Wooster Chemists Make Their Mark at National ACS Meeting

College represented by students, faculty, and alumni at March meeting in San Diego

April 11, 2012 by John Finn

WOOSTER, Ohio — The College of Wooster was well represented at the American Chemical Society’s national spring meeting last month in San Diego with three students, five faculty, and a number of alumni participating in the five-day event.

Juniors Sarah Blosser and Becky Craig, along with first-year student Virginia Iungerich, joined faculty members Judy Amburgey-Peters, Paul Bonvallet, Paul Edmiston, Karl Feierabend, and Sarah Schmidtke Sobeck in presenting a total of nine oral and poster presentations. Also in attendance were 2004 graduates Benjamin Swarts, Sarah Mickley, and Michael Mrozik, along with 2001 graduate Meris Mandernach, 1991 graduate Jason Cody, and 1945 graduate Helen Murray Free, among others.

Blosser and Iungerich, both chemistry majors, presented posters on research conducted with Bonvallet, which focused on the development of crown ethers and dibenzylammonium ions as building blocks for materials to be used in drug delivery and fuel storage. Craig presented a poster on her research with Feierabend as well as senior Toni Marie Small and recent graduate Alexander Anderson that detailed their work with photodegradation kinetics of aqueous oxalate species important in understanding the wastewater treatment process.

Schmidtke Sobeck gave an oral presentation on the solvent-dependent photochemistry of a dye molecule used as a model for complex biological systems. This work was carried out in her lab with undergraduate researchers, and the presentation included new kinetic data obtained at the University of Minnesota by Wooster senior Miles Batson, who was supported in part by a Copeland Fund grant. Schmidtke Sobeck also presided over a session titled “Physical Organic Chemistry: Calculations, Mechanisms, Photochemistry, and High-Energy Species.” Edmiston, the Distinguished Theron L. and Dorothy R. Peterson Professor of Chemistry at Wooster, delivered three oral presentations on solvent-free capture and release of lipids from algae, which detailed work conducted with Wooster seniors Matthew Varga and Allison Curtze related to versatile catalyst supports, as well as ongoing work with his company, ABSMaterials, reporting on low-energy biofuel separations and the story of Osorb®.

The Wooster contingent was joined by an estimated 2000 chemists in attending the Kavli Foundation Award presentation by UC-Berkeley Professor Carolyn Bertozzi, whose prestigious plenary address prominently featured research conducted by Swarts. Bertozzi’s message emphasized the importance of continued support for “curiosity-driven endeavors”.

“Many Wooster students, like Ben, epitomize curiosity-driven focus as they prepare for and carry out their Senior Independent Study (I.S),” said Amburgey-Peters, who served as Swarts’ adviser for his Senior I.S. project. He first met Bertozzi when she delivered a Premiere Lecture at The College of Wooster in 2004. After graduation, Swarts sought professional guidance from Bertozzi while he was a graduate student in the lab of Zhongwu Guo at Wayne State University, and subsequently joined Bertozzi’s lab as a postdoctoral fellow with prestigious funding from the Center for Emerging and Neglected Diseases and the American Cancer Society.

The 2012 ACS meeting was attended by nearly 17,000 chemists who delivered close to 11,000 presentations, with approximately 6,000 graduates and undergraduates in attendance. The ACS is the largest professional society in the world with nearly 164,000 members. Wooster alumna Helen Murray Free, whose family endowed the Helen Murray Free Lecture (HMF) series at Wooster, served as President of the ACS in 1993. This year’s HMF lecturer, Catherine “Katie” Hunt, is also a former ACS President (2007) and a prominent leader and researcher from Dow Chemical. More information about the 2012 Helen Murray Free Lectures, the American Chemical Society, and The College of Wooster's Department of Chemistry is available online.