chemistry professor

David Laude, chemistry professor and vice provost, demonstrates how to make ice cream using milk and nitrogen gas Friday. Laude performed multiple experiments during the demonstration to show kids that chemistry can be fun.

Photo Credit: Claire Schaper | Daily Texan Staff

While many students avoid taking difficult science classes, chemistry professor David Laude said they are not something people should be afraid of.

Laude, who is also a senior vice provost for enrollment and graduation management, presented a demonstration Friday evening to show how chemistry relates to almost everything in life.

Laude began his demonstration by making it clear the audience was not only going to have fun but also learn. 

“For those of you thinking I am doing a chemistry circus, I am not,” Laude said. “I am teaching chemistry.”

The event was hosted by the Environmental Science Institute as part of its "Hot Science - Cool Talks" series. Audience members of all ages were invited to take part in the demonstrations, and Laude said he wanted students to have hands-on opportunities to learn. 

According to Laude, chemistry can be interesting even if something is not exploding.

“Is it going to go ka-boom?” Laude said. “No, but something cooler will happen.”

Prior to the talk, an interactive fair was held in which different experiments were demonstrated, including freezing balloons with nitrogen and separating oil from water. Children were able to engage with Laude by taking part in the demonstrations when he asked for volunteers.

Sierra Johnson, a child who attended the chemistry demonstration, said she was entertained throughout the show, especially during the calorie-burning experiment. By burning food with high calories, Laude showed how much time calories take to burn. 

Chris Jones, a father who brought his two children, said he appreciated Laude’s integration of fun in learning science.

“I thought it was a very good overview of chemistry, and Laude did a very good job of introducing basic concepts to the audience,” Jones said. “I really liked all the demonstrations that were well matched to what he was trying to teach us.”

Laude said he has long been integrating fun into his teachings in hopes of keeping children active in the sciences.

“To get kids to stop staring at video screens, that’s my number one reason,” Laude said.

Government sophomore Mariadela Villegas also attended the event and said Laude’s presentation was entertaining and informative.

“I think it was great the way he presented the topics because the information he brought was not only understandable to college students, but also to the children who attended the presentation,” Villegas said.

Allen Bard, University of Texas at Austin chemistry professor.  

Photo Credit: Marsha Miller | Daily Texan Staff

Chemical engineering research professor Adam Heller and chemistry professor Allen Bard received the Torbern Bergman Medal from the Analytical Division of the Swedish Chemical Society on June 9.

The society, which presented the medal to professors in Stockholm, has awarded it every two years since 1967 for important contributions to the field of analytical chemistry.

Heller received the medal for developing technology that helps measure the glucose level in the blood of diabetics, according to the society.

While at the University, Heller said he and his son Ephraim built the first continuous glucose meter that could be implanted under the skin. This process became a key technological centerpiece of the FreeStyle Navigator, a system designed to more accurately measure the glucose level of diabetics. The FreeStyle requires a very small amount of blood to monitor glucose levels and is therefore painless, according to Thomas Truskett, chemical engineering department chair.

“The important part is that diabetic patients comply with the painless and convenient therapies enabled by Heller’s discoveries, extending (and improving the quality of) their lives,” Truskett said in an email.

Heller was also fundamental in developing one of the first lithium batteries, which were later used in medical and defense systems, solar cells and hydrogen photoelectrodes.

Bard, who has taught at the University since 1958, received the award for his work in electrochemistry, which ranges from imaging single cell reactions to fundamental charge transfers, according to the society.

“It is very nice to be recognized for one’s research, especially by scientists in another country, so the award is much appreciated,” Bard said.

According to Bard, his most significant contribution is the development of electrogenerated chemiluminescence, a process in which light is produced electrochemically. This method has a wide range of medical applications, including detecting the presence of HIV.

Heller said he was honored to receive the medal alongside Bard.

“Al and I are dear friends (we have known each other for about 40 years) and it gives me special and great joy to share with Al the medal,” Heller said in an email.

Robert Villwock, associate director of the Center for Electrochemistry, said both professors carried out their research at the University.

“We’re very proud to have two of our distinguished scientists from the Center for Electrochemistry recognized internationally for their lifelong contributions to the advancement of science,” Villwock said in an email. “Much of the work for which they have been honored took place here at The University of Texas at Austin.”

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

President Barack Obama awarded chemistry professor Allen Bard with the Enrico Fermi Award, a $50,000 prize he will share with Andrew Sessler, director emeritus of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. The award, which honors distinguished research in energy science and technology over the course of a scientist’s career, is given through the U.S. Department of Energy and was announced Monday.

Chemistry professor Jonathan Sessler, whose father won the award alongside Bard, said Bard has made an impression on him since his early days at UT.

“I have admired Al Bard since I first arrived at UT in 1984. He was already famous back then,” Sessler said. “He remains one of my true heroes: a scientist’s scientist.”

Electrochemistry is the combined study of various kinds of energy, chemicals and electrical systems. Bard said electrochemistry is necessary for creating many complex chemicals that are a vital component of many modern devices.

“[Electrochemistry is] used widely to obtain a lot of chemicals that you can’t make because they don’t occur naturally in nature, like chlorine and aluminum,” Bard said. “All the batteries we have today are made through electrochemical systems.”

Chemistry lecturer Sara Sutcliffe, who was a student of Bard’s in the ’90s, said Bard has always been a memorable and thoughtful instructor.

“I took his class called ‘Electronics for Scientists’ and it was a wonderful experience I will never forget,” Sutcliffe said. “He was patient and would take the time to really help you.”

Sutcliffe said she recalls a particular lesson in which Bard wanted to emphasize the importance of caution. According to Sutcliffe, Bard brought a television into class one day, adjusted the television’s wires and then touched one of them with a screwdriver, producing sparks, smoke and a powerful smell.

“He got the reaction out of the class he wanted,” Sutcliffe said.

Chemistry graduate student Michelle Robinson said Bard’s award speaks to the quality of researchers at the University.

“As a graduate student in the department of chemistry, having a recipient of the Enrico Fermi award is very exciting,” Robinson said. “It enhances the reputation of the department.”

Brent Iverson, chemistry professor and former chairman of the department of chemistry and biochemistry, currently serves as the Dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies. 

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

Shooting underwater photography, running marathons and binding molecules to DNA are just a few of Brent Iverson’s interests.

Iverson is chairman of the department of chemistry and biochemistry and a chemistry professor. He is also one of five finalists for the deanship of the School of Undergraduate Studies, and the only one from UT.

Iverson, who has been chairman for two years, said he continues to teach chemistry because of his passion for the science and the excitement of seeing students connect scientific fundamentals to the world around them.

“We’re in the process of updating our undergraduate curriculum and I think we’re creating the kind of learning environment that going to be just want the students need especially at the undergraduate level,” Iverson said. “The demands on students after they leave are changing and the though process of what students want are changing.”

Iverson said although he is involved in administration, teaching and research, all three areas have a common goal of inspiring and connecting students to world-class researchers.

“They don’t work for me, I work for them,” Iverson said. “We have top-tier researchers in this department. Really, they are the best of the best, and those are the people students are getting to connect with.”

In December, President Barack Obama awarded chemistry professor Allen Bard the National Medal of Science. In January, chemistry professor Grant Wilson won the Japan Prize, which is a prestigious international chemistry award.

Amy Rhoden Smith, a graduate research assistant, worked with Iverson to develop a molecule that binds to DNA.

“He is so able to encapsulate a good idea and communicate something very complex in a way people can understand, even if you’re not a scientist,” Rhoden Smith said.

Iverson said although the bond does not have a current practical use, it could potentially be a step toward developing a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

“That is just really cool,” Iverson said. “It not as though tomorrow we’re going do something with it, but it’s a big step forward.”

Biology senior Patrick Hunt, who has Iverson as a faculty mentor and as a professor in a seminar class, said Iverson is an inspiring role model who is constantly encouraging students.

“He’s very good at giving positive advice,” Hunt said. “He’s full of experience. He just knows a lot about a lot. We try to talk about academics but its hard not to mention hobbies, and he has a lot.”

Chemistry professor Eric Anslyn has known Iverson since they were both in graduate school at the California Institute of Technology, and they have even published an organic chemistry textbook together. Anslyn said Iverson is leading the department to better students’ chemistry education.

“He has empathy and understanding for the students and dedication to the educational process, making sure students achieve their very best,” Anslyn said. “He sees how decisions have short run and long reaching implications and is able to bring together coalitions of people who will make wise decision about the direction of the department.”

As one of five candidates for the undergraduate studies deanship, he will give a presentation to students and faculty April 5. Currently, Lawrence Abraham is serving as interim dean.

“Higher education changes and it’s going to continue to change,” Iverson said. “I fundamentally believe that UGS is going to be the beacon of change on this campus. It’s going to enhance what goes on around it. So I hope the right person gets it, even if that is not me.”

The candidates include Bernard Mair, the provost of undergraduate affairs and mathematics professor at the University of Florida, who visited campus Thursday; Selmer Bringsjord, chairman of the department of cognitive science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, who will visit Tuesday; Paul Diehl, a political science and law professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who will visit Thursday and Friday; and Steven Brint, the vice provost for undergraduate education and a sociology professor at the University of California at Riverside, who will visit April 1 and 2.