Faculty and Staff News (2011)
Last year passed rather too quickly. I spent considerable time to teach general and analytical chemistry courses (CHEM 103 and CHEM 213). I also put significant effort in collaborative research with students. Thanks to the Office of Sponsored Research Program (ORSP) for the monetary support that enabled my research group to study several new projects involving the application of theoretical chemistry and computational modeling to probe complex chemical systems. We made significant progress in several of these projects and were able to present our work in national and regional conferences/meetings. One of the research students gave a poster presentation at the American Chemical Society National Meeting in Anaheim, California. Three other students gave both oral and poster presentations at the Molecular Education and Research Consortium in Undergraduate Computational Chemistry (MERCURY) at Bucknell University, Pennsylvania. We were also able to publish two full articles in the Journal of Physical Chemistry: one exploring the organic functional group substitution effect on the energetics of electron transfer reaction and the other studying the effect of electron transfer on protein dynamics. Moreover, two of my students graduated and they are presently continuing their graduate studies at the University of Minnesota-Duluth and Purdue University.
Since the last newsletter, the past year (or two?) has been a very significant one for me personally: I entered my forties, was officially granted tenure and promotion to associate professor, taken on new roles on campus outside of Chemistry, and Christine and I moved back to Eau Claire where we bought our first house! I’ve found that I enjoy teaching much more post-tenure than before – and perhaps it’s not surprising that students seem to enjoy my slightly more relaxed attitude too, at least I hope so. All around, it’s been a good experience and I would highly recommend it for any aspiring academician! As for turning 40 (and now 41) I can’t really recommend that to anyone…
Moving to Eau Claire has been great. I love walking to work each day and having downtown and the farmers’ market within walking distance. We love our home – although there’s always some work to be done in a house that’s 146 years old… This was all made possible since Christine took a new call to St. John’s Lutheran Church just up the hill in the East Hill neighborhood, and that’s been great too.
Here at UW-EC, I’ve taken on new titles and roles related to my commitment to environmental science: I’m the new Interim Director of the Watershed Institute for Collaborative Environmental Studies, a new program on campus working toward interdisciplinary teaching, research and outreach. (Want to know more? Check out our website: http://www.uwec.edu/watershed/index.htm.) I’ve also had my teaching load reduced to 50% as I’ve taken on the role as the Chancellor’s Sustainability Fellow. This has me coordinating efforts across ALL units of campus to decrease the environmental and climate impact of the activities of the University and its students.
In the research lab, we continue our collaboration with Chevron Phillips Chemical company (CPChem). The collaboration, which is now focused on developing catalysts for selective ethylene oligomerization, has been quite fruitful over the years and has resulted in seven patents and four publications. I appreciate the financial support that CPChem has provided to me and my research students. Since the fall of 2010, I’ve enjoyed “learning the ropes” as department chair. Getting to know the Deans and other department chairs a little better, and helping to advocate for the chemistry department, has been very rewarding. Outside of work, I continue run and bike (maybe start snow-shoe racing this winter) and help coach Memorial high school track and cross country teams. I plan to continue coaching as long as I’m able to run (more or less) pain free. The past couple of years have seen some other notable events, including the marriage of our daughter and me entering the second half of my first (and perhaps my last) century on earth.
I started my new position as an assistant professor in the Chemistry Department at UWEC in the fall of 2010. I have now taught CHEM 325 or CHEM 326 (Organic I and II) every semester since I started. It was a new challenge for me, but I greatly enjoyed it and I learned a lot. I spent a good chunk of the summer of 2011 working on some CHEM 325 pilot labs that I am now testing out this fall (2011). The other main focus of 2010 was getting the ball rolling on research. Last fall, I was busy setting up my bright, shiny new research lab space with lots of fun equipment for organic synthesis, generously funded by my start-up grant at UW-EC. I officially started working with my first UW-EC research students in the winterim of 2011 and had five students, including one REU, working with me in the summer of 2011. It was a busy time but we made some nice progress and had some fun too! Our main research focus was on synthesizing various tethered oligophenyl molecules and studying their charge transfer properties. I also was awarded my first external research funding in the spring (ACS-PRF). My wife (Jenny, a new assistant professor in Materials Science in fall 2010) and I had a new baby boy, Eric, born on Feb 11, 2011. We now have two children, including a 4 year old daughter, Amanda. We also bought our first house in May 2011. It’s been a great first year, full of adventure and (mostly good) surprises!
Currently, my teaching responsibilities remain evenly divided between Chemistry and Materials Science, which seems natural to me- it reflects the balance of work in my research program. I have completed my first summer of research and am enjoying having some well-trained students continue their work during the academic year. My group has produced a rapid synthesis of shaped-controlled silver nanoparticles, which in itself is good news- we have reduced reaction time to just 20 minutes, as opposed to the 48-72 hours that are reported in the literature. Additionally, we found a simple method for depositing monolayers of these particles onto substrates for imaging by both TEM and AFM. This is exciting from both a research and teaching perspective- from the research side, the two characterization methods are complementary and reveal structural information that a single imaging method cannot capture. To extend this work into the classroom, we plan to image these samples using the benchtop AFMs in the Mat Sci teaching lab- if successful, we will be able to have our MSCI 100 students prepare and “see” the nanoparticles for themselves. My fingers are crossed.
On the home front, Bart and I welcomed our second child (Eric) in February. He joins his big sister (Amanda, 4 yrs) in our family. I remain the only brunette in the household. Aside from the usual sleep deprivation associated with the presence of small children, we are enjoying raising our family in our recently purchased East Hill home.
The 2011-12 academic year is my 14th on the faculty. Last year I went undercover as an analytical chemist, teaching Chem 213 for the first time. It was every bit of fun I thought it would be!
In research, student collaborators and I continue our laser spectroscopic studies of triplet excited states. Students Katie Zabronsky, Mike McAnally, and Luke Desilet are working on enone molecules such as cyclohexenone and gamma-pyrone. We are collaborating with Dave Lewis and student Dexter Davis to prepare deuterated derivatives of these molecules that will help us interpret our spectra. We are also enjoying our amateur forays into computational chemistry, thanks to the crack computing facilities ably managed by Christine Morales. Finally, we are looking forward to the upcoming installation of a slit nozzle source that will allow us to conduct jet-cooled experiments using the Cavity Ringdown (CRD) technique. Our esteemed alumnus at UC Berkeley, Rich Saykally, will be proud of us, considering he invented CRD spectroscopy. What's more, Prof. Saykally is currently mentoring graduate student Nik Hlavacek, a recent alumnus of our department and card-carrying member of the CRD club himself.
On the domestic front, my wife Diane and I continue to have fun with our children Ben (age 11.5) and Athena (age 4.5). Ben is enjoying his violin-playing and teams up on duets with Sanchita and Sudeep’s daughter Antara. I am slowly gaining appreciation (well, acceptance, at least) for the color pink, which dominates Athena’s wardrobe and other aspects of her lifestyle!
It has been a busy yet fulfilling year. I have been teaching an array of biochemistry courses including two biochemistry lecture classes (Chem 352 and Chem 452) and a biochemistry lab course (Chem 453). I have also been teaching some general chemistry labs (Chem 103) along with an online version of an organic/biochemistry course (Chem 150) for pre-nursing students, who were scattered across the state in my virtual classroom. And to keep things interesting, next semester I am going to try my hand for the first time of teaching the lab portion of the quantitative analysis course (Chem 213).
Things have also been going well on the research front. We have been studying the structure and behaviors of small peptide-derived, copper-binding molecules called methanobactins, which are produced by methane-oxidizing bacteria to scavenge for the copper they need from their environment. We had a tome of a paper come out last December in the journal Biochemistry, which featured two UWEC undergraduate co-authors as the first and second authors, three UWEC chemistry faculty (Hartsel and McEllistrem in addition to myself), and an international host of collaborators from Iowa State University, University of Michigan, Université de Strasbourg (France), University of Warwick (UK), and the J. Craig Venter Institute (Maryland). The title of the paper pretty much says it all: “A Comparison of Methanobactins from Methylosinus trichosporium OB3b and Methylocystis Strain SB2 Predicts Methanobactins Are Synthesized from Diverse Peptide Precursors Modified to Create a Common Core for Binding and Reducing Copper Ions.” We are now working to convince the NSF that they should consider funding this project.
My family is also doing well. My two sons have both graduated from UW-Madison. Alex is now teaching middle school math as a special education teacher at a charter school in New Orleans, and Nick is currently working for a private agronomy firm in Madison. And my daughter Molly is grown up and is a junior at UW-Madison. She is doing quite well in her studies with majors in sociology and environmental studies. My wife Stella still has an active law practice here in Eau Claire and remains steeped in the local politics as County Supervisor.
Well, my personal life has taken a dramatic change in the last year. I got married on September 3rd, 2011, and I am now living in Hugo, Minnesota. In the fall of 2011, I experimented with teaching Chemistry 103 partially online as a "hybrid" course. These courses might prove to be a viable option for students in the 21st century. I learned a lot about teaching this way and I think the course improved throughout the semester. I had fun in the process but I did miss being on campus interacting with students every day.
I bought a hobby farm in western Wisconsin hoping we could live there but the hour long commute each way takes too much out of me. I am taking a personal leave starting in January to explore options. Unfortunately, it will be easier for me to find a comparable job in Minnesota than for Sarah to find one in Eau Claire. Furthermore, the state budget problems and legislator's rhetoric makes it difficult to want to stay. The hybrid teaching style may allow me to return to UWEC in the future, but we'll just have to see. It is a bittersweet time.
I began as an Assistant Professor in Materials Science this summer. I have been busy setting up my research lab and teaching both Materials Science 234 (Soft Materials) and Chemistry 325 lab (Organic I). My research lab space is on the fourth floor, and I enjoy interacting with both chemistry and materials science faculty. I have already started planning research projects with two undergraduate chemistry students and plan on working with many chemistry and materials science students in the years to come. My research utilizes organic and polymer synthesis to create polymeric stimuli-responsive surfactants and nanocomposites for self-assembly and delivery applications. The ability to conduct my interdisciplinary research and interact with people in both materials science and chemistry is one of the main reasons I am excited to be here at UW-Eau Claire.
I grew up in Janesville, WI. My education took me all around Eastern and Midwestern US (BS in Chemistry at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, PhD in Polymer Science & Engineering at UMass Amherst, and a post-doc at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign). I’m happy to be back in Wisconsin!
Jason Halfen continues work with Normark Corporation on the development of effective, pheromone-based fish attractants. Current work involves the study of the release of rainbow trout-specific pheromones and other attractants from biodegradable polymer matrices.
This is my 6th year in the department and I am enjoying my job to the fullest extent. I spent the last year teaching two upper-level chemistry courses ˗ biophysical chemistry and biochemistry II. The best part of teaching these two courses was that I learned a lot while preparing the lectures. Besides teaching, I spent significant amount of time in collaborative research with students. Support from NIH and ORSP enabled me to expand my research group. With several instrumental facilities being available in the lab through NIH support, we were able to carry on some crucial experimental studies to explore role long-range communications in large protein systems. We made significant progress in computational studies as well. These results were presented in the ACS National Meeting (Spring 2011) and the Research Day. We were also able to communicate a manuscript on protein dynamics in the Journal of Physical Chemistry.
At home, things are also going good. Sudeep and I are having wonderful time with our daughter, Antara (~ 9 yrs). She is slowly growing into a responsible and curious girl. She is keeping us busy as well as entertained with her creative and fun activities.
Since the last newsletter report, I have focused my research on rewriting software to improve code performance for high accuracy calculations on the ground states of four-electron systems. A preliminary work was published in the Journal of Chemical Physics early this year with two former UWEC students as coauthors. I am at the preliminary stage of learning to code a gpu (graphical processor unit). These devices, which have been used for about a decade to carry out image construction in video games and related areas, have very recently become popular for large scale computational problems. I have redesigned a large part of the integral code (over 8000 lines) required for my calculations, with an eye to implementing gpu-type calculations.
I have been trying to cycle the river trail along the Chippewa as many weekends as the weather allowed. I have not played in the US Go championships the past couple of years. Lack of match practice while doing software development has been the major obstacle. I have played a bit of tennis this past summer with computational colleagues Dr. Sudeep and Dr. Christine.
Dave has had a busy year and a half, with three papers and one book chapter published, and two patent applications filed. My application for sabbatical in 2011 was approved, and I have been spending the Fall semester in my lab here in Eau Claire, and writing. In February 2010, I signed a contract with Oxford University Press to write "Advanced Organic Chemistry," and I am about 80% complete at this point, with 15 chapters under review. In large part, my progress on the first half of this project is thanks to my Chemistry 426 (Modern Organic Chemistry) students, who served as test subjects for the first nine chapters as they were completed. In February 2011, I signed a contract with Springer Verlag to write "A Brief History of Organic Chemistry in Russia: Early Russian Organic Chemists and Their Legacy," to appear next year as a SpringerBrief. This project will be complete in another month. In February, 2010, we published the first paper to arise out of my collaboration with Dr. Michael Caldwell of Marshfield Clinic. That collaboration has also resulted in the launch of McDel-Topology LLC. In the paper, we described the synthesis and anticoagulant activity of novel potentiators of warfarin anticoagulation. The lab continues to be a flurry of activity: until May 2011, Phil Doyle (Research Assistant), Drew Meulemans, and Brad Klemm were actively working; Brad is now at Michigan Medical School in the Ph.D. program, Drew is looking for work in eastern Wisconsin, and Phil is planning for graduate school in chemistry next year. Enkhtuul Tsogtbaatar (Tuli), Ryan McKenney, Jim Harder, and Katie Anderson are continuing in the lab, and they have just been joined by Dr. Sudheer Chava, the new Research Associate. My students made poster presentations at the WiSys Science and Technology Symposia in Green Bay (2010) and Whitewater (2011), and at the national ACS meetings in Boston (2010) and Denver (2011).
On the family front, Debbie continues as Partnership Coordinator at Lakeshore Elementary School, Graeme is back at UW-Eau Claire part-time majoring in German, after taking a year off from his studies, and Veronica is a third (graduation) year student at the University of Adelaide, where she is majoring in English and minoring in Anthropology. She also has a fine Australian/American accent. Her parents just wish the exchange rate were not so terrible...
This year has also seen much better connections with past members of the Lewis Group: Nick Deprez has completed his Ph.D. at Michigan with Melanie Sanford, and is now a post-doctoral fellow with Erick Carreira at the ETH in Zürich. Grant Sormunen is completing his Ph.D. at Michigan with John Montgomery, and he is planning to look for an industrial position. Kristy McNitt graduated with her M.S. from Indiana, where she worked with Amar Flood, and she is now working with Cortec in the Twin Cities. Robyn Laskowski graduated with her M.S. under Malika Jeffries-El at Iowa State, and Glen Gullickson has taken his M.S. with Wayne Noland at Minnesota. This October, Glen married, and he and his wife are now headed west to the Seattle area. Kelsey Dunkle is also nearing the completion of her M.S. under Mukhund Sibi at North Dakota State, and if anyone knows of a job in the Twin Cities area, she is interested. Leah Groess and Ashley Dries are continuing their graduate work at Minnesota, and (like Kelsey) are wondering when their work will be submitted for publication. Jessica Walters graduated in the Chem/Bus program, and is now firmly ensconced in Nestlé in Eau Claire, and she has come back to make a presentation to our Chemical Industry Seminar (Chem 274). Dr. Joseph Mirzaei, whom most remember as Yousef, the post-doc in my lab, became a U.S. citizen and changed his name to Joseph in September this year. He is currently at the University of Montana.
In the spring of 2008, a new comprehensive major in Materials Science was approved, and that summer I (and others) began developing new courses for the major. At that time, I was also formally reassigned to a "split appointment" - 75% of my time in Chemistry and 25% in Chemistry. In the fall of 2009, the newly formed major in Materials Science began to enrolling students. This spring (2012) will see the completion of all courses required of the major, but our experience in teaching these courses shows that we still have much work to do. With the start of the new major, the Materials Science program needed someone to direct the Academic Program, and I agreed to serve in that capacity. Alas, I, like Bob Eierman, have "wandered away" (at least for a while), and it begins to look like the third Analytical chemist, Jim Boutler is sneaking away too...
To teach the new major, we were fortunate to also hire new Materials Science faculty. There are now five faculty and three professional staff in Materials Science; two of those faculty (Dr. Jenny Dahl and Dr. Liz Glogowski) have included summaries in this section to give you an idea of what their interests are. My own research interests continue in materials, but my group's collaboration with Drs. Gallagher and Hartsel has borne the most recent fruit (in terms of published scholarship).
Being fairly new around here, I have enjoyed some first experiences in Eau Claire. No, I haven’t tubed down the river, but I have enjoyed biking on the trails and growing vegetables in the community garden. My mother visited from Hawaii, and experienced her first snowfall! On a more serious note, I have been teaching Chemistry 103 and 104, as well as P-Chem lecture and the physical analysis lab. I have also been privileged to work with UW-EC students on computational chemistry research. First-year student, Kurt Flesch, completed a research project on liquid crystals that he presented at UW-EC Student Research Day for fourth-place honors in the Biological and Chemical Sciences. Tom Jones has modeled reactions that he studies experimentally in the Carney group. Tim Deckers, Tian Xie, and Jason Van Jorstad have been studying transition metal hydride complexes. Our group is using a new, high-performance cluster that is part of the Computational Science Center that was brought into existence last year by Dan Ernst, formerly of the Computer Science department.
I’ve been running the gamut between senior labs and non-majors gen chem. Students from the first couple rounds of Chem 420-you may be pleased to learn that we finally got the carbohydrate protections and glycosylations to work (well, mostly) and the NMR spectra to reveal all. On the other end, I’m doing Chem 100-Issues & Answers, Chem 103, and the Demo show. I feel a bit like an sp3 orbital with a node at my 325/6 nucleus.
The past couple years have been quite busy for Dr. Jim, both personally and professionally. He has been teaching mainly physical and environmental chemistry. As for p-chem, the efforts have been primarily 433 (thermo/kinetics lecture), and 438 (physical/analytical lab). As for environmental chemistry, this has involved not only 304 (Environmental Chemistry), but also a relatively new non-majors’ course (CHEM 127: Chemistry and Climate) for which global climate change is the major theme. Both of these efforts in environmental chemistry have been platforms for testing “integrated learning” projects, which refers to the consideration of an issue from multiple academic viewpoints, and this forms the primary basis of UWEC’s general education reform agenda. For several years, CHEM 304 students worked on projects in groups containing students from ECON 268 (Environmental Economics, w Dr. Eric Jamelske). Also, CHEM 127 was included in two of the first-year pilot course “bundles”, one of which was designed by Dr. Jim.
Research has been quite productive for the past few years (in spite of a short-term shortage of funds and some unreliable vacuum pumps). The group has published three papers in the past two years, and we have plans to submit two more in the next couple months. Dr. Jim was elected to the position of CUR Councilor last year, and as such, the group’s involvement in CUR activities has increased accordingly. The entire group (currently three students) will be attending NCUR next spring in Utah, and we submitted three applications to “Posters on the Hill”.
Personally, Dr. Jim has been quite busy with two teen-aged daughters (yes, Maggie and Ellie are now 9th graders), who live with him half-time in Dr. Gengenbach’s former residence at the edge of the East Side Hill. He has also been playing bass with a country/rock band called High Card (mainly at rural bars in Chippewa County), and played the part of Rick Danko (of The Band, see picture at left) for tribute to The Last Waltz on Thanksgiving of 2010 (a benefit for Feed My People Food Bank). That performance was nominated for “Best Local Musical Performance of 2010” by Volume One, but fared poorly in the voting.
Hello! I joined the chemistry department in this fall as a visiting assistant professor after teaching at UW-Fox Valley in Menasha, WI and Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA. This fall, I’m teaching General Chemistry 103 and 104 (lecture and labs) and in the spring, I’m teaching my favorite class, Bioinorganic Chemistry 318. So far, I’ve really enjoyed teaching and working with the undergraduate students, faculty and staff on this campus. I recently began working with a freshman Blugold Fellow on an undergraduate research project and plan to add two more students to my research program this year. My research focus is Bioinorganic Chemistry specifically Metalloenzyme Modeling and Marine Siderophores. My husband and I, our twin boys (1.5 year old) and our dog live in the Putnum Heights neighborhood. We enjoy riding our tandem bicycle, with the boys in our double bike trailer, around Eau Claire.
We've been very busy in Wiegel Research (careening from catastrophe to catastrophe since 2000) this year. Mike Zenner graduated and went to Iowa State and Matt Hammers graduated (again- he got it right this time!) and is now in Oregon. They and Kyle Lasure presented their research at ACS Anaheim this spring. I'm sure no Disney characters were harmed.
We got a renewal on our NSF grant, so there was a crew of 4 hardworking guys this summer: Dusty Fredrickson, Steve Friday, Rick Miesen and Alex Waner. The summer was made especially interesting by the moving of labs from our old home in P479 to our new digs in P481. It was especially impressive that the guys pulled off the move in 2.5 days, and we were back in business.
We pushed out 4 papers over the last year (all in Liquid Crystals) and were very fortunate to be asked to provide the cover image for the October Issue! With all of that, we still managed to see all of the Superhero movies that hit this summer. Its’ a dead tie between X-men and Captain America for me. For old students: Paul Riedel got married, Don Rogness graduated with his doctorate and Justin Kumpfer published two articles in Nature and JACS. Great for them all around! We had a great and busy year, and can't wait to have a go at the next one!