Safety Post: A Radioactive Awakening

This is a contribution towards our periodic (periodic…get it?) posts about safety in the Catalyst. This was written by our former student Zach Wahrenberg, who worked as a lab manager in our department as well.

“Radium, an element isolated from uranium ore by Marie Curie and her husband Pierre Curie, was hailed as a wonder drug for much of the first part of the late 19th and early 20th century.  The unearthing and mainstream usage of radium also goes down in history as one of the most notorious examples of serious safety lapses in society.

In 1889 when radium was first isolated there were very few regulations pertaining to food and drugs and therefore it was easy for radium to find its way into commercially produced prescription medication and over-the-counter medications without much initial testing. Today it would be much harder for such a drug to get through FDA approval.  It is also to be noted that very little was known about radium, however what they did note was that radium worked to treat a variety of maladies. Tumors shrunk in size people seemed to get better. Skin disorders vanished. It was touted as the miracle drug for ailments from high blood pressure to depression and even cancer. Radium’s usefulness in cancer therapy was recognized early in the century and is still used today. A technique was developed in which tiny ”needles” filled with radon – a radioactive gas given off by radium – were used to kill cancer cells. Radium Chemical and other companies leased the needles to hospitals and shipped them all over the country. No one really investigated what the mechanism of this miracle drug’s action was on non-cancer-containing people until it was much too late.

Marie Curie, the discovered of radium, like other researchers and “industrialists” of the time, was uncertain about the potential dangers of radioactivity from radium. In 1925 Curie was invited to participate in a commission of the French Academy of the Medicine. From these meetings came a series of safety regulations that outlined new safety protocols for handling radioactive materials.  This commission met after several incidents of severe illness of radium dialer painters workings in a watch factory in New Jersey. The “Radium Girls” at the factory all died from horrible diseases caused by ingesting radium. There was radium in the paint to make the glow-in-the-dark dials, and they would lick their paintbrushes to get them to a fine point…. and that was how they injested dangerous amounts of radium.

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MS-level courses available in Winter 2018

GradCourse (2)As you know, we have a MS program here at DePaul. We wanted to highlight our MS classes for the fall and pass on a few pieces of info. These classes tend to be smaller than other classes, generally 8-16 students.

We ask that MS students enroll as soon as they can, or email the MS program director to express interests in classes, because if classes only have a few enrollees, it might not run. If you are a MS student haven’t figured out your fall enrollment yet, email the MS director to get help. If you can’t enroll yet due to financial reasons, let the MS director know what classes you are interested in.

Undergrads, we also want to point out that these classes are available to you as general electives if you are a Junior or Senior. You can take them, but you need permission from your advisor and the instructor. There is an exceptions form to fill out that can be found on our website or from your advisor. These classes are a great opportunity to challenge yourself beyond your undergrad coursework and learn new things! Note that they will not be substituted in place of your major core courses, and are above and beyond the normal undergraduate curriculum.

Classes coming up in winter quarter you should be aware of are listed below. If you are interested, contact the instructor and your academic advisor soon.

CHE 424 – Group Theory

CHE 424 Group Theory is a traditional lecture course which characterizes molecular symmetry mathematically and applies the results to a variety of chemical concepts, such as construction of hybrid and molecular orbitals, crystal field theory, prediction of IR and Raman spectra, etc. Mathematical techniques used include algebra and trigonometry, plus basic matrix algebra (knowledge of this prior to taking the course is not assumed). Though the course is designed for upper level chemistry majors and MS students, the only hard prerequisite is CHE 234. Instructor: Wendy Wolbach

(FYI this would be great for undergrads who have taken inorganic (320) and want to go deeper into group theory and its applications!)

CHE 430 – Polymer Synthesis

This course focuses on the key synthetic organic chemistry methods for making polymers and coatings. A detailed consideration is given to the three types of polymerization reactions: step, chain, and ring-opening polymerizations. Practical application of polymer chemistry in society is a theme throughout the course. Instructor: Gregory Kharas

CHE 431 – Polymer Synthesis Laboratory

The goal of this lab course is to expose students to experimental polymer chemistry. This course focuses on the key synthetic methods for making polymers and basic structural characterization techniques. Practical application of polymer chemistry in society is a theme throughout the course. (2 quarter hours); Instructor: Gregory Kharas

CHE 494 – Science Writing and Communication

This course is required of all Chemistry MS students and is highly recommended for motivated undergrads with an interest in academia, science journalism, or a related field.

The goal of this course is to prepare students to be effective writers and communicators in academic and industrial settings. The course is organized around learning how to write a scientific argument via modules that cover the nature of scientific fact, different genres of scientific writing (e.g., reports and proposals), writing collaboratively and presenting a scientific argument to a stakeholder audience.


Study Abroad Info Session Mon 11/13 3pm

Hello, Dr. Grice here.

Last summer, Dr. Bystriansky in BIO and I ran a short course study abroad program to Spain over the summer, and we are planning on doing it again this summer. You can get two 300-level courses in CHE or BIO and also fulfill your JYEL requirement by going on the study abroad. More information is included in the flier below.

If you are curious about it, come and learn more!

Dr. Grice

Cadiz Flier 2018

CSH Showcase is this Friday. Be there!


The 15th Annual Science and Mathematics Undergraduate Research Showcase is being held this Friday, November 3rd in the atrium of McGowan South. Students from many disciplines will be taking part by giving short presentations or presenting posters. The poster presentation session is open to all students, faculty, and staff (and catered), and we have 13 chemistry students presenting posters or giving talks.

Come see the research results your peers are generating, and enjoy a snack while you are at it. If you have a friend presenting, show up to support them. If someone-you-only-kind-of-know-from-that-one-thing-you-were-both-at is presenting, show up and stand awkwardly near each other trying to figure out how to start a conversation. So many choices!

The schedule of events is:

➡️Oral Presentations
🕒12:15 PM ‒1:15 PM
📍McGowan South 103 (Chem and Bio)
📍McGowan South 106 (Physics and Math)

➡️Group Picture Time!
🕒1:30 PM
📍Main Stairwell in the McGowan South Atrium

➡️STEM Alumni Panel Session
🕒1:50 PM ‒2:50 PM
📍McGowan South 107

➡️Poster Session and Reception
🕒3:00 PM ‒5:00 PM
📍First and Second Floor of McGowan South

Info on the speakers can be found here: 2017 Showcase Alumni Speaker Flyer

We look forward to seeing you all there!


Chem Department Meet and Greet Review

Hello students, alumni, faculty, staff, and friends,

We had a meet and greet in early October, where we introduced the faculty and staff, as well as talked about the big changes in the department. One of these changes is the formation of a new Biochemistry degree! For more information, check out this link and talk to your academic advisor. We also mentioned our instrumental analysis class that will be offered in the spring (CHE 261). We look forward to running this hands-on laboratory class where students will get to work with a variety of instrumentation.

As you can see, we also enjoyed some food and discussion: