What’s Happening in Chemistry Circles

Issue #101 February 19, 2003

web address: http://www.chem.tamu.edu/ugrad/

[a publication of the Department of Chemistry at Texas A&M University]

written by Dr. John L. Hogg



            Dr. David Bergbreiter was recently (November 2002) selected, from among a group of University-wide nominees, as one of three additional professors to hold the title of University Professor of Undergraduate Teaching Excellence. His professorship, technically the Eppright Professorship of Undergraduate Teaching Excellence, will provide him an annual $5000 salary supplement and an additional $5000 annual discretionary fund to support his teaching and professional activities for a five-year period. These professorships are meant to recognize uncommon excellence and devotion to the education of undergraduate students. Dr. Bergbreiter has previously received college-level and university-level teaching awards sponsored by the association of former students at Texas A&M University. In addition to his outstanding teaching effort, Dr. Bergbreiter maintains a very active research program in polymer chemistry. The extensive involvement of undergraduate students in this program was a major factor in his recognition. Congratulations, Dr. Bergbreiter! (Although it is immodest of me to point this out, Dr. Bergbreiter and I both hold this honor now, making the Chemistry Department the only department which can claim two of the six UPUTE professorships since this program of recognition began.)



            Several of our students have recently learned of their acceptance into various graduate and professional program. As they finalize their decisions we will report of their exact destinations. If you are a student in the process of making such a decision or have news of summer internships or related positions, please send the information to me for inclusion in the next issue of Orbitals.



            Tammy (Tuggle) Warren (B.S. 2000) and her husband announced the arrival of their baby with the following e-mail recently. “HOWDY! I just wanted to let ya'll know that we have a brand new baby boy! Luke Thomas was born February 13, 2003, at 4:57pm (Eastern Time). He weighed 8 lb 5.6 oz. and was 20.25 inches tall. Mom and baby are doing well and are happy to be home. Dad is taking good care of us and Radar is making sure everyone is ok! Hope you enjoy the pictures!” Congratulations to the Warrens! Friends may send congratulations to: fruityfriends@yahoo.com


            Zsila Sadighi (B.A. 2000) stopped by for about five minutes on January 28. Zsila is currently a second-year medical school student at UT-Houston and reports that she loves it. She said that she occasionally runs into Andrew Bolin (B.A. 2000) who is currently in his third year in medical school, having started a year before her due to a difference in May versus December graduation dates. Friends may contact her via e-mail at the following address: zsila.s.sadighi@uth.tmc.edu


            Valerie Meyers (B.A. 2000) was in town on February 13 to recruit students to the Ph.D. program in pathology at the University of Alabama in Birmingham and she stopped by for a visit. She is planning to return to Texas in April to spend three months on a project at the Johnson Space Center.


            Derek Speakmon (B.A. 2000; double major in history) sent the following, slightly edited, e-mail recently. It sounds as if Derek has been quite the world traveler since he graduated. “Well, as you know, I trotted off to DC after graduation. I am still there, yet traveling a lot with work. I am now working for the State Department as an administrative officer. The title doesn't really do me any justice since I am more of a jack-of-all-trades. I mainly go to embassies around the world and clean them up, so to speak. I'm trained in finance, security, personnel, logistics and consular affairs. It's a lot of work, and quite challenging at times, especially when an embassy is under congressional audit and I have to go in and clean up the books. It's quite fun at times. This past year I have worked at embassies in Tashkent, Uzbekistan; Kabul, Afghanistan (helped open it back up); Oslo, Norway; and right now I am in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. In addition to those places, I also went to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as a team member of a State Department Fact Finding mission. We were there to ensure the detainees were being treated according to the Geneva Convention. It was quite a fascinating trip. Anyway, that has pretty much been my life the past year. It's been exhausting, but definitely rewarding. I am looking forward to returning to the states next week for a few months. In May, I will be moving to Berlin for a two year tour at Embassy Berlin. It's going to be an awesome tour and I have heard so many great things about Berlin. I'm really looking forward to it. Well, I've rambled enough and am sure you have things to do and aspiring students to teach! Just wanted to drop you a note and say 'hello'. Hope all is well with you.” Derek

Derek’s e-mail address is: capt5683@yahoo.com


            Dr. Christine Piggee (B.A. 1991) sent along a detailed e-mail, at my request, after her recent visit here.“Hi, as a fellow author of a periodic newsletter (http://sigmaxi.org/programs/international/newsletter.shtml), I am quite remiss in not sending you information earlier. Let’s see, I delayed my graduation by a semester so I could study abroad in Italy in the summer of 1991. I was all set to start grad school at A&M in the fall, and then I got accepted to Northeastern University in Boston to join Barry Karger's group and study analytical chemistry. That took a while but was a fruitful period as I learned about the things I truly love to do now--latin dancing, traveling, and gourmet cooking. After Northeastern, I went to post-doc at NIH in the laboratory of neurotoxicology to work with mass spec and to figure out if I wanted to do research for a career or not. NIH was a great place to work, especially because of their loan repayment program (see http://www.lrp.nih.gov), and I really loved living in the Washington DC area. Actually, I was planning to stay there long-term, but God had other plans for me. I happened to find a job that perfectly fit my interests in North Carolina, of all places. Now I am the International Program Coordinator for Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society, and I manage a program that helps researchers in 'developing' countries to get better connected to the international science network. I am still no pets, no kids, and no husband yet, either! I'm working on that one.

            Is that okay? You know I was just LOOKING for something else to do to postpone this boring report I am writing. It was great to see everybody. Please tell Marilyn hello for me (I still am so impressed that she remembered my name!).” Best regards, Christine       Friends may e-mail Christine at: cpiggee@sigmaxi.org


            Dr. Ruben Garnica (B.S. 1997) recently received his Ph.D. degree in chemistry at the University of California - Irvine. Ruben conducted his research under the direction of Dr. Donald Blake. He defended his thesis “Laser Ionization Mass Spectrometry as a Powerful Tool for Trace Gas Analysis” on December 3, 2002. Ruben is currently working for Northrop Grumman (TRW).


            Dr. Jeffrey Bahr (B.S. 1995) was quoted in an article (page 5) in the February 3, 2002 issue of Chemical and Engineering News. I infer from the article that Jeff, who had been a postdoc in the groups of James Tour and Richard Smalley at Rice University, now works for Carbon Nanotechnologies, a Houston-based nanotube manufacturer. According to the article, Jeff is working on ways to functionalize the nanotubes to improve their solubility.



            We have received the following information from Dr. Martyn Gunn regarding Biochemistry 410 and 411. “All sections of BICH 410, 411 and 601 being taught in the Fall 2003 semester will have scheduled, evening recitation sessions. Each lecture section of BICH 410 and 411 will have 4 recitations spread throughout the week: BICH 601 will have just one. Students enrolling in BICH 410 and 411 may choose which lecture section/recitation time best fits their schedule during registration. The recitations will be conducted by a TA. Typically the TA will stress the key points covered that week, answer questions, set practice quizzes and exams, etc. No new material will be presented.”



            We just received an e-mail about this special program that may be of interest to some of you. “We are writing to ask you to help identify candidates for the Master's Program in Chemistry Entrepreneurship at Case Western Reserve University ( http://sep.cwru.edu/chem/). Because of the unique nature of this new program, getting the word out to the people who may benefit from it is absolutely crucial, and we ask your help in bringing it to the attention of your current students and alumni, as well as to others who may be interested. The program's objective is to empower chemists as entrepreneurs. The primary goal is to enable the students and graduates of the program to build on their chemistry skills to start new hi-tech businesses or launch new product lines in existing companies, and then successfully grow these ventures. We've put together a program that provides extraordinary opportunities, unmatched anywhere else, for doing this. The program is the result of several years of consultations with scientists and entrepreneurs and follows the successful second year of its parallel program running in the Physics department at CWRU. While chemists become entrepreneurs with surprising frequency, most practicing chemist entrepreneurs have done so without any formal preparation. Our program provides the training they've identified as critical, as well as access to a rich entrepreneurial infrastructure designed to nurture and support fledgling hi-tech ventures. The program itself is offered within a first rate chemistry research facility while in cooperation with the Entrepreneurship Program of the Weatherhead School of Management, one of the best in the nation. The heart of the program is a master's thesis involving an entrepreneurially oriented project. This will typically arise from an internship in a sponsor company, but we have the resources in place (access to venture capital, local high-tech incubators, etc.) so that a student-initiated research project can also form the basis for launching a new venture.

We have created a new two-semester sequence on "Modern Chemistry for Innovation" that provides the core of the chemistry course content. Students also take "New Venture Creation" and a new course on "Technology Entrepreneurship" in the Weatherhead School of Management. These courses provide the background needed on the business side to pursue the launch of a new venture, or the development of an intrapreneurial venture within an existing company.


Several elective courses provide the freedom to specialize in particular areas of interest. Also, an active seminar program provides continuing exposure to scientists, technologists and entrepreneurs who are actively engaged in forming new high-tech ventures.

It is worth emphasizing that the program provides both formal training and actual experience in chemistry entrepreneurship, involving a partnership of chemistry and management faculty and students together with practicing entrepreneurs. All aspects of the program are expected to provide long-term resources after students have graduated. We should also note that stipend/tuition support is available. We hope that you will bring the program to the attention of anyone (including but not limited to current students or recent graduates) who you think might benefit from this program. Alternatively, we would be happy to contact these individuals directly if you can provide us with the necessary co-ordinates. The timing of our contact is late in terms of the typical students planning on graduate school in Fall 2003, but the type of student we hope to attract is probably just now thinking about what to do in the Fall.

Thanks in advance for your help,”

Robert Hisrich
Mixon Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies, Weatherhead School of Management &
Chemistry Entrepreneurship Program Associate Director

Lawrence M. Sayre
Frank Hovorka Professor and Chair
Department of Chemistry
Case Western Reserve University
Cleveland, OH 44106
office: 216-368-3704
fax: 216-368-3006



The Professional Program in Biotechnology Master of Biotechnology program is currently accepting applications for our next cohort of students to begin in summer 2003. Admission is offered only in summer and will be limited to 30 students for next year. Students who wish to be considered for

scholarships should complete their applications by April 1, 2003. The Professional Program in Biotechnology Master of Biotechnology (Mbt) offers an interdisciplinary curriculum of science, business, journalism and professional development classes. The MBt is a non-thesis, 15 month masters degree in which students are required to complete a competency-based professional portfolio and a professional internship. Electives may be used to develop an area of emphasis in science, business, communications or other areas. Former students have completed independent study projects in areas such as technology licensing, ag communications, marketing and public education. The PPiB also has an Industry Advisory Committee (IAC) which consists of leaders in industry from across Texas. They often provide seminars, workshops and tours of their companies for the students in the MBt program (http://www.tamu.edu/ppib/isc.htm). Members of the interdisciplinary Faculty of Biotechnology provide academic oversight, mentor students, and teach the BIOT classes (http://www.tamu.edu/ppib/fob.htm) The top ten students entering the program this summer will each receive a $1,000 scholarship. This provides eligibility to nonresidents for out-of-state tuition waivers, which can save additional thousands of dollars in tuition costs. A limited number of teaching assistantships are available to our students in another department on a competitive basis, which will also provide eligibility for tuition waivers for nonresidents. Many former students of the PPiB are working as research associates in industry and academic labs. Some have chosen nontraditional career paths such as regulatory officer, business development specialist in a technology incubator, marketing associate in a company that specializes in cloning animals, technician in a DNA forensics lab, or technical writing. Our graduates are working in companies such as Ambion, Genoptix, Bayer Crop Science and the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. Of fifteen graduates, four entered professional school after graduation and eleven are working in industry. Eight were offered positions in the companies where they interned. Admissions criteria for the Master of Biotechnology include (a) holding a four-year baccalaureate degree or higher from a college or university of recognized standing, (b) having that degree in a major that emphasizes the sciences required for advanced study in biotechnology, (c) GRE scores, (d) official transcripts, (e) grade point ratio (GPR) in the last 60 hours of college course work, (f) three letters of recommendation with evaluation forms, (g) a resume detailing professional or academic experience, (h) a statement of purpose essay, and (i) a personal interview with the admissions committee. To be competitive, students should have a minimum 3.0 GPR overall and 3.25 in relevant, upper division sciences. If you have questions about the application process for the Master of Biotechnology, contact the program office at 979-862-4935 or ppib@tamu.edu