Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bayer Field Trip!

Bayer today was great. I learned and seen a lot. It helped me better understand what engineers do because that's what I want to be. My favorite part from the tour today was seeing the foam rise & lunch. It was great meeting some of the people who work at Bayer. When it's time to get my time to go to college, I want to become an intern there. The interns there seemed like they like it a lot especially because for some of them it was their second year at Bayer. Bayer is a very important and I never knew why.. but I found that out today! That is all for now. BYE :)

Bayer field trip

Today our group took a tour of the Bayer campus located not far from Duquesne. This was one of the first tastes of industrial chemistry I've ever gotten. RJ Lee group was nice, but I feel like it was more of a small company. That is definitely not the case with Bayer. I first noticed the big feel when we turned onto Bayer road. That's right, they have their own road.
The surprising thing wasn't how big they were, but how friendly the facility was. I'm not just talking about the people, but mostly everything was aesthically pleasing. I find that a very respectable thing about companies, when they care about their employees to tthat extent.
If I haven't stressed just how big Bayer is (which I think I have) prepare for more. Our tour stretched between two buildings, numbered one and eight. That means that there at least eight full sized R&D facilities on the campus, complete with countless machines. At one point we were even at a place where our tour guide had never been. They don't have all of these buildings just for show either. While on our tour we saw the variety of research they took part in, from developing top of the line bowling balls to their explsion proof glass. To say that they specialize in variety is a bit of an understatement.
While there were many enjoyable instances throughout the trip, my favorite was meeting the other two SEED students. They started a little later than us, so they're still acclimating to their environment. From what they could tell us though it is safe to assume our two work places are noticeably different. They have a lot more independence than us, being given a task for the day then left alone to do it. That isn't neccesarily a good or bad thing though, because I'm sure both methods have very fine advantages.
All in all, the Bayer trip was memorable and I won't soon forget it.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Blog Challenge #3

Post pictures and video of you and your fellow SEED students in action in the lab. Be sure to be wearing all of your personal protective equipment (goggles, lab coats, and gloves).

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Today was our first college tour in Project SEED. We went to Washington and Jefferson University and I have to say that before going there it wasn’t somewhere I would consider going. My first impression when I stepped on campus was that it had a good feel to it. Michael Leonard, the Associate Professor of Chemistry, greeted us when we got there. He gave us a tour of their new science building. It had really nice facilities and as we walked through a few students who were working talked to us about some of their research. One of the girls was working on a project with identifying the amounts of cocaine on dollar bills with gas chromatography. The building had three floors, with a small coffee shop on the first, and labs, classrooms and offices on the other two.

After that we went to the admissions office where Danielle Rohland spoke to us about all Washington and Jefferson had to offer, and she really did cover everything; from the admission process to financial aid, clubs, sports, academics and programs. One thing I heard over and over again throughout the day was the Magellan Project. The Magellan Project allows students to pursue research opportunities or projects anywhere in the world as long as it’s approved by the University President. They told us that one student went to a village in the Dominican Republic one year and set up clinics, then went back the next year and hired doctors to work in them and this year he’s bringing other students from Washington & Jefferson to work there with him. I think it’s a really good program because it’s only limited by what you can think up.

Then a student named Matt Yevins toured us through the rest of the campus. We saw the rest of the buildings on the campus, and the inside of a dorm room. The other buildings looked nice from the outside, since that’s all we got to see, and the dorm rooms felt cramped, but I think that’s just how it is in college. One thing I really hope they improve upon in the following years is installing air conditioning in the rest of their buildings. It wasn’t too bad today, but I don’t even want to imagine what it would be like the rest of the year. I hope there’s at least heating in the winter.

Finally we ended our tour with lunch. I think Dr. Leonard said that there was only one cafeteria to eat in on campus, although I’m sure there are other places to eat. It was all pretty standard, but the food was good and the view from where we sat by the windows was nice, at least.

Overall, I really wish there were engineering schools that had a campus as beautiful as W&J. I guess a few of them do, but it’s just not the same. I think W&J will be somewhere I apply this fall. They don’t have engineering, but they have a 3:2 program where I would spend three years at W&J focusing on math and science courses and then go to another school like Columbia or Case Western for two years to focus on whatever type of engineering I’d like to pursue.


Project SEED group in front of the technology center at W&J

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Washington and Jefferson trip

Today we went on a field trip to Washington and Jefferson college. To say that it surpassed my expectations is an understatement. You hear the name of two dead presidents and what comes to mind? Money? Snobbery? Maybe that was just for me, but I'm happy to say that none of those things seemed of prevelance to them. Our tour guide was very informative, and he stressed on giving us information about the college experience itself instead of selling us his school. That gave me a hint of the kind of teacher that they employ: caring first for education, then personal gain. I found that very impressive, because I was under the impression that every college was a ruthless business concerned first and foremost about their capital. Washington and Jefferson proved me wrong, and I couldn't be happier.

W & J Visit

This week’s field trip was to Washington and Jefferson College and I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. I went there this morning expecting a tiny old broken down college. Fortunately however this couldn’t be farther from the truth. The chemistry building is brand new just opening up last year. Even the old buildings on campus like old main were nice and had a certain character to them. The campus itself was also a lot bigger than I anticipated it being.

But that’s enough about the physical campus; much is also to be said about Dr. Leonard our beginning tour guide and professor of chemistry at W & J. He was very informative and talked to us about all of different opportunities that are available at the college. After his tour of the new chemistry facilities, we headed over to admissions to have a presentation which gave us some information on the college itself as well as the admissions process. Finally we ended the day with a full student led tour of campus, and lunch in the dining hall. Both went very well.

Overall the visit went very well, and I am now aware of the tremendous possible opportunities to be had at Washington and Jefferson College.

W&J College

Today's field trip was to Washington and Jefferson College, I liked it a lot. I'm considering on applying there but I'm not quite sure about going there yet. I still have many more options, I think I should still tour more colleges around the Pittsburgh area. Some things I liked about the college is that it's very nice, modern and old in some parts. It's by Tanger Outlets, one of my favorite places to shop! It's doesn't actually have the field that I want to major in but it has certain subjects that will start me off that'll prepare for the graduate school of engineering, but overall it was a great school.

Blog Challenge #2

Interview with Dwayne Coleman

Q:So, how's your day?
A:My day is going great.

Q:What did you work on today?
A: Today I worked on my powerpoint and tested samples using the IR.

Q:Do you like the things you are working on?
A:Yeah, my topic is pretty interesting.

Q:On a scale of 1-10, how much do you like this program?
A: I would definitely dive the program a 9 or a 10 because it is very informative and useful for the future.

Q:If you could, would you do this program again next year?
A: I would say yeah I would participate in the program next year if I could.

Q:Is there anything you would change about the SEED program?
A:No, nothing I can think of.

Q:How's your relationship with your professor, undergrad and/or grad students?
A:Both my professor and grad students are great, very friendly people.

Q:I heard you had a very good powerpoint presentation, were you nervous about that at all?
A:No, I wasn't all that nervous for my powerpoint presentation.

Q:Are you nervous about the symposium?

Q:Does anything your doing in your lab have anything to do with your future job of what you wanna be?
A:It could possibly have something to do with my future career but I'm not sure just yet.

Well thanks for your time, hope all goes well.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Blog Challenge #2

Deja Irvin interviewed by Dwayne Coleman

Q. Hello Deja how are you doing?
A. I am doing great
Q.What is the topic of your project?
A. Simulation of Leucine in Salt Solutions
Q. What practical applications does this have?
A. Leucine is actually in the human body. It is in
the liver, adipose tissue and muscle tissue
Q. How are you conducting your research?
A. We are using programs called VMD and NAMD
on the mac computers. We also use supercomputers
to run our salt boxes and get more info.
Q. Are you enjoying the research that you are doing?
A. Somewhat. I guess. Its a lot of work and its kind of
hard to.
Q. How do you like your professor and mentor Mary?
A. My professor is pretty good and very nice. And Mary?
I love mary she;s an awesome mentor/undergrad.
Q. What are you hoping to accomplish this summer?
A. More about Science to get me through my junior year of high school.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Blog Challenge #2

Investigating the pKa of Molecules within Protein Complex Cytochrome bc1
Interview with Sonny Smarra
Q:So Sonny how would describe what you've been researching with in the past couple weeks?
A:Confusing. Definitely harder than school, but its still kind of fun. I am a computer jockey. I spend all day staring at numbers on a screen. I make molecules in Gauss View. Then i transfer them over to Linux which then runs molecules through the supercomputer Voyager. It simulates how the molecules react in certain situations.
Q: How would this be important to me in everyday life?
A:It could lead to new anitbiotics and fungicides.
Q:How far are you in your research?
A:I am still getting used to operating systems, so only half way.
Q:What is Cytochrome bc1 and what does it help with?
A:Cytochrome bc1 is a protein, and it plays a vital role in energy storage.
Q:What happens to the body when it shuts down?
A:For humans it causes dieases like cardiomyapothy. But for bacteria and fungus if it were to malfunction it would essentially kill them.

Blog Chllenge #2

A Benign Novel Approach towards the Synthesis of Copper (I) Cyanide Coordination Polymers
Marissa De Fratti Interviewed by Liz Thornton
Q. How would you describe your project?
A. So, my project is to synthesize coordination polymers of copper. Coordination polymers they’re being studied because of their wide applications. We’re trying to make known and unknown coordination polymers and determine their crystal structures with x-ray crystallography. The usual methods require high temperatures and high pressure over long periods of time to obtain coordination polymers. We’re trying to use a more economical and environmentally friendly method.
Q. Why is your research important?
A. My research is important because coordination’s polymers are used in so many fields. They’re used for gas filtration with carbon dioxide, they’re used in luminescent like LED lights, and other things. So it makes the process of making the polymers for these products less costly and more environmentally friendly.
Q. What do you hope to accomplish?
A. We want to make unknown coordination polymers of copper, identify their crystal structures, and determine the final products in the process.
Q. How do you actually do this?

A. I synthesize different copper complexes with different ligands. So, to do that we start with our amino acid which is alanine and we add sodium hydroxide to deprotonate it, and dissolve it in methanol at room temperature. Then we take either copper (I) chloride or copper (I) bromide and dissolve it in methanol. The deprotonated amino acid is slowly added to the copper (I) solution. From that our products area copper complex and either sodium chloride or sodium bromide depending on which one we use. We filter out most of the salts. Then we take our ligand and dissolve it in methanol then slowly add it to the copper solution. From that we get our copper complexes.
Now we take our copper complexes and add 10 equivalents of azobisisobutyonitrile (AIBN), which is our reducing agent, and 2 equivalents of ascorbic acid for less reducing of copper complexes. Then we let them sit in an oil bath of 60-80˚C for 48hrs. Afterwards we will either get a crystal which is what we want or a powder which means that the reaction crashed. If it’s a crystal we identify the structure with x-ray crystallography and if it’s a powder we look at it with ultra violet/visible light spectroscopy.
Q. Has you project been successful so far?
A. Many of our coordination polymers have been crashing out or yielding bad crystals that are not orderly and periodic in their arrangement. We want the crystals to have very pristine structures, because that makes them easy to identify. Now we are experimenting with different methods that look promising.

Blog Challenge #2

Ivermectin Sensitive Glycine Receptor Mutations
Elizabeth Thornton interviewed by Marissa De Fratti

Q. How would you describe your project?

A. Well, I mutate plasmid (which is DNA) and then I put it into XL-1 Blue Supercompetent cells, which are a type of frog stem cells. After that we let them shake in the shakey-shakey machine overnight so that the DNA will be absorbed into the cells. Then we mini-prep the cells by putting them in different solutions (like ethanol) to lys them (which means to break them open) and then dump the solutions into test tubes. The test tubes are put into the centrifuge which rotates at high speeds and this process filters out unwanted material from the cell. Finally the solutions are sent with primers to Pittsburgh University for sequencing (which is the translation of the DNA to see if it was mutated).

Q. Why is any of that important?

A. The glycine receptor is directly related to nerves, including pain receptors. The glycine receptor is widely distributed throughout the body, mainly in the central nervous system. So, if the structure can be understood then we can understand why nerves keep sending signals to the pain center, even after the source of the pain has been healed. Hopefully, this will lead to the treatment of chronic pain.

Q. What do you hope to accomplish?

A. By mutating the cells we make them ivermectin (IVM) sensitive. This means that the glycine receptor will open when IVM attaches to it, when that happens we are able to control the glycine receptor state. The glycine receptor has an open, closed and desensitized state. When it’s open we can see the structure in that state. By looking at the receptor in its open state, which has never been seen before, we can then calculate what it would look like in its desensitized state. The desensitized state is almost the same as the closed state so with further calculations we can also determine its closed state.

Q. Has your project been successful so far?

A. Yes! We have all the mutations that we need: K206C, A290C, H419C. After the cells have been mutated, my part is over and the mutated glycine receptor plasmid is moved to the bacmid virus using Bac-to-Bac Baculovirus Expression System.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Today went well, presenting for my first time I was so NERVOUS!!!! I hope everyone thinks I did well because I tried my best, I feel I did do pretty good for the first time, it'll get better hopefully. My next big goal is to get my teragrid account moving because without that I can't really accomplish anything, I'd just keep talking about the same things and that's not very fun for me or you guys either. My other goal is to start working on the poster that'll be due next week I think. This program is very challenging, it's way more than what I expected it to be. Today is kind of slow though because no one is really here everyone went to kennywood, but other than that everything's okay for now. I just have to stay focused!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

First Field Trip

Our first filed trip was pretty cool. My favorite part was talking to Allison about forensics. Now that I've spoken with her about some things, I think I'm kind of interested in going that direction even though people say engineering is a good field to look into. I still have time to decide so I guess I'll have my mind set eventually. Anyways, were almost half way through the SEED program and I still haven't recieved my account for the super computer.I'm looking forward to getting that,as soon as I do get that I will be on the ball and rolling. That is all for today though, TTYL :)

RJ Lee trip

Todays trip to RJ Lee group was very interesting and informative. We spend time with some of the different groups at the company, including nanotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and the forensics divisions. their presentations and tours provided a lot of insight into the world of industry, and what kind of life and career that would yield. Probably some of the best advice I heard today was when thinking of a college major try to stay as broad as possible, for instance go for chemistry with a focus in forensics rather than a specialized forensics program. this advice I believe can be applied to just about anything not just forensic science.
But on a separate subject its hard to believe how fast the program is moving along. we are already well into the fourth week but it seems like such a shorter time. My Grad student mentor has been very helpful to me in things like editing my abstract, and pulling IR spectra off the computer so they can be used in a power point. And finally I would just like to say that I finally have an understanding of my topic

Blog Challenge 2

This is my interview of collaborator and fellow SEED studet Chelsea Weidaw.

Q: Hi Chelsea, how're you today?
A: Not bad, you?
Q: If you don't mind I'll be the one asking the questions here. Jeeze. Are you ready?
A: Oh yeah...I guess.
Q: Fantastic. Is SEED everything you expected?
A: Yeah I guess. It's a lot harder than i thought it would be. It's actually just the reading. Originally I didnt'k know what any of the words meant.
Q: I know what you mean. But Google was your messiah right?
A: Messiah...? If you mean did it help, yeah.
Q: Are you excited for the symposium?
A: I don't think excited is a good word to describe it. Anxious maybe.
Q: Anxious about what in particular?
A: Pretty much just the people. I might get some Einstein who knows everything to know about Forensic Analysis. He'd probably tear apart everything I said.
Q: I bet not! And plus you could always just hide under a box. Fool proof plan. Do you actually like what you're doing?
A: Of course! I love all the CSi and all the cop shows so this is really interesting. I know it wont't be anything like the shows but I'm ok with that. I don't think guns suit me anyway.
Q: So is your heart set on forensics for college?
A: I'd say so. Nothing else seems as interesting, at least to me.
Q: So what exactly is your project?
A: I'm analyzing hairs and the products used on them. It's basically using the GC/MS to really look at them.

So there it is, my interview of Chelsea. She has what she wants to do figured out. Which is more than I can say. I'm clueless.

Half way there!!

So i glanced at the calendar today and realized that the research symposium (Our main event) was only sixteen days away. It's amazing how fast the time is flying by. It seems like only yesterday i was scrambling to find my way here. I'm even almost okay with waking up at 6:30 in the morning. Almost.
However, on a better note, we went on a field trip today to tour the RJ Lee group building. What they do there is nothing short of amazing; they've studied from the air at Ground Zero to lead paint in Hasbro toys. That was the first time I think i've actually noticed industrial science. I'm not saying I thought everything happened by magic or anything, I just hadn't put much thought into it. I think that appealed to me most there was the talk we had on the finer points of forensic science. I was shocked to learn that bullet particles on an accused criminal didn't automatically spell guilty. They are apparently easily transferrable, the most common place this happens is actually the police station, which seems kind of counter productive to me.
Lets all give me a standing ovation though!! I'm actually starting to semi kind of sorta understand my project. On a serious note, most of it is starting to come together. When i first started to get it I was so thaknful. It was a breath of fresh air when I figured out how to enter my molecules into the supercomputer. I think it's time for me to go though. I still have work and all, so until next time!!

Field Trip

Today the Project SEED students including my self and Mr. Lucas took a tour of Rj Lee Group. It was an opportunity of a life time for myself. The workers there were so friendly and made the tour very educational plus fun. I learned a lot about what I want to study in college when I get out of high school. What i am very interested in is Forensic sciences. They had a lot of opportunies there to learn about forensics. I think I would be very interested in doing some kind of internship there or maybe even work there out of college. During the tour we were shown some very expensive instruments that would be very interesting to learn how to use. Overall this was the best place I've got to visit about what I would like to do for a living. I'm very thankful to have got to visit Rj Lee.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Blog Challenge #2

Interview one of your fellow Project SEED students and summarize their project in a blog post -most detailed, best written wins. Everyone should interview someone different.

As always, pictures and video are worth extra.