Faculty & Staff 2013

Robert J. Cave

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

Sabbatical was a fabulous experience and a great gift post-deaning.  My goal was to reestablish a collaboration with John Stanton (UT Austin) that had begun on my last sabbatical (2001-2002) but had been relatively dormant due to my administrative commitments.

John and I had decided we would work on three topics:

1) Accurate characterization of the UV-VIS spectrum of butadiene;
2) Methods for calculating diabatic coupling between ground and excited states
3) Implement the Similarity Transformed Equation of Motion Methods in a computationally efficient manner.

It turned out that we began a series of calculations that addressed 1), developed a pair of theoretical methods that address 2) and are leaving 3) for future years, since 2) took a lot of time and was quite successful.

In brief, 2) is concerned with extracting information from electronic structure theory calculations concerning states that preserve their physical character as nuclei move from equilibrium structures.   These so-called “diabatic” states make spectroscopic calculations simpler when two or more electronic states are close in energy and thus are particularly important for electronically excited states.

A variety of methods exist to calculate diabatic states for relatively simple coupled-cluster wavefunctions (an approach that can achieve high-accuracy electronically excited states) but for high accuracy approaches no good method for diabatization existed.  Over the course of the year we developed a new approach (a Block-Diagonalization method) tailored to allow diabatization for any level of coupled cluster approach.   The method has been quite successful and has been applied to study a variety of systems, including the lowest-excited states of NO3, a particularly treacherous molecule for excited state methods.  One neat outgrowth of the work was the development of a particularly simple related approximation that yields an analytical expression for the diabatic coupling.

Lots more happened, but that is enough for here.

There was a lot of travel, including six or seven week-long trips to Austin to work together, a conference in Boulder, CO, the ACS meeting in Philadelphia, PA (co-chaired a symposium in the Phys Division on Electron and Energy Transfer), the ACS meeting in New Orleans, and the Molecular Quantum Mechanics meeting in Lugano, Switzerland.

Finally, there was all sorts of good music, including (limiting only to rock and roll):

Phish:  8/2012 and 8/2013
Furthur: (with Prof Jacobsen)10/2012
Steve Winwood: 11/2012
Bob Weir and Jackie Greene: 12/2012
Yes : 2/2013
Neil Morse and Flower Kings: 5/2013
Todd Rundgren: 6/2013
Bob Dylan: 8/2013
Jerry Garcia Symphonic Celebration with Warren Haynes: 8/2013

It is fabulous to be back as a full-time faculty member in chemistry.  Great students, great colleagues, and it is so much fun to be back thinking about science full-time.

G. William Daub

B.S. Pomona College; Ph.D. Stanford University
Inorganic Chemistry

Greetings to all of the Chemistry Alums. Another 12 months have passed, so it must be time for another Chemistry Annual Report! The 2012-2013 academic year found me teaching an old friend, Chem 105, which I had not had the pleasure of teaching in a number of years. Suffice it to say that I had a fun fall semester ….. it remains to be seen whether the students did as well! I did ply them with freshly baked homemade bagels during one class period, but only after talking briefly about yeast, flour, and gluten. To tell the truth, I think they were more interested in the aroma of freshly baked bagels. In any event homemade bagels was a “first” ….. even after 35 years, there can still be surprises.

Spring semester presented another chance to teach my Environmental Core Lab; this time the students were searching for cadmium in leafy foodstuffs, including spinach, kale, tobacco, lettuces, and even breads. Unfortunately the cadmium levels were small enough that the AA was not quite up to the task. The good news is that this gave the department an excuse to buy a graphite furnace for our AA (E-Bay is pretty amazing sometimes). Progress marches inexorably on.

The past academic year presented a new challenge as I served as the new the College’s “Core Curriculum Director”, or CCD for short. My job was to make sure the new Core Curriculum ran smoothly. We did make it through the year, so I guess I was successful. I did have a lot of help from many colleagues along the way!

My children continue are all moving along their “reaction coordinate” of life. Eric finished his European postdocs and will begin as an Assistant Professor of Geophysics at Memphis University in their CERI (Center for Earthquake Research and Information). Do we have any alums in Memphis? Brian continues as a nuclear physics postdoc at Lawrence Berkeley Labs. Michael finished a PhD at Berkeley in math and will be a postdoc at UC Irvine in a few weeks. And Mary Beth is moving on to her third year in Chris Vanderwal’s lab at UC Irvine after passing her candidacy exam in the spring. And, as always, Sandy, my lovely wife, continues her busy pediatric practice.

Personally it was an eventful year. Brian’s wedding in December was a big event. Then, Sandy and I travelled to Europe twice (twice!) during the summer to take advantage of Eric’s presence there. We spent 2 weeks in Rome in June with him and his girlfriend, who was finishing up as a fellow at the American Academy. Then we spent 2 weeks during August in Normandie and Paris to visit with him and his girl friend’s family. We had a really wonderful time.

Lastly, I was totally surprised and humbled at graduation in May, where I was awarded the Henry T. Mudd Prize for service to the College. As all of you know, such an award is really a testament to my great colleagues, our wonderful staff, and (especially) to the fantastic students we have here (alumni included!) that make HMC such a fun place to teach.

Best wishes for a successful and happy 2013 and 2014!

Karl A. Haushalter

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

The 2012-2013 academic year was an exciting one for me.  On the teaching front, I taught first-year general chemistry and my integrative experience course on HIV-AIDS in the fall.  For this year’s offering of the AIDS class, I was fortunate to have two retired community members from Claremont join the class and I greatly expanded the community engagement component.  In the spring, I co-taught biochemistry with Dr. Marcos Ortega, who just started a tenure-track position at Macalester College.  In biochemistry lab, I introduced a new set of experiments organized around one of my favorite molecules:  tRNA.  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 had four students working with me this summer.  I continue to volunteer extensively with Foothill AIDS Project and have also begun work with Orange County AIDS Services Foundation and Mercy House.  Outside of HMC, I have enjoyed reading, improving my pilates skills, and most of all spending time with my wife Jenny and daughter Laura, who is now a 5th grader.

Lelia Hawkins

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

Adam R. Johnson

B.A., Oberlin College; Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Inorganic Chemistry

The semester is underway and I am behind (my former research students will not be surprised by this) so I will keep this update short. I’d love to stay in touch, so drop me an email.

Last year I taught frosh chem lab and organometallics in the fall, and in the spring, I had my triumphant return to teaching in the first-year lecture course for the first time since 2004 (!).  I also got to sit on the sidelines and watch our new inorganic chemist teach her flavor of chem 104, but the two of us collaborated on teaching the associated lab experience. I had one sophomore research student during the academic year and she was joined by several first-year students as part of our new “Introduction to Research” course.

Once summer started, I had three full-time students working away in the lab. We are still trying to develop better ligands for asymmetric hydroamination. My lab now often smells like naphthalene.

This fall, I am teaching Writ 1 with Pat Little in the Engineering department. Our topic is culture and science fiction; if I can’t get HMC frosh excited about SF stories than I need a new job. I am also lead instructor (and main fix-it person) for frosh lab.

My most exciting development is my chemistry of cooking class that I will be teaching in the coming spring. I attended a workshop in beautiful Dubuque Iowa (actually, we spent 10-12 hours each day in class or in the kitchen so I saw none of Dubuque, but VR says its nice). I am very excited to combine my two interests of chemistry and food into one tasty course.

The kids adjusted well to their return to the US and this year Mia started 4th grade and Natty started 7th grade at the Junior High School. Time flies.

Finally, I ran my first ultra marathon (a 50k in Indianna in May) and am currently training for several additional endurance running events. I see another ultra in my future in 2014.

Kerry K. Karukstis

B.S., Duke University; Ph.D., Duke University
Physical Chemistry

I hope that all of you have had a terrific year since our last newsletter.  This past year marked my 29th year at the College and my final year as Chair of the Faculty – time has flown by.  Much of the year was filled with leading College size discussions at the President’s request (not an easy topic as you might imagine), planning for and offering my new half course “Exploring the U.S. Scientific Enterprise” (I thoroughly enjoyed my first discussion-based course), and counting the weeks down to a deferred sabbatical.  As always, I found myself traveling quite a bit for both professional and personal reasons – to Washington, D.C.; Penn State (beautiful campus); Buzios, Brazil (a picturesque oceanside village two hours north of Rio de Janeiro); Barcelona (what a stunning city!); Kansas City; Paris (for Christmas shopping); London (including lunch with Peter Atkins at his private club The Athenaeum Club); Lisbon (a hilly city reminiscent of San Francisco with cable cars); New Orleans; The College of New Jersey (a gorgeous campus near Princeton); and the Big Island of Hawaii.  My dog KC and I still enjoy our daily morning through the campuses.  My sabbatical for 2013-14 will be filled with continuing research projects, consulting on faculty development for women scientists, traveling, and a five-month renovation of my house.  I’ve also been recently appointed to the American Chemical Society’s Committee on Professional Training (the group responsible for certifying chemistry majors) and am involved in that group’s updating of chemistry curricula to better prepare students for today’s chemistry profession.  I look forward to seeing many of you at alumni events and chemistry venues throughout the year.

Gerald Van Hecke ’61

B.S., Harvey Mudd College; Ph.D., Princeton University
Physical Chemistry

David A.Vosburg

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

I enjoyed teaching frosh chemistry lab and the college-wide frosh writing course last fall, as well as dressing up in costume for the midnight opening of The Hobbit with several Mudders. I am currently on sabbatical at the University of Cambridge (in England) for 2013-14, exploring supramolecular chemistry and science-faith topics. Kate, the kids and I are picking up some British words and delighting in castles and cathedrals!

My research students have continued our work on three research areas: antifungal davanoids, electrocyclization cascades, and new green chemistry experiments. Three papers are appearing this year on our syntheses of both cis and trans davanoids, aqueous organic reactions in micelles, and a solventless synthesis of a fluorescent sensor for thiols. We are still fine-tuning the aqueous self-assembly of a supramolecular “iron cage” with some input from my sabbatical hosts at Cambridge. The tremendous accomplishments of my students were critical to my selection as a Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar this year (previous HMC recipients were Profs. Daub, Cave, and Karukstis).