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!

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!

 

Emory Chemistry Students Celebrate NSF GRFP Awards

Congratulations to Dayna Patterson (Weinert Group) and Kevin Hoang (EC 17′; Davies Group) for being awarded 2018 Graduate Research Fellowships from the National Science Foundation!

Congratulations also to Brendan Deal (Salaita Group) and Michael Hollerbach (Chemistry Graduate Program entering class of 2018) who received Honorable Mentions.

For the 2016 competition, NSF received over 12,000 applications and made 2,000 award offers.

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based Master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited United States institutions. As the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind, the GRFP has a long history of selecting recipients who achieve high levels of success in their future academic and professional careers.

Meet the Honorees

Dayna Patterson came to Emory from Houston Baptist University where she had the opportunity to engage in undergraduate research with the Welch Foundation and as an NSF REU participant at Baylor University. Her research in  the Weinert Group focuses on understanding how bacteria change their phenotypes in response to environmental signals. In January 2018, Dayna received the Carl Storm Underrepresented Minority Fellowship to attend the Gordon Research Conference on Metals in Biology and share her research. She has also shared her research with the Atlanta community through the Atlanta Science Festival. She is the current treasurer for Pi Alpha Chemical Society and an associate fellow with the NIH-funded Initiative to Maximize Student Development.

Kevin Hoang conducted undergraduate research in the Davies Group at Emory and graduated in 2017 with a B.S. in chemistry. He is now at Yale University in the Herzon Laboratory.

Brendan Deal is a second year Ph.D. candidate in the lab of Dr. Khalid Salaita. He completed his undergraduate studies at Davidson College just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. Brendan’s research is focused on the development of DNA-nanoparticle conjugates with potential applications in the fields of medicine and biotechnology.

 

Michael Hollerbach will be joining Emory this summer after receiving a B.S. in Biochemistry from the College of Charleston in South Carolina.  He chose Emory after seeing all of the exciting research opportunities and looks forward to participating in upcoming research rotations, starting with a summer rotation in the McDonald Group.  His research interests are in Organic Chemistry with a focus on small molecule synthesis and methodology development.  Currently, he is teaching Honors Chemistry at a local high school and wrapping up his undergraduate research at the College of Charleston. At Emory, he looks forward to the opportunity to share his love of Chemistry as a TA and to participate in outreach in the Atlanta 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].

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.

 

Graduate Student Spotlight: Shannon Rivera

Sitting in her 6th grade science classroom, as a gallon of milk sat outside warming under the hot Georgia sun, Shannon learned two things. First, she learned about the effects of high temperatures on the properties and states of liquids. And second, she learned that she really, really loved chemistry. She recalls how the hands-on teaching style in her middle school science classroom sparked her enthusiasm for the subject, an enthusiasm which only grew stronger through high school, where she had the chance to serve as a chemistry teacher’s assistant.

Through these experiences, Shannon gained an understanding of how chemistry can shape the world. “Instead of being a giant jumbled puzzle, you could actually figure out the small pieces, start putting it together, and start getting a better picture of what’s really going on,” says Shannon. “Chemistry was definitely challenging, but I loved how these small little pieces would come together and things would click.”

Motivated by her passion for chemistry and encouragement from her teachers, Shannon went on to earn her BS in chemistry from the University of Georgia, where she performed undergraduate research under the guidance of Dr. Ron Orlando. In Dr. Orlando’s lab, Shannon worked on creating a database of N-glycans for different species and designing a method for quantifying different IgG products. During this time, Shannon also had the opportunity to participate in Virginia Commonwealth University’s Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates where she spent 10 weeks in the lab of Dr. Julio Alvarez studying the use of glutathione as a source of green energy for new batteries.

In the fall of 2014, Shannon began her graduate studies in chemistry here at Emory. She joined the Weinert group, studying how the globin-coupled sensor protein family senses oxygen and transmits the binding signal into downstream events. “I work primarily with proteins from infectious bacteria. The idea behind my research is that if we can understand this one part of this very dangerous bug, then maybe we can create a new treatment method,” says Shannon. “I love working with the proteins I do because they are all heme proteins, so they are all red!”

Since joining the lab, Shannon has contributed to five publications, one as the primary author and two as co-first author. Her most recent publication is a book chapter in Advances in Microbial Physiology currently in press. “Shannon’s talent for research science, combined with her incredible drive, make it a true pleasure to work with her,” says Dr. Weinert. “Shannon’s fearlessness when it comes to trying new techniques has yielded results that have opened new insights into sensor globins and changed the way we think about how organisms sense and respond to oxygen.”

In addition to her scientific achievements, Shannon has also received several honors and awards during her time at Emory. She was awarded the Emory Graduate Diversity Fellowship for demonstrating outstanding academic achievement, the Outstanding Analytical Teacher’s Assistant Award for being the highest rated teacher’s assistant of the year, and the Carl Storm Underrepresented Minority Fellowship to attend the Gordon Research Conference.

Shannon is a member of the Pi Alpha Chemical Society (PACS), chemistry’s graduate student social and service organization. With PACS, she has had the chance to participate in outreach events and develop valuable relationships with her peers and coworkers. In addition, Shannon serves as communications chair and member of the Association for Women in Science at Emory (AWIS). With AWIS, she has participated in science demonstrations for young students at local schools and helped run a booth at the Atlanta Science Festival celebrating famous women scientists. Shannon is also on the board for the Chemistry Graduate School Prep Club, an organization designed to help prepare chemistry undergraduates from underrepresented backgrounds for future graduate studies. The prep club works primarily with students at institutions that aren’t currently associated with graduate programs to advise them on furthering their education by providing resources on research opportunities, applications, interviews, preparing for the GRE, and more.

After graduation, Shannon plans to go into industry research, where she is looking forward to leading her own projects.

Chemistry and the Atlanta Science Festival

Undergraduate Chris Hernandez. Photo by Emory Photo/Video.
Undergraduate Chris Hernandez. Photo by Emory Photo/Video.

ChEmory, Emory’s undergraduate ACS club, presented demos at the 2014 Atlanta Science Festival. The demos were the featured entertainment during intermission of the “Science at Emory: The Lab Changing the World” even. At the same event, Susanna Widicus Weaver gave a public talk titled “Chemical Complexity in the Universe” to an audience of over 200. Over 40 audience members visited the department for lab tours following the event. Thanks to event organizers Ilya Nemenman (Physics), David Lynn, Simon Blakey, and graduate student Darcie Cook.

ChEmory demos were again featured at the Exploration Expo held downtown at the Georgia World Congress Center on the last day of the festival. Chemistry undergraduate Chris Hernandez was featured in an Emory Report article about the demos. Jeremy Weaver was featured in a WSB-TV video advertising the festival.

Emory Department of Chemistry graduate student Brandon Greene organized the popular “Science of Beer” event during the Atlanta Science Festival. The event sold out within a day of tickets being made available online, although Pi Alpha Chemical Society made additional tickets available to our graduate students at no charge. The event featured talks about the chemistry of beer and yeast by speakers including Prof. Emily WeinertMonday Night Brewing Company provided three special beers for attendees that helped to illustrate the concepts described in the talks.