Community Forum in Chemistry
Spring 2009 Schedule

Hale Imiloa 111 (view map of campus)
University of Hawai’i - Windward Community College
45-720 Kea'ahala Road
Kane'ohe, Hawai‘i 96744

Events for Spring 2009 are scheduled for January 27, February 11, March 12, and April 17

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009
1:30-2:30 pm
Dr. Serafin U. Colmenares III

Epigenetics: More than DNA

Alteration of DNA or gene sequence is known to lead to disease. DNA, however, is also regulated by histones and histone-interacting proteins using an epigenetic, or heritable mechanism that is independent of the underlying DNA sequence. Disruption of such epigenetic pathways can also lead to disease such as cancer. Cancer is a disease known to arise from genetic mutations and disruption of chromosome segregation, yet is also strongly influenced by epigenetic changes in the cell. Epigenetic mechanisms enable the equal distribution of chromosomes during cell division, and regulate gene expression linked to cancer. This has led to greater focus on therapies that utilize epigenetic modulators to counteract cancer progression and other diseases. The epigenetic mechanism and its many recent applications will be discussed in this forum.

Dr. Serafin U. Colmenares III is an NIH post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Genome Dynamics at the Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California. His current research is on heterochromatin structure and function using Drosophila as a model system. He graduated from McKinley High School and obtained his BS in Microbiology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and his Ph.D. in Cellular Biology from Harvard Medical School.

This forum is co-sponsored by Windward Community College, American Chemical Society-Hawaii Section and INBRE.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009
1:30-2:30 pm
Dr. Nelson Rebert

Chemical Weapons in History

The use of “Chemical Warfare Agents” is probably as old as warfare itself.  The modern period began during WWI.  They were commonly referred to as 1st generation agents. Their mode of action is by choking which causes their victims to drown in their own body fluids. Blister, mustard or 2nd generation agents were soon developed and these worked as persistent and cutaneous agents. These agents have complex modes of action. Unlike 1st generation agents that generally killed rapidly; these agents generally had delayed but equally lethal effects.  WWII saw the development of nerve agents, also known as 3rd generation agents. Although the US and USSR had tremendous stockpiles of these agents, Iraq was the first to use them. The more recent use of these agents by terrorist groups highlighted the shift in their use from state to non-state agencies.  This forum will discuss the development and use of chemical warfare agents and what can be done about their future use by terrorists.

Dr. Nelson Rebert obtained his BS from the University of Maryland and his PhD in Organic Chemistry from the University of Utah. During his post-doctoral fellowship, he was recruited into the US Army where he stayed for 20 years.  Among his many experiences are teaching a course on the history and detection of biological warfare (BW), and working on Anthrax Letters analysis. He was also stationed in Japan working as a liaison with the Japanese Self-Defense Force for three years.

This forum is co-sponsored by Windward Community College, American Chemical Society-Hawaii Section and INBRE.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009
1:30-2:30 pm
Dr. Karl Seff

Zeolites in Petrochemical Industry and Beyond

Zeolites have a myriad of applications. They are catalysts, cation-exchangers, and agents for selective sorption. For the most part, they are porous crystalline aluminosilicates, but many framework types and compositions are known. Zeolite Y, because it is the main oil-cracking catalyst, is the most economically important catalyst in the world. Tons of it are in use right now at our oil refineries at Barber's Point. Zeolites are used to separate mixtures of gases and liquids on the basis of size and polarity, so, for example, the octane of gasoline can be increased by allowing straight-chain hydrocarbons to be sorbed into a zeolite. Some zeolites in common use cost less than 25 cents per pound to synthesize. This continues to be an active field for research with new zeolite frameworks and compositions, with associated new uses ranging from agriculture to water treatment, being reported annually. Karl Seff earned his Ph.D. from MIT and has been a Professor of Chemistry at the University of Hawaii-Manoa for 41 years. He has authored more than 245 scientific papers, most of which are on zeolites, that have appeared in leading scientific journals.

This forum is co-sponsored by Windward Community College, American Chemical Society-Hawaii Section and INBRE.

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5:30-6:30 pm
Friday, April 17, 2009
Hale Kuhina 115

Dr. David Wiemer

Herbal Products: They're Natural but Are They Safe?

Herbal products have become big business in the United States. Infomercials, radio and television commercials, and print ads trumpet the benefits of natural remedies for various illnesses or as aids for weight loss or in programs to stop smoking. These products are commonly described as “all-natural” and draw on the common belief that if something is natural it must be safe. But does this belief have any scientific basis? Native peoples often have used plants to treat disease or illness, and both traditional remedies and other plants have given rise to many of the drugs used in Western medicine. However, many natural materials are highly toxic, and some natural products are useful precisely because they are highly toxic. In this presentation, examples of both the beneficial and harmful compounds found in nature will be presented, along with a description of the strategies that are used to isolate biologically active compounds from natural sources.

David F. Wiemer received his Ph.D. Chemistry from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in 1976. He continued his career with a postdoctoral study at Cornell University and joined the faculty in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Iowa in 1978, and now holds the rank of professor. His honors include National Institutes of Health and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation fellowships, a University of Iowa Faculty Scholar Award, and a University of Iowa Collegiate Teaching Award.  His interests include chemical ecology and the isolation, characterization, and synthesis of biologically active natural products. His research projects include studies of the chemical basis of host-plant resistance to defoliation, chemical synthesis of various terpenoids with anti-viral, anti-leukemic, and anti-proliferative properties and in the development of new methodology for organic synthesis based on organophosphorus chemistry.

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What is the Community Forum in Chemistry?  

• Its goal is to increase learning in chemistry for all students (and community members).

• A practicing professional discusses a chemistry related topic that is relevant to everyday lives.

• During the forum audience participate by asking questions, sharing views and comments.

• Serves as a bridge between classroom and real-world applications.

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  Co-sponsored by
This project is coordinated by Leticia U. Colmenares
, Assistant Professor in Chemistry - 236-9120

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the American Chemical Society
- Hawaii Section

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