Caddisworm silk, DNA sleuths, urban streams and more from the University of Utah at ACS


University of Utah chemists gather with their peers in San Francisco next week at the American Chemical Society's National Meeting April 2-6. The theme of the meeting is "Advanced Materials, Technologies, Systems & Processes." Below are summaries of select presentations at the meeting, along with the time and date of the presentation and primary contact information. All times are in Pacific Daylight Time.

Microbes enlisted to aid methane recovery

Hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," uses pressurized wells to fracture rock underground and allow enhanced recovery of natural gas. A proppant material, typically sand, holds the fracture open to allow the gas to move to the well. Postdoctoral scholar Kyu Bum Han has taken the idea of enhanced methane recovery a step further by encapsulating methane-producing bacteria in a hydrogel on the surface of a ceramic proppant. The bacteria could be injected into a coalbed methane reservoir, typically not a productive source of natural gas, and could feed on the coal, producing methane in the process. In tests, the bacteria produced 20 times more methane than coal alone.

ENFL 35: Microbial consortia encapsulated with ultralight kaolinite proppant for in-situ microbially enhanced methane recovery

Sunday, April 2, 2017, 11:55 a.m.-12:20 p.m., Bayview – Grand Hyatt San Francisco

Kyu Bum Han, postdoctoral scholar, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, 801- 657-2747, [email protected]

Helping chemistry students turn weaknesses to strengths

At the University of Utah, chemistry students take pretests before each midterm exam. Doctoral student Braden Ohlsen and professor Charles Atwood used Item Response Theory to provide individualized feedback to each student, identifying particular areas of difficulty. Ohlsen shows that student exam scores rose in response to this feedback, normalized for year-to-year variation. Future work will identify students' misconceptions to further refine pretest feedback.

In a subsequent presentation, Atwood and doctoral student Brock Casselman present results of metacognition training that benefited the bottom quartile of a general chemistry course. Because people's over-estimation of their own ability increases as performance decreases, Atwood and Casselman provided half of the students with metacognition training. The students predicted their score on practice tests and weekly quizzes, and created their own study plans in response to assessment feedback. Compared with students who did not predict their own scores or make study plans, the metacognition students performed six percent better on the final exam. The greatest improvement was observed in the bottom quartile of students, whose scores were 15 percent better than their peers in the control group.

CHED 234: IRT as a tool to improve student performance
Monday, April 3, 2017, 10:05-10:25 a.m., Nob Hill A – San Francisco Marriott Marquis

CHED 235: Targeting the general chemistry bottom quartile through homework-based metacognitive training
Monday, April 3, 2017, 10:25-10:45 a.m., Nob Hill A – San Francisco Marriott Marquis

Braden Ohlsen, doctoral student, Department of Chemistry, 303-827-4325,

Brock Cassleman, doctoral student, Department of Chemistry, 801-726-4247,

Charles Atwood, professor, Department of Chemistry, 801-882-6411, [email protected]

Organic matter dynamics in urban streams

Red Butte Creek originates in the mountains above Salt Lake City but passes through the city on its way to the highly contaminated Jordan River. Rachel Gabor and colleagues sampled both Red Butte Creek and the Jordan River to see how the nutrients, including dissolved organic carbon, in the water changed along its journey from the mountains. The researchers found evidence of urban-driven changes to the nutrient content and microbe population in the groundwater that feeds Red Butte and the Jordan, with organic carbon chemistry indicating that microbes are limited by carbon as a nutrient in removing nitrogen from the water. The Jordan River similarly displayed microbial responses to changes in stream chemistry, partially driven by the wastewater plants that feed into the Jordan River. These wastewater treatment plants each contributed their own unique organic matter signal to the impaired urban river due to different treatment techniques.

ENVR 191: Relationships between microbial activity, nutrients, and organic matter chemistry in urban-impacted rivers

Monday, April 3, 2017, 10:45-11:10 a.m., Golden Gate C1 – San Francisco Marriott Marquis

Rachel Gabor, postdoctoral scholar, Department of Geology and Geophysics, 331-431-7726, [email protected]

Using DNA to snoop out steroids

Detection of banned substances in athletic competitions is hampered by high cost, long analysis time, and high detection limits. To address these issues, undergraduate Kathryn Jones and associate professor Jen Heemstra are developing a steroid detection method that uses DNA fragments, called split aptamers, that are tuned to unite in the presence of the target molecule. The process can be automated, reducing the cost and time of analysis.

CHED 545: Coupling qPCR to split aptamer ligation for the detection of steroid targets

Monday, April 3, 2017, 12-2 p.m., Hall D – Moscone Center

Kathryn Jones, undergraduate student, Department of Chemistry, 801-750 4378, [email protected]"

Jennifer Heemstra, associate professor, Department of Chemistry, 801-581-4191, [email protected]

Caddisworm silk inspires durable drug-carrier biomaterial

Hydrogels – crosslinked polymers that contain water – are common biomaterials and are often used to carry drugs for extended release. Inspired by the toughness of the natural silk fibers produced by aquatic caddisfly larva, bioengineer Russell Stewart formulated a hydrogel that mimics the mechanical strength of the silk fiber. Stewart's research group found that the hydrogel, when loaded with an antibiotic, could release bactericidal concentrations of the drug, enough to kill Pseudomonas aeruginosa, for more than 50 days.

POLY 289: Tough antibiotic-eluting double network hydrogels

Tuesday, April 4, 2017, 1-1:30 p.m., 122 – Moscone Center

Russell Stewart, professor, Department of Bioengineering, 801-349-9752, [email protected]

Other abstracts of interest:

Synthetic peptide detects collagen damage in tendon injury
PMSE 313: Collagen hybridizing peptide: Targeted binding, self-assembly, and biomedical application
Michael Yu, associate professor, Department of Bioengineering, 443-847-0182, [email protected]
See also:

Free radical damage to DNA
BIOL 177: New roles for G-quadruplexes in gene expression and infectious disease
Cynthia Burrows, distinguished professor, Department of Chemistry, 801-633-8880, [email protected]
See also:

Isotopes reveal fingerprint of plastic explosives
ANYL 357: Applying isotope ratio mass spectrometry to characterize chemical threat agents: Case study on plastic explosives
Lesley Chesson, CEO, IsoForensics, 801-739-5331, [email protected]
See also:

Catalyzing fuel cells with enzymes
MPPG 1: Advanced bioelectrocatalytic materials for fuel cells and electrosynthesis
Shelley Minteer, professor, Department of Chemistry, 314-580-6655, [email protected]
See also:

Scaling up undergraduate research experiences
CHED 2037: Leveraging CUREs to increase capacity for traditional undergraduate research experiences and generate student co-authored publications
Jennifer Heemstra, associate professor, Department of Chemistry, 801-581-4191, [email protected]
See also:

Fast-acting insulin from cone snail venom
BIOL 171: Human monomeric insulin derived from cone snail venoms
Danny Chou, assistant professor, Department of Biochemistry, 857-928-7946, [email protected]
See also:

Synthesizing an eye pigment
ORGN 842: Synthesis of 11-cis-retinol and its incorporation with FeO nanoparticle
Sheng Lin, undergraduate student, Department of Chemistry, 801-831-1950, [email protected]
Jon Rainier, professor, Department of Chemistry, 801-581-4954, [email protected]

Improved treatment of B-cell cancers using a new generation of antibody-drug conjugates
PMSE 473: Polymer-aided rituximab-epirubicin conjugate for treatment of B-cell malignancies
Libin Zhang, postdoctoral scholar, Center for Controlled Chemical Delivery, 385-495-8297, [email protected]

Reverse transcription method allows study of RNA oxidation damage
BIOL 90: Reverse transcription past major guanine oxidation products in RNA
Cynthia Burrows, distinguished professor, Department of Chemistry, 801-633-8880, [email protected]

Easy gold nanoparticle film fabrication on water surface
COLL 466: Assembly of free-standing, flexible, citrate-capped gold nanoparticle films at the air-water interface
Lindsey Beecher, graduate student, Department of Chemistry, 435-840-1977, [email protected]
Jennifer Shumaker-Parry, associate professor, Department of Chemistry, 801-231-1098, [email protected]


Find more abstracts presented or co-authored by researchers from the University of Utah by searching for "University of Utah" here.

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