O Chemis-Tree! O Chemis-Tree!

Technician Abbey Killam brightened everyone’s Holidays with her Chemis-Tree. It is currently residing near the Dickinson Reading Room, so stop by and admire it if you haven’t seen it yet!

o chemistree

photo by Molly Forgaard

 

 

 

 

Happy Holidays from the faculty and staff in Dickinson!

Chemistry Sets as Cultural Artifacts

Something light but substantive for the final week of classes.

For those of you unfamiliar with his work, Philip Ball is a prolific science writer. Author of twenty science books that examine science and its contributions to, and role in, society, he also regularly writes columns for Nature, where he served as an editor for twenty years, Chemical World, and other publications. His latest book, Serving the Reich, was nominated for the 2014 Winton Prize by the Royal Society (a short video of him reading an excerpt is available here). I never need much of an excuse to use his books in my courses: Stories of the Invisible, The Bright Earth, and Life’s Matrix are just a few examples.

chemcraft

He just posted a fascinating piece on his blog, homunculus, about a collection of chemistry sets at the Chemical Heritage Foundation that will be the focus of an upcoming exhibition. He’s particularly interested in how these kits have changed over the years and what those changes say about society at large.

Well worth a look.

 

Special Science Workshop: Fall Poster Session!

This Friday will be the annual fall science poster session. There will be student work from many different science, math and computing classes. It is a great opportunity to find out what your classmates have been doing! This is also your chance to to be in the know on all the new posters that will decorate the Dickinson walls for the coming semester.

And as always, we will have some great food to kick off the event. All are welcome to attend. Come see what our students have been working on, ask good questions, enjoy good food, have a great time. It’s a terrific way to bring the semester to a close.

When: Dec. 5, 2014 @ 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
Where: Hallways of Dickinson
What: Annual Fall Poster Session – be there!

Science Workshop: Microtubule-based Motor Proteins

Have you ever wondered how cellular cargo gets transported from place to place along cytoskeletal networks? How vesicles travel down looooooooooooooong nerve axons to reach their destinations? How force is generated on spindle microtubules to permit chromosome movement during mitosis and meiosis? Would you be surprised to learn that “two-headed monsters” are involved???

Well, two-headed molecular motor proteins, at the least! Come hear Dr. Susan Gilbert, Professor and Head of the Department of Biological Sciences at RPI, talk at science workshop about her ongoing research on the Kinesin family of microtubule-based motor proteins.

kinesin

 

Science Workshop: Using Crystal Age and Compositions to Understand How Volcanoes Come Back to Life

Science Workshop:  November 7, 2014.  1 PM.  Dickinson 232.

This Friday’s Science Workshop speaker is Erik Klemetti, Assistant Professor of Geosciences at Denison University, and author of the popular Eruptions blog at Wired.

ChaosCragsHis talk, “Using Crystal Age and Compositions to Understand How Volcanoes Come Back to Life” is described as follows:

Volcanoes spend most of their existence not erupting. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t a multitude of magmatic processes going on underneath. These might include intrusions of new magma, crystallization of existing magma, magma mixing and movement of crystals through the “crystal mush” that sits under the volcano. These processes all leave their compositional and temporal signature on the crystals that form and are subsequently incorporated into the magma that does erupt. I will discuss how examination of zircon crystals in magma can help us unravel the timing and nature of events that occur between volcanic eruptions with a focus on the evolution of the Lassen Volcanic Center in California. Overall, current trace element and U-Th disequilibria age data derived from zircon suggests that an otherwise moribund magmatic system can be brought back to life (rejuvenated) by new intrusions of magmatic that are geologically ephemeral, lasting years to millennia. This conclusion means that the events that lead to the 1915 eruption at Lassen Peak unfolded rapidly before the explosive eruption, the only to occur in California in the last century.

Public Physics Experiment – Trebuchet vs. Potato Cannon

Wednesday Oct. 29 at 2:30 PM, on the Dickinson patio, the Physics I class will attempt to resolve a long-standing scientific debate: Which device can impart more kinetic energy to a vegetable projectile?

A medieval trebuchet launching a pumpkin,

OR

A modern hairspray-powered PVC potato cannon

The trebuchet is powered by dropping a 110 kg concrete block, while the potato cannon is powered by a little bit of flammable vapor.  Which will you bet on?

Come and help us to resolve this important scientific quandary.

Mechanistic Insight Into Cellular Functions and Disease States

Protein1

Mechanistic Insight Into Cellular Functions and Disease States

OdonnellOur science workshop speaker for Friday, October 24th will be John O’Donnell, who is currently a PhD student in the laboratory of Holger Sondermann at Cornell University (http://sondermannlab.vet.cornell.edu).  His talk will focus on elucidating the molecular mechanism of the protein atlastin, which is responsible for endoplasmic reticulum membrane fusion. Obtaining the blueprints of this enzyme’s function has enabled him to address questions surrounding atlastin’s contributions to cellular functions and associated disease states such as the neurodegenerative disorder Hereditary Spastic Parapalegia (HSP).

 

Alum research in the NY Times

 

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invasive Eurasian barberry (Berberis) in Acadia National Park (photo, Kerry Woods)

Research of alum Jason Fridley (’97, Ph.D. Univ. North Carolina), now a professor at Syracuse University, is featured in Carl Zimmer’s science column in the New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/09/science/turning-to-darwin-to-solve-the-mystery-of-invasive-species.html?_r=0

Several of Jason’s research projects have received wide recognition.  Zimmer’s column focuses on his work on the ecology of invasive species and its evolutionary underpinnings.  Fridley has worked with Dr. Dov Sax of Brown University to explore whether a Darwinian perspective on ecological relationships can help understand patterns of invasion.

Geology of the Bennington region class enjoys a beautiful fall field trip

kelly_stand1The Geology of the Bennington Region class examines Precambrian bedrock along Kelly Stand Road in the Green Mountains. This road re-opened a just few weeks ago after having been completely destroyed by the Tropical Storm Irene flood over three years ago. We are very happy to have the road back with its easy access to the mountains. While the flood was tragic, we were excited to find that it scoured several new excellent bedrock exposures along the newly reconstructed road. It is always nice to take a field trip on a beautiful fall day.