Common catalyst cerium oxide opens door to nanochemistry for medicine
Scientists at Rice University are enhancing the natural antioxidant properties of an element found in a car’s catalytic converter to make it useful for medical applications.
Rice chemist Vicki Colvin led a team that created small, uniform spheres of cerium oxide and gave them a thin coating of fatty oleic acid to make them biocompatible. The researchers say their discovery has the potential to help treat traumatic brain injury, cardiac arrest and Alzheimer’s patients and can guard against radiation-induced side effects suffered by cancer patients.
Their nanoparticles also have potential to protect astronauts from long-term exposure to radiation in space and perhaps even slow the effects of aging, they reported.
The research appears this month in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Nano.
Gabriela C. Weaver doesn’t lecture to her general chemistry students—at least not in class. She records short lecture snippets that the students watch online before showing up. During the class period, the students work problems while the Purdue University chemistry professor wanders around the room, observing students, answering their questions, and looking for concepts that are giving them trouble.
Weaver’s strategy is part of a growing trend called inverted instruction or flipped classrooms. In this approach, professors deliver lectures or other class content over the Web via prerecorded videos during the time students would traditionally be doing homework. During the scheduled class time, students work on problems, either alone or in teams.
“The whole idea of flipping the classroom and putting most of the content delivery outside of class time is that it frees up class for other stuff,” says physicist Robert J. Beichner of North Carolina State University. “You can have the students doing things that are more complex, more realistic, because they’ve got an expert there to help them and their teammates to assist them. They get opportunities to practice more in-depth problem solving.”
The trend has gained steam as more and more universities experiment with massive open online courses, or MOOCs…
…Vicky L. Colvin is another professor using a MOOC to get materials for flipping her on-campus class. When Rice University was looking for professors to do MOOCs, Colvin volunteered. “I’ll have all my videos and can flip my classroom,” she says. “That was my motivation.”
Rice University will offer five online courses free to people around the world as a new partner with the California-based enterprise Coursera.
Professors Vicki Colvin and Mary ”Cindy” Farach-Carson have been named to vice provost positions by Provost George McLendon.
Colvin, director of the Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology (CBEN), is vice provost for research. Farach-Carson, scientific director of the BioScience Research Collaborative (BRC), is vice provost for translational bioscience.
”Vicki and Cindy are both well-respected scientists and I am delighted to have them become a critical part of Rice’s research leadership team,” McLendon said. ”Their new roles complement the recent appointment of Caroline Levander as vice provost for interdisciplinary initiatives. These three professors will provide extraordinary leadership across a broad range of intellectual activities.”
Environmental and scientific agencies in the United States and the United Kingdom have formed a joint $5 million scientific effort to develop new risk-management tools that government officials can use to effectively regulate nanomaterials.
The Nanomaterial Bioavailability and Environmental Exposure (Nano-BEE) Consortia includes investigators from three universities each in the U.S. and the U.K.
“Regulators need tools that will allow them to look at a wide variety of nanomaterials and rapidly identify the most significant potential problems for a specific nanomaterial in a specific location,” said lead U.S. investigator Vicki Colvin of Rice University. “This consortia will model how the local environmental chemistry influences the availability of nanomaterials. We expect to see a lot of variability: What is safe in one area may be unsafe someplace else.”
Rice University has created a Green Carbon Center to bring the benefits offered by oil, gas, coal, wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and other energy sources together in a way that will not only help ensure the world’s energy future but also provide a means to recycle carbon dioxide into useful products.
Whether or not one believes in anthropogenic climate change, the fact is humans are throwing away a potentially valuable resource with every ton of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, said James Tour, Rice’s T.T. and W.F. Chao Chair in Chemistry as well as a professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and of computer science. Far from being a villain in the global warming debate, carbon will be a boon if the world can learn to use it well, he said.
“The key is to turn carbon dioxide into a useful material so it’s no longer waste,” he said. “We want the center to partner with energy companies — including oil, natural gas and coal — to make carbon a profitable resource.”
A number of strategies are detailed in a paper in today’s online edition of Nature Materials by Tour, Vicki Colvin, Rice’s Pitzer-Schlumberger Professor of Chemistry and of chemical and biomolecular engineering, and Carter Kittrell, a Rice research scientist.