Author: Ashley Orcutt

Renowned forensic scientist stresses importance of chemistry

The Daily Campus

TDr. Henry Leehe UConn chemistry club hosted Dr. Henry C. Lee, one of the world’s renowned forensic scientists, to give a special lecture on forensics to the UConn community.

Lee has worked on many famous cases, such as the O.J. Simpson trial, the Casey Anthony trial, the Elizabeth Smart Case, Laci Peterson cases, September 11 evidence and a lot more. He founded and teaches the forensic science program at the University of New Haven and has his own TV show, “True Evidence” on Tru TV.

Lee presented an extensive slide show filled with pictures explaining how he goes about working with evidence as well as gruesome pictures of crime scenes. Lee’s presentation, ‘Justice Through Sciences: Utilization of Chemical Evidence in Forensic Investigation,’ showcased his humor through the jokes and puns that accompanied retellings of his experiences at crime scenes. He poked fun at popular crime serial ‘CSI,’ and explained that their portrayal of forensics is over-the-top compared to real life, where it can take years to make a breakthrough with evidence. Continue reading

The Magic of Science

UConn Today

FoStudents playing with silly puddyr three weeks during May and June, a group of UConn graduate and undergraduate science and education majors have been engaged in something magical. They have been getting middle school students absorbed in chemistry.

Known as the UConn Science Wizards, the college students gave hands-on polymer chemistry demonstrations at inner-city and rural middle schools around Connecticut. They took a playful approach to teaching science, using a polymer the middle schoolers could relate to: Silly Putty.

“I love the program!” said Michelle Goodwin, science teacher at East Hartford Middle School. “It really gets the students excited about science.” Continue reading

The International Language of Science

UConn Today
Mark Peczuh

I Dr. Mark Peczuhcan’t say it plainly enough. My experience as a Fulbright fellow in Barcelona this past year transformed me, both professionally and personally. I returned to Connecticut not only with a broader perspective on my research but with a profound sense of place and the amazing impact of personal relationships.

Perhaps most importantly, I returned with a sense of what I had always known but had never experienced quite like this: science is an international language, spoken around the world by people with a thirst for new knowledge.

When I first arrived in Barcelona, my life was a maelstrom of impressions and emotions: new sights, new smells, late lunch and later dinner, hearing and speaking the Catalan language, the kindness of the locals, and somehow within it all, a sense of solitude. I had chosen to work at the Chemistry Institute of Sarria (IQS) with Professor Antoni Planas, known to everyone as Toni. My host and his laboratory were the one constant during my transition.

Within a couple of weeks, I had learned the basics of day-to-day living, and I began to feel like l was a local. Science is inherently international, so the lab was a logical place to connect with something that was familiar to me. Continue reading

Innovation Takes Center Stage

UConn faculty honored at Innovation eventCutting-edge technologies, innovative partnerships, and bold leadership took center stage April 10, during UConn’s Second Annual Celebration of Innovation event at Rentschler Field in East Hartford. The event, presented by the Office of Economic Development, recognized the research and development achievements of UConn faculty, alumni, and UConn-related startup companies, as well as industry partners and state leaders.

“The event is an opportunity to spotlight the amazing research coming out of UConn, and recognize our partners in industry and state government who are leading the way to innovate business and industry in our state,” said Mary Holz-Clause, vice president of economic development, who served as master of ceremonies.

Holz-Clause said that this past year, UConn researchers have developed 80 new inventions and filed 42 U.S. patents, and the University has signed 10 license deals. Commercializing university innovations is a growing resource for the University that has generated $1.2 million in patent revenue alone in the past year. Continue reading

Four UConn Students Selected as National Science Foundation Fellows

UConn Today

Four UConn studeFour UConn students selected for fellowshipnts have been awarded 2013 Graduate Research Fellowships by the National Science Foundation. The fellowships support graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions. About 2,000 awards were given nationwide in 2013.

Three of the students receiving fellowships are currently undergraduates: Emily Funk (CLAS ’13), Anna Green (CLAS ’13), and Tyler Reese (CLAS ’13). Second-year graduate student Jennifer Bento of the Institute of Materials Science was also honored. Continue reading

Terrestrial Climate & Carbon Dioxide

UConn Today

Nearly 3Michael Hren4 million years ago, the Earth underwent a transformation from a warm, high-carbon dioxide “greenhouse” state to a lower-CO2, variable climate similar to the modern “icehouse” world. Massive ice sheets grew across the Antarctic continent, major animal groups shifted, and ocean temperatures decreased by as much as 5 degrees.

But studies of how this drastic change affected temperatures on land have had mixed results. Some show no appreciable terrestrial climate change; others find cooling of up to 8 degrees and large changes in seasonality.

Now a group of American and British scientists have used a new chemical technique to measure the change in terrestrial temperature associated with this shift in global atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

Their results suggest a drop of as much as 10 degrees for fresh water during the warm season and 6 degrees for the atmosphere in the North Atlantic, giving further evidence that the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide and Earth’s surface temperature are inextricably linked. Continue reading

Alfredo Angeles-Boza Joins Chemistry Faculty

Alfredo Angeles-BozaAt the suggestion of his father, who was an economist, Alfredo Angeles-Boza set off for college in his native Peru with designs on becoming an industrial engineer. That was before he took his first college chemistry course. Once introduced to the world of atoms and ions and especially the myriad challenges of working with inorganic matter, he was hooked on science and has never looked back.

As part of its expansive faculty hiring initiative, UConn plans to add 500 professors over four years in order both to strengthen its academic core and to boost its standing as a top public research institution. Angeles-Boza, a scientist at the beginning of his career, has been hired to help accomplish both goals.

According to department head Amy Howell, “We were looking for a young inorganic chemist to come here and to grow with us as we continue to make strides to be a nationally ranked research department. More than expertise in a particular area, we wanted someone who had already demonstrated creativity and initiative … someone who projected a sense of confidence in his chosen field. That describes Alfredo perfectly.” Continue reading

Prof. John Tanaka, in memoriam

John A. Tanaka, 87, emeritus professor of chemistry and former Director of the Honors Programs at The University of Connecticut, died April 14, 2012.

John Tanaka gave over 45 years of service to the department and university and impacted thousands of students through chemistry, the honors program, the pre-dental society, and, occasionally, glass blowing.

John made significant impacts in teaching research and service. He and Steve Suib wrote a lab manual for the Inorganic Laboratory Class, a class John continued to instruct until 2010. He also conducted research for Laboratories of Westinghouse Electric Corp. on studies of electrical insulations. He became active in the Dielectrics and Electrical Insulation Society of the IEEE and the Insulated Conductors Committee of the Power Engineering Society. He also served as Vice President-Technical, Vice President- Administrative, and President of the DEIS/IEEE. Continue reading

Boosting Biofuel Production

A new $1.8 million project with the Department of Energy (DOE)—led by chemistry professor Steven Suib—will develop new biofuel sources, catalysts, and reactors that would be suitable for the Northeast.

The goal of the interdisciplinary project is to develop the technology to the stage where it could be transferred to small biofuel businesses that would use locally available resources for fuel.

This would eliminate one major cost associated with biofuels: transporting the raw biomaterial to the site of the plant. By developing new catalysts that can be used with different types of biofuels, and by testing pilot plants (specifically a new fuel source of rapid-growth poplar trees would thrive in this climate), the UConn researchers will demonstrate how bioenergy technology could be important in the Northeast region of the U.S. Continue reading

REU Program Renewed

Research Experience for Undergraduates

It has long been recognized that the best way to promote graduate careers in the natural sciences is to expose students to a stimulating research program. This is just as true at UConn as it is elsewhere. In fact, a number of programs are in place to lead our own chemistry majors along this path. But what about students attending colleges that do not have the PhD-level research program our students enjoy? The National Science Foundation (NSF) funds a program, the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU), to address this very need. It is the flagship program for undergraduate research in the US, funding travel, room and board, and a stipend for the participants. It also provides research funds as well as travel funds for the students to present their research at national meetings, such as American Chemical Society national meetings. Our department has had the good fortune to serve as an NSF-funded REU site in chemistry since 1997. Over several three-year funding cycles, Professors Howell, McGrath (who left the department in 1999), Brückner, Bohn, and Peczuh have served as directors and/or codirectors of the program. The program was most recently renewed for the years 2011 through 2013 with Brückner as Director, Peczuh as co-Director, and with our undergraduate coordinator, Osker Dahabsu, to keep it all organized. Together, with a generous contribution by the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences along with supplements to NSF research grants held by members of the department, this program has hosted >150 students (mostly at the rising junior and senior level) over the past 13 summers. We especially target women, minorities, and non-traditional students for our program. Continue reading