News 2017

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On Friday, February 24, 2017, the 14th annual West Virginia Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol was held at Charleston, WV. Several of our students presented posters: Paris Adkins and Armin Germany (working with Prof. Derrick Kolling) , Grayce Behnke, Taylor Maddox and Deben Shoup (working with Dr. Rosalynn Quiñones). It was an excellent opportunity to show our legislators and other guests a sampling of the research experiences our students are acquiring in the Marshall Chemistry Department. Also, it was a learning experience for the student to practice their presentation skills outside of the classroom.

Amanda Smythers (BS, Major in Biochemistry) has won Iota Sigma Pi’s Members-at-Large Re-Entry Award. Iota Sigma Pi is the national honorary society for women in chemistry. The award recognizes a student at either the graduate or undergraduate level. Amanda has worked in Derrick Kolling’s lab since her first year in chemistry and has presented her research at a national and regional conference. Her award was featured in the Huntington Herald-Dispatch this month.

Prof. Michael Norton and Prof. Rosalynn Quiñones participated in the 2nd annual Kentucky-West Virginia Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) research symposium on Saturday, March 4, 2017, at the Marshall University Memorial Student Center. To read more about this, click here

In order to improve student retention, Marshall University has been a new initiative called “Come to Class”. While Provost at Mississippi State University, Jerome Gilbert – now our president – found that simply increasing class attendance improved student retention. This earns students higher grades. As part of that program, a series of posters has been produced to encourage students to attend class. The first posters were of individual faculty members, including Laura McCunn of the Chemistry Department. We also became the first department to do a poster as a group with 12 of 14 faculty participating.

Several chemistry students presented their work at the 2017 American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Annual Meeting held April 21-25 in Chicago, IL. Senior biochemistry majors Nicholas Kegley, Brandon Murdock and Amanda Smythers all presented posters at the meeting’s undergraduate poster session as well as in discipline-specific poster sessions. Smythers was recognized as an honorable mention in Undergraduate Poster! In addition, Smythers also gave a talk entitled, “Characterizing Lipid Production in Chlorella Vulgaris Exposed to Sethoxydim, an Acetyl-CoA Carboxylase Inhibitor” during the Plant Biochemistry and Metabolism spotlight session.

The group was escorted by Dr. John Rakus and stayed at the history Palmer House in downtown Chicago. When not presenting their research, the students attended talks by such luminaries as Emmanuelle Charpentier, Susan Gottesman, Susan Taylor and William Wickner. They also had time to visit the Navy Pier, Millennium Park, the Art Institute of Chicago and Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.

Undergraduate students Ethan Adkins, Grayce Behnke, Sarah Cole, Samantha Garretson, Taylor Maddox, Jordan Martinez, Deben Shoup, and John Sowards attended the 253rd National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Francisco, California, April 1-6th. Chemistry professors Laura McCunn and Rosalynn Quiñones also attended the conference. Several of the students presented posters of their research projects that were conducted under the mentorship of Marshall faculty. While the conference offered many opportunities for learning and career development, the group reserved some time for sightseeing. Activities included a ride on one of the historic cable cars to Fisherman’s Wharf, a sightseeing cruise of the bay, and a tour of Alcatraz Island and Prison.

Prof. Bin Wang has published an opinion article, “Human Skin RNases Offer Dual Protection against Invading Bacteria,” in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology. In this paper, she proposes that human skin RNases may bind to and disrupt bacterial membranes, and/or may enter bacteria and disrupt their transcription process. Prof. Wang believes she is the first to present the hypothesis that the targeting specificity of human skin RNases may be due to the widely-distributed unstructured C-rich motifs in bacteria.

Amanda Smythers, a senior biochemistry major in Professor Derrick Kolling’s laboratory, presented her research at Posters on the Hill in Washington, D.C. on April 26, 2017. The event was sponsored by the Council on Undergraduate Research in an effort to encourage more students to pursue research opportunities. Smythers’s research was one of 60 projects chosen from more than 700 applicants, and one of two chosen from West Virginia. While at the capital, Ms. Smythers and Prof. Kolling advocated for federal funding of scientific research to congressional staff, Representatives Jenkins and McKinley, and Senators Manchin and Capito.

Two chemistry students were selected as part of the eleven student Marshall University SURE Program. The Summer Undergraduate Research Program is designed to encourage promising students from Marshall and other WV institutions to expand their experience in STEM fields through a 10 week program over the summer. Nicole Perry and Deben Shoup will work under the mentorship of Derrick Kolling and Rosalynn Quiñones respectively. The WV Higher Education Policy Commission funds the program through the Research Trust Fund.

Dr. Quiñones was featured on the Graduate Women in Science Lead website in an interview that discusses her research and her philosophy on balancing her job as a faculty member and her life off-campus as a wife and mother. On May 17, Rosalynn led a webinar for GWIS on Work/Life Balance. GWIS is an organization whose mission is to build “a global community to inspire, support, recognize, and empower women in science.”

The department was recognized by the Kanawha Valley Section of the American Chemical Society. Last year, major flooding occurred in Kanawha County, West Virginia and the main Herbert Hoover High School building was rendered unusable. The science labs were completely ruined and Prof. Micheal Fultz of West Virginia State University organized a relief effort for the chemistry classes. Marshall University’s chemistry program donated supplies and equipment to Herbert Hoover High to help them be able to teach their classes this academic year. Wade Alexander attended the ceremony and received a certificate of recognition on behalf of the department. He, along with Darwin McCunn, organized the department’s donation.

Dr. John Rakus attended the annual NIH/FDA GlycoSciences Research Day held on May 5, 2017, at the NIH in Bethesda, MD.

The Department of Chemistry will be participating in an NSF-funded project to enhance student learning through course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs). Led by researchers at the University of San Diego (USD), Marshall is one of twelve institutions that are a part of the Malate Dehydrogenase CUREs Community. Specifically to Marshall, this will involve students taking CHM 366 (Introductory Biochemistry Lab) working on a half-semester long original research project focused on the enzyme malate dehydrogenase as a model system to introduce fundamental biochemistry concepts. Students in CHM 366 will be able to collaborate with classes at the other institutions within the Community to advance the knowledge base about malate dehydrogenase while researchers at USD will focus on elaborating what aspects of the CURE experience are crucial in student learning. The full press release from USD is below:

University of San Diego Earns Grant from National Science Foundation to Fill Void in Research Experiences for College Students

San Diego, Calif., May 17, 2017 – The National Science Foundation awarded the University of San Diego $598,666 to fund a project to enhance college student learning through course-based research experiences (CUREs) that provide broader research exposure to more students than current apprenticeship and internship models.

The three-year award will support a team of 15 faculty from 12 institutions, including research intensive universities, undergraduate-focused universities and community colleges.

The proposal entitled, “An Interdisciplinary Faculty Community Using a Protein-focused Course Based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) to Improve Student Learning,” will be directed by University of San Diego faculty Ellis Bell, PhD, Jessica Bell, PhD, and Joseph Provost, PhD, of USD’s Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry.

“The aim of this project is to transform the impact of teaching laboratories at participating institutions by incorporating quantitative, authentic research into the classroom and curriculum,” said Dr. Ellis Bell. “This type of high impact teaching has been shown to help students increase their enthusiasm for learning science and earning advanced degrees in the sciences, as well as enhancing critical thinking skills.” Said Dr. Joseph Provost

The project will test two aspects of CURE frameworks to directly affect the learning environment in 56 CUREs courses, involving approximately 1000 students at participating institutions.

“In addition to creating an active community of faculty who are implementing course-based research experiences for students taking protein-centric classes in biochemistry, biology and chemistry, we will be able to provide data that will facilitate the efficient and effective creation of new CUREs across fields,” said Dr. Jessica Bell.

The following faculty and institutions are contributing members to the collaborative project:

  • Ellis Bell, PhD, University of San Diego (principal investigator)
  • Joseph Provost, PhD, University of San Diego (co-principal investigator)
  • Jessica Bell, PhD, University of San Diego (co-principal investigator)
  • Anthony Bell, PhD, University of San Diego
  • Kristin Fox, PhD, Union College
  • Kevin Callahan, PhD, St. John Fisher College
  • Laura Christian, PhD, West Virginia University
  • David Hecht, PhD Southwestern Community College
  • Kate Huisinga, PhD, Malone University
  • Tamara Mans, PhD, North Hennepin Community College
  • Amy Parente, PhD, Mercyhurst
  • Celeste Peterson, PhD, Suffolk University
  • John Rakus, PhD, Marshall University
  • Amy Springer, PhD, University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • Jing Zhang, PhD, University of Nebraska Lincoln”

The Department of Chemistry’s annual Summer Research Program (CRSP) includes 20–25 students engaged in full-time research for 10 weeks. During this time, most of the students are paid for their work. Support comes from faculty research grants, the SURE program, and fellowships funded by donations from chemistry alumni. Research-active chemistry faculty are involved in the program, serving as mentors and organizing many activities to enrich the students’ experience. The 2018 CRSP involved a field trip to Carter Caves, Lazer Tag tournament followed by an ice cream social, and a trip to MATRIC. The culmination of CRSP is formal symposium that is held at the end of summer. Each student gives an oral presentation describing their accomplishments. This experience prepares students for their future profession as they learn how to craft and deliver a scientific presentation.

Prof. Laura McCunn presented a talk, “Pyrolysis and Matrix-Isolation FTIR of Acetoin,” at the International Symposium on Molecular Spectroscopy in Urbana-Champaign, IL.  Undergraduate students Sarah Cole, BS (Biochemistry) ’17, Martha Ellis (Biochemistry major), John Sowards (Secondary Education major) co-authored the presentation.

Prof. Rosalynn Quinoñes attended the Dynamics at Surfaces Gordon Conferences on Fundamentals of Chemical and Physical Change at Surfaces and Interfaces at Salve Regina University.

Prof. Rosalynn Quiñones attended an NSF sponsored workshop on “Active Learning in Analytical Chemistry” at Indiana University.  The goal of this workshop is to teach faculty how to make their classrooms more interactive.

Prof. John Rakus received a grant from the National Science Foundation totaling $160,614 for his project “Characterization of LPS-induced Hsc70 ligands as a means of defining the role of C-linked glycosylation in innate immunity.” This grant is a part of the NSF’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) is supporting Dr. Rakus’s research program by supporting a six month stint in the lab of his collaborator, Dr. Robert Haltiwanger (University of Georgia). Dr. Rakus will be at UGA through February, 2018, before returning to Marshall to resume the spring semester.

The Department is saddened to announce that our friend and colleague Darwin McCunn died on Thursday, September 21. Darwin was always quick to go out of his way to help others, regularly helping with experiments and laboratories. He could fix just about anything and he was always great for a chat.  He is survived by his wife, Margaret, and daughters Alice, Laura, and Bethany, their husbands and children.  For more details about Darwin’s life, please see his memorial tribute.  We will truly miss his generous and kind spirit.

Prof. Derrick Kolling’s lab had two students present at the ORBCRE/ORBA Symposium held at Marshall University (Sept. 27-29, 2017).  ORBCRE is the Ohio River Basin Consortium for Research and Education and ORBA is the Ohio River Basin Alliance.  This meeting is an annual, regional meeting these organizations host to discuss water and environmental issues related to the Ohio River basin.  Ms. Nicole Perry (Environmental Chemistry major) presented a poster titled “Bioaccumulation of manganese in Chlorella vulgaris: potential applications to remediation.”  Graduate student Amanda Smythers was a co-author.  Master’s student Amanda L. Smythers (BS, Biochemistry ’16)  also presented a poster: “Effects of sethoxydim, a common broadleaf herbicide, on Chlorella vulgaris.”  Undergraduate students Armin Garmany (Biological Sciences major), Nicole Perry, P. Ethan Adkins (Biochemistry major), Ethan Higginbotham (Biochemistry major), and Aaron Roberts (Biochemistry major) co-authored this poster.

Ms. Amanda Smythers and Prof. Derrick Kolling presented ‘Bond, Boats, and Biofuels’ at the 2017 Water Festival at Marshall University (September 21, 2017; hosted by the College of Science). Their station had a mix of chemistry demonstrations, interactive activities, and general information about the chemistry of hydrogen bond and biofuels.

Prof. Rosalynn Quiñones has published a research article, “Fabrication of Phosphonic Acid Films on Nitinol Nanoparticles by Dynamic Covalent Assembly,” in the journal Thin Solid Films (2017, 642C, pp. 195 – 206). The paper was written with two undergraduate coauthors: Samantha Garrettson, (senior Biological Sciences major) and Grayce Behnke, BS (Forensic Chemistry) ‘16. In this study, phosphonic functional heads were used to form an ordered and strongly chemically bounded film on the NiTi nanopowder. The surface of the NiTi nanoparticles was modified in order to tailor the chemical and physical properties to the desired application.

Prof. Michael Castellani presented a seminar entitled “Undergraduate Research: Its Value & Place for West Virginia” at WVU Tech on November 8.

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