As part of BU’s September 2012 annual alumni weekend celebrations, the Department of Chemistry invited four distinguished alumni to describe some highlights of their varied careers in science and technology and how their BU education launched them on these career paths. The speakers ranged in fields (theoretical chemistry to organic chemistry to physical chemistry) and careers (academia, entrepreneurship, law, industry) and BU educational experiences (undergraduate to Ph.D.). The symposium proved to be both practical in terms of career advice and touching in the tribute speakers paid to their advisors, and demonstrated the substantial impact that their BU Chemistry training had in helping to shape these successful careers. The photo shows the speakers with their advisors: Dr. Victor Battista, GRS ’96, now Professor of Chemistry at Yale, with Prof. John Straub (standing in for Victor’s advisor, David Coker); Dr. Les Dakin, GRS ’03, now scientist at Constellation Pharmaceuticals with advisor, Jim Panek; Dr. Jack Driscoll, GRS ’67, founder of HNU PID with advisor Professor Emeritus, Morton Hoffman; and Dr. Matt Zisk, CAS ’85, now partner and patent counsel at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP & Affiliates with advisor, Professor Emeritus Gil Jones.
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.
In April, Chemistry Professor Emeritus Morton Z. Hoffman was invited by Concordia University Irvine to deliver an International Year of Chemistry (IYC) lecture, “The IYC: Our Life, Our Future,” as well as to serve as a consultant to the Chemistry Department, at Concordia, as they developed their 10-year strategic plan. While in the “the neighborhood,” he caught up with two BU alumnae, Professor Catherine Clark (GRS 1996), whose thesis research he directed, and Ms. Jenny Talbot (CAS 2004), who was a student in his CH111/112 class (2000-01) and served as a PLTL workshop leader (2001-02).
Alumna Jenny Talbot did undergraduate and post-baccalaureate research with Dr. Adrien Finzi in the Biology Department on forest ecology and biogeochemistry. She will receive her Ph.D. from the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California Irvine next month, and will begin a postdoctoral appointment at the University of Minnesota at the end of the summer.
Professor of Chemistry Karen Allen and Associate Professor of Chemistry Adrian Whitty gave a “Discoveries” talk to BU Alumni on December 1, 2010. Sponsored by the BU Alumni Association and the College of Arts & Sciences, the Discoveries lecture series taps the strength of BU faculty to give alumni a deeper look into the world and their lives.
The seminar, Lessons to be Learned from Cells: From Molecular Basis to Disease, highlighted advances and obstacles in current drug discovery and described how work at Boston University on NEMO, a protein in the pathways involved in human inflammatory diseases and cancers, aims to address critical problems.
Bassam Z. Shakhashiri, Professor of Chemistry and the William T. Evjue Distinguished Chair for the Wisconsin Idea at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was elected 2011 ACS President-Elect. He will serve as ACS President in 2012 and Immediate Past President in 2013. The ACS currently has more than 161,000 members. It is the world’s largest scientific society and one of the leading sources of authoritative scientific information.
Dr. Shakhashiri received his B.A. degree in chemistry from Boston University in 1960 (followed by an M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Maryland), and is a recipient of a Boston University Alumni Award.
An international leader in chemistry education, as ACS president, Dr. Shakhashiri’s aims include; enhancing the qualify and supply of chemistry teachers, increasing public and private support for research and education, promoting green chemistry and sustainable development, fostering international cooperation and collaboration in research and education, improving scientific communication within and among various cultures.