Monday, August 23, 2010

Experience of a Lifetime

Well, I told you that our SEED adventure wasn't over yet. However, it is coming to a close. Tomorrow is our last day in Boston and the past two days have been nothing but amazing. We went to a Red Sox Game, got lost in a mall, rode trains in circles, all sorts of things that you wouldn't do in Pittsburgh. Trust me, this has been an adventure that I will never forget.

The night before we left, Amanda and I could not sleep. We were up until 2 a.m feeling nothing but excitement. It was her first time flying ever and my first time flying to another state. We stayed up talking about what we thought was going to happen while we were there. We talked about how we thought the poster session was going to go and we wondered what the other SEED students were going to be like.

Then, we arrived at the airport. Who knew that three teenagers could have so much fun in an airport? We were having a blast walking along the moving walkways, taking pictures of absolutely everything and anxiously waiting for the plane to get there. The three of us talked about the strangest things, but maybe because we were all still tired from waking up so early. It did not hit me we were really going until we got onto the plane.

We got onto the plane, found our seats and just waited patiently to depart from Pittsburgh. Flying is one of the best feelings in the entire world. It's something that not everyone gets to experience. We even had fun on the flight. We took pictures, talked and watched tv. It did not feel real until I looked out of the window and we were low enough to see the outline of the ground.

The view outside of my window was nothing that I have ever seen before. When I first looked out, I could only see the outline of the ground. Everything else looked microscopic. A few minutes later, I looked out of my window again. This time, I could see more environmental features. I could see islands, trees cars moving and some buildings. The sight of the islands were amazing. Then, I looked out again. I saw the beautiful city. The tall buildings, boats everywhere and water everywhere around us. That was when I knew we were there.

We went to the hotel , changed and got ready for the Red Sox game. That was one experience that I will never forget. Who gets to go to Boston AND see a Red Sox game? Us project SEED kids, that's who. Fenway Park was everything I thought it would be. I've heard so much about it but I never thought it was something that I would get to visit one day. It's breathtaking. Even though it rained the ENTIRE time, it was still worth it. The poster session was an experience of a lifetime. I loved having people look at my hard work and ask a ton of questions. The fact that I was able to answer their questions made me feel proud. I was proud of myself for all of the hard work. My favorite part had to be whenever someone would ask you about your research then ask, "So what are you studying in college?". When i would answer that I was only an upcoming senior in high school, all of the different looks that i got amazed me. Most people were unbelievably shocked that i was a senior in high school doing work like this. Some younger adults even told me that I was crazy for taking up my summer time for work like this. In general, I could not help but smile at these comments. It makes me feel accomplished for doing this type of work in just 2 short summers. It makes me so proud of myself as well.

Today, we attended the ACS luncheon and the Poster Session. The luncheon was not what I thought it was going to be. Us project SEED kids were mixed in with all sorts of important people. At first, it was pretty nerve wracking. Being forced to talk to a bunch of people I did not know did make me a little nervous.

I cannot express enough how grateful I am to have been given the chance to go to Boston. I got to have adventures with 2 great friends of mine and 2 great adults who took the time out of their summer to support and be here for me. I cannot thank them enough. I would not be here today if it were not for Dr. Cavanaugh and Dr. Aitkin. As my mentor, Dr. Cavanaugh did everything she could to prepare me for Boston and she took the time to give me an experience of a lifetime. Without the support of Dr. Aitkin, this trip would not have been possible. The things she does for us SEED kids is unbelievable and I thank her for that.

In general, Boston is beautiful. I may never get the opportunity for this again and I greatly appreciate it. Continuing my project SEED adventure was the greatest thing I could have done. I am so glad that I chose to do project SEED. It has been a big eye opener for me. It has lead me to a potential career path, got me in contact with important people and so many other things. I hope future SEED students do not take this for granted. As I have said plenty of times before, it is the experience of a lifetime.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Beautiful City Of Boston

Departing this morning was one of the more exciting events in my life. Sydney & I stayed up until 2 am, filled with excitement. We couldn't wait to depart for Massachusetts. Soon enough we woke up at 6, got ready for the plane ride, and filled Mr. Lucas' car with our luggage. So squished in the backseat with Tristan & Syd, Ms. Hannagan in the passenger, and Mr. Lucas driving, we drove off to the airport.

I wish I could have caught every moment on camera, without it being too much, because the airport was such a great experience. We had fun walking on the moving floors for luggage. When you walk, it feels like you're flying! After figuring out where I had to put my things in the security bins, we were free to roam about the airport. So we went to a cafe type thing and got a small breakfast. We switched gates to board, and were finally on the plane!

The plane ride was so exciting. It was my first time flying, and I loved it. The clouds were beautiful and so was the ground from way up high. We got off the plane, into a taxi van, & soon walked into our hotel. We ventured our way to the ballpark through the subway stations. That was another fun experience. Following that, we found Fenway, went to the game. We sat & ate for an hour, then faced the rain at the Red Sox game. After an hour delay, the game finally started! And then it was delayed again because of rain. Mr Lucas left early to give his poster presentation. The three of us stayed with Ms. Hannagan. So after 4 hours of facing the rain at this game, we finally left.

We all came back to the hotel, relaxed for a little bit, & then decided to go see a movie. We snacked on some food at the theater. Then, we faced the rain yet again when we walked home. We (minus Mr. Lucas) have decided that it only rains when we walk outside. Oof. Great luck, huh? Boston has been a great experience so far, except for the one way street that people keep driving the wrong way down. Boston drivers use their horns. ALOT. Tomorrow we have a lunch to go to, a visit to Harvard & MIT, possibly a museum to visit, & posters to present in the evening. It's going to be a busy day.

To end on a good note, the Red Sox won today, 5, nothing, against the Toronto Blue Jays. :)

-Amanda Anderson




Friday, August 13, 2010

Last Day Of The Last Year

It's the last day for us Project SEED kids. I can't even think about the whole thing without fluffing my feathers. I wrote what Mr.Lucas says to be an amazing paper, composed weeks of data into a giant chart, and created an information packed poster for the ACS meeting in a few weeks. This year I feel so much more accomplished. Last year I didn't know what to expect from Duquesne. A giant lab filled with machines that I didn't know how to use, and a professor talking to me about things I hardly knew? Yeah, that's what I got. But I also got so much more. I got a chance to work in a college environment many years before I would even have the chance to do that kind of research.

Last year I worked with Naudia, an undergraduate on Detecting Chromium III and VI in Dietary Supplements. I worked with her most of the time, and I have to admit. I felt like I shouldn't touch anything, or ask any questions, or even have my say in what she was doing. But after I started talking to her for a while, I learned that she was sometimes as clueless as I. When we did start talking, I think we sort of helped each other out. I asked questions, and sometimes even retrieved the answer from Dr. Rahman myself. The whole thing started to get intriguing right when it ended. Right when I was really into it. Until next year, I thought to myself.

Over the entire school year I looked at my poster in Mr. Lucas' classroom. All I could think about was getting back to SEED, and starting my research again. It was all I referred to when I was writing mediocre lab reports in science class, when everyone else was freaking out. Soon enough it was prom, and graduation, and soon enough it was back to Duquesne!

It was like I never left. I knew everyone, and where everything was at. The veterans helped the new kids out, and I have to say, it felt good to be familiar with the place. The new kids came and I have to admit, I thought they were all going to be a little strange. Although I knew the kids from my high school, Ian and Mary seemed to be unfriendly. Before you knew it we were all laughing and joking around like we had been friends for years.

When I did get back to my lab, I found that I had a new project to learn about. Oh boy, I thought. Another bundle of new, confusing information. It turns out, it was practically the same as my research from the year before. Instead of working to detect only Chromium, I was working to detect all dangerous elements in supplements. It was about three weeks in and I hadn't done much in the lab beside clean microwave vessels.

Boy was I in for a surprise, I worked my tail off for 2 weeks straight, and it was the most rewarding thing ever. I felt so accomplished. I was doing real, college research in my lab. After everything, SEED was completely and totally worth giving up my summers. I gained so much knowledge, acquaintances, opportunities, and friends. My work will be in a publication, and I will have a letter of recommendation from a college professor as a high school student. Take that, college applications!

It's been a great two summers and I'm so thankful for Dr. Aitken, Dr. Kingston, Dr. Rahman, Mr. Lucas, Naudia, and Greg and everything they've done for me.

I have to say, I'm going to miss Starbucks, the Batcave, the computer lab, the fun Macs, group meetings, Tristan's awful grammar, the football field, frisbee, the "boys" on the football team, the teal lunch tickets, the friends I made, the crazy tactics of the other kids, the drafts I kept revising, the early mornings, the late evenings, "da" buses, the table by Aitken's office, and most of all, the great people at Duquesne. It was a great experience.

-Amanda Anderson :)

Time to Say Goodbye

Wow, it is amazing how great things always go by too fast. I can remember coming the first day and everyone looking at me like I was crazy. I didn't know anyone. That time is now long gone. From the very first lunch we were all bonding very well and now we are great friends. The SEED students are all amazing people hat I am so glad to have met. This summer was amazing.

I had such a great time learning about all of the different aspects of chemistry from working in Dr. Basu's lab to touring PPG and Bayer. We did so many fun things this summer. I don't know what the rest of it will be like with about 3 weeks left full of Cross Country practice and getting to see my friends from school that graduated one last time before they go off to college. I think that it will still feel pretty empty though because I won't get to see all of my friends from SEED every day.

I am so glad to have had this opportunity to not only learn about chemistry but to meet new friends and have a great summer. Some people might think I was crazy for saying that this was fun but they weren't here, they didn't get to meet everyone. Thanks to Mr. Lucas for the coffee, the lunch, and all of the hard work that he put in to make sure we didn't look like idiots presenting at the symposium or when writing our papers. You made the summer great too. Thanks to Dr. Aitken, Dr. Basu, and Ben for helping so much in getting everything together for SEED and for helping me throughout the summer. It wouldn't be possible without you.

Most importantly thanks to Sydney, Marissa, Liz, Amanda, Mary, Tristan, and Chris for helping me survive here. Thanks for all of the great times and you are all amazing people. Keep in touch.

For the last time this is Ian writing a blog post. Thanks.


Last Thoughts

As I'm working on this final blog it's slowly coming to me that my time here is coming to an end. Funny how I almost didn't even apply to see last year. My chemistry teacher came up to me one day and asked if I would be interested in applying. Meanwhile I just failed the last two chem test and you think I want to do this for the summer! I really didn't think of applying since I felt wasn't going to be accepted. But I decided to apply and a couple of months later out of nowhere Dr. Aitken called saying I was accepted. After the excitement phase came the (what did I get myself into) phase. But once I got here things were easier (especially since everyone else knew as much as me). I've gone through many experiences that were both good and bad. It was nerve racking presenting in group meetings, since other professors and grad students were there. Presenting at the symposium was an incredible experience being next to college students who had much more experience than us.



The field trips we went on including Bayer, PPG, Mylon and my favorite Washington and Jefferson College. They were all interesting in their own way and the car rides to and from were great.



But not everything was fun and games though. The weeks before the symposium and during the lab reports were both frustrating and time consuming. But when looking back on it I do appreciate Mr. Lucas taking his time working on our papers, (especially mine). I hope to think that my grammar skills have improved somewhat since being here.



At the end of it all I learned an incredible amount of knowledge about Chemistry. I worked with HPLC and Microfluidics and accomplished a lot in my short time here. I feel that I made an impact in my lab and it certainly boost my confidence for anything I do later on in life.

There are so many people to thank for helping me here so let me start.

First, I would like to thank Dr. Aitken for choosing me to do this summer research program. I hope she feels she made the right decision by selecting me.

My professor Dr. Mitch Johnson for his guidance and help on me understanding my project.

My student mentors Angela and Sean for their patience and knowledge and help. I know that without them I wouldn't have understood anything.

Mr. Josh Lucas for being my temporary guardian for these past two summers. Everything he has done has been appreciated and I give him my eternal gratitude.

And of course the friends that I made over these summers. Amanda, Sydney, Terrance, Candy, James, Mary, Chris, Ian, Liz, and Marissa have given me memorable moments that I won't soon forget. Thank you everyone.


Everyone says how proud they are of me for sacrificing my summer to do hard research at a program. And every time I laugh inside thinking that "sacrifice" was never the adjective in my mind to describe my time here at Project SEED.

The End

My whole summer felt like an adventure. My first day at Duquesne didn’t start off so well. I had no idea how the whole bus system worked. Liz and I left two hours early to catch our bus, at a bus stop that was far away (even though there was one much closer, but we didn’t find this out until later). Riding the bus into town, I felt a little better, but I was still pretty nervous. When we got off the bus, we had no idea where Duquesne was. There was another bus that could’ve taken us to Duquesne, but Liz wanted to walk so I acquiesced. We were so lost. We walked in a lot of circles that were technically squares because, you know, the buildings and streets only really make straight lines. We crossed a few dangerous intersections, saw some scary things, and walked up an old wooden staircase that didn’t look too safe, but after an hour and a half we had finally made it to Duquesne. But when I saw the Starbucks, we ended up waiting outside for an hour until it opened to get breakfast before going over to Mellon. When we got there, everyone was gathered at the table near the window and I saw Sydney and Amanda already there. Me and Liz sat down and joined them while we waited for the rest of the SEED kids to arrive and talked about how lost we were that morning. I saw Tristan come in and my first impression of him was, “Oh…I really don’t think I like him.” Then came Mary, and then Ian. I thought they were both kind of weird at first. Ian looked like the kind of nerd that would be stuck up and correct people a lot. After everyone was there Mr. Lucas delivered us all to our labs. When I was introduced to my undergrad student, Matt, I was told he was really weird, but that he was really smart, too. And he was. I was introduced to everyone in the lab, and they were all really nice. Then Matt started showing me around the lab and explaining about my project. I swear I barely understood anything that came out of his mouth. I thought there was no way I was going to be able to understand all that and do research on it by the end of the summer. Matt kept telling me I’d understand it though, and also that I would hate him by the end of the summer. When it was time for lunch we all met up and walked over there together. The food was good, but sometimes the guy serving it would scare me so I tried getting most of the self-serve stuff for awhile. After lunch I went back to the lab and Matt explained how the Infrared Spectrometer (IR) and Gas Chromatographer (GC) worked. I didn’t like the GC, I still don’t. The IR was better, but… I still don’t like it too much.

The next day another girl was in my lab, doing the same research as me. She was Phoebe and her dad was friends with Professor Pintauer, and she was also coming to school here in the fall so he let her work in my lab. We had the same project so pretty much all of our work was together. That made me feel a lot better, having someone else that was as clueless as I was, or at least it felt like that. I thought Phoebe was a little weird at first, but you know I ended up realizing she was really cool and in the end, I’ll miss her.

The next weeks were spent reading chemistry books so I could understand my project, ask Matt a bunch of questions and running long scans on the GC only to find that most of them turned out bad, or that whatever it was we shot into it, didn’t come out. The IR also broke that week, so most of our project turned to the GC. It wasn’t that exciting, most days we both would just sit there and read our books. After lunch we would go to the field with everyone and play Frisbee. Except Liz, because she didn’t like Frisbee since apparently it’s a VERY dangerous sport, and sometimes it was. The field trips were fun and some of them were really interesting.

Then came the week of the symposium and I was gone the whole week at band camp. I really miss band before I went, but by the end of camp I really missed everyone here. The way some people talked about the symposium, they made it sound different than I imagined. I was scared some big professor was going to ask me a bunch of questions about my poster that I would have no idea how to answer, but I was able to explain everything to everyone who came over and answer all their questions, along with help from Phoebe.
The week after the symposium, the IR was finally fixed. All that week I spent getting data from the IR and procrastinating going to write my final paper. I actually didn’t start writing it until the final week. The last week here, I was really sad to leave, but I’m excited to finally be able to sleep in this summer.

In the end, I’m really glad I did this and I can’t believe a long time ago back in the school year I thought about not doing it. I would’ve done SEED all through high school if I could’ve. I learned about my project, ATRA, the machinery, and a lot about just working in college in general. It gave me a better perspective on a lot things, and it’s made me think harder now about my future and where I want to go for college, and how I’m going to get there. I really can’t say how much I’ll miss my lab group, since half of them won’t be there next year and all the seniors, even though they’ll come back and visit anyway. I’m glad I get to come back next year, but I really hope we still remember how to get here by then.

Thanks to everyone in my lab for helping me have such a good summer; Matt, Ash, Sean, Will, Carol, Raj, Anita, April, Phoebe and Tom. Also all the Project SEED kids; Liz, Sydney, Amanda, Tristan, Mary, Ian, Chris and Mr. Lucas for making sure we got everything done on time, always helping when we needed it and then sometimes buying me coffee. The cold stuff is still better.

Goodbye~

This experience has taught me so much, from riding buses and not getting lost, to spiking Frisbees J I don’t know what exactly to write to convey how much I am going to miss everyone and how amazing this experience has been. One thing I do know, is that I had one of the most terrifying experiences here when me and Marissa rode the bus all the way to McKeesport. That was our first day of work, and we spent all day trying to get back home L
Besides the experience I had getting to Duquesne and coming from Duquesne my first day, I really had fun this summer, and, learned so much, I wish I could do it all over again, just because I don’t want to leave L
After eight weeks of Project SEED, it is now truly the end. I know everyone is probably really sad to be leaving, but I WILL be the optimist! We will definitely keep in touch. This summer I gained lab experience, knowledge, and friends that are indispensable. I'm really going to miss all of the very awesome people that I had the opportunity to meet. That is probably really bad grammar, but in the words of Tristan it would be correct, and there is no better way to describe everyone I met. At the beginning of this, I was really scared, of just working in the lab, but it was really fun, and I learned so much, I hope I have the opportunity to come back next year, because I definitely want to. So goodbye Sydney, Ian, Mary, Tristan, Amanda, Chris, Marissa, Chelsee, Shaun, Tim, and Dr. Cascio, and thank you for letting me work in your lab, and for teaching me so much.

Goodbye Duquesne University, Hello Senior year.

August 13th already? Wow. Where did the last 8 weeks go? Well, i'll tell you where. Let's start off at the beginning. I worked and became closer with three people from my school, became closer with a great person from Carrick, met one pretty awesome girl from North Catholic High School, met one great guy from Sewickley Academy and met another cool guy from Upper St. Clair, who wasn't even in SEED with us, but we adopted into our group.

When SEED first started this year, I have to admit that I wasn't too sure of how it was going to be compared to last year. I didn't think that all 7 of us were going to click like we did. Some of us were shy. We didn't know what to expect. Amanda, Tristan and I certainly didn't know what to expect. Within a few days, Mary introduced us to the new addition of her group, Chris. Even though Chris wasn't one of us, we took him in with open arms. Weeks went by and I began to notice how close we were becoming. From making all kinds of jokes at lunch and playing frisbee on the field afterwards to the hilarious car rides on fieldtrips, we had a blast. From working with these different people, I have learned so much. I've learned a lot not only about them, but myself as well.

These past eight weeks have gone to a great load of hard work. In my two years of working in Dr. Cavanaugh's lab, I have worked harder than I ever have. When I arrived back on the first day, I was so excited to be back in the lab. Being in a lab with college students and professors really opened my eyes. Whether I was treating cells with different compounds, doing a protein assay or running a western blot, it all required so much patience and focus.

Project SEED has opened so many doors for me. I'm extremely grateful for being given this opportunity for two years in a row. Not only has SEED given me the experience of working in a lab and getting an early college experience, but it has provided me with a great deal of responsibility. I’ve learned to manage time and have patience with what I’m doing. SEED has helped me grow as a student and person in general. It has showed me to to prepare for just about anything that comes my way. Since I’ve been here two years, my experience has just been continued. I feel like being in SEED these past two years has really prepared me for college. It has also influenced my career choice extremely. To be honest, I really thought I knew what I was going to do after high school. I thought I had my mind set and everything. Boy, was I wrong. After this year, I changed my entire mind on what I want to do after high school. Since I’m now a senior in high school, that means a lot to me. You’d be surprised about how much one thing can just open your eyes. SEED has shaped and changed me into a better person as well. By making new friends, meeting important people and being counted on by important people, it changes you. Making new friends allowed me to bond and become friends with other kids who may or may not have the same interests as me. Meeting important people gives you this sense of pressure, meanig that you don’t want to say the wrong things to them. Presenting my work is a prime example of this pressure. It’s very nervewracking presesnting to people that you are not familiar with and that do not know the subject you are talking about. It adds more pressure if the person you’re working for is there because you don’t want to say the wrong things.

Aside from the nerve-wracking and time consuming stuff, we did have a lot of fun times. Out of all of the field trips we took, I’d have to say that the college visit to Washington & Jefferson really opened my eyes the most (not saying that none of the others opened my eyes too because they did). Being in another college atmosphere really brought this different feeling to me. This field trip really influenced both my college and career choices.

All in all, Project SEED was one of the best things I’ve ever decided to participate in. When I first started, I had no idea what to expect. I came in knowing that it was going to be a good bit of work, but I had no idea that it was going to grow on me so much. I was fascinated with what I was doing and I was very interested to see what my co-workers were also doing. In my second year, I sort of got off to a rough start.


To Dr. Cavanaugh, Darlene, Erika, Mayur and Katherine, thank you for everything over the past two summers. The time that you have all put in to make my experience that much better really means alot to me. I hope to keep in touch with you all.


To Dr. Aitkin and Mr. Lucas, thank you for all of the support you have given me the past two summers. There isn't a day where I won't appreciate everything that you have done for us. Without you, the program wouldn't run as smoothly. I thank you for the opportunity of a lifetime.


To Ian, Mary, Tristan, Amanda and Chris, i'm really going to miss you guys. We've made some great memories that I will never forget. Believe it or not, you guys have really changed me. I'm really going to miss my early morning workouts with Ian, our early morning talks in the batcave, taking pictures on the imacs, having little birthday parties, chilling in the batcave, our hilarious lunch times, the elevator rides, the field trips, learning how to play frisbee, watching the boys play soccer..I could go on and on. I'm honestly going to miss it all. I really hope that we all can stay in touch through the school year.


To Liz and Marissa, i'll miss you two as well. You two better hold it down for the SEED II students. I know you guys will be great role models for everyone else. Just have patience and keep your focus and you both will do great. Don't worry, we'll all be back to visit. =)


To the newcomers of SEED, appreciate what you’re about to participate in and don’t take it for granted. There are a lot of students that are dying to be in your position. With hard work, patience and responsibility, you'll succeed greatly.

As I sit here and write this final blog post, it's really hitting me that this is my last year at SEED. No more paper revisions, poster making, cell treating. Nope, it's all done. It was a lot of hard work and determination to get through it. To tell you the truth, i've never felt so accomplished. By doing this, I know I did something that I can be proud of myself for. Luckily for Amanda, Tristan and myself, our SEED experience isn't quite over yet. We get to travel to Boston for the ACS meeting and I couldn't be more excited. I think of how all of my friends tell me that i'm crazy for giving up my summer to do this. But, they won't ever understand why I chose to give up my summer for this. It's so much more than hard work. It's an adventure.
Even though i'm saying goodbye to Project SEED, i'm saying hello to my senior year of high school. I know the program will always be there and i'll always be back to visit. So, goodbye Duquesne, hello senior year.

Pictures from the Symposium










Thursday, August 12, 2010

Amazing Amanda Anderson

Since the veterans are sticking together we must have Amanda showcase her works. Amanda is testing dietary supplements and the dangerous elements in them. These supplements come from companies that could possibly have contamination in them. Her goal is to find those contamination's such as lead, cadmium, and even arsenic.




In this picture Amanda is prepping Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer (ICP-MS). The ICP-MS is used for analysis of the blanks, standards, and samples involved in this project. Before the processing is started, a calibration curve is made to help determine how much of certain dangerous element is in the supplement. And the results are mind blowing!

Amanda has done incredible work over the past two summers to expose the companies of their negligence and making a safer enviornment for buying supplements. Nice Work!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tristan Lee Freeman, the science guy!





















So, the veterans are working together on this one. =) This is Tristan. He's a summer II SEED student and he is a senior at Pittsburgh Carrick High School. We've gotten to work with him over the past two summers and believe me, it has been fun. Last year, his project was pretty interesting but, we seem to like his project this year better. We've gotten to spend a good bit of time just hanging out in the lab with him and see what he does.

This year, Tristan is continuing off of last years project. He is using droplet-based microfluidics to create continuous droplet flow using oil and aqueous phases. He is applying ratios to achieve this droplet flow.

In this picture, Tristan is looking into a microscope at a PDMS chip and analyzing the microdroplets flowing through the channel that is chemically etched into the chip. The droplets are formed from t-junction of the aqueous and oil phase. Tristan sets ratios in attempt to achieve the droplet flow that may or may not be successful.

Marissa at Work



Marissa De Fratti prepares her first of five samples of 1-octene to scan on the Infrared Spectrometer (IR). Different solutions with different amounts of 1-octene diluted to 100 µL with methanol. The results of the scans are spectras with differing peaks depending on the concentrations of octene within the sample. On average, two to four scans of each sample is taken because of instrumental error. The data from the spectras is taken and then graphed in kaleidagraph. If the error is somewhere between 1 and .90, then the data is acceptable. By doing this she hopes to find that the IR is quantative enough so that it can be used to examine simple reaction mixture analysis in ATRA.

A day in the life of Liz (at duquense)




















Every day Liz is either doing transformations, mutatations, or somedays, both. Today she decided to do a transformation for us. She begins in this first picture by preparing the auto-claved pipette with a sterile tip before taking 1 µL of plasmid from a tiny test tube.




Then the plasmid is added into a sterile 14 mL polypropylene tube (which must be used because it is VERY sterile), while making sure not touch the sides of the tube with anything but the tip of the pipette because that is the only sterile part of the apparatus.






The last step before heat-shocking the sample is to add 50 µL of XL-1 blue Supercompetent cells to the polyproylene tube which will later absorb the plasmid into the cell, thus transforming it. After that the final transformations are sent to Pitt for sequencing, which usually takes about a week to get results. Most of the time the mutations are unsuccessful because of unknown reasons that could include an instrument or apparatus being unsterile, or a problem with the DPN1 restriction enzyme .

End of the Summer Checklist

Here is a list of things we have to do. Please check this post often, cause I'll be updating it as we wrap things up. I post updates in bold.

1. End of Summer Survey - I'll post this link soon.

Survey Link

Go here and then click on "Student Follow-up survey".

When finished, you must print the acknowledgement that your survey
was received and sign your name and print your name on the page.


2. Thank you cards and poster - Everyone is responsible for writing two thank you card. Everyone must sign all thank you cards written. Thank you cards should be written in word, proof read, and then hand written into the card. Coordinate with each other so you don't write for the same person. Be personable and mention be sure to mention the reason why you are thanking them.

Ms. Barbara Adams- the librarian (thank you for the training) -Liz Thorton
Dr. David Seybert - Dean of the School of Natural Science (thank you for the lunches and salary support)- Ian Carroll
Tabitha Riggio (donation)
Dr. Mitch Johnson (for assistance and donation)
Dr. Jim Manner (donation)
Dr. Jeff Madura (assistance)- Ian Carroll
Dr. Paul Johnson (donation)-Sydney Burkholder
Mr. Philip Clarke (Participation in events and organizing tour and
financial aid, symposium) -Tristan Freeman
Dr. Michael Leonard (for organizing tour) -Tristan Freeman
Maria Revetta PPG (tour)-Sydney Burkholder
Tom Barclay - Bayer (tour) -Marissa De Frati
Dr. Joshua Pak (Project SEED committee chair) -Amanda Anderson
Spectroscopy Society of Pittsburgh (donation)
Society for Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh (donation) -Marissa De Frati
Ms. Raihanah Rasheed
(Project SEED office)
Cecilia Hernandez (Project SEED office)
Ms. Sandy Russell and Ms. Amy Stroyne (thanks for assistance) - Liz Thorton
Local Pittsburgh Section ACS (support) -Amanda Anderson

3. Transfer your photos to my laptop.

4. Finish Dr. Aitken's blog challenge.

5. Turn in papers by Friday.

6. ACS posters by Friday unless you are coming in next week.

7. Each of you must write a final blog post. It must summarize your experience. It must state clearly how this program has helped your grow as a scientist, adult, student, and person. It must contain appropriate thanks and acknowledgement folks who have helped you this summer.

Tag Team Blog Challenge

Hey guys, this is Ian and Mary and we're gonna rock your socks. We decided to combine our posts into one awesome post filled with magical adventures in the realms of chemistry.


This is Mary. She is a senior at North Catholic High School and is working with Dr. Jeffry Madura in his computational chemistry lab. On an average day, she is running jobs on the National Science Foundation's TeraGrid super computer. Although, it took a lot of trials and errors... especially a lot of errors, to get to where she is now. Throughout the past 8 weeks, Mary has started over approximately 17 times (we lost count). Her project is to model the effects of sodium and potassium chloride on glutamic acid. The reason for doing such a wonderful project is to study how proteins made up of glutamic acid will be effected by sodium and potassium chloride. As you can see in the picture, she loves to decorate her cubicle..and everyone else's for that matter. Now that Mary finally has everything working properly, she is analyzing data 24/7. In this particular picture, she is analyzing her 2.0M NaCl salt box after 30 nanoseconds of molecular dynamics.

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This is Ian. He is also going to be a senior but he goes to Sewickley Academy. He is working with Ben Mogesa and Dr. Basu making synthetic bio-mimetic compounds. He is seen here making his copper (I) complex with dithione ligands. He is working in the glove box to be able to prevent oxygen from reacting with his compounds because it is filled with nitrogen. After making the compound, he dries it using a vacuum to suck out the liquid solvent and then can use the dried product. He can put it into different solvents and then analyze it using UV-Vis and Cyclic Voltammetry or he can use it dry to analyze it using IR. Ian also used copper (II) in his complex to study a different form of the complex.

Sydney Burkholder the Magnificent!

I've been working with Sydney for these past two summers and it's certainly been exciting if nothing else. Since Sydney worked upstairs in the pharmaceutical department so I never really saw her work environment. Until this year when I ventured her room. It looked just like our chemistry labs. Looks like all science is just messy.





In this picture, Sydney is pipeting cells and splitting them among 35 mm plates. She's doing this to be able to treat the cells with different concentrations of novel compounds. Once all the plates are treated, Sydney will lyse the cells. This allows her to eventually run a protein assay and a western blot analysis.



Sydney's project involves a very serious problem, Breast Cancer, which is a leading cause of death particularly involving women. She works exclusively with Extracellular signal-regulated kinase 5 (ERK5)an understanding it's role in breast cancer research. Hopefully, advancements in this research can lead to possible therapies in breast cancer.






















As you can see, Sydney's work is not only intriguing but important as well. And her work has certainly helped the ongoing progress of breast cancer research. Great job!

Stolen Photo


I stole this photo from Marissa's camera. You should steal photos from Marissa's camera too, and post them on the blog with an explanation. I'll let Marissa summarize what she is doing in this picture in the comments below.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Interview with Dr. Cascio

This is my second year at Project Seed and things are relatively the same from the previous year. But there is something different this year. With the addition of another student, another professor also has joined us in Liz's professor Dr. Mike Cascio. He's the only professor that us students don't know about so I figured he'd be the best candidate to interview with.

Dr. Cascio came from Yonkers, New York and graduated from Roosevelt High School. It was a public school, so there wasn't many opportunities such as Project Seed. He even went through hard times including being nearly bankrupted at some point. So he really had to work hard to get what he wanted. And he certainly did that being accepted to Cornell University, a prestigious Ivy League school. He double majored in Chemistry and Biology and received his B.A. from the School of Arts and Sciences.

His interest in Chemistry has always been a focal point in his life. He even had a boyhood fascination with fire and mixing chemicals. Throughout his time at Cornell, he was passionate about chemistry, as well as math and physics. He credits his Intro to Biological Sciences teacher Dr. Charles Keaton, for showing how he can apply his physical chemistry knowledge to biological functions. Ironically, Dr. Keaton is the author of the textbook that he used.

His story of how he arrived at Duquesne was almost a non-story. He and his wife were offered positions at the University of Pittsburgh and he would have accepted the offer. However a colleague of his joined Duquesne's faculty and recommended to him that he should join as well. He applied for the position and loved the unique opportunities and atmosphere that Duquesne is known for. From then on out Dr. Cascio remains a member of Duquesne's faculty. A decision he now knows was a right one.

Currently he and his lab works on the chemistry of proteins at the membrane interface. They look at membrane protein structure and function, and the holding and misfolding of proteins at the membrane surface. Which is shown by his Seed student Liz Thorton, who currently works on the structure and function of the glycine receptors. "He's really nice and dependable and a great professor to work with." Says Liz, who really enjoyed working with Dr. Cascio this summer.

Dr. cascio says his biggest accomplishments in life is having three wonderful children as well of having the ability to balance both his professional and personal life. He says there isn't anything he truly regrets which shows how he puts his own life into perspective. I asked him what his futures entails and he says he wants to continue his research alongside young scientist with the same passion for chemistry as he does. Finally, I wanted to know what advice he had for both current and future Seed kids; "Follow your passion and make certain you enjoy what you are doing."

Dr. Cascio has dedicated his life to his research and his family and been undoubtedly been successful at it. And we will see what more accomplishments Dr. Cascio will achieve in the many more years he will be at Duquesne university.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Dr. Aitken's Blog Challenge

Post photos of each other working in your lab on your instrument. Be sure you are wearing appropriate PPE.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Dr. Jeffry Madura's Academic Career

(Click here to view the video of this interview)

Growing up in Transfer, Pennsylvania. Jeffry D. Madura had no idea what he wanted to be when he grew up. Then, in the fifth grade, he started testing soil and the sparks started to fly- he had instantly developed an interest in science. It wasn't long before he dumped the soil to move on to bigger and better things.

As a high school student Jeffry was your average jock, spending his time on the basketball court and the football field at Reynolds High School. "Because there were no computers at the time, it was hard to be a nerd." Jeffry explains, even though he loved biology, chemistry, and physics.

After four years of being a star athlete, Jeffry moved on to Thiel college, where he declared a major of chemistry. He gave up being a star athlete and quit athletics to become a star pupil. There were 4 good faculty members that gave him the love of chemistry he still has today.

Knowing he wanted to continue his education, he tried out Purdue University to get his Ph.D in chemistry. His thesis was on gas phase reactions. Although it may be hard to believe, Jeffry did struggle to pass his qualifying exams. He was given 4 hours to answer 8 questions, an almost impossible task when the subject is physical chemistry. The only thing he regrets is not going as a Post Doc.

It wasn't long before he took on the challenging role as Chair of Duquesne University's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. "It was a real learning experience learning to juggle." He explains. It was most rewarding seeing his faculty becoming successful. After 10 years, he stepped down. His philosophy is to get new ideas, new new energy. Now, his goal is to train as many students as possible. He continues to share his gifts and touch almost every student he meets.

Interview with a Grad

When I interviewed Derrick, I found out he came a long way from his high school in Washington to here at Duquesne. Back in high school, he was like most kids, unsure of what he really wanted to do in life. Then one day, in church his priest showed them a video of molecular biology, and it really grabbed his interest. That was when Derrick decided he wanted to study biochemistry.

So Derrick continued to work through high school, going through hardships like everyone else. Some past regrets were letting his girlfriend distract him from his work, not being able to give back enough to all the people that helped when he needed it most and not socializing more when he had the chance.

After high school Derrick went to a small catholic college in Oregon where he continued working on biochemistry. College was at first a little overwhelming with freedom. That's where he found out that all the times people talk about getting drunk and all those other crazy things they do in college really aren't as great as they sound. Although, while they're not always that great, it doesn't mean you shouldn't go party every once in awhile. It's important to find the balance between having fun and knowing all your work will be done too.

Then the choice came to decide where to go for graduate school. It was between a college in Washington, his home, or Duquesne, a college far away, but with good opportunities. In the end he felt Duquesne calling him and chose to come here. It was different being so far away and in a completely new place, but it was also like an adventure. When you move far away you're on you're own and you miss your friends and your family, but that isn't always bad. It's a little more daring, but it also means you get the chance to be whoever you want to be and just explore. From the west to the northeast is a good change of scenery, too.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Trip to Bayer!

Today we took a field trip to Bayer. It was actually pretty interesting. We were able to see how bowling balls were made. (which was my favorite part) It was cool to see how these different things in our everyday lives are made. It's not something that everyone gets to see. It's also interesting to see the other side of what goes on in the world considering we're in an area of academia most of the time. It's nice to see the jobs that the people at Bayer do and it's cool to learn about how they got there.

Finally, some results!

So after 6 weeks of hard work, I got some results out of the numbers that were being stored on the computer. I learned how to extract the numbers, and how to chart them on an excel spreadsheet. What I'm finding in these supplements is really shocking. How could a company not know they're putting things like arsenic and mercury into their supplements?! The numbers and results always give me a little ego boost, because I did all of the work to get those numbers, and it's a nice reward. Sometimes you don't see where the hard work goes, but this time I did. Everybody at the symposium was really impressed with my work, including my principal, Melanie Kerber, and my superintendent Fran Serenka. They were also impressed with the fact that I'm a high school student. All the research is real, and I'm sorry to say but when exploring the symposium posters on my free time, I saw some displays that were worse than those ones of the high school students. What a shame.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Interview With a Grad Student

Yesterday I sat down with Kim, a grad student in Dr.Aitken's lab, to discuss college, being a grad student, and how she ended up where she is today. We talked about many things, from why she chose chemistry to her fascinations with knowledge as a child. Through talking with her I gained insight into how I should think about college and what I should look for in a career.
When Kim was in first grade she had her first science lab, and that is when she fell in love with it. She was always interested in learning how things worked and how stuff like chairs and phones were made, and by whom. Although she loved science, she also loved teaching, but having a career as a science teacher wasn't very appealing at the time. Growing up with science teachers that wore pocket protectors, and suspenders did not help her opinion of science teachers. To her and her classmates science teachers seemed like big jokes, because all of them wore very unfashionable attire. As she became older she realized not all science teachers have to dress like that, and so Kim became set on being something that would incorporate her two loves, a science teacher. When she was in high school she decided that she wanted to go somewhere close to home, because she's very close to her family, and wanted to have them close. She decided on going to St. Francis University in Loretto, Pa. She went there majoring in education. She soon realized that it's very easy to get caught up in your subject's social groups. When she took classes like Physical chemistry, which was the hardest class for her due to the size of the substance you're working with, she became caught up in the chemistry social group, because they were forced to work together for long hours so socializing with others outside of your subject of study was uncommon. When she finally had the oppurtunity to decide where she wanted to go for grad school it wasn't a difficult decision, because she already knew what she wanted. She picked Duquesne, because of how close it is to her family. Although, deciding where to go was somewhat easy, being a grad was not. She had to learn quickly that not everything was going to work, and after trying something over and over again, you have to stop at some point. Doing so much work on something, and ending up with it being unsuccessful was hard. She said when you become a grad you realize just how naive you were. Her greatest success though was being able to start reseach before college, which did give her some insight for being a grad. Although she loved loved being a grad, because you don't have set hours, she missed the freedom of being an undergrad, and the different people. She regretted not spending enough time on her non chem classes, and that she was shy and didn't ask questions. This is something I can easily relate to, and is one of the reasons talking to her helped so much. Mr. Lucas always says be assertive, now I have someone else pushing me to be assertive too.

Dr. Cavanaugh the Pharmacologist

Dr. Cavanaugh was just a regular girl growing up in Reading Pennsylvania. She attended Central Catholic High School and took your regular medley of classes including AP English and Chemistry. Her great chemistry teacher led her to want to study chemistry more and delve into the mysteries of the chemistry world.

Dr. Cavanaugh continued her magical journey called school by going to Franklin and Marshall in Lancaster PA. While she had a good time her freshman year, it is something she regrets because of her somewhat relaxed attitude towards school. It was her first time away from home and she wanted to take the time to relish in her newfound freedom. Since then she has realized that you only have one chance to do it right and that is one of her biggest regrets.

Afterwards however she learned how to manage her time more and buckled down to learn. She majored in Chemistry there but with the wisdom and guidance of her Spirit Mentor(most call them "College Advisors") she decided to go to Penn State College of Medicine for Pharmacology in Hershey because of its practical use, medical relevance, and the combination of both chemistry and biology(she didn't choose Penn State for the chocolate though). She then went to get her post-doc at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Now-a-days though she works at Duquesne University where she educates students. Her favorite part is getting to meet students that are like little birds. Students that require her help to grow and to learn but soon after become very capable and are able to survive on their own. Her second greatest accomplishment has to be helping her students to become independent thinkers and help them become ready to tackle gigantic challenges and obstacles. Her greatest accomplishment however has nothing to do with education. Her greatest accomplishment is her daughter.

Carpe Diem

Ian Carroll

Interview!! =)

So, I decided to interview Liz's grad student, Chelsee Krushaar. Let me say that Liz's lab is very funny and they have soo much fun in there.

Chelsee went to Canon-Macmillan high school and graduated in 2005. She then went to Carlow University for her undergrad and double majored in Biology and Chemistry. She specialized in autopsy technology. She then started at Duquesne.

Chelsee said that during her school life she was a nerd in high school. She was in band (which is awesome! =]) and she was very quiet. She didn't talk to many people. Once she got into college, she opened up a lot more by doing tours at Carlow University. If she could have changed anything, she would have been much more open in high school. I asked her what Canon-Macmillan was like considering it's a very big school and it's very different from where I attend high school. After hearing her opinion, we got into a discussion on opinions about different schools and how their educations differ from one another. Aside from having Chelsee's opinion, I also had some opinions of others in her lab. Chelsee, Tom, Shawn and I discussed the advantages and disadvantages of colleges and their educations. We also talked about the social aspect of college and the advantages and disadvantages of being on campus or commuting from home. Believe it or not, hearing all of their perspectives helped me a little bit.

I asked Chelsee what got her interested in what she does now and she said that there are many reasons. She has always been interested in biology and chemistry. It's something that she has always been good at. She has always been fascinated by the human body and how it works. Another thing that got her interested is that her mother is sick and that got her interested in the human body while she looked at what was wrong with her.

Finally, I asked Chelsee what her future plans and goals were after she was done with school. She said that after school, she would like to go into teaching. She'd like to be a professor at a college.