December 14, 2017

Chemistry Faculty and Students Present at American Chemical Society

Five Guilford Chemistry majors and three Chemistry faculty gave presentations at the Southeast Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society (SERMACS) held in Charlotte, N.C., November 8-11, 2017.

SERMACS is attended by 1500 chemistry researchers from colleges, universities, government, and industry to network and explore cutting-edge research in all areas of chemistry. Attendance for the students was made possible by a generous gift to the Department of Chemistry with the purpose of encouraging women to study chemistry. 

As part of the Diversity Day activities at SERMACS, Gail Webster, Professor of Chemistry and Judith Iriarte-Gross, Professor of Chemistry at Middle Tennessee State University, co-organized a well-received symposium on Women Chemists in the Southeast. Gail’s presentation, "Mentoring and service with and among women chemists and the community," described two projects with the potential to diversify both chemistry faculties and the STEM pipeline. A book project, titled "Mom the Chemistry Professor," help provides a context for young women who help to blend life in academia with the demands of motherhood. The second project is the outreach partnership program, 'Guilford STEM Partnership' between Guilford College and Guilford County Schools, funded by the GSK Ribbon of Hope Foundation. First generation college students or underrepresented minorities who are college science majors serve as mentors to middle and high school students from underrepresented minorities. These college student mentors work with together with their proteges as they progress through college and high school.

As part of Diversity Day, symposia were held celebrating African-American chemists, women chemists and LGBTQ chemists. Together, the symposia organizers sponsored a diversity luncheon. The Guilford Chemistry majors, along with Anne and Gail, attended the luncheon where they heard remarks from keynote speaker, Dr. Rigoberto Hernandez, Gompf Family Professor of Chemistry at Johns Hopkins University and Director of the Open Chemistry Collaborative in Diversity Equity (OXIDE).

Isa Gutierrez '18 is one of the student mentors for the Guilford STEM Partnership and presented a poster "Guilford STEM partners: Partnering for STEM success". She described how the mentors chosen for the program come from diverse backgrounds and are excellent role models to “inspire, explore, and discover” the middle school and high school students’ skills and interest in STEM. Isa presented the programming, and logistics along with student and mentor feedback about the program.

Four students presented their research that arose from the Chemistry Department's innovative Integrated Research Laboratory course. This course gives students in organic chemistry, physical chemistry and inorganic chemistry an authentic team-based chemistry research experience. All Chemistry faculty are research advisors for one or more of the teams, guiding them through the research process.

Fidaa Almuhaysh '18 presented research on "Metal cage capture of aspirin characterized by UV-visible spectroscopy". Her team's work explored the formation of cages with iron ions and organic molecules that can capture guest molecules. Such capture has the potential to extract drug molecules from sewage as an alternative to other water treatment methods. Fidaa's poster described how UV-visible spectroscopy can be used as an effective method for evaluating the efficacy of aspirin capture by the metal cage.

Sarah Hammood '18 presented research on "Antibacterial properties of silver nanoparticles". Silver is known to be an effective agent against bacterial growth, and nanoparticles have the potential to place silver in environments, such as on fabrics, where that antibacterial behavior is particularly useful. Sarah's team explored the effect that nanoparticle size has on the antibacterial properties. Sarah described in her poster the synthesis and characterization of the nanoparticles and the effectiveness of those nanoparticles in inhibiting bacterial growth.

Leanna Kantt '19 presented research on "Effect of temperature changes in the synthesis of fluorescent conjugated polymers". Such polymers have a variety of potential applications, such as detection of biological and explosive molecules, but typically require stringent conditions to synthesize them. Leanna's team explored a less stringent, but still effective synthesis for the polymers. In her poster, Leanna described how the physical and spectroscopic properties of the synthesized polymers changed based on reactions done over a range of temperatures from -70°C to 5°C.

Elyssa Shoup '19 presented research on "Ligand exchange reaction with tea synthesized gold nanoparticles". Synthesis of nanoparticles often requires hazardous chemicals that are difficult and expensive to dispose of safely. There is therefore interest in green (i.e. environmentally friendly) methods to synthesize nanoparticles. Elyssa's team described the use of Darjeeling black tea as a source of chemicals that could create gold nanoparticles from a solution of gold ions. They further tested how well the resulting nanoparticles could maintain their size and integrity when subjected to various chemical processes. Elyssa's poster described the synthesis and characterization of the nanoparticles, and how larger nanoparticles were more successful in the ligand exchange reactions they studied.

Anne Glenn, Professor of Chemistry, and Rob Whitnell, Professor of Chemistry, presented updates on two NSF-funded chemical education projects with which they're associated. Anne presented on "International research experience for undergraduates (REU) program in the United Kingdom," a project in conjunction with Terry Nile (UNC Greensboro) and Mary Crowe (Florida Southern College). Her poster described a summer research program for undergraduates at the University of Bristol and University of Bath in the United Kingdom. This program, in which several Guilford students participated, allowed students to participate in a first class research experience and also gave them the opportunity to study abroad, which can be a challenge for STEM students. Anne's poster described the program, focusing on issues and practices that are unique to an international REU. Rob presented on "POGIL-PCL: Guided inquiry experiments and faculty development for the physical chemistry laboratory", on which he has collaborated with Sally Hunnicutt (Virginia Commonwealth University), Alex Grushow (Rider University), and Marc Muniz (Western Washington University). This project now involves more than 60 faculty nationwide, and is intended to improve student learning in the physical chemistry laboratory (PCL) course through authoring inquiry experiments and provide faculty development opportunities for physical chemistry instructors who are often isolated at their institutions. Rob's talk described the current achievements of the project and the work going forward.

Gail and Rob also presented a poster on "SPIRAL (Strengthening the use of Process, Inquiry, Reflection, and Application in the Laboratory) for introductory chemistry labs: First steps and future prospects." This new project is a collaboration among 10 chemistry faculty from undergraduate institutions and community colleges to develop inquiry experiments in the POGIL (Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning) model for introductory chemistry courses including preparatory chemistry, GOB, and general chemistry. The poster described the development process for the experiments and the current status of the more than 17 experiments that this group is developing and testing with students.

In addition to the current Guilford College students and faculty who presented at SERMACS, there were several Guilford College alumni who, in addition to giving talks and posters at the conference, were able to network with the current Guilford students attending. Ampofo Darko ‘04, Assistant Professor of Chemistry at the University of Tennessee, gave a talk entitled “Mixed-ligand dirhodium(II) complexes with pendant axial ligands for silyl-hydrogen insertion reactions”. Canna Zheng ‘13, who is currently in the PhD program in Biochemistry at Wake Forest University, presented a poster on “Affinity enrichment co-purification coupled with mass spectrometry: A novel strategy to uncover the sulfur trafficking networks”. Ashley Edwards ‘16, also currently in the PhD program in Biochemistry at Wake Forest University, gave a talk entitled “Mapping interactions between the Bacillus subtilis cysteine desulfurase YrvO and sulfur acceptor proteins”.