Originally aired on KLCC 89.7 | By Jes Burns | Used with Permission

Simonich Radio Broadcast

The South Willamette Valley consistently ranks high nationally for levels of air pollution.  According to the American Lung Association, Eugene-Springfield was the 14th worse in the country for “short-term particle pollution” in 2013.

Air pollution is a complex mixture of chemicals and particulate matter –so complex, scientists still don’t know exactly what’s in the air we breathe.  But now they’re one step closer.

Researchers at Oregon State University have discovered fourteen new chemical compounds.   The mixtures can be hundreds of times more likely to cause mutations than other pollutants.

It all started in Beijing at the Summer Olympics of 2008.  Concerns about the high levels of air pollution were a major storyline of the games.  That created the opportunity for OSU Chemistry Professor Staci Simonich to begin doing air testing in China.

Dr. Staci Simonich, Professor in Environmental and Molecular Toxicology in her office at Oregon State University (Credit Jes Burns)

Simonich: “The first paper my laboratory published on the air quality and particulate matter in Beijing before, during, after the Olympics was a little controversial.”

Despite this, Simonich was able to continue work in the country, figuring out the chemical fingerprint of air pollution and using that information a bit closer to home.

Simonich has an air monitoring station at the top of Mt. Bachelor near Bend.  There, she is able to detect if air pollution in China is making its way across the Pacific Ocean to Oregon.  Short answer: it is.

Simonich: “Some of the compounds that we found that were transported were Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons.”

…Or PAHs.  Quick science lesson: That’s the name for a group of chemical compounds. Many are classified as carcinogenic and mutagenic by the Environmental Protection Agency.  They’ve been shown to cause things like tumors and birth defects in lab mice, and a growing body of research suggests serious ill effects on humans as well, including cancer.  So they’re regulated by the government.

PAHs are naturally occurring – and happen whenever organic material is burned.

One of the labs on the OSU campus where PAH research occurs. (Credit: Jes Burns)

Simonich: “Anytime there was a forest fire or a prairie fire or even to some degree even a volcanic eruption if there’s carbon present…  For eons, since the advent of fire, there’s been PAHs.”

Of course, since humans started burning fossil fuels like coal and oil, the amount of PAHs in the atmosphere has dramatically increased.  And PAHs are even being produced in the home.

On the barbecue.  When meat, and in particular fat, is charred on a grill – like I’m doing right now – PAHs are produced.  So I’m breathing in all kinds of PAHs right now – not a pleasant thought.

Simonich: “We tend to think a lot about particles in air, and that is important – in our lungs.  But largest dose of our exposure is via diet.”

Wait, does that mean I should put down my tongs right now?

Simonich: “No, I’m a firm believer in everything in moderation…”

Through air monitoring in Oregon, Simonich found high concentrations of PAHs riding on the backs of particulate matter coming over from Asia.

Simonich: “And the fact that they’re on very fine particles – less than 2.5 microns – means that they can be stuck in the lungs once you breathe them in.  And then we started to think other pollutants are also transported in this mix.  Could there be chemistry happening in Asia?  Reactions that are occurring there or in transit across the Pacific Ocean that may be modifying them chemically?”

The other pollutant is the highly reactive nitrogen dioxide, commonly found in car exhaust. With computer modeling, the scientists predicted that the nitrogen dioxide and the PAHs would combine.  Then in a lab, they recreated atmospheric conditions where both chemicals were present and tested the samples.

Simonich: “One sample working on it continuously could take a week or so, between having the sample, extracting it, purifying it…”

Four to five-hundred samples later… The predictions were correct.  The OSU team found fourteen never-before-detected compounds collectively called High Molecular Weight Nitro-PAHs

But they didn’t stop there. Back at the lab at Oregon State, they asked another question:  How likely are these new compounds to cause mutations to genetic material?

Using further tests, they found that the Nitro-PAHs are up to 467 times more mutagenic than the original PAHs on their own.

So to give you a picture of this: imagine PAHs are tiny piranha … swimming out there in the air. If you encounter enough of them, you may begin to sustain long-term damage.

Now imagine some of the Piranhas are carrying chainsaws.  Those are the Nitro-pAHs.  And the potential for damage is much greater.

But currently those chainsaw-wielding Piranhas have only been detected in a lab at Oregon State.

Simonich: “Our next step now is to go into our air samples from Beijing and air samples from Mt. Bachelor, and various different diesel exhaust, and maybe even grilled meat, and start to look in those different parts of the environment to see where those chemicals may be.  And the truth is no one has ever looked for them before.”

That’s because, prior the discovery of Simonich and her team, no one even knew they existed.

The Oregon State research was published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

Click here to access the research.

Chemical Storage in the Simonich lab (Credit: Jes Burns)
Gas Chromatographic Mass Spectrometer (Credit: Jes Burns)

As Chair of the 2014 Noble Metal Nanoparticles Gordon Research Seminar, which will be held at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts during the weekend of June 14-15, 2014, it is my pleasure to invite your department’s graduate students, postdoctoral students, and other scientists with comparable levels of experience and education to participate in this conference by presenting a research poster or oral presentation.

Attached with this post is a full description and invitation for the GRS and a flyer we have prepared to announce the eventWe hope that you could print out some copies of the flyer and distribute them in departmental message boards, in addition to forwarding them by email to the students in your department.

We are very excited about this Seminar and are doing our best to get the word out to interested parties!

The online application form includes is an option to apply for the related GRC, which we also highly encourage for faculty and students alike:


Thank you for your time. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions.



Christopher DeSantis

Vice Chair of the Gordon Research Seminar in Noble Metal Nanoparticles

Skrabalak Laboratory

Indiana University

2014 GRS Noble Metal NPs Flyer 2014_GRS_Noble_Metal_NPS_invitation

2014 GRS Noble Metal NPS Invitation

Jean Dreyfus Boissevain Lectureship for Undergraduate Institutions

Deadline for letters of intent to the Research Office: Monday, March 17, 2014

The Jean Dreyfus Boissevain Lectureship awards provide an $18,500 grant to bring a leading researcher to a primarily undergraduate institution to give a series of lectures in the chemical sciences and to support two undergraduates in summer research. The lecturer is expected to substantially interact with undergraduate students and faculty over the period of the visit. The undergraduates are expected to engage with mentors in contemporary research.

Guidance for preparation of letters of intent: http://oregonstate.edu/research/incentive/dreyfus_boissevain

Submit letters of intent to Debbie Delmore at debbie.delmore@oregonstate.edu.

Dreyfus Foundation program information:  http://dreyfus.org/awards/jean_dreyfus_boissevain.shtml

If you have any questions, contact Mary Phillips, Director, Office for Research Development at mary.phillips@oregonstate.edu.

The Research Office, Office for Research Development is requesting letters for intent for the NSF – High Performance Computing System Acquisition (HPCSA): Continuing the Building of a More Inclusive Computing Environment for Science and Engineering program.

Deadline to submit letters of intent to the Research Office: Monday, March 17, 2014

The current solicitation is intended to complement previous NSF investments in advanced computational infrastructure by exploring new and creative approaches to delivering computational resources to the scientific community. Consistent with the Advanced Computing Infrastructure: Vision and Strategic Plan (February 2012), the current solicitation is focused on expanding the use of high-end resources to a much larger and more diverse community. To quote from that strategic plan, the goal is to “… position and support the entire spectrum of NSF-funded communities … and to promote a more comprehensive and balanced portfolio …. to support multidisciplinary computational and data-enabled science and engineering that in turn supports the entire scientific, engineering and educational community.” Thus, while continuing to provide essential and needed resources to the more traditional users of HPC, this solicitation expands the horizon to include research communities that are not users of traditional HPC systems, but who would benefit from advanced computational capabilities at the national level. Building, testing, and deploying these resources within the collaborative ecosystem that encompasses national, regional and campus resources continues to remain a high priority for NSF and one of increasing importance to the science and engineering community.

Guidance for preparation of letters of intent: http://oregonstate.edu/research/incentive/nsf-hpcsa

NSF – HPCSA: Continuing the Building of a More Inclusive computing Environment for Science and Engineering information:http://nsf.gov/pubs/2014/nsf14536/nsf14536.htm

If you have any question, contact Mary Phillips, Director, Office of Research Development at mary.phillips@oregonstate.edu.

Inpria CEO Andrew Grenville
Inpria CEO Andrew Grenville in their Corvallis Lab (Photo via The Oregonian, property of Oregon State University)

Originally printed in The Oregonian | Written by: Mike Rogoway | Used with Permission

Your livelier laptops, smarter smartphones and quicker tablets all improve, fundamentally, because the computer circuitry inside is always shrinking. Every two years or so, smaller features enable chipmakers to pack more transistors onto a chip – thereby improving performance.

But there’s a big problem with small: Features are becoming so tiny that existing technologies can’t reliably manufacture them. New production equipment – notably a lithography tool known as extreme ultraviolet (EUV) – promise better results, but have been frustratingly slow to materialize.

So two of the world’s biggest chipmakers, and the industry’s biggest equipment manufacturer – are investing $7.3 million in a Corvallis startup called Inpria Corp. The 12-person company, which spun out of Oregon State University in 2007, has new chemical technology designed to improve chip lithography and enable EUV.  Read more…

The Office for Research Development is requesting letters of intent for the NSF – SRN competition 2014 Focus: Urban Sustainability. The program seeks to bring together multidisciplinary teams of researchers, educators, managers, policymakers and other stakeholders to conduct collaborative research that addresses fundamental challenges in sustainability. Guidelines: http://oregonstate.edu/research/incentive/nsf-srn. Information: Mary Phillips mary.phillips@oregonstate.edu. Deadline: Feb. 28

The OSU chapter of Phi Kappa Phi is now accepting nominations for the Emerging Scholar Award. The award honors tenure-track faculty members in any academic unit who are in the early stages of their professional careers in recognition of outstanding research or creative activity in their field of study. Applications must be submitted by March 31 to David.Hackleman@oregonstate.edu. Visit http://phikappaphi.oregonstate.edu/sites/default/files/Emerging_Scholar_Flier.pdf for requirements and nomination packet details.

Deadline: March 15, 2014

Please send nominations to the Awards Committee for review.

The American Chemical Society’s Division of Organic Chemistry is pleased to sponsor a new award program called the Undergraduate Award in Organic Chemistry, that is intended to recognize senior students who display a significant aptitude for organic chemistry and to encourage further interest in the field.

The award: Consists of a letter of recognition from the ACS Division of Organic Chemistry and an award certificate signed by the division chair. Awardees who are members of the American Chemical Society will also receive membership to the Division of Organic Chemistry; those who are not will receive Affiliate status. Division Affiliates have all of the benefits of membership in the division with the exception of voting and serving on committees. For a full description of the benefits of membership in the division, please go to http://organicdivision.org/ .

Nominations:  Chemistry departments are invited to select a top graduating senior student majoring in either chemistry or biochemistry who has demonstrated excellence in organic chemistry based on a combination of research experience, coursework and a desire to pursue a career in chemistry. The student should also be enrolled at your institution for the 2013-2014 academic year. To nominate a student, the Department Chair or the Chair of the Department Awards Committee (or similar), should complete the online form available at: http://organicdivision.org/uga by March 15th.* Please note that only one student per U.S. institution can be nominated per academic year. While we plan to send you the official award items by April 30th, once the form is submitted, you are welcome to immediately recognize the student as you deem appropriate.


*The deadline was purposely chosen to be prior to graduation so that information could be sent to the department before the student recipients had left campus.

Goal: To provide an intensive training environment for constructing a successful grant proposal.
Eligibility: Tenure-stream, untenured faculty (Assistant and Associate Professor only) with a FTE appointment within the College of Science and/or College of Pharmacy.
Expectations of Participant: Individuals selected to participate in this program are expected be actively engaged in the process – including specific writing and reading assignments.

Application Process: Eligible faculty members are asked to submit a 5-page mini-proposal as a PDF file to grant.mentorship@oregonstate.edu (1 inch margins, font size 12 in Times New Roman or larger, line spacing of 14 pt or larger). The title of the email should be “COS/COP Untenured Faculty Grant Mentoring Program.” The first page of the proposal is intended to be a one page summary of the specific aims / project goals for the proposal. Pages 2-5 should include an introduction, scientific approach, significance, innovation, deliverables and broader impacts (science-based and/or NSF-specific types). A timeline for
accomplishing the work would be advisable. The audience for the pre-proposal should be technical in nature for the specialized area; however, it should provide sufficient descriptive text in the introduction and specific aims sections to be accessible by a PhD level scientist in a related area.

Application Deadline for Program: March 24, 2014 at 9 am (PST)

Program Format:

The mentorship program will be structured in four phases.

Phase 1. Funding 101 (Thursdays from noon-1 pm, lunch provided)
• Roundtable Discussion (April 3). Participants share what they would like to get out of the program. Be prepared to share your own stories about grant writing and fund raising.
• The Mechanics of Writing (April 10). Sara Jameson will provide an overview of the mechanics of writing.
• Panel Discussion for Federal Agencies (April 17). Highly successful faculty at OSU will answer questions about their strategies for targeting NSF, NIH etc. Current panel members include: Sastry Pantula (NSF),
Joe Beckman (NIH), Staci Simonich (NIH / Superfund), May Nyman (DOE), Andy Karplus (NIH) Colleges of Science & Pharmacy Oregon State University
• How to Talk to a Program Officer (NOTE Special Date: Tuesday, April 22). Rick Spinrad will provide guidance on how to maximize your interactions with program officers.
• Mini-proposal.v2. (Due April 21, 2014 at 9 am PST) Based on what you have learned from Phase 1, a revised version of your proposal must be submitted to grant.mentorship@oregonstate.edu. Completion of the revised pre-proposal is a requirement to proceed to Phase 2.

Phase 2. Structuring a Proposal with Donn Forbes (May 5-9)
• The Mechanics to Structuring a Winning Proposal. Donn will go over key traits to how to write and structure a proposal.
• Real Time Rewriting of Proposal. Donn will select a subset of the proposals to go over with the group and show how he would recommend modifying.
• Small Group Discussions on Proposal Writing. Small groups will get together to peer review each other’s proposals.
• Mini-proposal.v3. (Due May 26, 2014 at 9 am PST) Based on what you have learned from Phases 1 and 2, a revised version of your proposal must be submitted to grant.mentorship@oregonstate.edu. Completion of
the revised pre-proposal is a requirement to proceed to Phase 3.

Phase 3. Red Team Peer Review by Senior Faculty (June 2014)
• Peer review of Mini-Proposal. Each proposal will receive peer review from two to three senior faculty with written feedback. The reviewers will be expected to provide “real world” (not-sugar coated) feedback to help
the participants hone the scientific aspects and grantsmanship of the proposal.
• Personal Consultation with Reviewer(s). At least one of the reviewers will personally meet with the  participant to answer questions and go over how to interpret the feedback.
• Roundtable Discussion (Late June). Participants will get together to discuss what they have learned from this process and provide feedback on additional aspects to further improve future Grant Mentoring Programs. An anonymous survey will be conducted to gather additional feedback.

Phase 4. Participant Follow-up.
• The participant is asked to provided a one page summary by December 31, 2014 and June 30, 2015 to grant.mentorship@oregonstate.edu on grant writing efforts, successes and learning experiences.

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Rainbow Rose

In Honor of Valentines Day, we’re sharing this article from ChemViews on the Chemistry of Rose Pigments.

The red rose remains the most popular flower to give on Valentine’s Day. Carotenoids produce the yellow colors, anthocyanins the reds, and a mixture of the two the modern oranges. The huge variety of roses has been descended from wild roses by selection, mutation, and hybridization [1].  Read More…