Monthly Archives: September 2014

Huang Qiu’s Journey; An International Student’s Perspective on the University of Maryland Experience

Huang Qiu PhotoHuang Qiu, a Ph.D. student attached to Dr. Michael Doyle’s research group in the department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, is the first student to come to the Chemistry and Biochemistry department through a joint Ph.D. program in cooperation with the East China Normal University in Shanghai, China. This six year program, when successfully completed, will result in Mr. Qiu having earned a Ph.D. from both institutions, as well as valuable personal and professional experience spanning two dynamic cultures.

“I wanted to come to the U.S. to learn,” says Mr. Qiu. “The U.S. has stronger academics and I wanted to go abroad for a different experience [than what I knew] in China.”

Mr. Qiu is ten months into his three year commitment to his education and research. Once he is finished in the US, he will go back to China to complete the education requirements there. His ultimate education and career goal is to be a researcher because he loves the idea of discovering something no one else has discovered.  “He has already done this in his research at Maryland,” says his research advisor, Mike Doyle. “In one of his projects he has converted an ester to a diketone, and we are trying to find out how this has occurred.”  His research here is focused on gold catalyzed reactions, and he is nearing the final stages for the publication of two manuscripts.

“I want to find new tools for the chemistry tool box that anyone can use,” says Mr. Qiu.

As excited as he is about his research, there are other challenges he finds just as exciting, surprising and sometimes difficult. Also, he is fascinated and surprised by how independent American students are.

“It is much more difficult than I thought. In China, a student lives in the dorm and eats at the [campus] restaurants or cafeterias. But here, I have had to learn to cook, to clean, and to take care of myself.” says Mr. Qiu.

He also is finding time for more social activities. He loves to play basketball with his friends, though the amount of open space in which to play was surprising to him.

“We do not have this much open space in China.”

With all of the challenges of his program, the language, the work, the daily tasks, Mr. Qiu says everyone he has met has been very helpful.

“I get a lot of help. I can always ask people in the department and they are very supportive.”

When asked what advice he has for any other student thinking of leaving their home country for an education at the University of Maryland, he offers this:

“Language is very important, so prepare your English. Always communicate and be open with your group members. Make many friends. It’s very important if you come here alone. If you make friends, your life is very colorful.”

Chris Jarzynski Appointed as IPST Director/Grant

ChrisJarzinsky2Dr. Christopher Jarzynski has been appointed as the Director of the Institute for Physical Science and Technology (IPST) effective July 1, 2014.  IPST has a faculty of 30, including seven jointly appointed in Chemistry & Biochemistry.  One of his goals is to raise the visibility of the Institute within the University of Maryland.

“I hope to help shape the future of the Institute,” said Dr. Jarzynski. “I believe strongly in the core purpose – to promote interdisciplinary research and education. IPST can be more effective for this purpose than traditional departments.”

IPST is in charge of chemistry physics, biophysics, and helps run Applied Mathematics & Statistics and Scientific Computation (AMSC). Dr. Jarzynski’s main goal is to raise the visibility of IPST within the University in order to further encourage excellence in interdisciplinary work by integrating people, science and technology.

In addition to this appointment, Dr. Jarzynski, and his collaborator Dr. Krishnaprasad, has been awarded a grant of $1.8 million over five years (3-year base plus 2-year extension) from the Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI), awarded by the Army Research Office for work relating to the development of perspectives on nonequilibrium thermodynamics and control theory.

“Historically, thermodynamics have been about large/macroscopic systems like steam engines or power plants,” says Dr. Jarzynski. “Something I’ve been fascinated with is how the laws of thermodynamics behave at the nanoscale. I think it is a question that hasn’t been fully explored and, for a long time, this question has been academic and abstract. Also, control theory has been very well developed by engineers at the macroscopic level, but has not been a topic that most chemists or physicists are familiar with.

However, now technology allows us to probe and/or manipulate individual molecules; like, for example, individual pieces of DNA. So, this grant will allow us to bring together Dr. Krishnaprasad’s control theory expertise with the new developments in nonequilibrium thermodynamics to develop a kind of control theory to apply to machines the size of molecules.”

If successful, this fundamental theoretical research will uncover the principles that allow molecular machines to process information. The theoretical tools developed here will be used in experiments involving synthetic, biomolecular motors.

Dr. Joseph Houck Awarded Boys and Girls Club Grant to Promote Science in Schools

Girl@B&GDr. Joseph Houck has been awarded a grant by SCIENCountErs, an after school science activity outreach group developed through collaboration between The Boys and Girls Club and the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Institute for Chemical Education (ICE).

This grant allows Dr. Houck and his students to set up fun, hands-on activities for children to learn about chemistry and related science. The goals of the program are to improve B&GC members’ attitudes towards science and scientists, to build their confidence in their own scientific abilities, and to increase their ability to communicate about science.

“Once a week, we meet up at the Laurel Boys & Girls Club and set up experiments like Candy Chromatography where the kids can see and separate the different dyes in candy, or crystal growth experiments, or determining the amount of vitamin C in fruit juice.” says Dr. Houck.

The weekly meetings started in February, and are proving very popular.

“We have sixteen kids at the Laurel site, and twenty two at the College Park Academy site. The ratio of those attending is 50/50 boys and girls. A group of students has been visiting the 6th graders at the College Park Academy during their aftercare program on Tuesdays since mid- March. We also did a mini-forensic camp during their spring break in April.” says Dr. Houck.

The partnership was first proposed to Dr. Houck by Andrew Greenberg, the director of SCIENCountErs in Madison, WI, during the American Chemical Society’s members’ meeting in April 2013 hosted by the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry.