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Chemistry Newsletter

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Please contact Dan Burgard or Holly Jones if you have items to add to this calendar.

January 2017

  • Tuesday, January 17:  First day of classes 

February 2017

March 2017

  • Friday, March 10:  Mid-Term
  • Monday-Friday, March 13 - 17:  Spring Recess

April 2017

May 2017

  • Wednesday, May 3:  Last Day of Classes
  • Wednesday, May 3:  Chemistry Department Awards Picnic, 3:30 at Trimble Forum
  • Thursday, May 4:  Reading Period
  • Monday, May 8 - 12:  Final Examinations
  • Saturday, May 13, 10:00 - Noon:  Thompson Hall Reception for Science, Mathematics & Computer Science.  Brown Family Courtyard (Harned Hall Colonnade in case of rain)
  • Saturday, May 13:  Convocation
  • Sunday May 14:  Commencement


Travis Harris - I developed an interest in inorganic chemistry at Willamette University where I studied ruthenium-based anti-cancer drugs with Prof. Karen Holman. I then did my graduate work in computational inorganic chemistry at Montana State University under the guidance of Prof. Robert Szilagyi. With goals of living abroad and further developing my knowledge of computational chemistry, I joined the group of Prof. Keiji Morokuma at Kyoto University in Japan as a postdoctoral researcher in 2012. My first experience as a visiting professor was at the State University of New York at Oswego, where I taught general, inorganic, and computational chemistry during the 2014-15 academic year. At UPS I will be starting my own research program while continuing to focus on providing the best experience I can for my students.

My current research aim is to understand the structure and function of the nitrogenase enzyme: the catalyst responsible for biological nitrogen fixation. Using computers, students working with me will investigate the iron-molybdenum cofactor, which is the catalytic center of the enzyme. Many issues are unresolved, such as the specific binding site of dinitrogen, the detailed reduction mechanism for converting dinitrogen to ammonia, and the role of the surrounding protein environment. My students will learn computational chemical techniques as they break new ground in this fascinating area of bioinorganic chemistry. 

He currently teaches General Chemistry (CHEM 110 and 120).

Dan Burgard Awarded Two-Year $120K Grant from the NIH (6/9/15)

The proposed research aims to address the question of how the retail sales of recreational marijuana affect its consumption and usage trends within a community.  The research will involve measuring the concentration in sewers of the principal metabolite of the main active ingredient of marijuana.

Project Title: Using Sewers to Understand the Legalized Retail Sales Effects on Marijuana Consumption.

Project Summary: Marijuana is the most abused illicit drug in the United States with an estimated 17.4 million past-month users. There has been a rise in use by young people in the last 6 years with a diminished perception of the drug’s risks being attributed to its rise, especially in light of the drug’s legal status. In fact, a recent national poll shows that for the first time a majority of Americans favor legalized marijuana. In the past two years, the states of Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia have legalized the adult use of recreational marijuana. This unprecedented step comes with no direct scientific data available to understand how these new recreational use laws will affect marijuana consumption and public health. This proposal aims to address the question of how the retail sales of recreational marijuana affect its consumption and usage trends within a community. While surveys are the most used tool in studying drug abuse, new methods have recently emerged that enable a more objective assessment of illicit drug consumption. The use of sewer-based drug epidemiology was first employed less than a decade ago but has been shown to be a valid and complementary technique with traditional drug use indicators. Raw influent to a wastewater treatment plant from a population with a known catchment area and specific geographic boundary can be used to analyze trends in drug use over time. We propose to measure the sewer available metabolite of the main active ingredient in marijuana, as well as also measure the anthropogenic population biomarker 5-hydroxyindoleacidic acid.  At the conclusion of these studies, we will provide a timely understanding of how the sales of adult recreational marijuana impact its use within a population. This data can be used by local, state, and national planners as they assess and consider Washington’s recreational marijuana law, as well as provide baseline data for future longitudinal studies.

Steven Neshyba is selected for 2015-16 Fulbright U.S. Scholar Grant in Chile

As a Fulbright grantee, Steven joins the ranks of distinguished participants in the Program. Fulbright alumni have become heads of state, judges, ambassadors, cabinet ministers, CEOs, university presidents, journalists, artists, professors and teachers. They have been awarded 43 Nobel Prizes. Since its inception more than 60 years ago, approximately 300,000 Fulbrighters have participated in the Program.

Project Title: In situ sampling of black carbon in the Chilean Andes

Scientific background: In common with many cold regions of the earth, the Andean cryosphere is responding to increased concentrations of greenhouse gases at an alarming pace, warming at twice the global rate. Long-term, Chile is predicted to experience reduced precipitation, intensified flooding, and loss of key sources of summertime fresh water. While the main driver of these trends is increased atmospheric greenhouse gases, deposition of airborne black carbon onto snow and ice has the potential to accelerate the melting of alpine snow. Compared to the northern hemisphere, however, the Andean cryosphere has received much less research attention along these lines, because satellite-based remote sensing is inadequate for this purpose, and in situ measurements are scarce.

Summary of the project: The project funded by the Fulbright Program contains research and teaching components, both aimed at improving Chile’s infrastructure for predicting and mitigating the effects of climate change. The research component aims at developing a comprehensive understanding of the occurrence and origin of black carbon in the Chilean Andes. In collaboration with professor Raul Cordero at the University of Santiago, we will melt and filter snow samples, and analyze the filters spectrophotometrically to determine the amount of black carbon in the snow. In combination with meteorological analysis, we aim to identify where the carbon comes from. The hope is that this information will prove useful to Chilean policy makers seeking to slow the pace of glacial retreat in the Andes, especially in urban areas that depend on summertime glacial melt for fresh water. The teaching component of the project aims at developing upper-undergraduate/graduate-level expertise in emerging computational environments for scientific computing, especially as applied to absorption of light by soot-darkened snow. The courses will be taught in a “flipped classroom” format at the University of Santiago, with an emphasis on computational guided inquiry.

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