The Erlenmeyer Flask

         Where Real Chemistry Happens…

December 17, 2014

Who Am I? Wednesday – Jeff Gautschi

  1. Jeff T. Gautschi
  2. Organic/Bioorganic Chemist/Instructor
  3. During my first year as an undergraduate biology major I took General Chemistry and quickly became fascinated by the endless variety of molecules, and by the elements of the periodic table from which those molecules are comprised. This fascination became more profound when I entered organic chemistry in my second year. Through this course, I realized that it is the diversity of the structure and function of organic molecules that makes life possible, and it is their biological activity that imparts to life its mystery, misery, and remedy.
  4. While my primary function is to teach organic chemistry for pre-professionals at the undergraduate level, I am also engaged in Bioorganic Chemistry and Natural Products research activities with undergraduate students. Currently, my group seeks to uncover molecules that have never been discovered before. We do this by isolating pure compounds from genetically-modified fungi that we grow in the laboratory. Additionally, I am currently the only chemist at OSU-Cascades (OSU’s branch campus in Bend, Oregon) and thus helping to lead efforts to establish and grow the chemical sciences at that rapidly expanding university.
  5. I truly love interacting with undergraduate students as they navigate their early-stage careers within the sciences. It is a sincere joy to introduce them to the intriguing world of theoretical and practical organic chemistry, to provide them expert insight to the many career paths there are within the chemical sciences, and to learn from and about them.
  6. I was fortunate enough to participate on a deep sea expedition and dive over 1000 feet deep in a scientific research submersible named Clelia. Yes, it was a yellow submarine.
December 15, 2014

Focus on ECampus – Andrea

Filed under: Focus on ECampus @ 2:00 am

Ecampus Chemistry asked distance student Andrea, who lives in Israel, to share her experience with the 200-level online General Chemistry series. Here is her thoughtful answer–

How did you find the OSU Ecampus Chemistry program? 

I found the online chemistry courses at OSU by searching the Internet for online chemistry courses. I live in Israel and wanted to find a course that would not only be of the highest quality but which would also be designed in a way to make learning from halfway around the planet seamless. The site for the OSU courses was the most professional and appealing one I found, and the testimonials by students gave me a feeling that I, too, could succeed in the course. The fact that OSU online courses have been ranked among the best in the nation was a major factor in my decision to enroll.

The OSU online chemistry program has been an incredibly positive experience for me. I have loved it. The instruction, the textbook, the Mastering Chemistry homework and the exams have all exceeded my expectations for professionalism, quality of materials, depth of learning, integrity and availability of support.

When I registered for my first course, I had no idea what to expect. Truth be told, I was pretty scared, doubting my ability to even finish the course, let alone succeed. After all, I am in my mid-40s, haven’t studied Chemistry since I was 17 years old and live halfway around the planet, in Israel!

What I found once I began my first course was that I had entered a world that was highly-challenging, yes, but designed for me to succeed as long as I put in the effort. The textbook was extraordinarily well-written, making complicated concepts relatively easy to understand. The Mastering Chemistry homework could be hard at times, but it was also a lot of fun and was designed to facilitate my understanding and learning. And most importantly, the instructors (and in some cases, Teaching Assistants) were only a Discussion Board post or email away to answer my questions promptly and thoroughly. Often, other students also answered my questions and helped me to understand complicated concepts by responding to my Discussion Board posts. I always felt that I was supported and part of a community that wanted me to succeed. The fact that I live on the other side of the planet posed no problem at all, especially since the professors generally responded to my questions within 24-48 hours, and often even responded over weekends.

What has amazed me about taking these online courses is that it is 100% possible to learn Chemistry – which is a challenging and complex subject – and succeed in a course without ever stepping into an actual classroom. This truth is a real testament to the quality of the OSU online Chemistry program.

What about the on-campus lab requirement? How does that work, and is it worth the trip?

Regarding taking the summer lab course, I highly recommend it. Initially, the thought of getting myself to Corvallis, figuring out my accommodation and taking an intensive, 9-day course was overwhelming. But now that I’ve done it, I would do it again in a heartbeat. Getting there is easy – fly to Portland and take the HUT shuttle to Corvallis. Accommodation is a piece of cake – the university offers affordable housing in dorms on campus for students taking the 9-day intensive. And the course itself was fantastic. It is intense and challenging, but the atmosphere is collegial and supportive. Being in the lab – seeing the compounds, using the instrumentation, observing reactions in front of my own eyes, thinking through experiments, figuring out why an experiment went wrong or right – brought Chemistry to life for me. I became a pipetting queen and I can perform titrations like a champion now. To really understand chemistry and to enjoy it, you’ve got to get into the lab. In addition, it was very rewarding to meet my professors (Professor Margaret Haak and Professor Daniel Myles) in person and to interact with them on a daily basis. They were approachable, supportive and a lot of fun.

Do you have any advice for other online students?

Yes: You MUST study Chemistry every single day. I know it sounds arduous, but it is the ticket to success in these courses, especially for someone like me who hadn’t laid eyes on chemistry in 28 years. Success in these courses is absolutely possible, but it requires work. I imagine that if you are a genius, you can cram at the last minute and succeed. However, for most of us, I don’t think this is possible. It is essential to read the textbook and/or work through Mastering Chemistry questions every single day. In addition, you must keep up with the course. Getting behind is a mistake. Last, be a prolific question asker: use the Discussion Board and ask your instructors and fellow students questions. They are all there to support you with prompt answers and explanations. Don’t allow yourself to get stuck on a concept and accept that you don’t understand it. Ask as many questions as necessary until you understand it. And the old adage is very true in these courses: NO QUESTION IS A DUMB QUESTION. Don’t be afraid to ask the dumb question because it is not dumb and many other students have the same question and also need the answer. Last, don’t feel that living overseas precludes you from taking these courses and accomplishing your goals. These online courses are what make it possible to pursue your studies from far-away lands.

Additionally, be sure to research the requirements/ prerequisites required by the academic program you are enrolled in or to which you wish to apply. Some programs accept a “virtual, online” chemistry lab but some do not. Several programs to which I plan to apply require that I take actual on-campus chemistry labs (i.e. they do not accept credits for virtual labs). If this is the case, you’ll likely need to take the 200 series of Chemistry courses instead of the 100 series. Don’t be afraid to take the higher level series. You can do it, but you may need to work a bit harder and do more math-intensive problems. I was terrified of the prospect of having to take a more math-intensive series since I hadn’t had a math course since first years of college (25 years ago!), but as I’ve written previously, I simply applied myself and was able to succeed. The 200 series is completely “doable”, but you have to be committed to working hard.

Please share your background so we can get to know you better—how did you end up where you are on this journey?

I obtained my BA in Economics. I then spent over a decade working as an investment banker, primarily advising technology companies on raising capital (through initial public offerings, secondary offerings, convertible debt offerings and private placements of equity). This was a challenging career and taught me valuable professional skills and professional maturity. While I am grateful for this experience, I was never happy. The hours were brutally-long, the travel was exhausting and my time on this earth was passing by at warp speed. In a blink of an eye, my 20s and half of my 30s were gone. In addition, my heart was never in the job, but was somewhere else, wishing to contribute to this planet in a different way.

I resigned from banking and spent years trying different types of jobs and professions, doing some volunteering and traveling, hoping the “right” career and my life’s “purpose” would simply come to me. I even moved overseas (currently living in Israel). Well, neither the “right” career nor the “purpose” magically arrived. I decided to take a Vipassana meditation course with the hope of learning meditation and finding a path to fill that ever-restless, empty space inside that was searching for meaning, direction and happiness. This proved to be the beginning of my new path.

The Vipassana course is a 10-day, silent meditation experience designed to teach the meditation technique established by the Buddha. An important tenet of the practice and the course is an oath not to kill – anything. As a result, students agree to follow a vegetarian diet for the 10 days. Writing this gives me chills because this oath marked the beginning of my new life adventure.

I loved the vegetarian diet and more importantly, loved the idea that through my dietary choice, I was no longer participating in the suffering and slaughter of animals for food. Upon completing the course, I was committed to vegetarianism and, eventually, veganism. From that moment forward, I began consuming books about nutrition and the extraordinary health and environmental benefits of a plant-based diet. In my case, committing myself to a plant-based diet has also provided me with a profound spiritual peace and a respect and compassion for all creatures (including the many scary-looking, but marvelous, insects that love to visit our home!).

My mind was set: I would pursue an area of study that would provide me with the necessary credentials to get into some area of nutrition: dietetics, nutritional research or nutritional teaching. The beginning of this path would have to be science: I need to complete a number of basic, foundational science prerequisite courses to apply to just about any masters and/or bachelor’s degree program in nutrition. My dream is to help people to choose a healthy diet and lifestyle and overcome serious – but completely resolvable – health issues such as heart disease, Type II diabetes and obesity, through diet change. One day, I would love to teach medical students about nutrition so that diet change becomes one of the first tools they use to heal their patients.

In my mid-40s, I’ve embarked on a complete life course correction. It is challenging and scary sometimes, and there are days when I wonder if I’m completely mad to be pursuing this path at my age (especially since studying is not making me any money!). But my answer to those fears is always the same: if I die tomorrow, would I rather be comfortable but living an inauthentic life or would I rather be challenged and maybe even uncomfortable, but living a life that reflects who I am and what I care about? For me, the answer is clear and once I have that answer solidly seated again in my brain, I look down and put my nose right back into my Chemistry book.

I am a person who never likes to skip a step. When embarking on any new endeavor, I prefer to learn the skills from the ground up. To become an expert in nutrition, it is fundamental that I understand chemistry. All of the academic programs that I have my eye on require a solid foundation in Inorganic Chemistry and Organic Chemistry as well as a minimum of one semester in Biochemistry. Thus, the online courses offered by OSU are perfect for me.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I’m an avid exerciser. Nothing makes me happier than moving my body, making my heart pound and getting out in nature. My boyfriend and I love to take a vigorous walk above a beautiful, pristine valley near our home as often as possible. Sometimes, we catch glimpses of members of a small group of wild gazelles that live in the valley and prance effortlessly through the olive trees and rocky landscape. I also love acting as sous-chef to my master chef of a boyfriend who is a genius at cooking up “to-die-for” vegan dishes. And of course, we love to meditate together. I have three mischievous furballs (stray cats that my boyfriend adopted from the dumpster) as pets.


December 10, 2014

Joy Drive Wrap-Up

Filed under: Announcements @ 3:00 pm

The Joy Drive pairs OSU Sponsoring departments/individuals with OSU students who have children and are in need of help creating a joyful winter holiday season for their family.  This year, the Chemistry Department sponsored three children.   A 5-year-old girl, a 2-year-old boy and a 3-month-old baby girl.  Because of the generosity of our faculty, staff and graduate students, we were able to raise almost $400 to give these kids a great holiday season.

The parents requested a LOT of clothes… kids grow fast.  But even after all the loot below, we were still able to get a gift card for the parents to spend on whatever they liked.

Happy Holidays Everyone!!

What your generous donations purchased for our 5-year-old girl.

What your generous donations purchased for our 5-year-old girl.











2-year-olds boy purchases

2-year-olds boy purchases










and of course... the baby stuff

and of course… the baby stuff























Who Am I? Wednesday – Pedro Molina

Name: Pedro Molina


Area of Study / Position Title: Chemistry – Postdoctoral Scholar


Why chemistry? (What about it initially interested you?)

I used to play with chemistry sets when I was a kid! Later in life, I enrolled in a one-year general science course just to keep me busy during the day as I was working evenings in those days. I became immediately hooked on science during that year and then went to the University of Glasgow (Scotland, UK) to read Biology and Chemistry. I eventually chose Chemistry over Biology as my major because I felt Chemistry had a wider scope, allowing me to learn about atoms, molecules and other relatives, stuff of which all things are made up. In addition, I can keep having fun by making compounds in the lab in the same way I used to when playing with my chemistry sets!

Research focus (in non-science terms) or basic job duties?

My main research focus is to make new molecular metal oxides and study their properties, primarily their ability to destroy nervous gas agents like, for example, sarin.

One thing you truly love about your job?

The one thing I love the most about my job is that I can do science on an everyday basis! My position allows me to formulate hypothesis about how nature behaves, design and perform experiments to test those hypothesis, analyze the results of those experiments and communicate my findings to the wider world. All of this in close cooperation with a bunch of really smart and nice people! What else could I ask for?

One interesting/strange factoid about yourself:

I can juggle with three and four balls, clubs and a little bit of devil stick. Didn’t you see me juggling this year at the Oregon Country Fair?

December 9, 2014

Graduate, Postdoctoral and Senior Research Awards

Filed under: Announcements @ 10:06 am

We are asking your assistance in forwarding this message to inform students and faculty in your department of these outstanding fellowship opportunities. More detailed information and an online application can be found at

The National Research Council of the National Academies sponsors a number of awards for graduate, postdoctoral and senior researchers at participating federal laboratories and affiliated institutions. These awards include generous stipends ranging from $42,000 – $80,000 per year for recent Ph.D. recipients, and higher for additional experience. Graduate entry level stipends begin at $30,000. These awards provide the opportunity for recipients to do independent research in some of the best-equipped and staffed laboratories in the U.S. The program is open to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and for some of the laboratories, foreign nationals.

Detailed program information, including online applications, instructions on how to apply, and a list of participating laboratories, are available on the NRC Research Associateship Programs website (see link above).

Questions should be directed to the NRC at 202-334-2760 (phone) or

There are four annual review cycles.

Review Cycle:  February; Opens December 1; Closes February 1

Review Cycle:  May; Opens March 1; Closes May 1

Review Cycle:  August; Opens June 1; Closes August 1

Review Cycle:  November; Opens September 1; Closes November 1

Applicants should contact prospective Adviser(s) at the lab(s) prior to the application deadline to discuss their research interests and funding opportunities.

December 4, 2014

CDC Fellowship Position Announcement

Filed under: Announcements @ 12:28 pm

Fellowship Positions at the

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

National Center for Environmental Health

Division of Laboratory Sciences

The Protein Biomarker- Lipid Reference Laboratory at the National Center for Environmental Health, CDC is performing research in the areas of human biomonitoring and chronic disease biomarkers. This research involves the development of analytical methods to measure biomarkers such as steroid hormones, lipids, and trans-fatty acids, which have been linked with chronic disease.  Information obtained from this research will be used to determine the extent of exposure in the population as well as to identify normal ranges for chronic disease biomarkers.  Findings will be used to help to identify population subgroups with increased exposure or risk, and to assess possible associations between exposure, risk, and health effects.

The research involves activities such as sample preparation using automated equipment, analysis of samples by mass spectrometry, data processing and analysis, and presentation of results.  The candidate will perform these tasks in compliance with CDC and CLIA policies and regulations, which requires record keeping activities and performing administrative tasks.

This fellowship will provide the opportunity to obtain hands-on experience in human exposure research as well as laboratory medicine, using state-of-the-art laboratory equipment and procedures, working in a CLIA regulated environment, and in biomonitoring related public health activities.

We are seeking candidates at the Ph.D., M.S., and B.S. levels with a degree in science (Minimum GPA: 3.0) and experience in chemical and analytical laboratory work.

At the Doctoral level, the following skills are desired:

??         The ability to conceive, organize and carry out basic and applied research directed towards expanding scientific knowledge and understanding of human measurements of lipids and/or chemistry principles associated with clinical measurements.
??         The aptitude to review scientific literature, formulate research plans, conduct laboratory experiments, interpret and evaluate results and other findings, and write reports describing the results and conclusions.
??         The ability to interact with professional and technical laboratory personnel detailed to assist in accomplishing specifically designated program activities.
??         Experience with HPLC, GC, and MS instrumentation is required.

At the Master’s level, the following skills are desired:

??         The ability to organize and carry our basic and applied research directed towards expanding scientific knowledge and understanding of human measurements of lipids and/or chemistry principles associated with clinical measurement.
??         The aptitude to review scientific literature, formulate research plans, conduct laboratory experiments, interpret and evaluate results and other findings, and write reports describing the results and conclusions.
??         Experience with HPLC, GC, and MS instrumentation is required.

At the Bachelor’s level, the following skills are desired:

??         Experience conducting routine laboratory tasks.
??         HPLC, GC, and MS instrumentation experience.
??         Proficiency in Microsoft Office applications.

This fellowship is administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) (visit for further information). The initial appointment is for one year, but may be renewed for up to four year. The participant will receive a monthly stipend depending on educational level and experience and following the federal salary tables (GS tables). The appointment is full-time at CDC in the Atlanta, Georgia, area. Participants do not become employees of CDC or the program administrator, and there are no fringe benefits paid.

Applications should be emailed to Heather Kuiper, Ph.D. ( by December 23rd, 2014. The application should include a curriculum vitae or resume, copy of transcripts, current pay stub or salary on letterhead (if applicable) and two letters of recommendation (letters by E-mail are sufficient).

OSU Advantage Accelerator Free Public Seminar

Filed under: Announcements @ 12:24 pm

Metrics and Analytics For Startups. Sanjay Vankudre, entrepreneur and investor will present ideas on metrics and analytics for startups. The discussion will cover key metrics entrepreneurs must measure and what analytics tell you about your venture.  Limit 10.  Tuesday, Dec. 9, 4 to 5:30 p.m., 200 SW Fourth St., Suite 201 More information

December 3, 2014

Who Am I? Wednesday – Kristi Edwards

  1. Name: Kristi Edwards
  1. Area of study / position title: Science Lab Preparator
  1. Why chemistry? (What about it initially interested you, etc.) – I had been working at the EPA on a research project that the funding was ending and found this position. I was always interested in chemistry, but pursued a degree in microbiology as my advisor told me there were more jobs in micro than chemistry. Bad advice.
  1. Research focus (in non-science terms) or basic job duties? My job duties are to prepare the labs for the general chemistry, organic, quantitative and integrated labs in GBAD. I also help with lecture demos in the afternoons,
  1. One thing that you truly love about your job? I enjoy working with the chem majors in the integrated labs. I also enjoy the faculty and instructors I work with.
  1. One interesting/strange factoid about yourself. I collect rocks and minerals from all over the world and have dug quite a few in Oregon and Wyoming.

Atmospheric carbon dioxide used for energy storage products

Originally published by OSU News and Research Communications

December 2, 2014

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Chemists and engineers at Oregon State University have discovered a fascinating new way to take some of the atmospheric carbon dioxide that’s causing the greenhouse effect and use it to make an advanced, high-value material for use in energy storage products.

This innovation in nanotechnology won’t soak up enough carbon to solve global warming, researchers say. However, it will provide an environmentally friendly, low-cost way to make nanoporous graphene for use in “supercapacitors” – devices that can store energy and release it rapidly.

Such devices are used in everything from heavy industry to consumer electronics.

The findings were just published in Nano Energy by scientists from the OSU College of Science, OSU College of Engineering, Argonne National Laboratory, the University of South Florida and the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Albany, Ore. The work was supported by OSU.

In the chemical reaction that was developed, the end result is nanoporous graphene, a form of carbon that’s ordered in its atomic and crystalline structure. It has an enormous specific surface area of about 1,900 square meters per gram of material. Because of that, it has an electrical conductivity at least 10 times higher than the activated carbon now used to make commercial supercapacitors.  Read more…

See also:

Controlled Environments Magazine

Microfinance Monitor

Science Newsline

Space Daily

December 2, 2014

Winter Break Parking

Filed under: Announcements @ 9:20 am

From Dec. 15, 2014 to Jan. 2, 2015 OSU permits will be required for parking, but you may park in any zone on campus.

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