It’s been a busy few weeks, and I shouldn’t be complaining. Each week, I’ve had a presentation to give: discussing how I removed textbook costs in my courses, leading a discussion with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo about our somewhat unconventional Chemistry curriculum, teaching the local start-up community about some R&D issues with new battery technology, and presenting our research on redox mediators at TechConnect in DC.
What makes Davidson Chemistry so special?
I had an inkling that Chemistry could be taught in different ways from my first year at Virginia. Dean Harman created the “80’s Series” as a 4-semester block moving us through Gen Chem I, Orgo I, Orgo II, and Gen Chem II (in that order) with a strong basis in physical organic/inorganic chemistry. I credit it with developing my chemical intuition, which has helped me go quite far!
In 2015, Davidson’s Chemistry department switched up the curriculum in a different way: offer the option to take any introductory discipline course immediately after gen chem. Each discipline will have its own track, giving students the options to go deeper as their interest leads them. I personally love it for the opportunity to invite first and second year students into my inorganic course, long before most folks every see inorganic in a standard linear curriculum.
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo is looking to make changes to their curriculum as the transition away from a quarter system, so they invited me to talk about our shift and everything we’ve learned since. You can find the talk on YouTube below!
Alexa’s First Invited Research Talk!
You can’t do much better than getting an invite to give a research seminar. And at the age of 22, Alexa Greenwood is ahead of the curve!
The local ACS group, Carolina-Piedmont, invited undergraduates from the surrounding area to give shorts talks at the latest virtual meeting. Alexa introduced folks to our redox mediator work in the context of lithium-air batteries.
As we were making the presentation, I realized just how much I’ve forgotten about all the work we’ve done. Too many years have gone by and so many results have piled up… it’s just hard to keep each bit in my head at the same time. But this presentation definitely jogged the memory.
I’m so proud of Alexa, the work she’s done both in the lab and throughout the rest of her Davidson career. And for everyone who worked on this project, she made us look awesome!
Finally traveling around!
My previous post about how this semester might go was pretty much spot on, but for reasons other than The Virus That Shall Not Be Named. Between a higher course load that involved one course that was heavily revamped and another that was lab-intensive and the fact that my kiddos need so much more of my attention when I’m home now that they’re older but still very young, I had so little time to keep things afloat. The thing I’m proud to say is that I was mostly happy the whole time.
One aspect of the job that brought me joy was finally traveling around to give talks and meet new people. What a revelation! I first went to UT Arlington for the 2021 VIPEr Summer Workshop to brush up on how best to incorporate primary literature into learning objects. You can see all sorts of stuff here and on the SLITHER down below.
But getting to meet many of the folks in IONiC-VIPEr as well as newbies like myself was a terrific way to start off the semester.
Later on in the semester, I started giving talks around North Carolina. The first was App State in early October followed by NC State in late November. It was a blast, and I really can’t thank the folks at each of those places enough for the hospitality and the opportunity. At both places, I got swag, and it was perfect. App State had a chemistry department T-shirt that is now framed up on my wall, and NC State folks gave me a pin and mug that are now in the rotation. Three of my favorite things! They really know me!
Here are just a few pictures from my trips.
My expectation for how the semester is going to go…
Another Chat with Chemistry Cayk Online
I don’t get interviewed very much, and I’m not famous enough to have my own podcast. So when Cayk shows up on my virtual doorstep saying it’s time for a podcast, I don’t hesitate!
Their podcast’s current season is on Chemical Education, and we talked about what an undergraduate-focused research program looks like and how to make it fruitful. Nothing is one-size, of course, but I hope you enjoy it thoroughly even if it doesn’t fully apply to what you like to do.
Giving talks in the time of COVID
With the tenure decision seemingly right around the corner, I knew this would be an important year to give talks. I had even planned for a pre-tenure sabbatical to give me the freedom to travel for any talks. I already had plans to do a tour of Ohio and see most of the schools in NC….
Making the best of a bad situation, I’ve had the opportunity to give virtual versions of most of my talks. And thankfully, Zoom came through with a beta feature that has been fun and a bit more engaging. You can use your slides as a virtual background!
The virtual background feature uses software or a green screen to filter out the background and replaces it with a picture of your choosing. In this way, the slides become that background. You can switch slides by mashing the space bar or left/right just like usual, and you can resize and move yourself around the slides as appropriate. I really enjoyed it!
I specifically rebuilt my slides to give myself a small space in the lower righthand corner to sit and “face the audience.” Then the presentation starts, and I go to Share > Advanced > Slides as Virtual Background.
I also opted for the green screen treatment instead of the software-enabled version. It was less likely to show unexpected glitches related to furniture that was behind me, especially as a moved and gestured. Additionally, Felix Carroll, fellow Chemistry professor here, shared two lamps with bulbs that replicate the spectrum of sunlight to help illuminate me in a more “natural” way.
Here are some final shots of how that first talk looked. I’ve since done four of these kinds of talks, and it’s been very fun. If you’d like me to give a talk at your institution, please get in touch!
Mitch chats with Chemistry Cayk Online
At the ACS meeting in San Diego in 2019, I was starving for some coffee and happened to spot a chemistry Twitter celebrity. You know them as Chemistry Cayk, but I know them as… Cayk. Basically on a first name basis.
I couldn’t resist saying hey. One thing led to another, and here I am chatting with Cayk on the podcast!
We talk about helical molecular orbital, live-tweeting journal articles, and, of course, batteries! Please enjoy the all the episodes and not just this one though!
Two New Papers in IUCrData!
Despite the craziness of Summer 2020, it was probably the most productive time spent. We kept it simple, focused on what we knew we could do well, and got papers for Hannah and Ais! There is probably a life lesson in there that I’ll soon forget.
Check out these two cool structures! The second structure was chosen as the feature article on the cover of the September issue of IUCrData!
Whalen, A. C.; Hernandez Brito, C.; Choi, K. H.; Warner, E. J. T.; Thole, D. A.; Gau, M. R.; Carroll, P. J.; Anstey, M. R. “10-Phenyl-10H-phenoxazine-4,6-diol tetrahydrofuran monosolvate.” IUCrData 2020, 5, x201276. link
Mallard, H. H.; Kennedy, N. D.; Rudman, N. A.; Greenwood, A. M.; Nicoleau, J.; Angle, C. E.; Torquato, N. A.; Gau, M. R.; Carroll, P. J.; Anstey, M. R. “2,2’-Oxybis[1,3-bis(4-methoxyphenyl)-2,3-dihydro-1H-benzo[d][1,3,2]diazaborole].” IUCrData, 2020, 5, x201248. link