Lehigh University Professor to Present Helen Murray Free Lectures

Dr. Sam Niedbala to speak at The College of Wooster on Thursday, Oct. 18

October 2, 2012 by John Finn

WOOSTER, Ohio — Sam Niedbala, professor of practice in the chemistry department at Lehigh University and CEO of DeTect Biosciences LLC, will be the featured speaker for the annual Helen Murray Free Lectures next month at The College of Wooster.

Niedbala will present a technical lecture, titled “Developing New Methods to Detect Active Tuberculosis Infections Using Multi-Peptidomic Approaches,” on Thursday, Oct. 18, at 11 a.m. in Room 009 of Severance Hall (943 College Mall). He will then present a public lecture, titled “Stopping HIV in the US: How Public/Entrepreneur Partnerships Created Today’s Ability to Test Anywhere/Anytime,” at 7:30 p.m. that evening, in Lean Lecture Room of Wishart Hall (303 E. University St.). Both lectures are free and open to the public.

Niedbala earned his undergraduate degree at East Stroudsburg University. He then completed his master’s degree in clinical chemistry and his Ph.D. in chemistry at Lehigh. He is the former chief science officer and a founder of OraSure Technologies, Inc., where the first rapid HIV test, OraQuick, was developed.

DeTect Biosciences LLC is a company formed by researchers at Lehigh and NYU’s School of Medicine and Dentistry. The company is currently developing a new method of testing for Tuberculosis infections. At Lehigh, Niedbala teaches clinical chemistry and regulatory affairs. His research focuses on detection methodologies for HIV and Tuberculosis.

Helen Murray Free is a 1945 College of Wooster graduate and an inductee into the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame. Her research in clinical chemistry not only revolutionized diagnostic testing in the laboratory, but also in the home. She developed the "dip-and-read" glucose tests for diabetics, and she was awarded seven patents for her clinical diagnostic test inventions. She also helped to develop a product for diagnosing Hepatitis-A while working for Miles Laboratories.

A lifelong advocate for science education, Free chaired the American Chemical Society's (ACS) National Chemistry Week Task force from 1987 to 1992, and was elected president of the ACS in 1993. She has authored more than 150 professional articles, and co-authored two widely used textbooks in the field. In addition, she was chosen as one of Wooster’s Distinguished Alumni Award winners and received the ACS Garvan Medal in 1980. She was also honored in 1995 with the establishment of the ACS Helen M. Free Public Outreach Award, which recognizes a society member who improves public recognition and appreciation for the contributions of chemistry. In 2010, the ACS designated the development of diagnostic test strips as a national historic chemical landmark. That same year, Free was awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation by President Obama.

The Helen Murray Free Endowment was established by her children through the Al and Helen Free Foundation. Income from the Fund brings a renowned practitioner in the chemical sciences (materials science, nanotechnology, and molecular biology) to Wooster’s campus each year. This scientist interacts with chemistry students at a technical level and also presents an open lecture about the contributions of science to the quality of life.

Additional information about the lectures is available by phone (330-263-2418) or e-mail.