Faculty & Staff 2012

Robert J. Cave, 1988
B.S. Michigan State University; Ph.D., California Institute of Technology
Physical Chemistry

My term as Dean of Faculty as ended and following a sabbatical in 2012-2013, I will return to teaching in the Fall of 2013.

My last year as dean was a fun one and the campus community was quite kind as I exited (my guess is they breathed a collective sigh of relief!).  It was really fun to see HMC from that side but I found out that “this side” (i.e. teaching great students) is where I want to be.   I only hope I have not lost my chops – I do not want to be a danger in the classroom.

Sabbatical this year will see me commuting between Austin Texas and Claremont.   My work will be on advanced methods for electronically excited states and I plan to bring these new techniques to reserch at HMC.

Karl A. Haushalter, 2003
B.A., Rice University; Ph.D., Harvard University
Biological Chemistry

The 2011-2012 academic year was a busy one for me.  On the teaching front, I enjoyed participating in our core chemistry offerings for the first-year HMC students in the fall and in the spring I returned to the biochemistry sequence (lecture and lab) after a three year absence from these courses.  One of my favorite features of the newly update biochemistry class is the use of the i>Clicker personal response systems to engage students directly throughout the class time.  The Haushalter research lab continues our work on optimizing expression systems for therapeutic RNA as part of a larger project to treat HIV-AIDS by gene therapy.  Three hard-working seniors completed their theses in my lab this spring and I have four current students working with me this summer.  Other professional highlights include being invited to give a talk at TEDxClaremontColleges.  The talk can be found on YouTube; it represents my best effort to distill all of my thoughts and reflections on HIV-AIDS into just 15 minutes.  Outside of HMC, I have enjoyed reading, learning pilates, and most of all spending time with my wife Jenny and daughter Laura, who turned 9 this year.

Lelia Hawkins, 2011
B.S., University of California, San Diego; Ph.D., Scripps Institue of Oceanography
Environmental Chemistry

What a wonderful year. Being the new kid on the block has served me well during my first year at Harvey Mudd. I am already very much in love with my department and the college; it’s easy to see why so many faculty members hang around for a full career. I adore the students here. This year I taught chemical analysis and freshmen chemistry laboratory. Both were challenging but exciting in very different ways. The saltwater aquarium lab is still in full force (and I managed to keep one fish alive all semester!). I have begun to put together my research lab where students can study atmospheric pollution directly from our own Los Angeles air. I have really enjoyed meeting all the other faculty at the surrounding colleges who share my interests.

Vincent Shieh ’12 completed his thesis in my lab setting up a system to actively measure particles and their light absorbing properties. Hal was kind enough to let me poke a hole in his beautiful roof for this purpose. We all thought it was very amusing. This summer I had five students working on moving that project forward, in addition to setting up new projects with the resources around our department (atomic force microscopy). We also collaborated on a project with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography collecting fog water and measuring it’s light absorption. Fog is pretty neat.

My husband and I have finally settled into our new home and life in Claremont. We enjoy gardening and biking into the village for dinner. He is still working for the Orange County Fire Authority as an engineer (the kind who drives a fire engine). And, we spend time playing with our dogs. We are looking forward to another great year in Claremont as the end of summer rolls around. I wish you the best in coming year.

Adam R. Johnson, 1999
B.A., Oberlin College; Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Inorganic Chemistry

I spent the past year in Kyoto on sabbatical working in the laboratory of Toshiro Harada at the Kyoto Institute of Technology. His group studies asymmetric alkylation reactions with Titanium BINOLate complexes. I gave talks on my asymmetric hydroamination work at several local universities in Kyoto and Osaka. It was both a very challenging (large language barrier!) and rewarding year. Kyoto is a beautiful and old; it was the capital of Japan for more than 1000 years until 1868. There are many Shrines and Temples, wonderful food, amazing architecture and natural beauty (mountains and rivers), and people were very friendly. We visited Tokyo, Osaka, Hiroshima and many places on the outskirts of Kyoto. The kids were in regular Japanese elementary school, and learned a lot of Japanese (hiragana, katakana and kanji). They participated in arts, crafts, sports and made many good friends.

I spent a lot of my time writing up old manuscripts. I also have continued my collaboration with my IONiC-VIPEr friends on the inorganic teaching website www.ionicviper.org. We submitted a major proposal to the NSF to offer faculty development workshops (and we believe it will be funded but are waiting for the final word from DC) and we pilot tested our workshop model this summer in North Carolina.
While in Japan, Wendy, Natty and Mia began (or in the case of Natty, continued) to study Aikido, a Japanese martial art. I learned taiko drumming and hopefully we all will be able to participate in local classes in Southern California. Wendy successfully graduated from her Alexander training program last summer and looks forward to teaching it here at home. After running the Osaka marathon, I shifted my training goals from the marathon to the half marathon and will be running Long Beach in October with several more (as well as some trail races) on the near horizon

Kerry K. Karukstis, 1984
B.S., Duke University; Ph.D., Duke University
Physical Chemistry

I hope this newsletter finds you all happy and fluorishing.  All in all, the past year was a satisfying one for me. I had my usual teaching assignments for the 2011-12 academic year – physical chemistry and the new Core chemistry class “Dynamics”.  I also participated in the introduction of our research course for first-year students “Chem 40” – everyone involved had a terrific experience.  One of the highlights of the year for me was the visits of our guests in the Bruce J. Nelson Speaker Series celebrating the International Year of Chemistry (Madeleine Jacobs of the American Chemical Society, Peter Atkins of Oxford University, Peter Dervan of Caltech, and entrepreneur Judith Giordan).   Of course, our alumni gathering at the ACS meeting in San Diego was a favorite event – can’t wait to see all of you next year in New Orleans!

My Research on the lyotropic phase behavior of surfactants in water and ionic liquids continues to progress well during both summer months and the academic year.  This year I was honored to receive the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) Fellows Award for excellence in undergraduate research and mentoring.  I particularly want to thank the many students for whom I’ve had the privilege of serving as a research mentor—you continue to inspire me as you thrive well beyond your days at Harvey Mudd College.

This was my second year as chair of the faculty, and I continue to thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to serve in this capacity.  Some of the special perks that I relished this year included wearing a gold HMC hard hat at the Teaching and Learning Building groundbreaking ceremony, offering resolutions to commemorate the leadership of Chair of the Board of Trustees Bill Mingst and the distinguished service and generosity of long-time trustee Mike Shanahan, and hosting a wonderful faculty celebration in honor of Bob Cave’s service as Dean of Faculty.   When the final year of my term is concluded next spring, I’ll be ready for the sabbatical that I’ve delayed for two years.

Travel certainly was a major part of my life during the past year.  Since last summer I’ve traveled to Chicago, Washington, D.C. (including 8 trips through Dulles on to other cities), Boston, Durham, N.C., Greenville, S.C., Indianapolis, Cleveland, Denver, Philadelphia, White Plains, NY, San Diego, San Juan (just as a hurricane was approaching), London (three times!), Rome, Hong Kong (a first), and Sydney (my fourth visit).  After all of that, I’ve finally achieved one of my life’s frivolous goals – 1K status on United Airlines (you get lots of free drink tickets) and recognition as a 1-million-mile flyer (with a fancy luggage tag!).   I’ll continue to travel as much as my dog KC will let me (.    Speaking of KC, she is now 8 years old, still loves to walk the campuses, continues to enjoy a brisk game of retrieving countless squeaking balls, and never tires of being my faithful companion.

Please continue to keep in touch – your letters, cards, emails, and visits mean so much!

Gerald Van Hecke ’61, 1970
B.S., Harvey Mudd College; Ph.D., Princeton University
Physical Chemistry

The biggest challenge of the fall semester was setting up and making sure the Nelson Lecture Series sponsored by the Department in support of the International Year of Chemistry ran smoothly.  The series featured Madeleine Jacobs CEO of the ACS, Peter Atkins from Oxford and your favorite textbook, Peter Dervan of Caltech, and Judy Giordan a venture capitalist and former research director of Henkel and other companies.  The photo below shows the Nelson team with Peter Atkins after his lecture.
vhThe other challenge of the fall [and continuing] was seeking the matching funds for the John Stauffer Trust challenge to raise $500,000 to match the $500,000 gift of the Trust to establish an endowment to support research in chemistry.  Thank you all ever so much for your contributions to this challenge – it really will mean a great deal to the department to know there will always be funding for about ten students every summer.
Other than the two above endeavors, the year went pretty much as normal – General chemistry energetics in the fall along with pchem lab.  However, the spring was a little different in that I taught C52 Group Theory, Quantum Chemistry, and Spectroscopy [G,Q&S] and C104 Inorganic back to back.

A new course was introduced this spring called C40 that allowed first year students and a few sophomores the opportunity to do three rotations,  that is do short research projects, in three faculty laboratories each rotation lasting for four laboratory periods.  By all accounts the program was highly successful and will be tried again this coming year.

While the C40 course was newly introduced, the spring introduction to research program continued.  This spring two sophomores undertook projects in my lab, Morgan Luckey `14 and Sophie Parks `14, while Robyn Low `14 and Julia Lee `14 worked on the Karukstis/Van Hecke joint project.

Chance Crompton ’13 continued working on the various aspects of the glucosides/ionic liquid phase diagrams.

John Robinson `12 finished his senior thesis on vapor detection of toxic vaports using liquid crystals and is off to work at the Northwest National Laboratories.

Nagiko Hara `12 worked hard on synthesizing disubstituted fluorenes to discover any liquid crystal properties.

Samantha Fisher `12 undertook senior research in the Karukstis/Van Hecke group studying heptyl thiogloucoside in ionic liquids.

Quite a crew of “newbies” came on aboard this summer.  They are Morgan Luckey `14, Annalise Nunn `13 [from North Arizona State], Bradley Nakamura `13 [from Xavier University], and Kelsey Jindra `15.  Nagi Hara `12 stayed the summer to continue work on the disubstituted fluorenes.   In the joint lab, new were Chris Zazurata `13, Maria Kirkegaard `14, and Je Sue Lee `14.  Continuing on their previous projects were Emma Van Burns `13 and Scott Rayermann `13.

Professional travel this year amounted to the Gordon Research Conference on Liquid Crystals held at Mount Holyoke College and a visit to the IUPAC meeting in San Juan Puerto Rico.  Of course there was the spring National ACS Meeting in San Diego.

The Board of Governors of the Alumni Association continues as a major volunteer effort and this past year as Secretary I rewrote the By-Laws for approval by the Board of Governors.  Chemists continue to be well represented on the 21 person Board with four of us: Sally Siemak `72, Glen Hastings `73, Aurora Pribram-Jones `09 and myself.

David A.Vosburg, 2005
B.A. Williams College, Ph.D. The Scripps Research Institute
Organic Chemistry

After exclusively teaching organic and biochemistry courses to sophomores, juniors, and seniors over the past seven years, I will be teaching only frosh this fall! I am jumping into the frosh chemistry lab and the college-wide frosh writing course, with the title “Beginnings: Creation Stories and the Worlds They Make Possible.” I have delayed my sabbatical a second year as we were finalizing Diego’s adoption this spring. Now Nate is six and our little Latino “twins” Isabella and Diego will turn four at the end of the year. Kate continues to enjoy working with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Mudd, Scripps, and CMC. All five of us will go to Cambridge, England for a sabbatical year in 2013-14. Come visit us if you like!

In the lab, my students have developed syntheses of a whole range of natural products related to davanone, so we call them davanoids. Many of these compounds may have useful antifungal activity. We also have a new, four-step route to artemone, which had previously been made by others in 20 steps! While my students like to joke that the davanoid syntheses involve “unicyclization reactions,” we have achieved legitimate electrocyclic bicyclizations in our current efforts towards the antiobiotic beilschmiedic acid C, the antitubercular agent erythrophloin C, and the anti-inflammatory compound endiandramide A. We just completed our first year of a three-year NSF grant on this project, and we hope to have finished at least one of those three natural products during the 2012-2013 school year.

Three new green chemistry experiments we piloted this year include organic reactions in water at room temperature using biodegradable micelles, a solventless synthesis of a fluorescent sensor for thiols, and an aqueous self-assembly of a supramolecular cage for the capture of small molecules. All of these experiments are pedagogically rich, operationally convenient, and exciting for students. Each of them opens students’ eyes to the need for environmental stewardship and the excitement of making chemistry more sustainable. The supramolecular cage experiment is connected to some of my sabbatical research plans in Cambridge with Dr. Jonathan Nitschke.

For six months this year, I was a part-time consultant for the BioLogos Foundation. Much of my effort went towards developing a study guide for the new documentary film, “From the Dust: Conversations in Creation” (fromthedustmovie.org). This led to several exciting opportunities, such as attending the film’s premiere in Palo Alto, speaking on panels, and leading a science and faith discussion group with students this summer. I hope to continue some of this at the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion during my sabbatical in Cambridge.

Congratulations to former Vosburg lab members Jonathan Litz ’09, Anna Cunningham ’11, Zara Seibel ’11, and Kanny Wan ’11 for receiving NSF graduate fellowships! Congrats also to Anna for a Fulbright scholarship in Ireland and to Jeep Srisuknimit ’12 for a Watson fellowship to unicycle in several countries!