University of Evansville

Chemistry E-Newsletter

June 2013

In this edition

  • The Dr. Lowell Weller Chemistry Instrumentation Fund
  • Departmental News
  • Student Profile: Ben Fritch
  • Alumni Profile: Robert and Judy Wargel, Class of 1966
  • Dr. Ray Lutgring named Dean of College of Arts and Sciences
  • Dr. Bryan Lynch Sabbatical at MIT
  • New Faculty Hires that will Begin this Fall UE
  • Alumna Kate Upton Meets with First Lady Michelle Obama
  • Dr. Bill Morrison retires after 38 years of service
  • Note from the Chair
  • Awards and Banquets

The Dr. Lowell Weller Instrumentation Fund

The Dr. Lowell Weller Chemistry Instrumentation Fund was recently established in honor of professor emeritus, Dr. Lowell Weller. The endowment was created to acquire funds to replace the department's 15-year-old nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometer that is no longer functional. After only a few months, and with the help of alumni, donors, and the Kresge endowment fund, enough funds have been raised to purchase a new NMR spectrometer! In fact, a new 400 MHz Bruker Biospin NMR spectrometer has been ordered and should be on campus by the end of the summer. An operative NMR is essential for not only teaching and research but also for the department to continue to be certified by the American Chemical Society. The Department of Chemistry is extremely grateful to all who contributed to the fund, including the chemistry majors of the Class of 2013 who saw the importance of giving back and raised $245.02 toward the new instrument. Although funds have been raised for the NMR spectrometer, the chemistry department welcomes funds to help update and replace instrumentation in order to keep up with industry and ensure that our students are the most prepared for opportunities post-graduation. Therefore, we are continuing the Dr. Lowell Weller Chemistry Instrumentation Fund and your continued support is appreciated

To donate, click on this link: Your gift is appreciated!

Departmental News

  • Dr. Ray Lutgring was named dean of the College of Arts and Sciences by John Mosbo, the senior vice president for academic affairs.

  • Dr. Arlen Kaufman presented "Determination of Secondary Plant Metabolites using Desorption Electrospray Ionization (DESI) and Tandem Mass Spectrometry" at this year's International Gordon Research Conference (GRC) on Plant-Herbivore Interactions.

  • Dr. Bryan Lynch spent this past semester on sabbatical at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

  • There will be two new faculty members joining the chemistry department team in the fall: Dr. Andy Lampkin and Dr. Mike Slade.

  • The Dr. Lowell Weller Instrumentation Fund raised over $150,000 toward the purchase of a new NMR spectrometer.

  • This spring Dr. Todsapon Thananatthanachon was elected the chair of the local Indiana-Kentucky border section of the American Chemical Society.

  • Senior biochemistry majors Michael Grassmyer and Emily Wood presented "Extraction and Kinetic Analysis of Phytase in Animal Feeds" at MESCON 2013.

  • Senior biology and chemistry double major Zuzana Kocsisova presented "Preference of Mycophagous Drosophila for Ethanol and a-amanitin" at MESCON 2013.

  • MESCON 2013 saw research presentations from 13 universities, and over 100 people attended. Sincere thanks and gratitude goes out to CIHOLAS Inc. and Mead Johnson Nutrition, who sponsored the event.

  • Senior chemistry major Tyler Lytle and junior chemistry and physics double major Ben Fritch presented "Catalytic Activity of Metal-Pincer Complexes in the Conversion of Biomass Substrates to Liquid Biofuel" at MESCON 2013. Their research was also featured in the November issue of Crescent Magazine.

Student Profile: Ben Fritch

Ben Fritch

Ben Fritch is a junior professional chemistry and physics double major who started doing research in the fall semester of his sophomore year with Dr. Todsapon Thananatthanachon, assistant professor of chemistry. Although many students will do research as undergraduates at UE, few seem to enjoy it as much as Fritch. "It was important to me to get involved with a research group to see if it was something that I would want to do in the future," he said. "I was researching different undergraduate research projects at different universities when the e-mail from Dr. Tod was sent. The project sounded interesting, so I expressed my interest in being a part of his group."

Fritch and Dr. Thananatthanachon's research has focused on developing metal-pincer complexes and using them to catalyze the reduction of benzaldehyde into benzyl alcohol. His efforts and dedication to the research earned him the opportunity to present at MESCON 2013 and NCUR. He strongly encourages his fellow students to give themselves the chance to experience the same opportunity.

"Get involved," he said. "If you think that you may be at all interested in research, you should join a research group. Being involved in a research group allows for the further development of lab skills, critical thinking skills, presenting skills, and furthers a person's knowledge of chemistry."

In addition to doing research, Fritch serves as the secretary of the Chemistry Club, the Society of Physics Students activities officer, and lab grader for the chemistry department. In order to keep up with classes, research, and extracurricular activities, Fritch manages his schedule with a great deal of self-discipline. "Like most people," he said, "I set aside ample time to study. If it runs into 'play time,' which it usually does, then you just have to push through it." When he is not just pushing through a stack of homework or focusing on research, Fritch most enjoys spending his time doing sports such as bowling, disc golf, hunting, and listening to music.

Fritch plans to continue doing research in graduate school. "I hope to combine chemistry and physics. I was always curious about where the line between chemistry and physics was drawn. Although I feel like a chemist at heart, the skills I learn in physics classes and labs are very helpful in understanding not only the more abstract concepts, but also the basic concepts. I like the physical aspect of chemistry, so I hope to be able to study physical chemistry or chemical physics at a deeper level."

One thing he does not plan on doing is losing touch with the university that has made such an impact on him. "I will miss the smell of the research lab, doing research, and being taught by professors who truly care about the education and the well-being of students," he said. "The chemistry professors are all eager and willing to help a student understand what it is he or she is studying. This has been helpful. It is important to stay connected. After all, being a student at UE is a learning and growing experience that is a part of who we are."

Alumni Profile: Robert and Judy Wargel

Bob and Judy Wargel were students of UE when it was still known as Evansville College, and they have remained connected through the years to the university where they first met.

For Judy, whose mother had graduated from Evansville College, attending UE was a family tradition. Still, she had another reason for choosing UE. "I did not feel I was ready to attend a larger school or be away from home. In those days, many of us lived a more sheltered existence."

Bob's reasons for coming to UE, however, were "purely financial" he said. "It was all I could afford. I enlisted in the Air Force after high school. Upon discharge, I returned to Evansville, lived at home, and worked full-time while attending college."

There was one thing Bob and Judy had in common: their major. They were both chemistry majors but it didn't start out that way. "We both entered UE with different ideas of what we wanted for our major," Judy said. "Our freshman advisor, Dr. Schultz, indicated that we would be bored without chosen programs, and that we should pursue degrees in chemistry. This was a life-defining moment for both of us."

After graduation in 1966, Bob attended Northwestern University in Illinois to pursue a PhD. He had been considering a university in Tennessee for its warmer climate, but Dr. Lowell Weller advised him that Northwestern was the better opportunity. The proximity of Northwestern to Chicago offered greater job opportunities for Judy. The Wargels are very grateful to Dr. Weller for his advice (another life-defining moment).

While Bob pursued his PhD, Judy joined Abbott Laboratories where she worked as an information scientist, a medical writer, and ended up in regulatory affairs. Later in her career, she worked for TAP Pharmaceuticals, which was a joint venture between Abbott Laboratories and the Japanese company Takeda, where she interacted with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as well as regulatory agencies in other countries in order to get drugs developed by Takeda in Japan approved for marketing in the US and elsewhere.

After graduating from Northwestern, Bob joined Kraft Foods as a research scientist to do basic research. He then went on to the product development department, where he created new products/processes and modified old ones. "I worked in many different plants implementing these modifications or new products and processes," he said. "In this capacity, I worked closely with many disciplines, including marketing, regulatory affairs, patent lawyers, and production personnel from the various plants, as well as engineering."

After retirement (Judy in 1999 and Bob in 1996), they have given themselves the job and title of "Super Volunteer." In addition to the UE, they are involved with the St. Mary Catholic Church's Food Pantry and Soup Kitchen, Tri-State Food Bank, St. Joe County Catholic Church's Haiti outreach program, Esperanca, Food for the Poor, Potter's Wheel, etc. One of their passions is improving health and wellness in third-world countries (clean water, micro-businesses, housing, health care, etc.).

Given how positive Dr. Weller's impact was on their life lives, the Wargels were thrilled to help spearhead the Dr. Lowell Weller Instrumentation Fund and they were essential in raising money. The initial proceeds from this campaign will go toward purchasing a new NMR for the chemistry department.

"We learned that the current NMR was beyond repair and that the department could lose its accreditation from the American Chemistry Society without a fully functional NMR. We firmly believe that if this should occur, our "shining gem" would lose some of its luster. We felt it was imperative that all avenues of funding be pursued to prevent this from occurring." Through the combined efforts of the Wargels and others, over $250,000 has been raised toward the initial $300,000 goal.

Having been affiliated with UE for nearly 50 years, the Wargels have had the unique opportunity to watch the University grow and become what it is today. "When we attended UE, it was a commuter college with the majority of the students living at home or with a relative," they said. "Now, the student population is much more diverse with the students coming from all over the country and every part of the world. The biggest change we noticed is how many more classes and degree programs are offered, and how rigorous they are. When we talk to current students about their research, we feel as though we are conversing with Nobel Prize recipients."

There is one thing they say has not changed, and they're quite glad it has not.

"We valued the small class sizes, the interaction with the faculty and knowing that they really cared about you and wanted you to succeed. Thank goodness the personal attention given to the students by the faculty and their commitment to the students and the university has not changed. As Dr. Kazee advocates, we all need to get the word out about UE. It should not remain a hidden gem."

Class of 2013

Class of 2013
  • Michael Grassmyer has been accepted to the MBA program at University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky.

  • Zuzana Kocsisova has been accepted to Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, in the Molecular Genetics and Genomics Program of the Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences.

  • Christopher Matlak is applying for chemistry jobs.

  • Deanna Miller has been accepted to the School of Veterinary Medicine at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana.

  • Robert Randant has accepted a position as a chemist at RedSpot Paint and Varnish, Co., Inc. Evansville, Indiana.

  • Nicholas Takebayashi has been accepted to the University of Notre Dame, Southbend, Indiana, in the chemistry PhD program.

  • Emily Wood has been accepted to the Scribe America Program at St. Mary's Hospital, Evansville, Indiana as a Scribe.

Dr. Ray Lutgring Named Dean of College of Arts and Sciences

Dr. Ray Lutgring

Ray Lutgring began his career at UE in the Department of Chemistry as a visiting professor in 1995 after earning a PhD in organic chemistry from Purdue University. In 1997 he begun a tenure track position and in 2002 he was awarded tenure and promotion to associate professor. After being appointed and serving as chair of the Department of Chemistry from 2003 until 2007, he was appointed director of honors program in 2007. In 2008, Dr. Lutgring was promoted to professor of chemistry.

In the spring of 2012, Dr. Lutgring was appointed interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and after a nationwide search, Dr. Lutgring was named Dean in the spring of 2013. The Department of Chemistry is proud of Dr. Lutgring and wish him much success as dean. We will also greatly miss both his leadership and teaching within the department.

Note from Dr. Bryan Lynch Regarding His Sabbatical at MIT

Lynch at MIT

Greetings from MIT and Cambridge, Massachusetts. I've been here since January on sabbatical leave working in the laser laboratory of Professor Robert Field. A lot has happened in the Boston area while I've been here. The blizzard of 2013 dumped more than two feet of snow on streets so narrow there is barely room for cars, let alone snow. The Boston Marathon bombing was terrible and I grieve for those directly affected by such senseless violence. But Cambridge and Boston are wonderful places to spend a sabbatical, and I have visited many museums and gone to quite a few musical concerts. I also had the opportunity to see reenactments of the Battles of Lexington and Concord. Being at MIT is a great opportunity! Every week several talks are given by the world's top scientists. And it is wonderful to be part of an active research group where ideas are explored and discussed. I am contributing to two projects during my time here. The first is trying to make and observe diazene (H-N=N-H), a very unstable molecule. Diazene can exist as cis and trans isomers as well as an iso-compound (N=NH2). We first tried producing diazene with a DC electrical discharge of a cooled mixture of gaseous ammonia and helium. We've yet to observe the molecule but we are still trying. My other project is the observation of the microwave-optical double resonance spectrum of isocyanogen (CNCN). We detected the electronic excited state of CNCN during my first sabbatical in 2006, but the spectrum is so complicated we could not assign any transitions. We hope the double resonance experiment will help us assign the 2006 spectrum and determine the structure of the excited state. We are about one week from doing the experiment, after three months of preparation. I am looking forward to returning to UE and incorporating into my own lab everything I'm learning here about using lasers to study the electronic structure of molecules.

New Faculty Hires that will Begin this Fall


Dr. Andy Lampkins

Dr. Andrew J. Lampkins will be joining the UE Department of Chemistry this Fall. Dr. Lampkins will be coming to UE from Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, where he held the endowed John R. Sampey Jr. Research Professorship and led an active undergraduate research group centered around synthetic organic chemistry and drug design/discovery. Dr. Lampkins is a registered pharmacist and earned his PharmD at Butler University. He then went on to attend graduate school where he earned his PhD at the University of Florida. He did a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Notre Dame. When Dr. Lampkins joins the department in the Fall, he will primarily be teaching organic chemistry.


Dr. Michael C. Slade

Dr. Michael C. Slade will also be joining the department this Fall. Currently, Dr. Slade is at Iowa State University as a post doctoral science teaching fellow (as a part of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Program for Innovation in Science Education). Dr. Slade earned his PhD in organic chemistry from the University of North Carolina and his BS in chemistry from Emory University. His research involves synthetic organic chemistry. When Dr. Slade joins the department in the Fall, he will be teaching both general and organic chemistry.

The department is excited to have both Drs. Lampkins and Slade joining the faculty in the Fall and we look forward to working with them!

UE Alumna Kate Upton Meets with First Lady Michelle Obama

UE Alumna Kate Upton with Discovery Science Center President, Joe Adams and First Lady Michelle Obama

UE alumna Kate Upton, on behalf of the Discovery Science Center of Orange County, California, had an opportunity to receive the 2013 National Medal for Museum and Library Service from First Lady Michelle Obama. Kate Upton '11 is a native of Orange County, California, and has been visiting the Discovery Science Center (DSC) since she was very young. The center has brought science education to vast audiences over the last 25 years through its Santa Ana facility and is soon to open Los Angeles museum. DSC has a dynamic outreach program and state-of-the-art exhibits and has led the way in creating innovative museum exhibitions and classroom programs.

As a result, DSC received national recognition for its service to the community and nation. Kate Upton earned her BS in chemistry from the University of Evansville in 2011 and is currently pursuing a PhD in chemistry at Cal Tech. She is pictured receiving the 2013 National Medal for Museum and Library Science with Joe Adams, president of the DSC, and First Lady Michelle Obama.

Dr. Morrison and his wife Sue at a retirement party in his honor at the Acropolis Restaurant

Dr. Bill Morrison Retires

After 38 year of service, Dr. Bill Morrison retired from the UE Department of Chemistry. Dr. Morrison joined the UE Department of Chemistry in 1975 and taught general chemistry and inorganic and organic chemistry. Prior to joining the department in 1975, he earned his PhD from the University of Kansas and his BS from Illinois Wesleyan. A reception was held in his honor on April 6 at the Acropolis Restaurant, and a tree planting ceremony was held on April 21. Dr. Morrison will be greatly missed and the department wishes him well in retirement as he plans to travel and enjoy the fine things of life!

Note from the Chair

The 2012-13 academic year marked my ninth year in the UE Department of Chemistry and my second year as chair of the department. While the year was faced with a few challenges, they were met by tremendous success.

As some of you may know, Dr. Jean Beckman was diagnosed last year with lymphoma. As a result, she was forced to take a medical leave of absence in order to undergo chemotherapy. For those of you who know Jean, she is a very strong, tenacious individual, which is exactly how she faced the disease and her treatment. I'm happy to say that her last chemotherapy treatment was in October and as of her last CT scan in April, she is completely cured! She is now back teaching full time and the department is extremely delighted to have her back and most of all, healthy. In other news, Dr. Arlen Kaufman was promoted to full professor effective during the 2013-14 academic year.

Arlen's promotion is very well deserved as he continues to remain an exceptional teacher, scholar, and colleague. He and his wife (Sarah Schonaman) welcomed their first child, Samuel Edward on May 22.

This academic year brought about opportunity for the Environmental Studies Program. Dr. Don Batema and Dr. Arlen Kaufman were each given a semester of release time in order to generate an NSF-TUES (National Science Foundation - Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science Technology and Mathematics) proposal related to environmental studies. If the proposal is funded, it would be a tremendous addition to the Environmental Studies Program and the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) funding they received a few years ago.

With so many personnel changes, the department had the privilege of hiring two visiting faculty members during the 2012-13 academic year. Mr. Skyler Smith primarily taught Chemistry 118 lecture and lab as well as Environmental Studies 103. Skyler graduated from UE in 2009 with a BS in biochemistry. He then went on to teach high school chemistry at North High School in Evansville. This fall, Skyler will be headed to the University of Cincinnati to pursue a PhD in analytical chemistry. In addition, Dr. Darlene Ingram is a faculty member at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tennessee, where she took a leave of absence from her current position to teach organic chemistry (Chemistry 240 and Chemistry 341). Lastly, this year, the Department of Chemistry also welcomed our new stockroom clerk, Dean Spencer. We are glad to have Dean on board!

With Dr. Morrison's retirement and Dr. Lutgring being named as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, the department also hired two new faculty members, Drs. Andy Lampkins and Michael Slade (please find more info in other section of newsletter).

All of the opportunities and changes have kept me quite busy this past year. However, amidst the busyness, I (along with other faculty in math and science) was able to write an NSF - STEP (National Science Foundation Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Talent Expansion Program) proposal. If funded, the grant would provide $500,000 for three years in order to recruit and retain more math and science majors. I am also looking forward to working with sophomore biochemistry major, Katie Prosser, this summer on an undergraduate research project.

Outside of work, my 3-year-old daughter, Kate, and my 4-year-old daughter Erica, keep my husband and me quite busy.

Awards and Banquets

Each year, the Indiana-Kentucky border section of the American Chemical Society awards a certificate and cash to the outstanding sophomore and senior students. Additionally a CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics is given to the outstanding freshman student. This year, the Outstanding Senior Award was shared by Zuzana Kocsisova, Deanna Miller, Nicholas Takebayashi, and Emily Wood. The Outstanding Sophomore Award was shared by Paige Shevlin and Katie Prosser. The Outstanding Freshman Award was shared by Ethan Lehmann and Abby Smith. In addition, the Pitt Outstanding Lab Assistant Award was given to Crystal Goodwin. All of these awards were recognized at the annual Chemistry Awards banquet held at the Acropolis on April 24.

IMPACT - The University of Evansville