Chemistry Newsletter - 04/06/2009

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XXXIII - No. 15 April, 27th, 2009

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For Professor, Chemistry and Composition Make Music Together
Goal in science, music is to bring people joy, create the unexpected. April 22, 2009, by Jill Sakai.

On any other chemistry professor’s desk, the thick musical score would seem out of place amid the mid-semester clutter of undergraduate lab manuals, hand-scribbled notes and research grants-in-progress. But for John Berry, the sheaf of music simply represents a different outlet for the same creative forces that guide his scientific research. In addition to his work as a chemistry professor, Berry is an avid musician who plays violin, viola and piano and has composed several original works. “As a musician, as soon as I learned to read music and play music, I started to write music. As a chemist, once I learned the fundamentals I became a synthetic chemist,” he says. “For me, the link between science and music is creativity.”
Berry started music at age 10 when his younger brother lost interest in playing the violin. “He just really didn’t like it. But we had rented this violin,” Berry recalls. “My mother had already paid for several lessons in advance, so [my brother] stopped going to the lessons and I started going.” His musical ambitions stuck even as he got hooked on chemistry in high school, and he went on to earn both a B.S. in chemistry and a B.A. in music theory and composition at Virginia Tech. Professionally, Berry decided to pursue the scientific angle, and he started as an assistant professor of chemistry at UW-Madison in 2006. “I think I’ve been very lucky with chemistry, and everything has worked out so far,” he says. Others credit his successes to far more than luck. His chemistry career, though young, is already studded with awards, including several fellowships and awards as a graduate student at Texas A&M University and a postdoctoral fellow at the Max-Planck Institute for Bioinorganic Chemistry in Germany. In 2008, he received a National Science Foundation CAREER award, one of the most prestigious awards available to a young faculty member. “He is a phenomenal teacher and researcher,” says colleague and chemistry department chair Robert Hamers.

John Berry playing violin Assistant Professor of Chemistry  John Berry performs during the Concert at Chemistry, a musical performance held in March at the Chemistry Building.

Photo: Bryce Richter

Berry’s research, on rather unusual metal-containing compounds, is “a bit of an esoteric area of chemistry, but it’s one that has a lot of overlap with areas like molecular electronics and energy transfer.” Berry studies properties of these compounds that help them drive a variety of chemical reactions, and synthesizes new molecules in hopes of harnessing their utility as potential catalysts for applications including streamlining industrial processes and improving efficiency. For example, he is currently collaborating with Hamers to explore possible energy applications for his novel compounds. Although the demands of life as a young tenure-track faculty member - supervising students, writing grants and papers, teaching - have slowed his musical endeavors, he still finds daily grounding in his music, beginning at the piano. “Every morning when I wake up, one of the first things I do is I play a Bach fugue from ‘The Well-Tempered Clavier.’ That’s what gets my mind ready for the rest of the day,” Berry says.
His scientific and musical pursuits reflect the common goal of making something new in hopes that others will find value and enjoyment in it, he says. He particularly enjoys “taking two things that don’t belong together and putting them together” to create unusual and unexpected combinations - for example, a duet for French horn and double bass, or a new metal compound containing two chromium atoms linked by a quadruple bond and an iron atom thrown in for good measure. Berry also participated in a recent juxtaposition of campus scientific and musical interests, a “Concert at Chemistry” on March 12, sponsored by the Science, Arts and Humanities program of the Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literacy. The concert brought together science, engineering and music faculty and students to perform for a packed chemistry lecture hall. The program included the world premiere of Berry's “Sonata for Tuba and Piano,” performed by music graduate students Kristin Ihde and Stephanie Frye. Berry wrote the sonata in 2006 for a Japanese tubist he befriended in an intensive language class in Germany. “He asked me once if I would write something for tuba. And no sooner did he do that than I heard this in my mind,” Berry says, pointing at the first line of his score. “I went home as soon as I could and started writing.”
The concert was a great public demonstration of the dual interests many university members hold, says John Yin, a chemical engineering professor who played cello in the concert, and especially for Berry. “I see the concert as a celebration for him.” “I’ve always wanted to hear it,” Berry says of his tuba sonata. “[Kristin and Stephanie] played it as well as I ever imagined… And the fact that it’s something I wrote - that’s the icing on the cake.”
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2009 Dates of Finance/Department Meetings
Department/Executive Committee Meetings - Tuesdays - 1:30 PM - Room 9341 Chemistry
May 19th, 2009
Finance Committee Meetings - Tuesdays - 1:30 PM - Room 1130
May 5th, 2009
May 12th, 2009
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SEMINARS
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Tuesday, April 28th, 2009 - Organic Seminar, 3:30 p.m., Room 1315 Chemistry Building. Professor William Roush, Scripps. “Design and Applications of BifunctionalAllylmetalReagents for the Synthesis of Biologically Active Natural Products”
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Tuesday, April 28th, 2009 - Physical Chemistry Seminar, 11:00 a.m., Room 1315 Chemistry Building. Professor Samuel I. Stupp, Northwestern University. “Hierarchical Self-Assembly of Materials”
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Wednesday, April 29th, 2009 - McElvain Inorganic Seminar, 3:30 p.m., Room 1315 Chemistry Building. Professor Karl Wieghardt, Max Planck Institute. “Coordination Chemistry with Radicals: Where are the Valence Electrons?”
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Thursday, April 30th, 2009 - Analytical Seminar, 12:15 p.m., Room 1315 Chemistry Building. Professor E. Bryan Coughlin, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
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Thursday, April 30th, 2009 - Materials Science Seminar, 4:00 p.m., Room 265 Material Science & Engineering Building. Assistant Professor Wan-Ju Li, Biomedical Engineering, UW-Madison. “Biomimetic Nanostructures as 3D Culture for Biomedical Research and Tissue Engineering”
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Thursday, April 30th, 2009 - Organic Graduate Student Seminar, 11:00 a.m., Room 1315 Chemistry. Thanit Praneenararat (Blackwell Group) “The Logic of Diversity-Oriented Synthesis: Complexity / Diversity / Efficiency”
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Friday, May 1st, 2009 - PUI Seminar, 11:00 a.m., Room 9341 Chemistry Building. Professor Lisa Gentile, University of Richmond. “The design of a First Year Quantitative Integrated Science/Math Course”
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Friday, May 1st, 2009 - WISELI Lecture on Women in Science, 3:30 p.m., Room 1315 Chemistry Building. Professor Lisa Gentile, University of Richmond. “Is an Academic Position at a Primary Undergraduate Institution the Right Choice for Me?”
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Monday, May 4 th, 2009 - Organic Chemistry Hirschmann Seminar, 3:30 p.m., Room 1315 Chemistry Building. Professor Barry Trost, Stanford University. “Self Assembly of Dinuclear Main Group Catalysts for Asymmetric Synthesis”
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Tuesday, May 5 th, 2009 - Organic Chemistry Hirschmann Seminar, 3:30 p.m., Room 1315 Chemistry Building. Professor Barry Trost, Stanford University. “On the Impact of New Synthetic Methods for the Synthesis of Bioactive Targets”
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Tuesday, May 5th, 2009 - Physical Chemistry Seminar, 11:00 a.m., Room 1315 Chemistry building. Professor Lewis Kay, University of Toronto. “Seeing the Invisible by Solution NMR Spectroscopy”
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Wednesday, May 6th, 2009 - Inorganic & Materials Seminar, 3:30 p.m., Room 1315 Chemistry Building. Professor Thomas Mallouk, The Pennsylvania State University.
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Thursday, May 7th, 2009 - Analytical Seminar, 12:15 p.m., Room 1315 Chemistry Building. Professor Barbara Turpin, Rutgers University.
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Friday, May 8th,  2009 - Special Analytical/Physical Seminar, 1:00 p.m., Room 1315 Chemistry Building. Professor Mostafa A. El-Sayed, Georgia Institute of Technology.
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Tuesday, May 12th, 2009 - Organic Chemistry Seminar, 3:30 p.m., Room 1315 Chemistry Building. Professor Vy Maria Dong, University of Toronto. “Catalytic Transformations of C-H Bonds, Carbon Dioxide, and Simple Olefins”
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Thursday, May 14th, 2009 - Analytical Seminar, 12:15 p.m., Room 1315 Chemistry Building. Professor Babak Parviz, University of Washington, Seattle. “Engineering Self-Assembly Across the Size Scale for Building Functional Devices”
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Friday May 29th, 2009 - UW-Madison Chemistry Department - Larry Dahl Symposium, 11:00 a.m., Chemistry Building. Professor Larry Dahl.
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Saturday May 30th, 2009 - UW-Madison Chemistry Department - Larry Dahl Symposium, 9:00 a.m., Chemistry Building. Professor Larry Dahl.
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American Chemical Society's Preparing for Life After Graduate School (PfLAGS) Workshop
The following message pertains to students and postdocs who are within 24 months of conducting a job search. We encourage you to register for the American Chemical Society's Preparing for Life After Graduate School (PfLAGS) workshop which will run in our Department on May 18-20, 2009. This workshop is intended to help students and postdocs seeking careers in industry, government offices, and academics to examine carefully their future career options and to provide useful insights into conducting a successful job search. Specific topics to be covered in this workshop are:
1. What are the possible career options for a Ph.D. Chemist? The life of a chemist is industry, government employment, and academics.
2. Non-technical skills and knowledge: performance reviews and evaluations, patents and intellectual property, business economics and project selection, ethical conduct, and team approaches to scientific problem solving.
3. Finding a Job: Targeting jobs, writing a resume and cover letter that will highlight your strengths and help you find your ideal job, interviewing skills.
4. Academic jobs: How to find a postdoc? Have you ever wondered how your PI got her/his job? How does this process work?
Dr. James Burke, once head of North American Ph.D. recruiting for Rohm & Haas Company, will conduct this two day workshop. The third day of the workshop will include opportunities for mock interview practice and resume/cover letter review. If you are interested in registering for this two day workshop, please contact David Michaelis, vidmichaelis@chem.wisc.edu as soon as possible and no later than this Sunday April 26, 2009 by midnight. We have approximately 17 spaces available at this time. We highly encourage you to enroll!
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EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES
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NONE FOR THIS NEWSLETTER
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FACULTY POSITIONS/TEMPORARY FACULTY/ACADEMIC POSITIONS
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NONE FOR THIS NEWSLETTER
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POSTDOCTORAL POSITIONS AND/OR JOBS
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NONE FOR THIS NEWSLETTER
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Please submit all newsletter information or address changes to: goldade@chem.wisc.edu or 262-0293. Thank You.
DETAILS ARE AVAILABLE IN ROOM 1146.
NEXT NEWSLETTER IS ON MAY 4th, 2009.