Christian Brothers University
School of Sciences Newsletter
February 2007

By Johnny B. Holmes, Ph.D., Dean of the School of Sciences

Featuring Chemistry and Faculty Research

Note from the Dean News of the Moment Featured Article: Faculty Research Featured Alums Thank you's Featured Department: Chemistry

Dr. Holmes

A Note from the Dean

We are all excited about the real possibility of a new building (see a picture in the November newsletter and the layout of the chemistry floor below) and a refurbishment of our present building! Fundraising is proceeding well and we are actively working with the architects on planning the details. What fun! But the real fun, the reason for all of the facilities, is to better show and teach how much fun the sciences (and math) can be: playing with ideas and trying to make sense of things (theories), playing with our toys (lab instruments) to check our ideas and look for clues to expand our theories, playing with the computer to better see where the data is pointing us to. Oh, and by the way, these ideas and tools really can help society and help individuals in that society. And, oh by the way, you can make a good living having this kind of fun. Of course, to have this much fun requires work, discipline, and time management on the part of the students and the faculty. From my point of view, I see this work, discipline and time management by our students and faculty daily, and I see the fun and sense of accomplishment that it gives rise to.

Although CBU emphasizes effective and enjoyable teaching, faculty also perform service and are responsible for continuing their professional development. In this issue we feature our faculty's research and professional development efforts. As you will see, these efforts often involve students directly. This is also the issue that we feature the Chemistry Department with its four areas of concentration (options): traditional chemical research and lab work, pre-medicine, pre-pharmacy, and pre-forensic science. We have a faculty dedicated to effective teaching and we have laboratory components for most of our chemistry courses that use up to date instrumentation in all five of the major areas of chemistry: analytical, biochemistry, inorganic, organic, and physical chemistry.

If you have comments, questions or reactions, you may send an e-mail now to . If you are interested, there are newsletters from the other CBU Schools (Arts, Business and Engineering).

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floor plan for chemistry floor in new science building

News of the Moment

On the right is the present floor plan for the 2nd level (Chemistry floor) for the new science building. Click on the links for pdf files for
first (biology) floor of both buildings,
second (chemistry) floor of both buildings,
top floor (math/CS) of new building, and
basement (physics) floor of present building.

Planning for a new science building and the renovation of the existing Science Center continues. On Thursday, Nov. 30 and again on Friday, Dec. 15, the dean and four department chairs met with the architects to work on the plans. On January 5, the architects met with the faculty by departments to get further information about what is needed in each of the spaces. The Sciences' department chairs have been working on individual lab room plans, and we are scheduled to meet with the architect and a lab specialist on Feb. 23 to review the room layouts. This is truly an exciting time for the School of Sciences!

On Wednesday, December 6, Dr. Stan Eisen presented a lecture on the Genetics of Alcoholism at the December meeting of the Memphis Area Psychological Association.

Memphis Marathon

The runner in the picture on the left who is waving is Dr. Sandra Thompson-Jaeger of our Biology Department.

From the Dec. 11 edition of the CBU Connection: CBU was well represented in the St. Jude Marathon on December 2. In the half marathon, Shawna Engel (Advancement) finished in 1:50:17, Charlene Yeung (Business '07) finished in 1:50:37, Josh Dove (Mechanical Engineering '07) in 1:56:48, and Dr. Sandra Thompson-Jaeger in 2:12:32. Among the alumni finishing in the half-marathon were Ben Knoernschild ('05) in 1:13:11, Shawn Morgan ('06) in 1:55:42, Laura Kreager ('06) in 1:55:00, Nick Salvaggio ('06) in 2:05:15, and Kim Schwartz ('93) in 2:09:37. In the full 26-mile marathon, Megan Rice (Business '07) finished in 5:04:23, and Ashley Prevost (Chemical Engineering '07) finished in 5:04:29. Alumnus and trustee Joe Birch ('78) finished in 4:47:40, and Dr. Frank Buscher (former dean, School of Arts) ran the race in 3:18:50. (Dr. Buscher sends word from Rhodes to expresses his gratitude to the friends and former colleagues at CBU who sponsored him.)

The Science Olympiad will again be held at CBU on Feb. 24th. We hosted this event last year for the first time in which we offered 14 activities in each of the two divisions (Grades 6-9, and Grades 9-12). We are looking forward to a good olympiad this year also. Br. John Monzyk is again running the event, and expects 9 or 10 schools and about 140 students to participate this year.

The Memphis and Shelby County Science Fair will be held on March 19-22, 2007. CBU is one of the sponsors of the Science Fair and CBU's Brother Kevin Ryan, FSC is the Director. Judges are needed on Tuesday March 20, 2007 from Noon to 3 PM. If you can help, please send an e-mail now to .

Dr. Adam Cartwright at Dr. Fitzgerald's Biocareers class

The image on the right shows Dr. Adam Cartwright in Dr. Fitzgerald's Biocareers class.

Dr. Adam Cartwright (chemistry alum, 2002) spoke in Dr. Malinda Fitzgerald's Biocareers class February 12th. He talked about the medical school process and his experiences while in school and his current internship. He graduated from medical school in 2006 and is doing a year of translational medicine before moving to Florida for his anesthesiology residency. Dr. Cartwright is one of several alumni that will share their experiences with the current science majors in Dr. Fitzgerald's class.

The Thirty-Eigth Annual Competitive Examination in High School Chemistry and the Twenty-Second Annual Local Examination for the Chemistry Olympiad will be held at CBU on Saturday, April 14. Analice Hosey Sowell, Chemistry alum 2002, is serving as the Committee Chair for this event. CBU and the Memphis Section of the American Chemical Society are sponsoring this event.

The CBU section of the Society of Physics Students has been awarded an Outstanding Chapter Award for the 2005-2006 academic year! Congratulations to the members and to the moderator, Dr. John Varriano!

Spring Break is coming up. It will be the week of March 4-10.

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Featured Story: Faculty Research

student research with Sciences faculty

The picture on the left shows Micah Wheeler, Math alum 2005, with Dr. Leigh Becker who worked with Micah on his senior research.

Faculty development in the School of Sciences at CBU happens in many different ways. All faculty work on their courses, both keeping up with constantly expanding content and improving the course materials and delivery. Work on developing course web pages and web resources keeps many of our faculty active throughout the year. Work on new and improved laboratory experiments also keeps many of us busy and involved in the lab. Work on using the power of the computer to aid instruction also is a source of continued faculty effort. While many of our students do their senior research with researchers at local research institutions, some of the Sciences' faculty are able to work with students on their student research. In particular, Dr. Malinda Fitzgerald and Dr. Stan Eisen have worked with students in biology, Dr. Marguerite Cooper has worked with natural science students, Dr. Dennis Merat and Dr. Mike Condren have worked with chemistry students, Dr. Leigh Becker has worked with math students, and Dr. John Varriano has worked with physics and even some engineering students on their senior research projects. In Computer Science, Dr. Arthur Yanushka oversees the Computer Science internships.

Some of us are able to find the time to devote to the traditional form of faculty development: publishing our research. Listed below are some areas of active interest and some of the papers that were published by the Sciences faculty in 2006.

Dr. Leigh Becker is currently working on a differential equations textbook entitled Ordinary Differential Equations: Concepts, Methods, and Models. He is also writing a solutions manual and Maple worksheets to accompany the textbook. Research interests are in the areas of integral and integro-differential equations. He had two papers published that were noted in the October newsletter.

Dr. Pascal Bedrossian is interested in optimization problems related to Graph Theory. He designed and implemented a Final Exam Schedule for CBU that allows for some classes to have a common final exam, while others are scheduled based on the class meeting time. The schedule does not contain any conflicts and minimizes the number of final exams a student will have to take on any given day during the final exam week.

Dr. Condren's Chem 115 lab

Pictured on the right are students working in Dr. Mike Condren's CHEM 115 lab. They are making a liquid that responds to a magnet (a ferrofluid). Dr. Condren helped develop this experiment during his previous sabbatical.

Dr. Mike Condren is presently on a one year sabbatical at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he is continuing his collaboration with the Interdisciplinary Education Group of the Material Research Science and Engineering Center. His work with this group has involved the creation of educational materials for teaching the concepts of modern materials. This association has resulted in many publications and invitations for presentations at scientific meetings throughout the United States.

Dr. Stan Eisen has done research on distribution patterns of helminth parasites among centrarchid fishes. More recently, however, he has focused his research on the effects of larval exposure to ethanol among wild-type and mutant strains of Drosophila melanogaster. Currently, he is writing a textbook on the biology of addiction.

Dr. Malinda Fitzgerald is interested in the neural regulation of choroidal blood flow and the importance of this regulation for the health of the eye. Her particular area of concentration is how neural regulation is altered in disease and in the normal aging process. She has been an invited speaker, attended meetings and had two papers published in the last few months (see previous newsletters).

Dr. Dennis Merat has research interests that include: 1) Isolation and characterization of possible calcium-binding proteins from soft plant tissues, including fruit produced by Actinidia deliciosa and by species belonging to the genus Ilex and 2) Investigation of possible roles for calcium-binding proteins in the maturation of fruit of species belonging to the genus Ilex.

Dr. Holmes Peacher-Ryan is interested in the robustness of statistical tests which assume normal variables when those tests are used to analyze ordinal variables (as an example, the analysis of five-point Likert-scale items by factor analysis). He is also interested in the related areas of: (1) the human dimension of effective consulting; (2) the cognitive psychology of how people understand and manage uncertainty and risk (as an example, Tversky and Kahnemanís Prospect Theory and the work of Gerd Gigernzer); and (3) the characteristics of effective tutoring. Dr. Peacher-Ryanís newest interest is the statistical side of bioinformatics. His publications and papers are predominantly on medical or physiological topics where his role was that of biostatistician. He has done some consulting work this academic year.

Br. Edward Salgado uses his summers to work on Philippine ferns. This summer he conducted research at the Edinburgh Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, Scotland, at the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew, England, and at the Natural History Museum, London, England.

To see the professional interests of the rest of the Sciences' faculty, visit the Faculty Spotlight pages on our web site.

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Gary and Anita Latham

Featured Alum: Gary Latham (1991) Gary and his wife Anita are pictured on the right

I received a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Toxicology from Vanderbilt in 1995, did an American Cancer Society postdoc in DNA replication enzymology at the University of Oregon, a quick stint at a diagnostics company, and then settled at a biotech outfit called Ambion in Austin, TX. Ambion sells molecular biology reagents and kits for the isolation, manipulation, and analysis of nucleic acids, particularly RNA. I was the founding member of their protein engineering division, and went on to run one of the company's three major divisions (Sample Preparation Technologies). Ambion was sold to another life science company last year to raise money for a spin-off a molecular diagnostics company called Asuragen, which is my current employ. At Asuragen, I am a group leader in the Discovery division; we develop enabling technologies for the sensitive and specific detection of small RNA from clinical samples such as blood, fixed tissue biopsies, etc. in pursuit of molecular "signatures" that provide prognostic and diagnostic value for the early detection and stratification of various cancers. Our specialty is RNA interference and microRNA, which has been a very hot topic over the past few years. We are well funded, thanks to the lucrative Ambion sale, but we are also good grant writers and bring in money from the NIH. I have $2M in NIH grants, and our group as a whole has some $6M in government funding. My first US patent just issued, and I have 7 more in the queue. The work keeps me thinking all the time (which increases my hopes that I'll stave off Alzheimers in my old age); for me, there is no substitute for being on the cutting edge.

Being in Austin is terrific as well. We have a great live music scene here, and I play in a semipro band (I had a partial music scholarship at CBU until they shut down the band program, tsk, matter I picked my trumpet back up after 15 years and am having a fabulous time playing around town). My wife, Anita, teaches biology and genetics at the University of Texas, and we have two children, Alex (age 9) and Jax (10 mos). We stay busy, engaged, and on the move.

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Thank You's to Science Faculty

From Gary Latham, 1991 chemistry, the featured alum:

Dr. Holmes:

Share ahoy.  If I've had success in my career I can at least thank the CBU science staff 
in no small part for inculcating a framework of critical thinking and analysis that I 
carry with me to this day.  I have met others from undergraduate schools with far better 
tools, toys, and vastly deeper budgets, but for what it had, CBU delivered an outstanding 
intellectual value.  In fact, I still have my biology, chemistry, and physics notes, and 
I have used them as resources for both my own teaching and my wife's.

At some point, I would love to come back to CBU and give a seminar.  If I find myself 
in Memphis at fitting time, I'll certainly give you a ring!


Mary Carole Taylor Jackson

From Mary Carole Taylor Jackson, 2000 biology (see picture on the right)

It was great hearing from you. ... and I am working for Abbott Labs selling 
Pharmaceuticals. I have never been so glad I took vert phys in my life. I 
sell a blood pressure medicine that gets all into RAAS. You would be 
proud!!!! ...

Miss ya'll 
Mary Carole Jackson 

Chem 115 lab

The picture on the left shows our Chem 115 lab in action.

This next e-mail refers to the lab component of Dr. Mike Condren's CHEM 115 course that he developed specifically for electrical, mechanical and civil engineering students. More about this can be found in the featured department section later in this newsletter.

Date: Fri, 17 Nov 2006 11:46:51 -0600
From: Chris Nelson 
To: Dr. S. Michael Condren - Chemistry 
Cc: Eric Dean 
Subject: Re: Our Chance Meeting this AM


It was a pleasure meeting you last Friday (by chance) 
and I'm glad that you sent the link to your Chemistry 
Lab web page.  It looks like a great use of the ELVIS 
equipment.  If you don't mind, I may forward your web
page to other Chemistry faculty in Wisconsin when the 
occasion seems appropriate.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

Chris Nelson
WI District Sales Manager | National Instruments 

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Organic Chemistry lab

Featured Department: Chemistry
(In each issue we feature a different department or major.)

The picture on the right shows Dr. David Dawson helping students in the Organic Chemistry lab.

The Chemistry Department at CBU is very successful in getting its graduates into medical schools, pharmacy schools, into graduate programs (for example, see the featured alum earlier in this issue and the featured alum in the September issue), and directly into the workforce upon graduation.

The department offers a four-year program leading to a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry. Four paradigm options are available: a traditional paradigm designed for students interested in graduate school or working in a chemistry lab, a paradigm designed for pre-med students, a paradigm for pre-pharmacy students, and a paradigm for pre-forensic science students. The Department also offers, in conjunction with the Department of Education, a four-year program leading to a Bachelor of Science degree in natural science with teaching licensure in chemistry or chemistry and biology for grades 7 through 12. The Chemistry program provides students with an understanding of chemical principles in the areas of analytical, biochemistry, inorganic, organic, and physical chemistry. Students gain laboratory skills and the ability to select and utilize appropriate instrumentation to investigate and solve specified problems.

One of the main aspects of our chemistry program that contributes to its success is the number and quality of the labs that support the lectures. Labs are a place where students get to know the subject by working with the subject and working closely with the instructors. The CBU lab instructors are usually the same professors that teach the lecture component of the course. The Chemistry Department regularly offers 16 different courses and 12 of those 16 have labs attached. The labs have excellent equipment thanks to some large grants from the Assisi Foundation as well as others. The department has a web page showing and explaining their major instruments.

Molecular Modeling Center

The picture on the left shows Analice Hosey Sowell, chemistry alum 2002, at the Molecular Modeling Center.

Chemistry is very much a three dimensional subject, and the imaging capability of computers has greatly enhanced our ability to visualize in three dimensions. The Chemistry Department has recognized the importance of this kind of tool, and with the help of donors has created a Molecular Modeling Center.

The Chemistry Department serves not only its own majors, but many others including other science and engineering majors. For the electrical, mechanical and civil engineers, Dr. Mike Condren has developed a one semester chemistry course with lab, Chem 115, that is more solid state than the traditional wet chemistry necessary for biology, chemistry, and chemical engineering students.

A quality education is a team effort, and at CBU that team comprises not only the fauculty but also the students. We have a section of the Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society at CBU that has won national recognition.

The results of a CBU chemistry degree, and with any of the CBU science degrees, is quite impressive. The statistics for the past five years for acceptance into medical, pharmacy, and other health professional schools were highlighted in the September newsletter.

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Sciences home page that includes links to previous issues
CBU home page