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.

Presentation at BCCE

I’m giving a research talk at the Biennial Conference on Chemical Education, which is being hosted by Purdue University. The presentation is on developing a curriculum for analytical chemistry based upon building scientific instruments using the M4 Express microcontroller. I mentioned a few links in the talk and here they are for those who snapped a picture of the QR code:

Some pics and other relevant info will follow the talk.

What is a feather?

Yes, I enjoy birdwatching but no, this is not some ornitho-existential question on the existence of birds. I just returned from the National ACS conference in San Diego, where I spoke about my feather-chem project. As this was the first time I’ve talked extensively about the project to someone who wasn’t a student or my wife, I realized there are still a number of concepts that I take for granted. One of those is related to the feather microcontroller development board created by Adafruit. Here is their 3-minute video introducing the product line:

I decided to use a feather microcontroller for my instrumental methods project because of the advanced microcontrollers used, the diversity of featherwings (and you know what those are because you watched the video, right?), and the small form factor which makes prototyping and creating custom featherwings pretty cheap. Plus, “feather” can be spelled with chemical symbols from the periodic table, which is something I like to do. That’s why you’ll see my project called FeAtHEr-Cm.

Now that you know what a feather is, head on over to the documentation for my project and learn a bit more about how I’m using feathers.

Proof that professor has a heart

I tried a different approach to my Instrumental Methods course this semester, which culminated in students building their own heart beat monitor using the Adafruit Feather M4 Express microcontroller. The project is an adaptation of this one from Analog Devices. The main part of the project was for students to add a voltage divider (which they have seen and used in previous projects during the semester), build the circuit on a breadboard and adjust a few of the components in light of the different voltage (3.3 V vs 5 V). Each student was successful in developing a device, and one was able to confirm that the pulse rate was consistent with the fit bit he was wearing.