Fun With Food Analysis At #ACSAnaheim
Mar31

Fun With Food Analysis At #ACSAnaheim

If you’ve been in grad school or worked in a lab, you’ve been there: sitting around, waiting for your reaction or experiment to do its thing, bored, listless. Then your eye lights on a can of Sprite. Then the pH meter. Then back to the Sprite. The wheels start turning, and before you know it, you’re testing all of your labmates’ drinks and making bar charts. Or maybe that’s just me. For Christopher J. Hudalla, it’s all in a day’s work. Hudalla, a senior scientist at Waters Corp., in Milford, Mass., gave a presentation today at the ACS national meeting in Anaheim about the development of a chromatographic stationary phase for separating a battery of simple sugars. After putting his “bridged ethyl hybrid” phase through the standard paces, demonstrating that it indeed separated a mixture of fructose, glucose, sucrose, lactose, and maltose quite nicely, Hudalla got serious. He wanted to throw everything he could think of at the stationary phase, which is proprietary but has a silane on one end and an amide on the other, to test just how robust it actually is. So he began taking samples of his coworkers’ lunches, he said. Everyday, there was a new food item to test. It became a ritual—a lunchtime club—and Hudalla amassed a “large stack of chromatograms of some very strange things,” he told me. “My colleagues wondered why I had an analysis for Asian dipping sauce.” Then came the beer. Why not test the components of beer during brewing? Hudalla followed the sugar components of a beer mix during mashing, a process in which malt enzymes break down grain starches into sugars (typically maltose), and during fermentation, when the maltose is fermented by yeast to produce alcohol. Turns out that the stationary phase does what it’s supposed to: Hudalla didn’t find any products for which it couldn’t separate those simple sugars cleanly. And although some of the tests seemed frivolous at the time, he said, a major beer manufacturer has since expressed interest in the method. Got any food and/or strange product tests to share that you’ve carried out in the lab? Post them...

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Military Undergrads at #ACSAnaheim
Mar30

Military Undergrads at #ACSAnaheim

This Newscripts post is by Senior Editor Susan Ainsworth: Wandering the halls of the undergraduate research poster session at the Anaheim Convention Center on Monday, Associate Editor Linda Wang and I noticed that there seemed to be more students from the U.S. armed forces than we had seen in the past. Intrigued by these neatly uniformed undergrads, we stopped by to talk to some of them and to find out about their research and future plans. Steve Guidry, a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., seemed happy to talk about his poster titled “Composite Armor: Multi-layered Polymer Protection.” He hopes that his research will result in improved armor that may help those who diffuse mines or improvised explosive devices—something he hopes to do for the Navy in Iraq or Afghanistan after he graduates this year. Linda and I also met a friendly group of cadets from the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. One of the cadets, Arizona native Jennie S. Wood, explained the research behind her poster entitled, “High Surface Area Carbon Aerogels: Modifying Preparation to Optimize Structure and Porosity.” Her work, she says, may find use in energy storage and catalysis applications. A senior chemistry major at the academy, she plans to pursue graduate school. She will then complete the required eight years of service as an officer. Next, we chatted with West Point cadet Michael Swayze, who went over the details of his poster, “Chemical Warfare Agent Surrogate Detection by Metal-Organic Frameworks.” Unable to work with the actual hazardous chemical warfare agents, he is using compounds that have similar vapor pressures. His work may lead to methods that will allow the Army to more quickly detect the release of these dangerous compounds, he says. After graduating from West Point this year, Swayze will serve in Ft. Carson, Colo., in the Medical Service Corps, an appointment he discussed with great enthusiasm.  Having attended two other national ACS meetings, Swayze concurred with our observation that more military undergrads were presenting posters this year. However, he didn’t have an explanation for the uptick. Air Force Academy cadets Casey Hawkins and Scott Pierson offered one theory: the ACS national meeting didn’t coincide with spring break this year. ***All videos taken by Linda...

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In the Footsteps of a Giant: Inspiration at #ACSAnaheim
Mar29

In the Footsteps of a Giant: Inspiration at #ACSAnaheim

This Newscripts post is by Associate Editor Linda Wang: It’s 1:00 AM in Anaheim, and Gergeis Yosef, 26, is wrapping up an eight-hour shift as a waiter at the Hilton. His bright cheerful eyes hide the fatigue that he feels inside. Yosef attends classes during the day at Irvine Valley Community College, where he is majoring in biology, and in the evening, he heads to his full-time job at the hotel. Five years ago, Yosef arrived in the U.S. from Egypt alone with just $500 in his pocket. His first job was at a hotel cleaning rooms and washing dishes. After the hotel closed for renovations, he got a job at a gas station. Ironically, it was there that he was inspired to pursue his dream of getting an education. It happened that the owner of the gas station was reading the book “Voyage Through Time: Walks of Life to the Nobel Prize” by Nobel Laureate Ahmed Zewail, who is also Egyptian and winner of this year’s ACS Priestley Medal. In the book, Zewail chronicles his early experiences as a boy growing up in Egypt and his work that led up to the Nobel Prize.  Yosef borrowed the book and read it during his overnight shifts. “This book really changed me,” Yosef says. “It changed how I look at the challenges in life. And it makes me look at my dream and say that maybe one day it can come true. What keeps me going is the faith that tomorrow will be better.” Yosef’s story came to C&EN’s attention through ACS Executive Director and CEO Madeleine Jacobs, who met him earlier in the week while dining at the Hilton. She promised to bring Yosef a copy of C&EN signed by Zewail. Yosef's dream is to someday become a doctor. He and his wife, whom he met at his first job at the hotel, are expecting their first child. “It’s really hard having a family and a full-time job, but I’m sticking to my faith that I can do it,” he says. We couldn’t believe in you more, Gergeis. UPDATE: Jacobs came through with the copy of C&EN signed by Zewail. She hand-delivered it to a beaming Yosef Tuesday...

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Chemists Get Down At #ACSAnaheim
Mar29

Chemists Get Down At #ACSAnaheim

'Twas just before Sci-Mix, and all through Hall B, plenty of creatures were stirring, some of them dressed like a mouse called Minnie. Alright, alright ... I need to work on my poetry skills. But you get the idea. Just before Sci-Mix kicked off tonight in Anaheim, chemists gathered in Hall B of the convention center to do the Chemistry Dance (Note that they did this BEFORE having beer at the poster session). Celebrating the International Year of Chemistry, chemists young and old congregated, practiced, and then performed a dance set to music by 2010 Chemistry Olympiad medalists Richard Li and Utsarga Sikder. The pair hopes video of the dance goes viral, showing people everywhere that chemists know how to boogie. I'm doing my part by posting some preliminary video of the performance here. My skillz with the flip cam aren't that great, so I'll update this post with video produced by the wizards at ACS's Office of Public Affairs sometime tomorrow. If you watch all five minutes of the video, you'll notice among the 100 or so dancers some familiar faces (ACS Board members, including Chair Bonnie Charpentier), some participants dressed in sparkly outfits, one person with some mouse ears (this is Anaheim, after all), and someone starting their child on an early path to science geekery. In addition, most participants had chemical elements pinned to their shirts; the line dance was set up to approximate a periodic table. Here's just a sampling of the lyrics, so you all can sing along at home (I defy you not to get the chorus stuck in your head): "International year of chemistry-- two thousand eleven We’re representing science -- 24/7 We’ve got antimatter, fuel cells and a ton of Nobel Prizes Sustainable energy solves the problem as it arises" "Move to the left, now move to the right We’ll be doing the chemistry dance all through the night Now clap your hands, everybody let’s go We’ll be rocking it out to the chemistry show" Peace out. UPDATE: As promised, here is the official video of the Chemistry Dance from the Office of Public Affairs. Makes my humble video pale in...

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Hollywood Comes To ACS At #ACSAnaheim
Mar28

Hollywood Comes To ACS At #ACSAnaheim

Today's Newscripts post from Anaheim comes to us from Assistant Managing Editor Sophie Rovner: Hollywood writers brought a touch of glamour to a standing-room-only symposium at the ACS national meeting yesterday. Writers for “Breaking Bad,” “Eureka,” “House M.D.” and other TV series admitted they found their audience of chemists intimidating but with self-deprecating good humor shared their philosophy for trying to make their shows scientifically sound. “Breaking Bad” follows a high school chemistry teacher dying of lung cancer who cooks and sells crystal meth to support his family after his pending death. Moira Walley-Becket, one of the show’s seven writers, said that “getting the science right is of the utmost importance to us.” After all, she noted, “we need to know how to dissolve a body in acid.” She said the writers turn for help to “the brilliant and tolerant” Donna J. Nelson, a chemistry professor at the University of Oklahoma, in Norman. Nelson volunteered for the gig after reading in C&EN that the show had to do its research on the Internet because it couldn’t afford a paid science adviser. Here’s a typical knotty problem: “Using the P2P method, how much meth could you synthesize with 30 gallons of methylamine?” (Answer: 223 lbs.) Other scientists have found their way to Hollywood through the Science & Entertainment Exchange, a National Academy of Sciences program that connects entertainment industry professionals with scientists and engineers to help bring cutting-edge science to their stories. Kevin R. Grazier, a research scientist at the Jet Propulsion Lab who clearly relishes his role as science adviser to “The Zula Patrol,” “Battlestar Galactica,” and other TV series, conceded that many scientists hesitate to work in Hollywood because it’s perceived as shallow. But as ACS President Nancy B. Jackson noted in her introduction to the symposium, there are many innovative ways of communicating with the public about science, including...

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