Monday, July 29, 2013

Blog Challenge #5

This blog challenge has 2 very different goals:

1. First you must write a 300 word essay reflecting on your symposium experience. Be sure to include a brief description of what the symposium is and how it was set up.

2. You must choose three potential grad students, professors, or other Duquesne Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences/Mylan School of Pharmacy personnel that you would be interested in interviewing to find out how they ended up here at Duquesne doing what they do. Keep in mind that YOU WILL be interviewing one of these individuals for next weeks blog challenge. If you unsure of a name, you may pick an area in which you might find a person eligible for the interview (i.e. someone in pharmacy, someone in biology). You may not choose your immediate co-mentor. In addition to choosing your potential candidates, you must write out at least 5 questions that you will be asking during your interview. You must post your own five to ten questions, but you may use other SEED student questions during the actual interview.

Good Luck and Enjoy

Thursday, July 25, 2013

SEED Celebration Day Article

Here is a link to a fantastic article about the 10 year anniversary of Project SEED at Duquesne University. Students, mentors and co-mentors should be extremely proud of their achievements over the last 10 years. ENJOY!!!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Blog Challenge #4

                Yesterday was the first celebration of Project SEED we have ever had here at Duquesne University.  This celebration was put together to really exxagerate how great Project SEED is and how it really does help kids in their future endeavors. A few of the Project SEED alumni were brought back to talk about how Project SEED has helped them and how it has influenced their career paths. The current SEED students were also asked to present. The year one students had to give a brief sumarry of their project, whereas the second year students(Charlie and I) had to give a 10 minute presentation about their projects.

I feel that the presentation I gave yesterday could have been much better. I feel that I did really well at our group meeting and it gave me a lot of confidence about the whole public speaking ordeal. However, when we got there, I saw how many people there were and I started to feel the pressure. Not to mention that everyone who presented before me did a fantastic job! That was my first time speaking in front of a large group of people with such a high stature. I remember just sitting there during Charlie’s presentation knowing that I was next up to the podium as I tried to keep myself from shaking.
If I were able to go back and do it all over again I would have done it way differently. I could tell that my voice sounded a bit shaky yesterday and I wish I would have stopped myself to calm down and take a deep breath. I feel that if I would have done that my whole presentation would have flowed a lot better and I wouldn’t have spoken so quickly.  I know that as I went through my PowerPoint there were a few things I forgot to mention that I probably should have. After I messed up a few times I became really nervous and I was so focused on getting it done and over with. I was pretty disappointed in myself about that and I just wish that I would have done as well as I did during our group meetings.                                                                 \
 Overall, I think I learned more about myself than from what the other people were presenting. I realized that presenting in front of all those people shouldn’t have been something to be nervous about. It’s just too bad that I didn’t come to that actualization sooner! It was still a great learning experience for me and I know that I will be better prepared in the future for when I have to speak in front of a group like that again. I feel that not a lot of people get to experience something like this and I am so grateful that I had the opportunity.  

Everyone that I met at the SEED celebration yesterday was incredibly nice to me. They all only had nice things to say. A few actually gave me advice on the career I am thinking of pursuing. The two that I remember the most were Kristine Olejar(not sure if that is spelled right) and the grad student from Carnegie Mellon University. Kristine is actually a student here at Duquesne and she will be in her 5th year in the pharmacy program they have here. It was really cool that I got to talk to her about that considering that could be a possible career for me one day. I actually found out that we live on the same street! I can't believe she has lived there my whole life and I have never even seen her before! So I thought that was really awesome that I got to meet her. The grad student from CMU was also really helpful. We discussed my future and what I plan on doing after high school. She gave me suggestions for colleges in case I decide to become a nurse practitioner rather than going into pharmacy.

I feel that the Project SEED celebration was an amazing idea. We were able to experience our first time of public speaking, see how previous SEED students benefited from the program, and got to make connections with many of the important people who attended yesterday. I know that I would love to come back in a few years and give public speaking another shot and hopefully be able to help the future generations of SEED students. To conclude blog challenge #4, I hope you all have a beautiful day and amazing weekend! :)

Blog Challenge #4

Where do I begin, yesterday at the Project Seed Day Celebration me and my fellow SEEDlings presented the 1st years went then came the 2ed year members went. I was the second to present after my fellow member Melissa who works in Dr, Wheelers lab. In my belief I didn’t do quit well I thought that I talked horrendously slow and was talking up to much time what was a minute and half or so turned into 5 minutes in my head. I felt like I was rumbling through my work, and forgot to say one thing about my project. But after the event had ended I walked back barefooted (because I was wearing heels) with Charles we got to the elevator to go up to the third floor in Mellon hall, we commended each other on how great the others presented. He told me that I really didn’t talk as slow as it felt and that I really gave detail and I looked like I really knew my material and that I explained everything in detail, and I told him how great of a presentation he gave and how he seemed like it was easier up in front of people rather then in front of us..

During this event I learned more about each on of my SEEDlings projects. And that I can actually speak in front of people that I don’t know. I also learned that my fellow members of SEED have some interesting projects. Kelly’s doing stuff with GSR on the SEM, Melissa is building molecules, Deion is make proteins and Charle is trying to find something with C.jijuni. I learned some good schools for Geology and also Some history About my little town from a guy who’s dad lived in McKees Rocks.

I meet some intrusting people there I meet Charles sister Candice Thornton, whom shares the same major I want to go into Geology. We talked about what kind of field there is in geology about how she went to see volcanoes in Utah. I meet I guy named Philip Clark, who’s father lived in McKees Rocks and how he has a book The History Of McKees Rocks and that his father has his picture in it. The third person I meet was Fio-Min and older Chinese lady we Talked about where I was from and what my project was on and about Project SEED. The last person I met was an Older man his name was Manny Miller, we all had a conversation about how his friend was a geologist and how his friend goes to Mexico once a year to look at these caves and the rocks nestled inside. But he hasn’t seen his friend in 7 years. Before I forget we also met the lady from Bayer she commented on how well Emily, Kelly, Melissa, and I presented. She also gave us this really cool pen with the periodic table in side of it.

(: Below are some of the pictures that I took from the Project SEED Day Celebration :)

Blog Challenge #4

Yesterday was the first ever Project SEED celebration day. It was a gathering of current Project SEED members, mentors, alumni of the Project SEED program, faculty members, and donors. This also marks the first time that I ever presented to a large group of people with high stature, so I was very nervous. That being said I think I did okay. If given the chance to present again I would explain my procedures and data more clearly. Also, I would have talked to more people individually during lunch.

 I did get a chance to talk to Tim McFadden, Kathy Fleming, Lauren from Bayer, a woman that networked, and the dean. Getting the chance to talk to Tim McFadden was great, because he did the same thing as me in SEED. I mainly talked to him about college. He told me that it is really fun, but you have to be able to balance yourself out between studying and everything else. He also told me about some of his friends that majored in nuclear engineering, which I thought was intriguing. Kathy Fleming actually came to me and said that her favorite part of my presentation was that I said "Although this isn't the best representation of a gel it was still a great learning experience". She said it was because in life sometimes things don't work out, but you still have to manage. Lauren, the lady that took our pictures, was wondering how I got to Duquesne everyday and if I thought transportation would be a reason not to do SEED. I told her I took the bus everyday and it shouldn't be an issue because Dr. Aitken would help them. The woman that networked told me about networking and how important it is. She also told me to be calm and relax before I presented. The dean was curious about how long our experiments took, which I told him each one takes a few days and we are currently working on a methyl viologen assay. He was amazed at the work that we all do. 

All in all the event was a great learning experience. I learned how great geology is and how to network. I learned that I need to be more confident in my abilities and less nervous. I got to hear from the alumni how the Project SEED program affected them. I learned truly how everyone cares about us and wants to see us succeed, which could just be seen in Larry's presentation.

Blog Challenge #4

Yesterday was the SEED celebration day.  A lot of people came to the event ranging from former SEED students to a head of an organization.  I thought the event went well and everybody had a good time at the event.  Multiple people spoke at the event, SEED students presented, even former SEED students talked about their experiences.

I personally thought my presentation was OK, it wasn't as smooth as i would've liked it to go but i thought i presented fine. I thought Charlie and Emily presentations were fantastic. To make my it even better i think i could've not of jumble my words up as much. I thought i could've of presented more smoothly and just take my time during the presentation and slow down a bit. I think  rushed myself a bit so i tried to speak faster and just jumbled my words.

I learned a lot from the former SEED students i thought they said some valuable things. Such as taking more then the just the research from this experience and take as much as you can from this experience.  They also mention that in retrospect SEED was a great experience and that us students should try to pursue everything possible.

Christopher Sidun, who was a former SEED student who also worked with Dr. Madura and i just talked to him about his research and my research.

I also talked to the ACS pittsburgh chapter chairman Tabitha ????, i dont remember her last name, but i talked her about SEED, college, what i'm interested in taking in college.

Blog Challenge #4

        Celebration of Project SEED day was yesterday and was a formal meeting with former SEED students, SEED alumni, and many very important people involved. There were presenters that included the SEED alumni, former SEED students, and part of the professionals who attended the meeting. Ther SEED I students were asked to give a 2 minute presentation of what their project is about and the SEED II students were asked to give a 10 minute speech.
        Since I am a SEED I student, I only had to give the 2 minute presentation, which was both good and bad. It was good because I wouldn't have to speak very long, but it was also bad bacause I feel like I didn't get to share all the information I should have for the audience there to understand my topic. But I do feel that my presentation went very well, I wasn't as nervous as I thought I was going to be, and adding a little sentence before my speech to make the crowd laugh loosened nerves and helped me present better. I would have improved the way I spoke throughout my speech though. I felt like I talked at a fast pace and the crowd couldn't keep up as well as I wanted them too. What I would have done differently, as I said before, slow down the pace that I talked, so everyone could keep up and follow along to what I'm saying.
        I learned many things during this event. The first thing I learned was, making small little jokes doesn't hurt anything, it only makes the presentation better. I also learned that there is no need to get nervous before a speech because if you practice as many times as I did, then the speech will go very smooth and exactly the way you practiced it.
        I cant't exactly remember the names of all the poeple I met and interacted with, but I know they were very nice and said I did a wonderful job presenting. One of the men who I met and interacted with actually sat beside me. He was an older man who was very interested in where I came from, how I ended  up at Duquesne, and the classes I enjoy in school. He was a middle aged man with galsses and a nice suit on, so he must have been important. He asked me what I want to go into once I graduate high school and if I'm interested in math and different types in science. I also met a woman from ACS who I actually met before the presentations and introduced herself to the SEED students. She was a very nice woman who also asked me how I ended up at Duquesne, how I found out about Poject SEED, an the classes that I'm interested in school.
        All in all, yesterday was a day that will be remembered,  not only because it was my first official formal presentation infront of many importat people, but because I am proud of myself for doing such a great job during my presenation and I was able to inform people of what I do here at Project SEED.

Blog Challenge #4

Yesterday was the SEED Celebration Day lunch. Representatives from Bayer, the American Chemical Society, students and faculty from Duquesne University, and current students and alumni from Project SEED all gathered together in the Power Center's ballroom to discuss what SEED was and what happens if you get accepted into the program. The Summer I and Summer II students gave a presentation lasting anywhere from 1 minute to 10 minutes describing to the audience what their project was and how much they enjoy their time here at Duquesne University.
As one of the Summer I students who had the opportunity to present in front of everyone, I can say that I think I did a better job of presenting than I thought I was going to do. I'm a natural introvert, so public speaking isn't something that I'm comfortable with doing at all, but I don't think I did that terrible. I think I could have done a better job of explaining what it is that I do, but with the time limit restriction, that was almost an impossible feat. If given the opportunity to do it all over, I would change my word choices and explain the more important parts of my project first.
I learned a lot of useful information during the event including the past experiences of former SEED students. I think it's really interesting how much this program has impacted their lives and I know that this program is affecting me in the same ways. Dr. Wheeler also gave me insight on the Bio-Medical Engineering exchange program that they have here at Duquesne. Half of the program is spent here at Duquesne University studying physics, and the other half takes place at The University of Pittsburgh studying engineering. This program sounds interesting to me so I might have to look into it.
I didn't interact with too many new faces yesterday, which was kind of disappointing, but I did get to meet a woman from Bayer who has a program similar to SEED at their headquarters in Sheraden. I also met, though she didn't introduce herself to me, another woman who I believe works at Bayer as well. She praised Emily, Cheyenne, Kelly, and I on our presentations and we spoke a little bit about how much we enjoy the program.
In conclusion, yesterday was a very fun learning experience and I am glad that I had the opportunity to present my project overview to not only Dr. Wheeler, but to everyone else, too. I can't wait until the symposium on Friday!

Blog Challenge #4

For this challenge:

By the end of the day, you must answer ALL of the following questions in at least a 250 word essay based on yesterdays event:

1. How do feel your presentation went? (what could you have improved? what would you have done differently)

2. What did you learn during the event? (this could be from a speaker or from anyone else in attendance)

3. Name (or describe if you can't remember the name) at least 2 people you met and briefly describe your interaction with that person.

Good luck!!!!

Friday, July 12, 2013


Small molecule-protein interactions involving  Substrate 4 of the Vitamin D receptor using computational alanine scanning
Grant, Deion; Madura, Jeffry D.
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Center for Computational Sciences
Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA 15281

Vitamin D is an essential enzyme that assists in the mineralization of bone, bone growth and bone remodeling. Experiments have been done to investigate the allosteric effects of ligands in the function of nuclear receptors using a method known as alanine scanning. Alanine scanning involves the mutation of binding pocket amino acids to alanine so that the importance of that amino acid in the binding pocket is determined. The free energy perturbation method in conjunction with the thermodynamic cycle is used to perform computational alanine screening. Using Substrate 4 in the vitamin D receptor the computational alanine scanning method can be validated. Preliminary results of the computational alanine scanning method will be presented in the poster.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


Predicting the Structures and Properties of Biochemical Electron Transfer Intermediates
Fowkes, Melissa; Boesch, Scott; Wheeler, Ralph A.
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Duquesne University
Quinones, a class of organic molecules, are important in electron transfer.  The para-benzosemiquinone neutral radical is an intermediate between the fully oxidized quinone and the fully reduced quinol. A variety of quantum chemical methods will be used to calculate the optimized geometries, vibrational frequencies and modes, and other properties of this radical in the gas phase and with implicit solvent. The computed data will be compared to available experimental data and methods of detecting the radical in proteins will  be suggested.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


The Investigation of periplasmic nitrate reductase

Thornton, Charles; Adams, Andrew K.; Thomas, John; Basu, Partha

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry;  The Project SEED Program; Duquesne University


The molybdoenzyme, periplasmic nitrate reductase (NapA), plays an important role in the vitality of the pathogenic bacterium, Campylobacter jejuni. C. jejuni is a microaerophilic bacterium that grows anaerobically by utilizing nitrate as an electron acceptor. Infection by C. jejuni is one of the most common causes of gastroenteritis in the United States. NapA cloned from C. jejuni has successfully been overexpressed in E. coli. Produced protein has also been successfully isolated and purified for further studies using a reduced methyl viologen assay. Other techniques, such as Immobilized Metal Affinity Chromatography (IMAC) and Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate Polyacrylamide Gel Electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE), have been used to further study this enzyme. IMAC was performed to retain the protein in a column that contained immobilized nickel ions for the purification of the polyhistidine tag. SDS-PAGE was done to see if NapA was present in the protein sample.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


The synthesis and characterization of nanocrystalline Cu- and Li-based quaternary sulfide semiconductors.

Simmons, Cheyenne L.; Brant, Jacilynn A.; Aitken, Jennifer A. Duquesne University Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry


The purpose of this project was to recreate Cu2CoSnS4 nanoparticles, which was reported in a paper published by Changhua An, et al. We have also tried to make new nanoparticles with the general formula Li2MSnS4 where M = Co, Fe, etc. After we synthesized the nanoparticles we analyzed them using the Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) along with the Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy (EDS). With the Scanning Electron Microscope, we characterized the size and shape of our particles. We used Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy to determine the composition and formulae of the new nanoparticles to see if the intended elements were incorporated into the nanoparticles. To further characterize, we used X-ray powder diffraction to identify the structures of our crystals we made, and UV-Vis-NIR Spectroscopy to determine the band gaps.


The Investigation of the Presence of Organic GSR on SEM Stubs

Pesta, Kelly; Wetzel, Stephanie; Ali, Leah

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Duquesne University

 A Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) stub was looked over to identify both inorganic and organic gunshot residue (GSR) to ensure that the stub contained GSR and not particles found in the environment.  To find the inorganic GSR particles, the SEM was used.  The Liquid Chromatography- Mass Spectrometer (LC-MS/MS) was used to find organic GSR. The limit of detection of the components of GSR- Akardite II solid, Methyl Centralite, Ethyl Centralite, and Single Based Gun Surveillance – was detected using the LC-MS/MS. After finding the limit of detection, an extraction method was developed to extract organic GSR from an SEM stub.  The presence of organic GSR was tested for on a cloth with GSR particles found on it, an SEM stub with GSR particles on it, and an SEM stub with GSR, which was scanned on the SEM. Findings from the cloth, SEM stub, and the scanned SEM stub were compared.


Design and Development of High School Science Laboratories Utilizing Remote-Access Scanning Electron Microscopy

Janicki, Emily L.; Gault, Joe H.; Rosmus, Kimberly A.; Larry, Nolan R.; Aiken, Jennifer A.
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Duquesne University
Four laboratory experiments utilizing a scanning electron microscope (SEM) were designed to be implemented into local high school science classrooms following the Pennsylvania State Standards and the Science Keystone Assessment Anchors. SEM is used to observe the surface morphology of a material and to measure sample features such as crystallite size. The students will be introduced to basic techniques of electron and light microscopy with an introductory lab that uses a copper penny. Observing differences between the morphology of salt and sugar (rock candy) as well as differentiating between NaCl and KCl will also be examined. The microscopy experiments were developed to include the following teaching resources:  remote access guidelines, pre-lab presentation, teacher and student edition laboratory instructions, and SEM videos and micrographs. This projected was funded by the National Science Foundation, Grant No. CHE-0923183.

Blog Challenge #2

Our blog challenge was to take action photos (below) of each other, and with or partner Write a bio of each other.

Melissa working in her cubical on her computer.

Deion working in his project in the computer lab.

Kelly mixing water and acetone
Charlie picking chemicals
Emilie working on the Scanning Electron Microscope
My partner for this challenge was Melissa Fowkes. She's 16 and a junior at Sto-Rox High School. She is currently living in Mckees Rocks, Pennsylvania. Her interest in science is BioMedical Engineering. She always didn't have an interest in the engineering field, though. When she was younger she wanted to be an Entomologist and study insects, but her cousin who works at the University of Pittsburgh influenced her curiosity. Her project is working with the organic molecule P-Benzosemiquinone neutral radical. Density Functional Theory calculations were performed on it. She compares her results to experimental results of others. GaussView5 and Linux operating systems are some of the computer programs she uses to view the vibration frequencies of PBQ. The colleges she is interesting in applying to is John Hopkins University or the University of Pittsburgh. She wants to study BME. Her words on the project she is currently doing are, "It could be more exciting, but I like what I'm doing."

Blog Challenge #3

This blog challenge is a 1 day challenge............  

By the end of today, each student must post their final abstract (approved by their mentor....I will check on this) as it is to be seen in the URP symposium booklet (i.e. correct font and style, proper title, and proper name credits)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Blog Challenge #2 Pictures

For our second blog challenge we had to take pictures of the other Project SEED members engaged in their work. We were also assigned partners to interview and my partner was Deion Grant. Deion is 17 years old and is going into his senior year at Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy. He is interested in engineering because he likes to build and create things. He wants to attend the University of Pittsburgh for further studies because they have a really good engineering program. This year he is working with Vitamin D receptors to measure the effects of different substrates. He is going to do this by replacing each substrate with Alanine, which is known as Alanine scanning. Alanine scanning is usually done experimentally. He is trying to reproduce those results from the experiments through computor simulation.

Kelly Pesta cleaning her beaker with DI water.

Emily Janicki working on the SEM.

Deion Grant replacing his Vitamin D receptor with his substrate.

Melissa Fowkes comparing bond distances on the C6H4O2 molecule.

Cheyenne Simmons adding 1M HCL to her crystal mixture.




Blog Challenge #2

Kelly working in the lab.

Cheyenne examining different chemicals   

Emily working with SEM.

Melissa working with molecules on a computer.
Charlie in the cold room, picking out buffer solutions
(Stolen,Melissa's Photo,  I couldn't get my own picture due to a group meeting)

Charles Thornton is a 17 year old senior that attends Storox high school.  He lives in Mckees Rocks and is interested in nuclear engineering.  He is interested in attending the University of Pittsburgh.  His project is a continuation of his project last summer. He is learning biological and biochemical techniques. He is investigating periplasmic nitrate reeducate A. He is trying to isolate the protein to do further studies in order to run kinetics. 

Blog Challenge #2

For our second blog challenge we were told to take action shots of the other five Project SEED students while engaged in their projects. The photos can be viewed below. We were also assigned partners to interview and my partner was Kelly Pesta. Kelly is from Boardman, Ohio and will be going into her Junior year of high school. She is 16 years old and says that science is one of her favorite subjects. Her project is on the identification of organic gunshot residue. She told me how she wanted to go into Forensics after high school and I think that her project will be extremely helpful with her future endeavors!

Kelly Pesta creating her dilutions and properly cleaning her equipment

Cheyenne Simmons removing the solvent from her crystal mixture

Deion Grant creating a PGN file

Melissa Fowkes as she reviews vibrational frequencies for C6H5O2

Charles Thornton selecting a buffer to use for cell lysis