2015 Annual Report

Dear Harvey Mudd chemists and friends,

Welcome to the annual newsletter for the Harvey Mudd Chemistry Department. Alumni, students, staff, and faculty have had a busy and productive year, and we hope you will enjoy reading about all of their activities throughout this newsletter. I share with you below a brief account of a number of departmental highlights:

Establishment of the Gerald R. Van Hecke ’61 Endowment for the Advancement of Chemistry
Thanks to the generous support of alumni, friends, faculty, and staff, we were able to surprise Professor Gerald R. Van Hecke ’61 at Alumni Weekend 2015 with an endowment that honors Jerry “for his 45-year legacy of teaching, research, mentorship, administration and service to the College.”   An overflowing crowd was present to hear the announcement and see Jerry’s surprised and grateful reaction. A donor plaque, presented at the May 1 gathering, is prominently displayed in the Chemistry Department.  We thank everyone for the strong support of this honor for Jerry and especially thank you for keeping the announcement a surprise! Jerry was also honored at Alumni Weekend with the receipt of the inaugural Van Hecke Prize, reserved for alumni who are “synonymous with an extraordinary level of support and commitment to Harvey Mudd College, its students, its alumni and its mission.” The prize is considered the highest honor given by the Harvey Mudd Alumni Association. Jerry is in his 46th year of teaching – who knows what is in store for him in the years ahead!

New Instrumentation for Instructional and Research Laboratories
During the past year we focused our efforts in introducing more modern instrumentation in our instructional laboratories, particularly in those laboratories taken by first-year and sophomore students.

Thanks to the generous donation of an alumnus to our Chemistry Discretionary Fund, we were able to introduce all students in the first-year Core chemistry laboratory to more modern chemical analysis techniques. We purchased four new autotitrators just in time for the spring semester, allowing our students to quickly and efficiently monitor an acid-base titration to determine the carbonate content of coral and shells.

The Physical Chemistry Laboratory needed some modernization as well, and we added a new Anton-Paar densitometer (the instrument acquired in 1981 with an NSF grant to Art Campbell and Jerry Van Hecke was still functioning, but it was time for a facelift!). With the American Chemical Society’s requirement that all approved departments enhance their polymer and nanoscale curriculum, we have added an experiment to measure polymer viscosities using a new Anton-Paar viscometer.

In September we received the fantastic news that our $470,000 request to the Fletcher Jones Foundation was approved allowing us to upgrade and augment our instrumentation holdings in our laboratory courses for first-year students and sophomores. We plan to (1) upgrade our UV-visible spectrometers with a suite of 12 modern, computer-controlled instruments that will be used throughout the curriculum (especially in the general chemistry laboratory), (2) introduce two bench-top nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) instruments for molecular structure determination in the first-year course, and (3) add a modern laser light-scattering instrument for the physical chemistry laboratory (a technique used to determine molecular size and the strength of intermolecular forces).

Our next projects are to find the resources to add a benchtop mass spectrometer to our collection of instructional instruments and replace our 1997 400 MHz NMR with a new and more reliable instrument. Chemistry is an expensive endeavor!

New Endowed Research Fellowships
Last year we reported on a generous gift from Daniel Harris (author of the best-selling textbook Quantitative Chemical Analysis) and his wife Sally to support two new research fellowships for sophomore chemistry majors. The funds provide stipends, research supplies, and travel to conferences for two summers and the intervening academic year. These fellowships are named in honor of retired faculty members Phil Myhre and Mits Kubota. Hannah Welsh ’17 was selected as the inaugural Kubota Research Fellow conducting research with Professor Lelia Hawkins. The inaugural Myhre Research Fellow from the class of 2018 will be selected in the coming weeks.

A generous gift from Robert L. Luke III ‘65 and his wife Barbara Ann Luke has established the Luke Student Research Endowment in Chemistry to support several sophomore Chemistry and Joint Chemistry/Biology majors conducting research in the Chemistry department during their spring semester. The inaugural Luke Research Fellows Kareesa Kron ‘18, Grant Murray ‘18, Kevin Huang ‘18, and Zachary Evans ’18 will begin their research in spring 2016.

We continue to be blessed with our endowed Stauffer Summer Research Fund and supported 12 students to participate in our summer 2015 research program. As always, thanks to all of you who supported the challenge from the John Stauffer Charitable Trust to establish this incredible resource for the Chemistry Department.

Faculty and Staff News

  • Last year we reported that the John C. Stauffer Foundation provided a very generous gift of an endowed chemistry professorship. Professor Hal Van Ryswyk has been selected as the inaugural John Stauffer Professor. Congratulation to Hal on this well-deserved honor.
  • While all of our Chemistry faculty are terrific mentors, we are absolutely delighted that the chemistry faculty continue the tradition of being honored for their mentoring skills. Professor David Vosburg received the College’s award for faculty mentoring, following in the footsteps of Professor Karl Haushalter who received the inaugural award last year.
  • Dave Vosburg also was selected as a recipient of the 2015 Award for Incorporating Sustainability into Chemistry Education, sponsored by the American Chemical Society’s Committee on Environmental Improvement.
  • Kim Young, our terrific Administrative Coordinator, was selected as the 2015 Mary G. Binder Prize winner in recognition of her faithful and outstanding service to Harvey Mudd College and the Chemistry Department.
  • Penny Manisco, our chemistry lab coordinator and the College’s Chemical Hygiene Officer, recently received national certification as a Chemical Hygiene Officer, a recognition that is held by only 304 individuals in the country.

Student and Alumni Highlights
Our majors and alumni continue to excel in all dimensions of their lives. Of particular note:

  • The Chemistry Department congratulates Andy Lees ‘75 for his receipt of the Harvey Mudd College 2015 Outstanding Alumni Award. Andy is founder and Chief Scientific Officer for Fina Biosolutions. Andy was recognized for his development of improved techniques for the synthesis of conjugate vaccines for fatal childhood diseases such as Haemophilus influenza type-b, meningococcal disease and streptococcal pneumoniae.   We congratulate him for his scientific leadership and contributions to improving global health and are proud to have him as an alumnus of the Chemistry Department.
  • We’d also like to thank Kim Tsujimoto ’87 for participating as one of three external reviewers for the department’s External Program Review that occurred in February 2015. All academic departments undergo an external program review every 5 years.  We are especially grateful that Kim was willing to travel to Claremont from Shanghai, China where she was on assignment as General Manager R&D, Consumer Business Laboratory, APAC & China, for 3M.
  • Christian Stevens ’14 served as the alumni speaker at the 2015 Convocation. Christian has just completed a year of travel on his Watson Fellowship conducting research to investigate the ways in which the relationship between medical professionals and the often marginalized communities they serve impact health outcomes. His travels included Maldeco, Malawi; Johannesburg, South Africa; Mwanza, Tanzania; Hong Kong and Shanghai, China; Tomsk Oblast, Russia; and Bucharest, Romania.
  • Maddi Hartley ’16 is serving as the 2015-16 president of the Associated Students of Harvey Mudd College (ASHMC).
  • Eun Bin Go ’15 was the recipient of The Claremont Colleges Library Undergraduate Research Award in the senior sciences category. Eun Bin Go received the award for her research with Professor Dave Vosburg on “Synthesis of the Tetracyclic Scaffolds of the Endiandric Acids through Iterative Cross-Coupling.”

We’ve had a number of students and alumni distinguish themselves with significant national awards including:

  • Marie Kirkegaard ’15 has received the S. Department of Homeland Security’s Nuclear Forensics Graduate Fellowship for demonstrating exceptional promise in the study of nuclear forensics. The award will support her PhD work in nuclear science at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, a program associated with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Marie is the only undergraduate in the country this year to receive the generous five-year fellowship.  Anastasia Patterson ’14 received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship for her work in the area of the chemistry of materials at UC-Santa Barbara. Millie Fung ’11 received an honorable mention from the NSF Graduate Research program for her work on chemical measurement and imaging at UC-Irvine. Eun Bin Go ’15 also received an honorable mention for her work in chemical synthesis in the Tri-Institutional PhD Program in Chemical Biology (TPCB), a graduate program offered jointly by Weill Cornell Medical College, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and Rockefeller University.

I hope that you will find this newsletter inspiring and informative. Let us know if there are other topics that would be of interest. As always, we thank you for your interest and support of the HMC Chemistry department.   Please keep in touch and share your news with us!

Best regards,
Kerry Karukstis
Ray and Mary Ingwersen Professor and Chair of Chemistry