The Director of the Consumer Safety and Sustainability Group for Consumer Reports, Dr. Urvashi Rangan, will be the Distinguished Alumni Speaker at this year’s Chemistry Convocation (May 16, 2015). Dr. Rangan received her BA in Chemistry from Boston University in 1990, doing undergraduate research in organic chemistry with Prof. John Snyder. She received her PhD in Environmental Health Sciences from Johns Hopkins University in 1995 and did postdoctoral work at the Environmental and Occupational Health Science Institute (Rutgers University). She was an NIH fellow from 1990-97.
A noted environmental health scientist, Dr. Rangan has a column in Consumer Reports’ ShopSmart magazine and also serves as a top spokesperson for Consumer Reports in the areas of sustainable production and consumption practices. She has a wide area of expertise, including organic standards, food safety issues, environmental pollution, toxics in consumer products, and environmental health concerns and has appeared in numerous national broadcast outlets. Her expertise is called upon to respond to breaking product safety news, speak on behalf of CU investigative test stories, and to discuss production problems and consumer solutions around a wide range of sustainability topics including food safety issues, organic food, risky ingredients in personal care products, misleading labels, electronics recycling, and energy efficiency for household products.
At the Consumers Union, which she joined in 1999, she has been responsible for managing risk analysis, policy assessments, label evaluations and consumer advice for tests, reports, and related advocacy work. She developed the ratings system, database, and Web site, Eco-labels.org, for evaluating environmental and food labels. In 2005, she managed the launch of GreenerChoices,org, which covers green aspects over a wide range of products and services. To “meet” Dr. Rangan, please go to her 2012 TEDxManhattan talk, “From fables to labels.”
The National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates Program supports active research participation by undergraduate students in any of the areas of research funded by the National Science Foundation. For the second time, BU Chemistry has received one of these coveted site awards. Focused on the theme “Fundamental Research in Chemistry Addressing Problems in Biology,” the 3-year program (2012-2015) is led by Professors John Snyder (Principal Investigator) and Linda Doerrer (Co-PI).
The Northeastern Section of the American Chemical Society (NESACS) established the James Flack Norris and Theodore William Richards Undergraduate Summer Fellowships to honor the memories of Professors Norris and Richards by promoting research interactions between undergraduate students and faculty.
This year’s NESACS summer research fellowship was awarded to Morris Cohen (BU Chemistry, Class of 2013), who joined the research group of Dr. Binyomin Abrams in the fall of 2011. Under the mentorship of Dr. Abrams and former PFF Dr. Adam Moser, Morris has been working on the development of an all-atom computational model for the meta-phenylene ethynylene class of foldamers – oligomers that fold into helical structures in solution using non-covalent interactions. Morris has been utilizing several software packages for this work, including Gaussian, CHARMM, and NAMD, on computational resources located at BU as well as the RANGER supercomputer at the University of Texas, Austin.
BU Chemistry hosted more than 100 students from the Boston Community Leadership Academy (BCLA) and English High School on May 4, 2012 for the fourth annual Chemistry Day. The morning long program began with a demonstration session given by BU Chemistry undergraduates and coordinated by Postdoctoral Faculty Fellow (PFF) Dr. Seann Mulcahy. The demonstration explored pH, having fun with liquid nitrogen, synthesizing nylon, and making “Elephant’s Toothpaste.” After the demonstration, students spent time in our undergraduate teaching labs performing experiments in electrochemistry of metals (a variation on a CH 101 undergraduate lab experiment), electrolysis of salt water, and identifying antioxidants using glow sticks. These experiments were coordinated by PFF Dr. Katie Frato with assistance by BUWIC (Boston University Women in Chemistry) president Sarah Soltau and undergraduates. Students also attended tours of state-of-the-art chemistry research labs, seeing major instrumentation such as NMR spectrometers and GC/MS instruments and testing a glove box. During these tours, graduate student and postdoctoral researchers also described their work and what it was like to work in a research lab. The morning was capped off with a BBQ sponsored by the department. Photos from the event can be seen at the BU Chemistry Flickr site.
BU Chemistry Day is the culmination of a semester long outreach program created by BUWIC and coordinated by Liz Hirst (BUWIC Outreach Coordinator). During the semester, 2-3 BU students visited classrooms at BCLA, English High School, and Brighton High School every other week to mentor students, assist teachers with instruction, perform demonstrations, and coordinate hands-on experiments.
BU Chemistry is grateful to all of those involved, with special thanks to:
Outreach co-directors: Seann Mulcahy and Katie Frato
BUWIC: Sarah Soltau (President) and Liz Hirst (Outreach Coordinator)
Teaching lab coordinator: Boris Bezverkhny
Undergraduate “Outreachers”: Kyle Kahveci, Will Lyon (English High); Shama Patel, Nicole Buechler, Holly Johnson, Pragya Kalla, James Priestley, Christopher Neil, Zach Bogart (BCLA); and Nick Russo, Josh Nelson, Doug Allison (Brighton High)
BU Chemistry has dramatically improved the undergraduate organic chemistry laboratory by giving students access to major research instrumentation and state-of-the-art technology. By enabling more modern experimentation, these resources foster critical thinking and problem solving skills that prepare undergraduates for graduate and pre-professional schools or for careers in industry. Advanced experimentation also enables more sophisticated student-designed research-type projects.
Renovations and instrumentation
Renovations in the Metcalf Center for Science and Engineering (Summer 2011) have transformed our organic chemistry instructional laboratories into an 6,350 sq. ft. suite with fume hoods and bench areas for each student, auxiliary support space, and a chemical stockroom. Space has been dedicated for an undergraduate instrumentation center for with fully automated high field nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), ultra-performance liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry (UPLC-MS), Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR), and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). Microwave reactors allow for rapid reaction rates, enabling multistep syntheses to be undertaken in a single day.
Advanced Technology in the Laboratory Curriculum
The entire laboratory curriculum of our sophomore-level organic chemistry sequence has been transformed with the adoption of the “paperless laboratory” through the use of electronic laboratory notebooks. Spearheaded by Professor John Snyder and Professor Scott Schaus and Postdoctoral Faculty Fellow, Seann Mulcahy, integration of these technology resources have enabled the creation of an open-access repository of laboratory protocols, design of laboratory experiments that facilitate sharing of data between students and between disciplines, exposure to automated NMR, GC-MS, and UPLC-MS, and remote download and manipulation of spectroscopic data.
- Fast Forward to the 21st Century -The new instrumentation advances undergraduate capabilities well beyond those in traditional sophomore organic textbooks that repeat traditional experiments. Instead, we have designed novel, research-oriented, exploratory experiments that have applicability to modern organic chemistry. These include cross-coupling experiments, olefin metathesis, and many others. Experiment protocols are available on BU’s Digital Common site (DCommon), an open-access online repository that is accessible not only by our students, but by outside instructors as well. Users can be granted upload privileges to deposit modified or new protocols thereby creating a rich resource to the worldwide research community. In addition, a DCommon collection of NMR and UPLC-MS spectra is being compiled as a teaching tool for organic chemistry courses.
- Major Instrumentation – BU is unique in using the latest instrumentation for routine, hands-on training at the sophomore level. The laboratory’s state-of-the-art instrumentation also allows comprehensive characterization of synthetic material prepared in each experiment. Students now routinely run 1H and 13C NMR (and 2D COSY), UPLC/MS, GC/MS, and FT-IR on their own samples and to obtain a set of data which approaches the quality needed for publication.
- Into the Cloud – Our students are now using fully electronic laboratory notebooks, which they populate on their laptops with reaction details, procedural notes, and safety protocols. Analytic data and spectra (manipulated and interpreted remotely) are uploaded into the notebook and serve as part of their final laboratory reports.
The Chemistry Department is please to announce our receipt of an NSF REU site award. The Chemistry Research Addressing Biological Problems program gives undergraduates the opportunity to conduct research in basic chemical science projects that address fundamental questions in biological systems. The program is offered by the Department of Chemistry at Boston University and is one of the sites supported by the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU). The Department of Chemistry has an outstanding, internationally known faculty and exceptional, modern facilities. It is located in the heart Boston, one of the world’s leading research areas.
This fall (September 2004), Boston University (BU) and Roxbury Community College (RCC) launched a one-year pilot program for an undergraduate research center funded by the Chemistry Directorate of the National Science Foundation (NSF). NSF’s goal is to support collaborations between research universities and two- and four-year colleges, as well as with secondary schools to encourage students to pursue research careers in chemistry and chemistry-related areas.The BU/RCC pilot program invites students to attend monthly “Introduction to Research” seminars in Fall 2004 and Spring 2005. In Summer 2005, four freshman/sophomore students from RCC and four from BU will be invited to participate in the pilot program’s research phase. Each student will receive a $4,000 stipend for eight weeks of research effort and will write a final report and make a public presentation of research results.
Concurrently, Boston University, under the direction of Stan Hartman, Professor of Chemistry, Ray Turner, Executive Dean of Instructional Technology & Special Projects at RCC, and other collaborators will be developing a proposal to NSF to advance from the pilot program to a full Boston Undergraduate Research Center. If successful, the Center would be established in Fall 2005.