‘Tis the season

Grades are in! It felt like a long semester for me, since I had to wait until the last day of finals to give my exam. Usually, the weekend following exam week is filled with holiday preparations, but this time, it was filled with last minute grading. Most importantly, I didn’t get a chance to fully decorate the cantina. Still, a few decorations were placed: sabers were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that Darth Santa soon would appear.

The home Lego situation is a bit more festive. We enjoyed building this years winter scene, which added to our previous houses (this was last year’s addition) quite nicely. I also came across a company that builds blinky bricks, making my Lego illumination tasks a breeze.

I’m hoping Santa brings me a few more blinky lights so next year’s village can look a bit more like the Griswald’s. Merry Christmas everyone.

Coal for Gimli?

Gimli gave us a bit of a scare after Thanksgiving. The basement doors blew open during a windstorm and the runt escaped. He ended up spending the night outdoors. After an anxious night (yes, I’m attached to my kitties), I took what I expected to be a final search for Gimli around the neighborhood, when I heard him crying near the garage. I turned around and there was a grumpy Gimli, sitting on the patio, cold and scared, but no worse for wear. (In fact, despite the rain he was neither wet nor muddy, so I’m thinking he got himself caught in the garage and was too scared to call out when he hear us searching for him.) Anyway, he spent his day back warming up.

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Paper published

My colleague Carly Reed and I just published some work related to teaching general chemistry during the pandemic. Like many others, we implemented a variety of technological tools to facilitate on-line and hybrid instruction. During the process, we monitored student engagement with the various tools and followed up with some student surveys to identify which tools might be worth keeping in “back to normal” instruction.

Word cloud containing terms students used most frequently in a GroupMe text messaging app used during general chemistry.
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NERM 2022

After many years of planning, the ACS Northeast Regional Meeting happened (or, I guess, is happening as I type). NERM 2022 was supposed to be NERM 2020 before COVID-19 had something to say. The bad news is that the symposium I had planned on 3D printing more or less fell apart as many of the speakers I was able to recruit in 2020 had moved on and were not interested in presenting this year. Still, I came away from the symposium with some very exciting ideas about 3D printed functional materials that I cannot wait to try out in the lab.

On the other hand, the good news is that one of my newest students, Kashane Miller, was able to present her summer research for the first time in a professional setting.

Kashane getting ready to talk about her research.

Kashane’s summer research is on using a home-build turbidity meter to study nucleation kinetics. She is developing an experiment that uses student-built instrumentation to explore chemical phenomena. Her work is interesting in useful because it shows that we can reproduce literature results on the nucleation kinetics of calcium oxalate and mimic the results from a commercial instrument. Further, she demonstrates that the custom built instrument can help students understand the role of data processing – in this case using a low pass filter – to improve data quality. She has also discovered that we need to rethink our overly simplified sample holder, since the data now have this unexpected dependence on the volume of liquid in the sample cell. (We are probably getting reflection and refraction effects from the round vial.)

So congrats, Kashane, on a job well done.