shannon-davis            Shannon Davis has been named one of the Spring 2016 Undergraduates of the Quarter and we could not be happier.  Shannon grew up in a modest suburb of Seattle.  She attended Lynnwood High School which she reported was incredibly ethnically diverse and described her experience there as awesome.  She took AP Chemistry while there and remembers Chemistry being the only AP test she didn’t pass.  “That’s why I chose Chemistry,” she remembers.  “I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.”

She came to OSU because she wanted to attend a PAC-12 school and with her choices being OSU and UW, she wanted something a little smaller and a little farther from home, so OSU was the obvious choice.  “Plus,” she said, “my dad went here.”  She originally matriculated into Chemistry with a chemical engineering option, but quickly discovered she liked the general chemistry sequence and switched to the advanced chemistry option.  She remembers having Dr. Richard Nafshun for her general chemistry instructor and said it was an amazing experience.

Shannon says her favorite class has been the Experimental Chemistry series with Dr. Christine Pastorek and Emile Firpo.  She also stated that they quickly became her favorite instructors.

Shannon has been doing Undergraduate Research for Dr. Jennifer Field since just after fall term of her junior year.  She said she trained for a whole year before she was able to do actual research.  Now, she’s using liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry to close mass balance in soil extractions.  She says it’s been challenging and slower going than she thought originally.

When asked about extra-curricular activities, Shannon indicated that what she really enjoyed were the Family Science and Engineering Nights and Discovery Days.  The outreach and chemistry volunteer work were a lot of fun.

Upon graduation, Shannon will be attending U Mass Boston to study marine science.  She’s currently unsure of what she wants to do post-PhD, but is leaning toward teaching.  She does know, she’s excited about moving cross-country.

Congratulations, Shannon!  It is talented students like you that make OSU Chemistry such as special place.

IMG_0453Blake Erickson has been named one of our Undergraduates of the Quarter for Winter term 2016.  He grew up in Fairview, Oregon where he attended Reynolds High School which has one of the largest student bodies in the state of Oregon.

Blake said he didn’t even consider an out-of-state school because it would have been too costly, but was lucky to have such a great research university here in the state of Oregon.  Upon arriving at OSU, Blake cycled through Biology and then Biochemistry/Biophysics before deciding on Chemistry as his major. Blake commented how much he enjoyed the organic chemistry sequence with Drs. Chris Beaudry, Kevin Gable and Dwight Weller, but it was the experimental labs with Drs. Christine Pastorek and Emile Firpo that really sealed his decision to be a Chem major. Blake has shown tremendous breadth in chemical interest.  His favorite course so far was the second term of Physical Chemistry with Dr. Chong Fang where they studied Quantum Chemistry. He liked it so much he took it twice, once as a student and once as an undergraduate teaching assistant. He is currently doing undergraduate research with Dr. Joe Nibler exploring the vibrational/rotational structure of perdeutero-spiropentane. They have just submitted earlier this year their first paper specifically on the ground vib/rot structure of the molecule and are currently working on analysis of some more of the upper states.

Graduate School is definitely in Blake’s future, as he’s already been accepted to UC Berkeley’s Chemistry graduate program.  He’s leaning toward academia upon getting his PhD because he loves research, but also has enjoyed teaching others about chemistry, so it will be a good balance for him.

In his spare time at OSU, Blake was also a member of the OSU Marching Band where he got to perform at a variety of sports events.

Students like Blake are the reason the Chemistry Department is so successful in educating future scientists.  Congratulations, Blake!


Undergraduate of the Quarter - Spring 2014
Undergraduate of the Quarter – Spring 2014

Chris Heron has been selected as one of our Undergrads of the Quarter for Spring 2014.  Chris was born in Corvallis, OR.  Prior to coming to OSU, Chris was in the United States Army – serving 3 separate tours in Iraq and was stationed in both Georgia and Colorado – finishing at the rank of Staff Sergeant.  After 7 years in the military, Chris decided to return back to school and enrolled at Columbia Gorge Community College in Hood River for one year.  He then came to Oregon State University as a biology major.  His time as a life sciences major was short lived – once he took Professor Margie Haak’s CH 220 course he was hooked on chemistry. He commented that Margie was an excellent presenter and she stimulated him to think about everything.  Chris also had a wonderful lab course experience in CH 361/362 which he describes as “just fabulous.” He particularly commented that Professor Emile Firpo was “fun and had great energy” and that “you learned a ton” from him.  The labs were key for Chris as it helped the lecture classes really make sense – they made him feel like “now I really get it!”  The P Chem series was really hard, but both Professors Glenn Evans and Wei Kong were great.  He loved Professor Kevin Gable’s dry sense of humor in O Chem.  He has been doing research in Professor David Ji’s lab recently.  Chris describes the research environment as “very inviting and simulating… Professor Ji has been very open with his lab.”  His time at OSU has been supported through the US GI Bill from his military service.  Outside of class, Chris enjoys racing bicycles with the OSU team on campus. This year, he has starting flying with the OSU Flying Club. He hopes to earn his pilot license prior to graduation and become a crop duster.  The FAA now wants crop dusters to have a chemistry background and that job will allow him to get enough hours to achieve his long term goal of being a pilot for a major airline.

Chris comments that OSU has a fabulous chemistry (and science) program and all the faculty are great.  We are honored to have amazing students like Chris as part of our program and we are grateful for his service to our country.  We congratulate Chris on all his achievements to date and we hope he continues to have a wonderful experience at OSU!

Oregon State chemistry club plays with fire

By McKinley Smith

The Daily Barometer

Published: Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 02:04

With a flash of lights, flames and a bang, the scent of soap fills the air, assaulting the senses.

“There’s a lot of stigma associated with chemistry being, ‘memorize all these numbers and use them,’ [or] ‘draw these hexagons with carbon atoms,’” said Amanda Abbot, a senior in chemistry and member of the Oregon State University chemistry club. “Chemistry club is more about the fun side of things.”

Chemistry club is open to anyone who “likes the fun part of chemistry,” Abbott said.

Club meetings take place every other week in the second floor lab in the Gilbert Hall addition. They begin with group planning and conclude with demonstrations. The club is currently selling beaker-themed glasses and mugs to raise funds, with order forms available in Gilbert 153.

The 24 students met for the club’s most recent meeting on Thursday, and featured many testaments of chemistry’s wonders.

Adam Huntley, a demo coordinator and a senior in chemistry, worked off an online recipe for indestructible bubbles, putting a new spin on a childhood pastime. The corn syrup, water and Dawn dish soap concoction yielded bubbles as large as basketballs.

“We haven’t actually gotten them indestructible yet,” Huntley said. “It’s more like a yo-yo.”

Dry ice, a Halloween staple well known for its smoky quality, took on a new angle, or a curve, during the demonstrations. Ashley Moon, junior in chemistry and demo coordinator, took turns with Huntley to whip up the dry ice, soap and water mixture into a luminous bubble, bulging over the side of the glass bowl before popping in a ring of smoke that swept over the lab bench.

The dry ice bubbles in the water, producing a carbon dioxide gas that is trapped by the thin veneer of soap created by passing a soapy fabric over the brim of the bowl. From there, the gas pushes up against the soap film, forming a large bubble. When the stress gets to be too much, it pops.

“It seems so simple, but so interesting at the same [time],” said Gillian Downey, a freshman in chemistry.

For Downey and Zoe Johnson, a freshman in bioresource research, it was their first chemistry club meeting.

Omran Muslin, a post-baccalaureate student studying biology, described the reaction between two chemicals about to take place under the fume hood.

“We’ll get a big cloud of smoke and you’ll get a little snake that comes out of it, a carbon snake, a black snake,” Muslin said. Muslin led the chemistry club years earlier, but currently aids the club.

Another demonstration added a bit of color to the evening. Different metals combined with methanol burned according to the particular metal they contained, producing an array of colors in the room — darkened to intensify the effect.

“Lithium is a purple-pink, copper is a green color, methanol itself is blue, so it’s just different colors, different variations,” Moon said.

Demonstrations go through the safety committee before being tested by the faculty advisors.

“We kind of tweak [the demonstration] until it works correctly and then we give it to the general population,” said EmileFirpo, one of the faculty advisers. “It’s not fun to have a demo that doesn’t work.”

Firpo has been involved in the club since the mid 1990s.

“We try not to make them explode and catch on fire, but inadvertently stuff a lot of times ends up not exactly lighting on fire but smoking,” Firpo said. “We try to make things colorful and exciting, but not actually light things on fire.”

John Loeser, faculty adviser, took over the Chemistry Club in the late 1980s and since then has procured a room and furniture for the club in Gilbert’s basement, room 22.

McKinley Smith, news reporter

Undergraduate of the Quarter - Winter 2013
Undergraduate of the Quarter – Winter 2013

Arsalan was born in Portland and went to Aloha High School.  He came to OSU because of the high quality of education available here for a “fraction of the cost of other places.”  During freshman orientation, he was initially registered as a biology major. When Dr. Chris Pastorek walked into the College of Science orientation and announced “All chem majors come with me,” he felt a spontaneous desire to follow her and has never looked back.   His favorite instructor is Emile Firpo due to his incredible generosity.  His interest in organic chemistry was sparked during the CH 334/335/336 series and he considers doing research with organic chemistry professor Paul Blakemore his best experience at OSU.  His favorite course was CH 435 Spectroscopy with Chris Beaudry.  After graduation, he intended to go to grad school to obtain a PhD in Chemistry and hopes to be a university professor one day. OSU and the Chemistry Department are so lucky to have talented students like Arsalan.

Undergraduate of the Quarter - Fall 2012
Undergraduate of the Quarter – Fall 2012

Monica Best has been selected as an undergrad chem major of the quarter for Fall 2012.  Monica grew up in Portland, OR and attended La Salle High School. Her junior and senior-year chemistry courses in high school solidified her interest in Chemistry.  When she visited OSU, she was impressed with the Chemistry Department and specifically credits Chris Pastorek with telling her all the great things going on here.  She is in her junior year right now – working in Adjunct Chemistry faculty member Jennifer Field’s laboratory.  She is unsure if she plans to attend graduate school, but hopes to stay in Oregon (or the Northwest) after she graduates. She is a fan of the TV crime dramas such as NCIS (particularly the lab tech Abby Sciuto) which has inspired her interest in the forensic science-chemistry option (with a toxicology minor).  She has enjoyed participating in the Chemistry Club within the Department – particularly the laid back feel and the expectation that the students do the work.  Her favorite courses so far have been Experimental Chemistry with Emile Firpo and John Loeser where she tells us that the student gets to be the “brain of it” – deciding what they are going to do.  She is taking Physical Chemistry this term and really has enjoyed Professor Glenn Evans’ passion and enthusiasm in the classroom. Outside of chemistry, she likes going to OSU football games, swimming and waterskiing in the summer time and crafting ”everything” from picture frames to scrapbooks.  She also recently joined the OSU Flying Club to learn how to fly.  It is talented and diverse students like Monica that help to make the OSU Chemistry program so strong!

Undergraduate of the Quarter - Fall 2013
Undergraduate of the Quarter – Fall 2013

Josh Holmes has been selected as an undergrad chem major of the quarter for Fall 2012.  Josh was born in Weymouth, Massachusetts , but grew up in Wilton, New Hampshire.  Josh took a non-traditional path to OSU.  While excelling in math throughout high school, he was unsure what career path to take.  Consequently, he decided to work in the construction industry after graduating from high school in 2002. During that time, he became interested in snow skiing and began working as a ski lift operator. His interest in skiing ultimately brought him to the west coast (California) were he met his wife.  In 2008, his wife enrolled in graduate school at OSU in geology.  Josh took the opportunity to re-engage with his education and starting taking classes at LBCC in 2009.  Within a year, he had matriculated to OSU where he has excelled ever sense.  He enjoyed taking math classes at OSU, but it was his General Chemistry course with Dr. Phil Watson that really caught his attention – commenting that he was “blown away by it.” His interest in the fundamental aspects of chemistry drove him to work for emeritus Professor Ken Hedberg because he “wants to known deep down inside what is happening” in chemistry.  Josh has enjoyed the personal attention and friendly attitude that OSU offers – providing easy access to faculty.  Both of those attributes he associates with the Experimental Chemistry courses run by Emile Firpo, John Loeser and Chris Pastorek.     He is unsure exactly what he wants to do after graduation, but he feels that he would like to teach in some capacity.  Josh still likes to snow ski and is an accomplished musician – playing guitar in the band called the Psych Country Revue (rock and roll with a country twist).  Our Department is lucky to have wonderful students like Josh who will surely inspire the next generation of chemists through their passion and enthusiasm about science!