Engaging Minds, Transforming Lives

Chemistry + Biochemistry


Spring 2017

  • Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Maha Zewail-Foote gave an invited seminar at the University of North Texas. Her talk included work from her sabbatical on the consequences of damage to non-B DNA structures including its role in causing human genetic diseases such as cancer.

  • Southwestern biochemistry alumna Katie Ferrick ’16 is the recipient of the prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Ferrick conducted research with Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Maha Zewail-Foote during her four years at Southwestern. She is currently in graduate school at Stanford University. This year, there were 13,000 applications and NSF made 2,000 award offers

  • Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Maha Zewail-Foote gave an invited seminar at Texas State University. Her talk was titled “DNA damage within alternatively structured DNA: Novel mechanisms of genetic instability in cancer.”

  • Twenty-two Southwestern students traveled to the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor to attend the 120th meeting of the Texas Academy of Science (TAS), March 4–5. Collectively, Southwestern students gave four oral presentations and presented 12 posters in numerous sections of the Academy including Conservation Biology, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, Computer Science, Environmental Science, Physics, Systematics and Evolution, Freshwater Science, and Science Education. Much of the work presented at TAS took place in past summer SCOPE programs. Several students and alumni received awards:

    • Victoria Gore, Class of 2017, received the Best Oral Presentation Award in the Environmental Science Section for her work, “Extreme Precipitation: Changes in Rain Frequency from 1895-2015 in Central Texas.”  Gore worked on this project during SCOPE with her mentor Part-Time Assistant Professor of Physics Rebecca Edwards.

    • Bella Ferranti, Class of  2017, received the Best Oral Presentation Award in the Physics Section for her talk, “Laser Frequency Combs and the Search for Exoplanets.”  This is the second presentation that Ferranti has given at the Texas Academy of Sciences.

    • Lauren Gillespie, Class of 2019, received the Best Poster Presentation Award in Mathematics and Computer Science for her work entitled “Evolving Tetris Players Using Raw Screen Inputs,” which she worked on with Assistant Professor of Computer Science Jacob Schrum.

    • Sofia Campos ’16 took the Best Poster prize in the Systematics and Evolution Section and also won 2nd place overall for her presentation, “Cryptic yet curiously common: Population genetic structure and diversity of a cryptic Pomacea sp. and its better known congeneric P. canaliculata,”  which summarized her work in Uruguay with Professor of Biology Romi Burks.

    • Madison Granier, Class of 2019, received the Best Poster prize in the Conservation Biology section and also received a $1500 grant from the Academy to support her undergraduate research titled “Snail Slime in Real Time: qPCR Detection of Environmental DNA using Apple Snails.”  This work involves a collaboration between Granier, Burks and alumni Matthew Barnes ’06, now an Assistant Professor at Texas Tech University.

    • Carissa Bishop, Class of 2017, won two presentation awards: Best Oral Presentation in Freshwater Science, for her talk entitled “Applying Band-Aids: Challenges associated with molecular detection of Angiostronglyus cantonensis infection within Uruguayan and Brazilian apple snails,” and a Poster Award in Science Education for a collaborative project titled “Innovating molecular art: Communicating the true cost of science through repurposed materials.” Campos ’16, Shannon Walsh and Hugo Cepeda, both Class of 2018, all made contributions to the molecular art piece based on research that they have done with Burks. All of the molecular work has been made possible through a grant awarded to the Natural Sciences by the Keck Foundation.

    Other TAS presenters included Alex Taylor, Renee Walker, Morgan O’Neal, Jillian Bradley, Daniel Gonzalez, Eris Tock, Alex Rollins, and Jiawen Zhang, all Class of 2017, Ramesh Nadeem, Dakota Butler, Diana Beltran, Susan Beltran, and Madelyn Akers, all Class of 2018. Additional faculty mentors included Professor of Chemistry Kerry Bruns, Assistant Professor of Chemistry Michael Gesinski, Professor of Biology Ben Pierce,  and Part-Time Assistant Professor of Biology Airon Wills.

  • Southwestern had a great showing at the Joint Mathematics Meeting, the largest meeting of mathematicians in the world, held Jan. 4–7 in Atlanta, Ga. Six faculty, eight students, and an alumna participated in multiple ways.

    • Associate Professor of Mathematics Alison Marr was very active at this meeting.  As the Secretary/Treasurer of the IBL SIGMAA (Inquiry-Based Learning Special Interest Group of the Mathematical Association of America), she helped organize the MAA Session on Inquiry-Based Teaching and Learning; this topic needed five sessions because of its importance, relevance, and national attention. She also co-organized the MAA Panel “Perspectives on Inquiry-Based Learning: Novice, Experienced, and Master,” and helped run the first IBL SIGMAA business meeting. She also presented “Broadening the Net: Promoting Success in the Sciences for All Students” at the MAA Poster Session on Projects Supported by the NSF Division of Undergraduate Education. Poster co-authors include  Professor of Chemistry Emily D. Niemeyer, Associate Professor of Physics Mark Bottorff, Associate Professor of Computer Science Barbara Anthony, and Director of General Chemistry Labs Willis A. Weigand. She was also a co-author on a paper, “Coprime and prime labelings of ladder graphs and complete bipartite graphs,” presented in the AMS Special Session on RE(UF)search on Graphs and Matrices.
    • Visiting Assistant Professor John Ross and Associate Professor of Mathematics Therese Shelton co-presented “Supermarkets, Highways, and Oil Production: Statistics and Social Justice.” This work began with participation in an ACS workshop, “Mathematics and Social Justice,” May 21–22, 2016 at Rollins College.
    • Ross and Visiting Assistant Professor Linda DiLullo participated in the workshop “Preparing Students for Success in Calculus: Aligning Placement, Curriculum, and Assessment” offered through the MAA under an NSF grant.
    • Shelton co-presented the MAA Minicourse on Teaching Modeling-First Differential Equations—Technology and Complete End Game Effort, attended the MAA Section Officers’ Meeting as Past Chair of the Texas Section, and organized funding and logistics for Southwestern’s student and alum presenters and attendees.
    • Professor of Mathematics Kendall Richards co-organized the AMS Special Session on Complex Analysis and Special Functions.
    • Alumna Julia R. Sykora ’16 presented “3D Mathematical Models For the Blind” in the MAA Session on Methods of Engaging Math Learners with Physical Impairments. This was based on her 2015–16 King Creativity Project with Allison K. Young ’16 supervised by Shelton.
    • Southwestern students also presented at the AMS Contributed Paper Session on Undergraduate Research:
      • William Soller, Class of 2017, and Kristen McCrary, Class of 2018, presented “Existence, Uniqueness, and Cost-Optimizing Results of Mathematical Trusses” based on their 2016 SCOPE work supervised by Ross.
      • Morgan Engle and Penny Phan, both Class of 2018, presented “Green Math: Models of Greenhouse Gasses” from the 2016 SCOPE work supervised by Shelton.
      • Oliver Sale, Class of 2017, presented “Investigation of Central Texas Surface Ozone Concentrations 1980–2015” on work that began in 2016 SCOPE supervised by Part-Time Assistant Professor of Physics Rebecca Edwards. In Fall 2016, Sale continued the work in his mathematics capstone; Edwards continued to primarily oversee the project, and Shelton oversaw the math capstone and prepared Sale for the presentation.
      • Victoria Gore, Class of 2017, presented “Extreme Precipitation: Changes in Rain Frequency from 1895–2015 in Central Texas” from the 2016 SCOPE work supervised by Edwards.
      • Beulah Agyemang-Barimah, Class of 2017, received funding from Southwestern’s Keck Foundation grant to attend sessions on mathematical and computational biology.
      • Emma Kathryn Groves, Class of 2017, also attended the meetings.
  • Professor of Chemistry Emily Niemeyer and HHMI Inquiry Initiative Program Coordinator Katie McCance ’15 published an article titled “Influence of plant maturity on anthocyanin concentrations, phenolic composition, and antioxidant properties of 3 purple basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) cultivars” in the October 2016 issue of the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis. The article was based on McCance’s senior honors thesis with Patrick Flanigan ’12 and collaborators at the University of Texas at Austin as co-authors. The research was completed with support from HHMI, the Welch Foundation, and Southwestern’s Dishman Endowment and Faculty-Student Projects Fund.

Spring 2016

  • Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Mike Gesinski was awarded a grant from the Petroleum Research Fund and the American Chemical Society entitled “Development of a Novel and Versatile Method for the Synthesis of Substituted Cyclobutanes.” This grant will provide $55,000 over two years to support an undergraduate research program in organic chemistry at Southwestern.

Spring 2015

  • Professor of Chemistry Maha Zewail-Foote and Professor of Psychology Fay Guarraci have an article currently in press called “Sexual Attractiveness in Male Rats is Associated with Greater Concentration of Major Urinary Proteins Biology of Reproduction.”

  • Professor of Psychology Fay Guarraci, Professor of Chemistry Maha Zewail-Foote, and a group of scientists in Singapore have a new manuscript accepted for publication in the journal, “Biology of Reproduction.” 

Fall 2014

  • Professor of Chemistry Emily Niemeyer and Patrick Flanigan ’13 published an article in the December 2014 issue of the journal “Food Chemistry.” The article, titled “Effect of cultivar on phenolic levels, anthocyanin composition, and antioxidant properties in purple basil (Ocimum basilicum L.)”, was based on Flanigan’s chemistry honors project research.

  • Gulnar Rawji, associate professor of chemistry, published an article earlier this year that was co-authored by two former Southwestern students and a colleague at UT-Austin. The paper is titled “An acetonitrile solvatomorph of dichlorido(1,10-phenanthroline-5,6-d​ione)platinum(II) and was published in the journal Acta Crystallographic. The Southwestern graduates who were co-authors on the paper are Amanda H​amala and Carissa Fritz.

Fall 2013

  • A Southwestern University chemistry professor has been recognized for serving as a role model to young women hoping to pursue careers in math and science. Emily Niemeyer is one of six women who have been named Outstanding Texas Women in STEM by Girlstart, a organization that offers after-school programming to encourage girls in grades 4-8 to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The award recognizes women who have “made it” in the traditionally male-dominated STEM fields, said Tamara Hudgins, executive director of Girlstart. The award recipients will be honored at Girlstart’s annual luncheon in Austin Oct. 17. Read more here.

  • Emily Niemeyer, professor of chemistry and holder of the Herbert and Kate Dishman Chair in Science, published an article titled “Regiospecificity of human UDP-glucuronosyltransferase isoforms in chalcone and flavanone glucuronidation determined by metal complexation and tandem mass spectrometry” in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Natural Products. The research was conducted during her sabbatical in collaboration with co-author Jennifer Brodbelt, professor of chemistry at The University of Texas at Austin.

  • Retired chemistry professor Robert Soulen has been named a Fellow of the American Chemical Society. He and the other new fellows will be honored at the ACS National Meeting in Indianapolis Sept. 9. Read more here.

Spring 2013

  • Six chemistry students (Alec Bergerson, Hayley HamiltonMareah Lucio, Tyler Poi, Tim Williams, Max Thompson) presented their research at the American Chemical Society National Meeting in New Orleans, April 7-10, 2013.  

  • Maha Zewail-Foote, associate professor of chemistry, co-authored a paper titled “Science for the ‘Haves’” inAngewandte Chemie International Edition, which was published this month.

Fall 2012

  • A 2012 paper by Maha Zewail Foote, associate professor of chemistry, and Fay Guarraci, associate professor of psychology, was highlighted in the summer 2012 issue of CUR Quarterly, a newsletter published by the Council of Undergraduate Research. Read the summary here.

  • Fay Guarraci, associate professor of psychology, and Maha Zewail-Foote, associate professor of chemistry, had a paper titled “Kin Discrimination in Prepubescent and Adult Long-Evans Rats” published in the July issue ofBehavioural Processes. Co-authors on the paper include former students Jessica BoltonAlex BurbyBrittany Ford and Carissa Winland.  

Spring 2012

  • Five chemistry and biochemistry students presented their research at the American Chemical Society National Meeting held in San Diego March 25-29.  Junior Patrick Flanigan presented “Variations in phenolic levels, anthocyanin composition, and antioxidant properties among 8 purple basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) cultivars.” Flanigan is conducting research with Emily Niemeyer, professor of chemistry. Junior Jace Venterspresented “Oxidative DNA damage induced by photoactivated daunomycin in the presence of copper ions,” which was done in collaboration with Maha Zewail-Foote, associate professor of chemistry. Junior Luis Gutierrezpresented “Synthesis, characterization, and DNA binding and cleavage properties of a platinum(II) Schiff base complex” and Craig Katkic presented “Platinum(II) and zinc(II) complexes of the natural dyes, juglone and lawsone.” Both Luis Gutierrez and Craig Katkic conducted their research with Gulnar Rawji, associate professor of chemistry. Senior Jodi Kirk, who conducted research with Frank Guziec, professor of chemistry, presented “Synthesis and molecular modeling of the DNA-binding ability of bisanthrapyrazoles with a polyglycolic spacer arm.”

  • Maha Foote, associate professor of chemistry, and Fay Guarraci, associate professor of psychology, have an article titled “‘Nice guys finish last’: Influence of mate choice on reproductive success in Long–Evans rats” published in the Feb. 2012 issue of Physiology & Behavior. Five former Southwestern students are listed as contributors to the research – Jessica BoltonBrittany FordSumith SampanaJade Tinker and Carissa Winland. The article is available online here.