New approaches to undergraduate lab classes
Professors Snyder and Abrams collaborate with colleagues in Biology and Neuroscience to create novel, interdisciplinary courses: Integrated Science Experience 1 & 2
Interdisciplinary, Integrated Course Ideas Receive Provost Grants
Chemistry faculty, John Snyder and Binyomin Abrams, in conjunction with colleagues in the Departments of Biology (Kathryn Spilios and John “Chip” Celenza) and Neuroscience (Paul Lipton and Lucia Pastorino) have successfully proposed ideas to develop integrated, inquiry-based laboratory courses for first and second year biology, chemistry, and neuroscience students. Jointly funded by the Office of the Provost, the Center Teaching & Learning, and the College of Arts and Sciences, these interdisciplinary course development grants aim to promote faculty and student collaboration across disciplines in support of innovative, research-oriented undergraduate laboratory education. The new courses that are being developed, Integrated Science Experience 1 (ISE 1, for second semester freshmen) and ISE 2 (for first semester sophomores) will facilitate students making connections across biology, chemistry, and neuroscience early in their undergraduate careers. Such interdisciplinary insights will better prepare for advanced courses and undergraduate research. Developed in 2015 and 2016, ISE 1 and ISE 2 were piloted in the Spring and Fall 2016 terms, respectively.
Interdisciplinary Science Experience 1
The first-semester ISE1 course was piloted in the Spring 2016 semester. Forty students with majors ranging from biology to philosophy engaged in a semester-long study focused around characterizing the kinetics of tyrosinase-catalyzed production of L-Dopa and screening of small-molecule inhibitors. The labs integrated teaching on the basics of instrumentation, lab practices/skills, research practices in STEM, working with scientific literature, and writing in the sciences, while synthesizing information related to chemistry, biology, and neuroscience.
Interdisciplinary Science Experience 2
A pilot of this first semester, sophomore program began this fall semester (2016) supported by Boston University. In this program, eleven students enrolled in Organic Chemistry 1 (CH 203), and Cell Biology (BI 203 or 213) or Neuroscience I (NE 203) work on a specific project that combines labs in both Organic Chemistry and Cell Biology, with an emphasis on Neuroscience, modeling a drug discovery effort for Alzheimer’s disease. This project, which was organized as a graduate level research group would be, with weekly group meetings replacing pre-lab lectures, focused on the isolation of curcumin from turmeric, and the synthesis of specific analogues in the organic chemistry lab, with parallel biological experiments probing the activities of these compounds as relates to Alzheimer’s dementia. Curcumin has a well-validated biological activities to launch the biology lab. The analogues prepared in the organic lab were selected for their practicality of preparation at the sophomore level, as well as to probe specific structural features of curcumin that might be responsible for the activity. In addition, the procedures in both labs were designed as an educational vehicle that would greatly enhance the lectures in Organic Chemistry 1, Cell Biology, and Neuroscience. This pilot program culminated with students designing their own capstone projects in both the chemistry and biology labs.
Professor Snyder said “The results from our first year experience have been even better than expected. New analogues of curcumin have been prepared, and the biological effects of these analogues have never been reported before. We are now seeking funding from the AAU to expand this pilot project with a second, research oriented project centered around capsaicin, the ‘hot’ ingredient of habanero which has also been implicated as having beneficial neurological effects.”
Dr. Arturo Vegas is a 2016 Peter Paul Career Development Professorship Recipient
Boston University’s Chemistry Department is proud to announce that Professor Arturo Vegas has been selected as one of this year’s three recipients of the 2016-2017 Peter Paul Career Development Professorships at Boston University.
The awards highlight the caliber, potential, and continued vitality of Boston University’s diverse faculty and include a three-year, non-renewable stipend designed to support scholarly or creative work, as well as a portion of the recipients’ salaries. Peter Paul Career Development Professorships are awarded University-wide.
This year’s Career Development Professorship recipients have all been cited for their extraordinary accomplishments in their areas of study, their passion for the creation and transmission of knowledge, their efforts to enhance the student experience, and, most importantly, for their potential to develop into outstanding faculty members, this prestigious award is intended to help young faculty launch their promising careers by providing partial support for three years of the recipient’s research activities. The significance of Arturo’s efforts “to develop novel chemical tools, materials, and approaches for targeting therapeutics to diseased tissues, with an emphasis on cancer and diabetes” and his potential to develop into an outstanding faculty member at BU are recognized by the receipt of this award.
For more information about Arturo and his research check out his Faculty Page
Congratulations to Dr. Vegas!
Boston University’s Chemistry Department is proud to announce that Professor John Straub has been selected as this year’s recipient of the United Methodist Church Scholar/Teacher of the Year Award! This award is given each year to a Boston University faculty member in recognition of their record of ongoing, outstanding research and scholarship, and excellence as a teacher. This is one of the highest honors Boston University bestows to one of its faculty members.
Professor Straub’s research explores protein dynamics and thermodynamics using theoretical and computational methods, with a particular focus on elucidating pathways for conformational change associated with protein energy transfer, signaling, folding, and aggregation. He also works with the Pinhead Institute, a Smithsonian Affiliate based in Telluride, Colorado that strives to promote science-education both locally & globally. The Pinhead Institute educates and inspires children and adults in the greater Telluride region about the wonders of science and technology.
Congratulations to Professor Straub on receiving this much deserved award.
Dr. Perlstein, who has been with Boston University’s Chemistry Department since 2010, was recently awarded a 5-Year early investigator award through the NSF CAREER grant program.The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is a Foundation-wide activity that offers the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations. Such activities should build a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research.
Dr. Perlstein’s research focuses on how metals are mobilized and monitored within the cell so that they get to where they need to go and do not end up in places they shouldn’t. With this new five-year grant, Dr. Perlstein plans to unravel the molecular mechanism by which iron-sulfur cluster cofactors are assembled in the cytosol of eukaryotic organisms. Since inhibition of this first step in cluster biosynthesis can lead to defects in DNA replication, DNA repair and protein synthesis, she expects this work will provide new insight into how cluster biogenesis affects these other fundamental biochemical pathways.
With the CAREER award, Perlstein also plans to develop new undergraduate course curriculum as well as building on current STEM outreach program efforts to begin training the next generation of scientists.
To learn more about Dr. Perlstein and her groups research activities visit her Faculty page: http://www.bu.edu/chemistry/faculty/perlstein/.
Chemistry is pleased to welcome our newest faculty member. On January 4, Malika Jeffries-EL joined the Chemistry Department as an Associate Professor with tenure. Professor Jeffries-EL comes to BU from Iowa State University, and her research focuses on the development of organic semi-conductor materials. She received B.A. degrees in Chemistry and Africana Studies at Wellesley College, and her Ph.D in Chemistry from The George Washington University. After spending one year at Smith College as a Mendenhall Fellow, she worked as a post-doctoral fellow under the direction of Professor Richard D. McCullough at Carnegie Mellon University.
Professor Jeffries-EL’s 30+ publications have garnered over 2,000 citations, and she has given more than 80 lectures in the United States and abroad. She has won numerous awards, including the 3M Untenured Faculty Award (2008), the Emerald Honors for Most Promising Minority Scientist (2008), the Lloyd Ferguson Award from the National Organization of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (2009), a NSF CAREER award (2009), the ISU-College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Diversity Award (2011), the ACS Women Chemist Committee Rising Star Award (2012), and the Iota Sigma Pi Agnes Fay Morgan Research Award.
For more information about her interests and research, please visit her faculty webpage at www.bu.edu/chemistry/jeffries-el-3.
This fall, Chemistry welcomes three new instructors to its teaching core. Dr. Rebecca Loy has joined the department as Course Coordinator for the organic chemistry laboratory program (CH 203/204/214). In addition to developing the laboratory curriculum and giving the pre-laboratory and course lectures, she directs and trains the courses’ Teaching Fellows and Undergraduate Assistants. Prior to coming to Boston University, Dr. Loy was a postdoctoral fellow with Professor Melanie Sanford at the University of Michigan, studying palladium catalyzed perfluoroalkylation of arenes and vanadium redox flow batteries. Dr. Loy’s academic studies began at the University of California, Berkeley where she obtained her bachelor’s degree in 2004. While there, she conducted research under both Professors Robert Bergman and F. Dean Toste. She studied both titanium catalyzed hydroamination reactions of allenes and rhenium catalyzed glycosylation reactions. She obtained her Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2009 under the direction of Professor Eric Jacobsen studying asymmetric intramolecular oxetane openings catalyzed by cobalt salen complexes.
In addition two new Postdoctoral Faculty Fellows (PFFs), Dr. Kristen Mascall and Dr. Lynetta Mier, have joined the PFF Program. The innovative program provides a two-year, full time appointment in the Department of Chemistry for recent Ph.D. graduates who plan to pursue academic careers at 4-year liberal arts colleges. (Since its founding in 2002, there have been 23 PFFs.) In addition to her teaching, Dr. Mascall is conducting research in medicinal chemistry with Professor Aaron Beeler. She received her Ph.D. in Chemistry from Dartmouth College (Hanover, NH) in 2012. Dr. Mier is conducting research in ultrafast spectroscopy with Professor Larry Ziegler. She received her Ph.D. from Ohio State University in 2012.
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.
Boston University Chemistry has launched a new Digital Common site for organic chemistry teaching lab protocols. According to Prof. John Snyder, “developing a freely accessible, dynamic data base of sophomore organic lab experiments was driven by the reality that we were creating most of our sophomore course labs rather than relying on a lab textbook. In fact, many colleges and universities are doing the same. As PFFs from our department have gone on to faculty positions, the potential for having a large number of talented contributors to the database became rather obvious.” Early users / contributors include PFF alumna Prof. Amy Bradley (Wilkes University) and Prof. Lauren Rossi (Roger Williams University). Instrumental in developing the free access database is current PFF, Dr. Seann Mulcahy.
The BU Digital Common is an open access repository, which means that the full text of the work deposited here is freely accessible to the world via the web. BU Chemistry organic lab instructors have placed protocols developed over the years to be freely and easily accessible to other instructors. Users can download and modify these protocols to use in their own courses as they see fit. Users may also be granted upload privileges to deposit modified or new protocols that will be of use to the world-wide teaching community.
On April 30, high school students from Boston Community Leadership Academy (BCLA) visited the BU Chemistry Department for our second annual Chemistry Day. The forty-five BCLA students learned about acids and bases, gas laws, and chemical reactions at a jaw-dropping demonstration show. They also explored rates of reactions and electrochemistry in two hands-on laboratories run by BU graduate student, Daniele Ramella, and Postdoctoral Faculty Fellow, Rosemary White. Then the students toured chemistry research labs where graduate students and postdocs taught them about their current research. The event concluded with a picnic lunch, sponsored by Cynthia Brossman of LERNET. Chemistry Day was organized by Anais Gervais (BUWIC), Riya Luhar (Chemia), Rosemary White, and Susan DeSensi. The BCLA students are in Arielle Saavedra’s 10th-grade chemistry class. Throughout the semester, BU undergrads Jennifer Kole, Ariana Sherman, and Mike Zimmerman visited Arielle’s classes as part of the Chemistry Outreach Program. The Chemistry Outreach Program, organized by Dr. Susan DeSensi and Dr. Rosemary White, both of the BU Chemistry Department, sends BU undergrads to BCLA, English High School, and Fenway High School to work with the chemistry classes, perform demos and labs, and share their excitement for chemistry. Please check out some Photos from this wonderful event.