My summer research group is busy with a slew of projects – from iridium oxide thin films for pH sensing to creating their own scientific instruments using 3D printing and Arduino microcontrollers. It all starts with learning how to make blinky lights.
Megan and Shauna presented their first semester’s work on developing sensors and methods for OMIS: the Open Millifluidic Inquiry System. Shauna is developing a method to perform alkalinity measurements in small volumes under dynamic flow conditions and Megan is working on a pH sensor based on anodically electrolyzed iridium oxide films. They’ve made some great progress not only building confidence in their laboratory skills but also learning how to present their research (in addition to actually doing the work). I’d consider that a good set of outcomes for their first semester in independent study (as Freshmen, no less). Expect big things from these ladies.
Last week, I posted an early photo of a Chemistry lab from Brockport. Not to be outdone, my wife Rozenn (historian of the Western Monroe Historical Society at the Morgan Manning House) found this picture in one of her books:The caption for the picture reads:
The [Brockport] Chemistry Laboratory: The 1899 yearbook describes the chemistry laboratory as “one of the best appointed in the state, having ample table room for 50 students at one time … The department has over $2,500 worth of physical apparatus, over 2,500 stereopticon slides and some 3,000 specimens.”
That $2,500 in instrumentation would be a bit over 70 thousand in today’s dollars, and I’m happy to say that our department has far more instrumentation than that. The reference to thousands of specimens and stereopticon slides got me thinking about what was taught in Chemistry 118 years ago (hey that’s one year for every element on the periodic table). A quick web search brought me to this article, (which is behind a paywall if you don’t have access to ACS journals) that reviews an historical Chemistry textbook from 1809. It was written by Jane Marcet to “… provide women with a method of educating themselves in chemistry …” and uses a conversational style that is not seen in contemporary instructional materials. This #ThrowbackThursday has me thinking about revisiting some teaching styles (to justify procrastinating on that pile of grading for one more day).
From the Daily Eagle, courtesy of librarian Charlie Cowling, a snapshot of Chemistry instruction from the 1950s. Apparently, Chemistry wasn’t dangerous enough to necessitate safety goggles back then, (but it was too dangerous for girls…). How times have changed.
Back in the 1950s the College was, as its own literature stated, a “single purpose” institution, and that purpose was teacher training. Later in the mid-1960s the College would as part of its ongoing expansion become a comprehensive liberal arts college, with various majors, such as chemistry for example. But before then we still were teaching chemistry here, to aspiring science teachers, and one of the faculty was Robert Brandauer, who taught here from 1946-1970.
In a 1947 Stylus article he is described as “…the man with a million dollar smile…” He had an MS in Chemistry from Cornell (1939,) and at the time was working on his doctorate. In a curious coincidence he had previously taught at Roberts College in Istanbul, where Professor Martin Rogers had also taught. Faculty like Brandauer were in from the beginning of that incredible arc the school traveled, from a small teachers college with less than 1,000 students to a major comprehensive institution with almost 10,000 students.
Recently, I published a paper in the Journal of Physical Chemistry, A with lead author Kyle Grice at DePaul University. He’s an inorganic chemist studying catalytic transformations using transition-metal complexes . One active area in catalysis is the development of systems that are photoactive. Using light to activate a chemical reaction (think photosynthesis) is interesting because the process is considered environmentally friendly. There are other research areas that seek to develop and better understand photochemically active systems, such as organic light-emitting diodes and solar cells. Yes, you read that correctly, better blinky-lights through chemistry.
My wife has been tending to these orchids for a number of years. When we were in Chicago, they looked kind of sad. They seem to like the Brockport air (which has much less traffic pollution, so I don’t blame them).
Click on the picture to get a bigger image. The purple orchid seems to be very pleased by finally having a non-south-facing window to sit in. Speaking of purple, today is Henry Perkin’s 180th birthday (thank you for honoring a Chemist, Google). Perkin is known for discovering a way to produce purple dye. His story, which is detailed in a very readable book by Simon Garfield, is worth picking up if you have a few hours to spare.
I’ve had my MK2S printer sitting in a box for quite some time (I did have an X-carve to put together and a few assignments to grade – oh and I published a paper, but more on that later). This is my second 3D printer, the first being a Makerfarm i3v. I love my first printer, and it taught me a lot about the design and maintenance of these machines. That said, I’ve always had a hard time with calibration and getting the prints just right. My first successful 3D print with the i3v was a cube in ABS, and I was so proud. Here’s my first successful print with the MK2S (brought to you from one of my students, Anusha Ventress, who is moonlighting as a videographer while she works in my lab):
OK, technically, this was the 3rd successful print on my MK2S, but all I can say is: wow.
I wrote this piece for a Wolfram technology blog a while back. It’s a bit Mathematica centric for that reason. The blog got delayed, then the editor left the company, then the new editor blew off the piece and I got tired of waiting, so here it is.
Not so long ago…
In 2012, the Raspberry Pi Foundation released the Raspberry pi, an affordable, credit-card sized computer originally designed to help younger students learn programming. It peels away the black-box of computers and exposes users to the fascinating world of how software controls hardware that control sensors that interact with the user’s surroundings. The computer science community refers to this idea as physical computing. As an Analytical Chemist, I call it a scientific instrument. Since much of my research and teaching deals with scientific instrumentation, the Raspberry Pi has turned out to be an excellent platform for exploring new ways to make measurements.
I could turn this post into a commentary about the importance of doing a thorough literature search, and despite how thorough you think your literature search is, it is not thorough enough. Alternatively, I can make some Star Wars references; let’s go with that.
Soon, my wife and I will buy our first home.My wife and I just bought our first home. I have been looking at videos on how to paint rooms and found myself looking at periodic-table wall-art. I came upon this website which was coincidentally published one year ago today. Until now, I had not seen an RGB blinky-light periodic table besides Mandy, and it appears as if Mandy was coming to life just as apaf1 (send me your real name and I’ll edit, if you wish) was completing his project. What does that mean for Mandy?