Individuals and businesses are scrambling to find new ways to protect themselves from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. With this interest, the effectiveness of new technologies that promise to improve indoor air quality has taken center stage. University of Wisconsin–Madison chemists have accepted the challenge of evaluating those technologies and the work is moving quickly, thanks to the lab’s partnership with HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) specialists at Johnson Controls.
The Department of Chemistry has chosen two recipients for the James W. Taylor Excellence Teaching Award – Professor Timothy Bertram and senior instructional technology specialist Dr. Rachel Bain. Like many events in the past year, the departmental gathering to present the award looked quite different. Rather than holding a large gathering on campus, the award ceremony was held over Zoom.
It was a busy year for awards, despite the constraints of a pandemic. In May, the Department of Chemistry celebrated students, faculty and staff with an online awards and graduation event called Celebrating Student Success. Because of generous donors, the department was able to give almost $500,000 in student support. See the winners of department and other awards below.
Our public engagement programs reach large audiences in person, on the radio, in print, via television, social media and the internet. The Science is Fun truck traveled to schools, libraries, farmers markets, public parks and other community centers.
This year’s pandemic-induced online instruction did not stop students from enrolling in chemistry courses, but it did give instructors and teaching assistants (TAs) experience using a different instructional medium. “Teaching CHEM 344 online was definitely a unique experience,” said TA Maggie McEwan. “Teaching online requires a different set of skills compared to teaching in a classroom or lab, so I think I learned a lot this summer right along with the students.”
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a call to action for many within the scientific community. Long-time collaborators, Lloyd Smith, professor of chemistry, and Nathan Sherer, associate professor of molecular virology and oncology with the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research and Institute for Molecular Virology, set out, along with their students, to contribute to the global understanding of SARS-CoV-2 by adapting the Smith group’s Hybridization Purification of RNA-protein complexes followed by Mass Spectrometry (HyPR-MS) technology to the study of SARS-CoV-2.
Prof. Samuel Gellman and his group have been working on strategies to prevent infection by pathogenic viruses for several years. They are now using that work as a launching pad for research on SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
When COVID-19 first hit, many people hastily adopted work-from-home protocols. Trips outside were limited to grocery runs; suddenly, fruits and vegetables became synonymous with ramen and ready-to-eat food choices. Social lives compressed to the six inches of mobile phone screens. Facetime Fridays with steaming cups of coffee, arguably with three too many shots of espresso, became routine. Today, even with the pandemic running rampant, things are very different. Slowly people are participating in more in-person activities; however, often without a complete understanding of the risks.
Morgan Howe, a new addition to Sam Pazicni’s group at the UW–Madison chemistry department, began her postdoctoral fellowship with a bang! She initiated a popular online literature discussion group, filling a need for chemists across the world to connect and learn virtually.
In early March, I was sitting in the Union eating stir-fry, browsing through the multitude of COVID-19 articles. I spent the next hour concerned by something strange in my bowl when I really should have been concerned by the rising number of cases.