Members of chemistry’s ACS-award winning chemistry club, ChEmory, attended the ACS Meeting in Denver Colorado last month. The impressions, compiled by Kristoffer Leon, are shared below:
Attending my first ever ACS national meeting was a rewarding and inspiring experience. Over the three days I spent in Denver I was able to attend several interesting talks, check out developing technologies for bench work and connect with people who share the same passions. The Kavli Series of talks proved the most interesting but the best was Dr. Paul Bryan’s on the Four Horsemen of the Advanced Biofuels Apocalypse – a realistic (pessimistic) view on the many barriers our development of biofuel dependence faces. Exploring the town proved to be fun as we tried some interesting food choices in between talks that were scattered across the city among the different hotels. At the chapter symposium we were also able to meet other ACS clubs and learn from each other – even meeting some nearby clubs such as the Georgia College chapter. I returned to Atlanta with many great memories and enthusiastic about my career as a chemist.
The Denver ACS National Meeting was my third national meeting, and by far my favorite. I was able to talk with chemists in many different fields, including organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, and environmental chemistry, as well as get more information about the idea of green chemistry. As an undergrad, I spent most of my time going to different plenary talks, many on environmental chemistry and drug development, but I also took advantage of the graduate school fair to look at options for grad school and other professional schools after graduation. The undergraduate poster session helped give me an idea of what poster sessions were like and helped prepare me for making my own poster, which I will be presenting later this semester at Emory. The national meetings are always inspiring and help keep me excited about chemistry.
Because of my ability to attend ACS Denver 2015, I was able to present my research under Dr. Liotta to all the great chemists around America and even outside of America. I got great feedback on how to pursue my project, what I should do next, what I should focus on, etc. and I got to hear from chemistry legends who are revamping the way we view our society. This year’s theme was the chemistry of natural resources, and by going to this event, I got to learn about the true future of the official chemical society’s approach to dealing with the natural resource crisis, something that I would’ve otherwise never been able to be at the forefront of knowing on a deeper level. Apart from being able to present my research and learning so much about chemistry, this trip was an amazing opportunity to go to Denver and explore a different city with intellectuals all around to escape from traditional means of learning. It is definitely a weekend I will never forget and I am grateful to have had that opportunity through ChEmory.
Having the opportunity to present research and being able to network with individuals in your field is always exciting. After giving my talk and talking to graduate students and research coordinators, I was encouraged to contact these individuals who would be interested in taking me on in their university programs. Aside from presenting research, I was able to attend many fascinating talks presented by researchers at the forefront of chemistry research. Over the course of attending all these talks, I grew to become interested in glycochemistry and was able to talk to these researchers and ask them how I could become involved in projects after I graduate and enter research programs. Research aside, I had the opportunity to experience Denver by checking out the local restaurants as well as comedy shows. I also was able to get to know other students from Emory who were attending this conference. Overall, I had a phenomenal time in Denver at the ACS conference and would highly encourage students to take the time to fully explore what these ACS conferences have to offer.
Recently, I had the opportunity to go to the American Chemical Society’s national convention in Denver, Colorado to present a chemical education poster. Over the past few years, I have served as an organic chemistry laboratory teaching assistant, working closely with Dr. Jose Soria to ensure that students learned experimental and analytical techniques in a safe environment. Our lab course, however, is different from typical introductory organic chemistry laboratory courses in that it aims to mimic a more realistic chemical research experience. For example, we encourage students to think independently, allowing them to deviate from the normally set-in-stone protocols found in typical courses. We also teach them how to interpret results of various analytical techniques.
Students nearing the end of their second semester in this organic chemistry laboratory course were divided into groups of four. In each group, one member was designated to be the undergraduate student, one the graduate student, one the post-doctoral fellow, and one the Principle Investigator. The undergraduate student was to complete a NaBH4 reduction. The graduate student was to complete the NaBH4 reduction with a chiral auxiliary (L-Tartaric acid) shown. The post-doctoral fellow was to complete the baker’s yeast reduction reaction. The PI assisted with analysis, determined what conclusions to report, and proposed a method for analyzing the enantio-selectivity of each reaction. All students were asked to provide reaction mechanisms, and collaboration within each group was encouraged. In order to make sure students only collaborated within their group, the assessment was set up as a competition, with the top group earning bonus points.
Prior to conducting their experiments, students were given protocols, but also were taught how to find relevant primary literature using Sci-finder; in particular, they were encouraged to find experimental techniques for NaBH4 reduction of ketones, enantioselective reduction of ketones via the use of chiral auxiliaries and other biochemical methods, and determination of enantio-selectivity.
Also, throughout the semester, students were exposed to thin-layer chromatography, column chromatography for purification, infra-red spectrometry for product analysis, and NMR for product analysis.
During experimentation, teaching assistants were available to assist with instrumentation, reaction set-up, and as a source of reagents. Because this was an assessment, they were not allowed to help with data interpretation, and students were to approach teaching assistants with questions.
Presenting this work was exciting, as my poster attracted the attention of multiple professors, one of which requested Dr. Soria’s email address so that he could correspond with him about implementing this style of assessment in his course.
In addition to the poster presentation, the ACS convention gave me a great opportunity to learn more about a wide variety of chemical fields. For example, I attended talks about applied bio-chemistry, natural products chemistry, and chemistry relating to the immune system. Through these talks, I had multiple networking opportunities. The most exciting of which, for me, was the opportunity to speak with Dr. Jim Paulson, the president of The Scripps Research Institute, the best research institute in the United States of America.
Overall, my trip to the ACS’s natural convention was productive and enjoyable, and I am grateful for the opportunity to attend.