topics of National Chemistry Week include “Solving Mysteries Through Chemistry”, “Chemistry Colors Our World”, “The Sweet Side of Chemistry—Candy”, and “Energy: Now and Forever”. Next year, events will focus around outer space in “Chemistry Out of this World”.

To spark widespread interest and appreciation for chemistry is a goal also shared with our graduate student social and service organization, Pi Alpha Chemical Society (PACS). On Thursday, October 26th, PACS and Graduation Generation, a collaborative family-school-university-community partnership, will host an outreach event at Toomer Elementary School involving 20-minute science demonstrations for kids in third through fifth grade. In addition, ChEmory, our undergraduate chemistry club will host a series of events in honor of National Chemistry Week including an alumni career seminar, science demonstrations, and periodic table cupcake baking!

Outreach opportunities like those presented by PACS, ChEmory, and National Chemistry Week give us the chance to share our love of chemistry and science with the community. Through education and outreach, we can cultivate an appreciation for chemistry and inspire the next generation to become as passionate as we are.

Interested in learning more about National Chemistry Week? Check out the ACS website! If you are interested in getting involved with the PACS outreach event, contact Elaine Liu.

 

ChEmory events this week:

Tuesday, October 24th

Demo Show: 6:30-7:30 pm at Memorial Student Center E208

            Wednesday, October 25th

ChEmory at Wonderful: 12-2 pm in Asbury Circle

Periodic Table Cupcake Baking: 7-8 pm in the LSM Kitchen

            Thursday, October 26th

Periodic Table Cupcake Decorating: 7-8 pm in the LSM Kitchen

ChEmory Recognized by the ACS

ChEmory students pose at their booth during the ACS meeting in San Fransisco.
ChEmory students pose at their booth during the ACS meeting in San Fransisco.

ChEmory, Emory’s undergraduate chemistry club, has been recognized by the American Chemical Society as a Commendable chapter for 2016-2017. This places ChEmory in the top 10-20% of all undergraduate ACS chapters.

2017-2018 is also shaping up to be an excellent year for ChEmory. The club has been awarded two ACS grants for activities–a Community Interaction Grant and a New Activities Grant.

Congrats to the ChEmory officers and members for all their hard work!

#WeJoinedTwitter!

The Emory University Department of Chemistry is excited to announce that we have officially joined Twitter! We hope that this platform will provide another opportunity to connect to our current students, prospective students, faculty, and the global scientific community. We will use this Twitter account to post updates and announcements from the Department of Chemistry, share new and exciting findings in the field, answer questions about our program, and more. We really look forward to connecting with you, so be sure to follow us @EmoryChem!

Graduate Student Spotlight: Chen Liang Sows Seeds of Change

Chen Liang (second from right) pictured at a celebration for SEED graduates. Photo provided by Chen Liang.
Chen Liang (second from right) pictured at a celebration for SEED graduates. Photo provided by Chen Liang.

If Chen Liang (Lynn Group) sees a problem in need of a solution, she’ll create one. In Fall 2012, not long after moving to Atlanta from China to start graduate school, Chen volunteered with refugee families in Clarkston, GA and was struck by the challenges that children and their families were facing. “I was shocked to see children a couple of miles from me are living without matching shoes and suffering from hunger.”

Chen knew what the solution needed to be—“The best way to change the life of an under-served child is through education,” she explains. That insight led Chen to enlist the support of Barbara Coble in Emory’s Center for Community Engagement and Leadership. Dr. Coble was already running a program—Graduation Generation—focused on outreach to under-served students in Atlanta public schools. Together, they created the Student Educational Experience Program (SEED), to provide those same students with greater access to science education, including tutoring, workshops, and information on science careers and higher education.

The partnership with Dr. Coble got Project SEED off the ground, but there were still plenty of logistics to be worked out. “I started cold-calling many presidents of other clubs to learn their funding process and how to write a charter. I also spread my idea around the chemistry department and my friends and successfully convinced some to join SEED.” The majority of SEED’s original members are from the Department of Chemistry, although the program now includes students and faculty from biology and physics, among others.

Barbara Coble praises Chen for her commitment and vision. “Chen is an outstanding community engagement practitioner with a uniquely humble, yet fiercely determined spirit. She works diligently to connect Emory students and university resources to these students.” Reflecting on her experiences working with Dr. Coble, Chen echoes that same praise. “When I had the idea of SEED, I brought it to her and she liked it and helped a lot during the founding process. Dr. Coble never gives up. Her persistency and upbeat spirit encourages me a lot when things get rough for SEED.”

Part of the brilliance of Project SEED’s design is that it draws on the impressive scientific resources Emory already has in place—particularly the expertise of its students. “We would all reach out to different clubs and professors, share SEED’s mission, and ask them to give students one hour sessions on various subjects,” explains Chen. Over time, SEED participants from Emory have built relationships with the students they serve, particularly students from Atlanta’s Maynard Jackson High School.

Deeabe* is one of those students. She recently joined SOAR, a branch of SEED led by undergraduate Lexy Dantzler that connects students with research experiences in Emory labs, and started working on research in the lab of Dr. Meleah Hickman in the Department of Biology. “Deeabe’s family is not wealthy and her mom had breast cancer a couple of years ago. Despite the family situation, she is driven and hardworking,” says Chen. “She has received a scholarship from Pearls of Purpose and will be attending Georgia State this fall. That’s what I want SEED to be—an extra hand to help these students achieve their dreams.”

Despite Project SEED’s remarkable scope, it is far from Chen’s only contribution during her time at Emory. She has also served as a Student Ambassador for the Laney Graduate School, working to connect Emory students with professional development resources.

“Chen organized a fantastic program with the co-founder and CEO of Oystir, Rudy Bellani, who presented via Skype to a large group of students about what employers are looking for from STEM PhDs. Chen has always been a reliable source of ideas and feedback for the LGS as she is committed to her own academic and professional success as well as the success of her colleagues and future LGS students,” says Sarah Peterson, Laney’s Assistant Program Director for LGS Career Resources.

Chen also led an initiative to better connect science PhDs with career opportunities in consulting. Once again, the project stemmed from her recognition of an unfulfilled need—she saw that consulting firms that recruited at Emory focused largely on the professional schools, such as Rollins or Goizueta, despite the availability of PhDs with broad training in science and health issues. Chen took on the presidency of Emory’s dormant Advanced Degree Consulting Club (ADCC), reviving and expanding the organization and reaching out to consulting firms.  Now, several of those firms regularly recruit from Emory’s talented pool of science PhDs and ADCC has rich resources to help PhDs pursue a career in consulting.

How does Chen balance these many outreach accomplishments with her research work? A lot of it comes down to time management. “I have learned to plan my day down to every hour,” says Chen. “Sometimes, I have to work twelve hours a day or work on weekends to fulfill requirements from both sides; but in general, my research and extracurricular work complement each other. The achievement from SEED energizes me and motivates me to excel in research; my TA and research experience, as well as my network in academia helps me improve SEED as a program.”

It also helps to have a supportive research advisor in Dr. David Lynn. “Chen is a remarkably passionate and caring individual, committed to making a difference with her research and through her ability to contribute to the education of others,” says Dr. Lynn. “Her community outreach to young Atlanta children through SEED is changing her colleagues and our faculty. One of my entire classes for Emory 1st year college students was built on the outreach infrastructure she helped develop. Chen has already created a powerful and lasting mark on her Atlanta community and has the potential to change our world at a time when her compassion for humanity is so much in need.”

Even in Chen’s research, her desire to explore what’s missing and maximize her understanding of what is possible is apparent. (Click here to read more about Chen’s research!) Her research seeks to contribute to the search for more effective therapeutics for Alzheimer’s disease by exploring amyloid proteins, hypothesized to cause the progression of the disease. Her work on amyloids resulted in a first author paper in JACS in 2014. After she completes the PhD at Emory, Chen plans to draw on her training to contribute broadly to the field of life science and education. Project SEED, shored up by her hard work, will continue after Chen graduates. “One of the biggest challenges ahead for SEED will be to fill Chen’s shoes, as the President, when she graduates,” says Dr. Coble.

*The student’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.

AWIS Hosts Networking Event at the Fernbank Museum

Alumni having fun at Martinis and Imax. From left to right, they are: Holly Carpenter, Entrepreneur; Elizabeth Ellis, Clinical Psychologist; Alicia Lyle, Assistant Professor of Medicine; Meagan Jenkins, Medical Writer; Virginia Vachon, Medical Writer; Emma Nichols, Medical Writer. Photo provided by AWIS.
Alumni having fun at Martinis and Imax. From left to right, they are: Holly Carpenter, Entrepreneur; Elizabeth Ellis, Clinical Psychologist; Alicia Lyle, Assistant Professor of Medicine; Meagan Jenkins, Medical Writer; Virginia Vachon, Medical Writer; Emma Nichols, Medical Writer. Photo provided by AWIS.

The Emory chapter of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) hosted a networking event for Emory Laney Graduate School students and alumni last Friday, July 29th, at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History. The group enjoyed cocktails, appetizers, and live music as well as an IMAX movie. The event was organized by Samantha Summer (Liotta Group), AWIS Networking and Social Chair.

Chemistry graduate students are well-represented among AWIS leadership–Amanda Dermer (Heaven Group), AWIS President and Helen Siaw (Dyer Group), AWIS Graduate Student Council Representative were among those who attended the event. Alumni and student attendees came from GDBBS and psychology as well as chemistry.

Founded in 1971, AWIS is the largest multi-disciplinary organization for women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Their mission is to drive excellence in STEM by achieving equity and full participation of women in all disciplines and across all employment sectors. AWIS reaches more than 20,000 professionals in STEM with members, chapters, and affiliates worldwide. Membership is open to any individual who supports the vision and mission of AWIS.

Wallace Derricotte’s EPiC Summer

EPiC students in the classroom, instructor Wallace Derricotte at the board. Photo by the Emory University Department of Chemistry.
EPiC students in the classroom, instructor Wallace Derricotte at the board. Photo by the Emory University Department of Chemistry.

Solar powered cars, boulders, and the expiration date of milk—these are just some of the everyday touchstones that Wallace Derricotte (Evangelista Group) connects to the chemical equations on the chalkboard during a recent classroom session for students taking part in the EPiC Summer Experience. Campers are engaged and attentive—and not at all passive. The class progresses as a conversation, with students connecting the lesson to previous classes as well as their own lives. Wallace handles the student-teacher interaction with calm and good humor and it’s clear to an outside observer that his enthusiasm for what he’s teaching is instrumental to making the classroom exchange so lively.

EPiC students travel between the classroom and the lab. Photo by the Emory University Department of Chemistry.
EPiC students travel between the classroom and the lab. Photo by the Emory University Department of Chemistry.

EPiC—which stands for the Emory Pipeline Collaborative—is a science enrichment program offered through the Emory School of Medicine. The program gives high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds a hands-on opportunity to explore careers in the health professions through labs, lectures, and field experiences. For many campers, their engagement with EPiC begins during the school year with Wednesday evening session on Emory’s campus. However, students can also apply and be accepted into EPiC for the summer only.

In addition to familiarizing students with science careers, EPiC introduces students to the college experience. Participants stay on campus for eight weeks, living in the dorms and eating in the dining halls.

After a recent classroom session on reaction processes, I had an opportunity to speak with four campers—Chanaya, Dakota, Omar, and Prynce.  Eager to share their thoughts on how well the program approximates college life, the students were quick to hone in on one of the major differences between college and high school: the food.

EPiC participants (from l-r) Chanaya, Dakota, Omar, and Prynce. Photo by the Emory University Department of Chemistry.
EPiC participants (from l-r) Chanaya, Dakota, Omar, and Prynce. Photo by the Emory University Department of Chemistry.

“We really eat like college students,” said Chanaya.

“I’ve only eaten pizza since I’ve been here,” admitted Dakota.

Beyond the food, students described getting a real sense of what college is like, including being responsible for their own schedules and being a part of a busy community. “We get to experience the hustle and bustle of college life,” said Prynce. “I like that we had a lot of freedoms we don’t usually get at home,” added Omar.

The residential program also allows students to fully immerse themselves in the coursework—which covers a broad range of core concepts, from bonds to reaction processes to chemical equilibrium. “The classes are really rigorous,” says Chanaya. But, she adds, the more you learn, the less intimidating chemistry seems. “Mr. Wallace makes chemistry so much easier.”

Students work in small groups to solve problems on the chalkboard--with Wallace's help (far right). Photo by the Emory University Department of Chemistry.
Students work in small groups to solve problems on the chalkboard–with Wallace’s help (far right). Photo by the Emory University Department of Chemistry.

Listening to Wallace’s students talk about how much they’re loving math—even calculus—the potential long-term impact of EPiC on students’ comfort level with science is clear. The students speak confidently about possible careers in a broad range of STEM fields. Chanaya wants to be a teacher or a nurse. Dakota and Prynce are both interested in engineering. And Omar is open to a broad range of careers, as long as it has to do with science: “Before, I kind of wanted to do something in an office or something. But now I know I want to do something scientifically related.”

Wallace Derricotte, an NSF GRFP awardee, become involved in EPiC in early 2015 when the administrators of the program approached him to take over for a graduate student teaching EPiC’s chemistry courses. “Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity,” says Wallace. “I’ve lived in Atlanta all my life and I relish the opportunity to give back something to the community that has given so much to me.”

The program also supports Wallace’s career goals for after the PhD. He hopes to be a professor at a primarily undergraduate college or university. “Even though the students I’m teaching are in high school, I teach the class at a college level,” says Wallace. “I’m able to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t when teaching chemistry. It’s good to get a feel for what teaching methods resonate with students and which ones don’t.”

EPiC campers observe an experiment in the lab. Students move between classroom and bench work, giving them an opportunity to directly apply classroom concepts through lab experiences.
EPiC campers observe an experiment in the lab. Photo by the Emory University Department of Chemistry.

Atasha Sutton, Instructional Lab Specialist for chemistry and an administrative lead for EPiC, praises Wallace’s approach. “Wallace is an excellent instructor, who made sure students were engaged during his lectures and had a thorough understanding of the material being taught.” Research advisor Francesco Evangelista echoes that praise, connecting the teaching opportunity to Wallace’s NSF award: “Wallace’s NSF fellowship recognizes both his excellence as a researcher and a genuine dedication to teaching and mentoring young scientists.”

The experiment comes together! Photo by the Emory University Department of Chemistry.
The experiment comes together! Photo by the Emory University Department of Chemistry.

Some of the demands of EPiC’s curriculum have given Wallace, who is a computational chemist, an opportunity to get outside his comfort zone and step back in to the environment of a wet lab. During a recent laboratory session with EPiC, he laughed with the students while having a brief struggle during the set-up of a demonstration on reaction kinetics. “I’m a theoretical chemist,” he reminded the students, as they laughed. His willingness to laugh at his own hiccup, however brief, is clearly part of what makes the students comfortable in the classroom and the lab. Everyone is learning.

“The opportunity with EPiC has truly been a learning experience for me,” agrees Wallace. “Every time I step into the classroom I feel sharper and more prepared that the previous class and that’s an experience I feel a lot of PhD students don’t get. The unique opportunity to design, implement, and teach your own course is a valuable skill for anyone looking to go into academia.”

Chemistry Graduate Students Raise Awareness with Sickle and Flow Concert

Close up of Sickle & Flow ATL Flyer
Close up of Sickle & Flow ATL Flyer

Chemistry graduate students helped to raise awareness of sickle cell disease with “Sickle & Flow,” a hip hop benefit concert. The concert took place on Saturday, June 18th in Edgewood. Proceeds raised from the concert–which featured Command, Bassmint Fresh, Ariel Simone, and many more–will benefit the Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia.

IM Atlanta highlights the contributions of Marika Wieliczko (Hill Group) to the concert:

Working together with the team at SciComm, [Matthew] Lewis [Emory MD/PhD Candidate] and Wieliczko began to reach out to different artists and musicians to discuss the different ways they could leverage Atlanta. The thought was that in order to better connect the scientific and medical communities with the public, they needed to tap into the culture that drives the city forward. “The nightlife, the music, the history of this place is so incredible,” says Lewis. “There are a lot of young people and a high proportion of African-Americans. We got to thinking: what if we could combine that youth culture, that music and arts vibe that is so strong in Atlanta, and try to partner with these organizations together and celebrate the lives of people affected by sickle cell?”

Other Emory chemistry students volunteered their efforts to help make Sickle & Flow happen including Becky Bartlett (Conticello Group), Carson Powers (Widicus Weaver Group), and Keon Reid (Kindt Group).

[Full Article in IM Atlanta]

[Emory SciComm on Facebook]

Summer Science Academy Visits Chemistry

Anthony Sementilli lectures to Summer Science Academy students in the ATOMIC classroom while Cam Pratt looks on. Photo by Emory University Department of Chemistry.
Anthony Sementilli lectures to Summer Science Academy students in the ATOMIC classroom while Cam Pratt looks on. Photo by Emory University Department of Chemistry.

Students from the Summer Science Academy visited chemistry on Wednesday to participate in demos and tours organized by Pi Alpha Chemical Society. The Summer Science Academy is a two-week science enrichment program that provides high school students from traditionally underrepresented minority backgrounds the opportunity to develop a better understanding and appreciation of science by exposing them to an educational environment that is conducive to learning, motivating, challenging, and fun. “Hands on” experiences like the visit to chemistry are designed to heighten students’ interest in science by increasing awareness of careers in science and healthcare.

Anthony and Cam prepare for the cloud demo. Photo by Emory University Department of Chemistry.
Anthony and Cam prepare for the cloud demo. Photo by Emory University Department of Chemistry.

Academy students were treated to a short, accessible lecture about the disciplines of chemistry by graduate student Anthony Sementilli (Lynn Group). During the question and answer period, one of the Academy students asked “Are we going to get to blow things up today?”

Fire! .gif created by Emory University Department of Chemistry.
Fire! .gif created by Emory University Department of Chemistry.

Not to disappoint, Anthony wrapped up the lecture with a series of demos in the chemistry courtyard, including fire (combustion) and ice (liquid nitrogen cloud!) First year student Cam Pratt, newly arrived at Emory in the past week to start a summer rotation in the Davies Group, assisted with the demos.

Summer Science Academy students assist with the Elephant's Toothpaste demo. Photo by Emory University Department of Chemistry.
Summer Science Academy students assist with the Elephant’s Toothpaste demo. Photo by Emory University Department of Chemistry.

The visitors also had the opportunity to participate in the “elephant’s toothpaste” demo. Following the demos, students toured the Jui and Lynn labs with the assistance of Anthony, Ally Boyington (Jui Group), and Michelle Leidy (Scarborough Group).

Students watch the cloud demo. Photo by Emory University Department of Chemistry.
Students watch the cloud demo. Photo by Emory University Department of Chemistry.

The Summer Science Academy will bring two more groups to chemistry on June 22nd at 1:00pm and July 7th at 11:00am. If you are a current graduate student interested in volunteering to help with either visit, email Anthony Sementilli.

Third Annual Side by Side Clubhouse and Department of Chemistry Picnic

Chemistry staff making liquid nitrogen ice cream for Side by Side club members
Chemistry staff making liquid nitrogen ice cream for Side by Side club members

On Thursday, April 21st, Department of Chemistry staff hosted the third annual Side by Side Clubhouse Stone Mountain Picnic as our annual service-oriented staff team building activity. Side by Side Clubhouse is a supportive social and rehabilitation community for individuals living with traumatic brain injury. Each year, Side by Side hosts the “Jawbones versus Sawbones” basketball game as a fundraiser for their social activities. The members of the clubhouse use the proceeds of this fundraiser to support special events like the Stone Mountain picnic. Department of Chemistry staff served as volunteers to run the picnic, grilling burgers, playing games, and making chemistry’s own liquid nitrogen ice cream! Thank you to Side by Side for providing our staff with this great team building opportunity and letting us share in your community!