The May 2019 Chemical Bulletin Print

    PDF of the Latest Bulletin

    Click HERE to download the PDF of the May 2019 Chemical Bulletin

    Back to top

    Letter from the Chair

    From Tim Marin, 2019 Chair of the Chicago Section

    Greetings to everyone from Chicago ACS! As spring is finally coming into full bloom, we would like to take this opportunity to inform the Chicagoland chemistry community of recent developments within our organization.

    ACS advocates for the safe practice of chemistry across disciplines, at every age, and in every organization. With this in mind, under the leadership of our Chair of the Environmental and Lab Safety Committee, Irene Cesa, we have adopted a new culture of including a “Safety Minute,” a very brief presentation that educates on a safety-related item. Such a presentation will take place at the beginning of all of our forthcoming monthly program meetings and board meetings. The information contained in these presentations to date has been included and will be included in the Chemical Bulletin.

    To best demonstrate a spirit of welcome and community, we are developing a mentoring and orientation program to onboard our new board and committee members. Folks new to the operations of Chicago ACS are assigned a personal mentor who is a veteran, senior member of the board. These mentors will particularly coach new directors and committee members on the structure of our operations, policies, procedures, and events. They will also help delineate expectations and opportunities for participation.

    We have made it a goal for 2019 to engage in much needed strategic planning to ensure that Chicago ACS can best fulfill its long-term mission – to encourage the advancement of the chemical sciences and their practitioners. Our sincere hope is that in doing so we will be even better situated to partner with local industrial and academic institutions to support the Chicagoland chemistry community and to develop a culture that gives back to our young chemistry students, while promoting diversity, inclusion, safety, and ethics in all we do. We have an excellent strategic planning team that has been meeting on a monthly basis to take an introspective look at our structure and operations. Due to these efforts we are focusing on several key areas, including membership affairs, education and outreach, and communications, to revitalize what we do and improve efficiency. Many thanks to the team members for all their continued hard work – Susan Shih, Sherri Rukes, Paul Brandt, Bernie Santarsiero, Josh Kurutz, Ken Fivizzani, Mark Cesa, Mike Koehler, and Russ Johnson. I highly anticipate that in the next few months we will have fresh specific, targeted goals in mind, and assuredly we will be reaching out to the greater Chicago ACS community to join in supporting these efforts.

    All of our events are excellent networking opportunities and give exposure to a vibrant Chicago chemistry community, so I highly encourage you to attend one of our monthly programming events. In particular, we are always reaching out for participation by faculty and student teams from our regional colleges and universities. We hold monthly student poster sessions, and students have the opportunity to serve as presenters in brief pre-dinner talks.

    As always, please consider joining one of our many committees, whose work includes educational outreach at all levels, promotion of diversity, interaction with government officials, implementation of technology to promote chemistry, community activities and more. A full list of our committees and their descriptions can be found at None of our work could be possible without the energy of our volunteers and willingness of our partner organizations, and fresh ideas are always most welcome. I highly encourage you to contact me directly at [email protected] if you would like us to work with you or even have your institution host a monthly meeting.

    Tim Marin, Chair

    Back to top

    Safety Feature

    Spring, Seasonal Allergies, and Sensitizers - A “Safety First” Minute

    Spring has (finally) sprung, and I for one am grateful for the warmer weather and hints of green in my garden. This month’s “Safety First” Minute is inspired, however, by one of the less pleasant rites of spring, namely, hay fever and other seasonal allergies. Hay fever is an allergic response to a sensitizer. Many chemicals also act as sensitizers or promote an allergic response, either on the skin or via the respiratory system. Examples of common sensitizers include nickel, cobalt, formaldehyde, and iodine. Sensitizers are probably the least well understood health hazard classifications for chemicals. What should you know about chemical sensitizers to protect yourself in the laboratory, workplace or home?

    A sensitizer is any substance that elicits an allergic response in a significant population of individuals. The Globally Harmonized System for the Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) recognizes two classes of sensitizers - skin and respiratory sensitizers - based on the route of exposure and the nature of the allergic response. In all cases allergies represent an immunological reaction to a substance, a cascade of events triggered at least initially by covalent binding of the substance or its derivative(s) with amino acids or proteins on the skin or in the airways. Skin sensitization results in contact dermatitis?redness and a rash. Common symptoms of respiratory sensitization include asthma, rhinitis (runny nose) and conjunctivitis or watery eyes.

    A frequently asked question is what distinguishes a sensitizer or allergen from a chemical irritant. After all, many chemicals also act as skin and eye or respiratory irritants. The answer is twofold: 1) Previous exposure to a specific substance is necessary for sensitization; and 2) The subsequent allergic response is observed after exposure to lower doses than would be observed in non-sensitized individuals. (This property is called hypersensitivity.)

    Of course, the most important question when working with any chemical is how you can protect yourself against its hazards and risks. The answer will not surprise you?practice good chemical “hygiene” to reduce or eliminate exposure. This means working in a fume hood and ensuring adequate ventilation to prevent inhalation exposure, and always wearing appropriate personal protective equipment, especially goggles and gloves, to avoid eye and skin contact. If we call these two preventive measures the first and second laws of chemical safety, the zeroth law of chemical safety is to always read the Safety Data Sheet before working with a chemical. What you don’t know CAN hurt you!

    Thank you to the Chicago ACS leadership for enthusiastically adopting “Safety First” Minutes as a best practice to increase safety awareness across the chemistry landscape. We would love to hear your suggestions for future topics. Please call or email me, our section chair, or the editor of the Chemical Bulletin to contribute ideas.

    Irene Cesa

    Back to top

    My Favorite Element


    If you haven’t heard, this is the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements (IYPT2019) as established by the United Nations. This month we are highlighting Calcium.

    Calcium is the element with symbol Ca and atomic number 20. Calcium is an alkaline earth metal and losses two electrons to form a dipositive ion. The most common calcium compound, found in nature, is calcium carbonate. Other sources of calcium include gypsum (CaSO4.2H2O), anhydrite (CaSO4), fluorite (CaF2) and fluorapatite (Ca5(PO4)3F).

    Calcium is the fifth most abundant element in the earth’s crust; the earth is composed of about 3-4% calcium. As stated above, the most common calcium compound found in nature is calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate makes up corals, sea shells, pearls, limestone stalactites and limestone stalagmites.

    Calcium is also the fifth most abundant element in the human body. Calcium is indispensable in the building of bones and teeth. In fact, about 99% of calcium in the human body is found in bones and teeth. Calcium supports the synthesis and function of blood cells, and it also is vitally important in the contraction of muscles. Calcium ions can be complexed by proteins. In fact, calcium levels are tightly regulated by the body. About 75% of dietary calcium is obtained from dairy products and grains. Other sources of calcium include nuts and seeds, dark green leafy vegetables and figs. Many calcium compounds are used in food, as pharmaceuticals and in medicine.

    Calcium is a silvery-white, soft metal that tarnishes rapidly and reacts with water. Calcium compounds were known for millennia. However, it wasn’t until 1808 that calcium was isolated by electrolysis.

    The largest use of calcium is steelmaking where it is used to remove impurities from the iron ore because of its strong affinity for oxygen and sulfur. Limestone and gypsum are used in buildings. Gypsum is also used for setting bones, as ”plaster of Paris.” Calcium is also used in maintenance-free batteries.

    In this region of the world calcium is present in our water and makes the water hard. In fact, water heaters at home must be replaced periodically because of the buildup of calcium carbonate on the heating device.

    Calcium is a major component of most scales and, in fact, one source for the hiring of chemists and engineers is the development of scale control agents to prevent the buildup of calcium carbonate, calcium phosphate, calcium sulfate and calcium fluoride.

    So calcium is very important to us, both in our bodies and in our world.

    Barb Moriarty

    Back to top


    Harris Cartoon with Langer Commentary

    “Polymers are fundamental to every part of our society, and they have all kinds of amazing properties. This cartoon depicts a merger of chemicals being discussed by two businessman (at least they look like businessman since there are vests and ties; no lab coats) to create a polymer. The timing for this cartoon couldn’t be more appropriate given the recent merger of Dow and DuPont, two of the oldest and largest polymer companies in the world.   Polymers are a great example of this — given all they have done for the world. But then again, DowDuPont merged with the intention to separate into three new entities. Just like chemistry, we may ask, “What will the (perhaps unstable) equilibrium look like?”

    -- Robert Langer, MIT


    Back to top

    ChemShorts for Kids

    The Amazing Penny

    As a kid, I was quite the numismatist (I collected coins). Because I had a paper route I was always getting coins to pay for the newspapers and every once in a while I might get a wheat penny or a silver-clad quarter or half-dollar. On a rare occasion, I might see an Indianhead penny or even a silver certificate dollar bill! It turns out that coins were really quite boring for quite a while, as they didn’t really change much from the late 1960’s until almost 2000 with the advent of the States and Territories quarters. The Lincoln penny came out in 1909 and had an obvious change in 1943 due to the shortage of copper for the war and so the change to steel was necessary. It quickly changed back to the same copper wheat penny until 1959 and then changed to having the Lincoln Memorial on the reverse. It stayed this way until 2009 – or did it?


    Pre-1982 penny
    Post-1982 penny
    A file or coarse sand paper
    4 cups of vinegar or lemon juice
    2 clear containers that will hold at least two cups of solution


    Using the file or the sandpaper, scrape the edge of the pennies down on four sides removing some of the metal. I find that a file works a little better. Put one penny into each of the containers and add 2 cups of vinegar or lemon juice to each. Watch to see if anything happens and let it go for up to a week. After a week, add a little salt to the solution with the old penny and see if there are any changes occurring with this new solution.

    What’s happening?

    Hopefully on the newer penny you saw some bubbles emanating from the penny. You probably didn’t notice much with the old penny until you added the salt and then you should have seen the penny get much shinier. It turns out that copper was getting too expensive for our government to make pennies that were 95% copper so in 1983 they switched to a zinc penny that was copper coated. You can see how thick that copper coating is when the acid in the vinegar or lemon juice reacted with the zinc in the middle of the penny to form hydrogen gas (causing the bubbles) and Zn2+ that was dissolved in the solution. We can’t make coins out of pure zinc because zinc is too reactive and it would get destroyed in a short period of time. Copper however is quite unreactive and can coat the zinc penny so that it well last for a very long time. Copper does react a little bit as you can tell the difference between a new and old penny. The old penny turns brown as gasses in the atmosphere tarnish, corrode, or patina, the copper. We can clean that up by reacting it with a little salt and vinegar (or try a little taco sauce!). The chloride ions in the salt are able to react with the patina on the surface of the coin and the vinegar helps to wipe away the coating. Salt has the same effect on other metals causing them to tarnish as well and we see this on our cars in the wintertime here in the Midwest.


    To view all past “ChemShorts for Kids”, go to:

    Paul Brandt

    Back to top


    AbbVie Chemists Win Technical Achievement Awards

    Bo Liu and Noel S. Wilson, from AbbVie, received the Technical Achievements in Organic Chemistry (TAOC) award by the Division of Organic Chemistry. The award recognizes outstanding contributions to the field of organic chemistry from accomplished, professional chemists holding a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree pursuing careers in industrial or government sectors.

    Back to top

    Award Winner

    Kravitz Wins Volunteer of the Year

    Fran Kravitz was awarded the 2018 Outreach Volunteer of the Year for the Chicago Section. The award was established by the Committee on Community Activities. Fran was awaded the honor for her work as she organizes the Illinois State Fair project and leads projects for the Boy and Girl Scouts so that they can earn merit badges and patches, respectively. The Marie Curie Girl Scout patch was developed in part with Fran’s work. Additionally, she was the grant writer that helped to establish the streaming of the Chicago Section Dinner Meetings to remote sites.

    Back to top

    Sponsors of this issue


    Back to top

    Recent Meeting

    Highlights of the April Meeting:
    “Building the First Steamship in History”

    - by Josh Kurutz (Chicago Section) and Eryn Pondo (Joliet Section)

    Our April meeting brought together both the Chicago and Joliet ACS sections for our first combined event of the year, held at North Central College (NCC) in Naperville, IL. The featured speaker was John Laurence Busch, an independent historian and author of the book on the first steamship in history, “STEAM COFFIN - Captain Moses Rogers And The Steamship Savannah Break the Barrier”. The evening kicked off with a research presentation by two NCC students, Nick Mielke and Marcus LaPorte. Irene Cesa preceded the main talk with a timely Safety Minute on “Spring, Seasonal Allergens, and Sensitizers”.

    Author John Busch delivers his talk about the chemsitry of the steamship Savannah.

    Attendees got a blast into the past and into the mindset of the chemical difficulties associated with the first high technology in history, specifically about building materials and steamship stamina. Starting with a brief history to recalibrate our minds to the time period, Busch proceeded to engage the audience with the chemical aspects of building this revolutionary ship. He further argued that steamships were the first high technology in history, as they could alter time and space from the human perspective.

    Various artifacts from the early 19th century were displayed and passed around in order to further illustrate Busch’s points. An original newspaper from the time period not only helped us feel what life was like then, it also demonstrated how the business of shipbuilding and maritime travel was conducted. We given tangible samples of sailcloth made from hemp and flax, which is what was used for the sails of the Savannah (which employed wind power for most of its transatlantic journey). We learned that cotton is not strong enough for ocean-going sails because its fibers are too short to provide the tensile strength necessary for ocean voyages. Hemp and flax contain more hemicellulose, which provides crosslinking networks and structure that enhance overall performance. Two heavy blocks of live oak wood were also passed around for inspection; this particular wood was strategically important to U.S. for shipbuilding because of its superior density, hardness, and water resistance.

    Metals were also a focus of the talk. Copper plating was attached to ship hulls using copper nails instead of iron or zinc fasteners because of more rapid corrosion. Early steam ships were thermodynamic “open systems” – taking in salt water from the ocean and expelling hot steam and vapor, giving rise to salt buildup and corrosion problems. This forced a critical decision to be made between copper and iron for composition of the advanced boiler. Check out the book to find the solution to the problem!

    Overall, the presentation was rich in both chemistry and history. Find out more information about the first steamship in history and additional background on the topic at

    The pre-dinner talk was more technical and cutting-edge. Mielke and LaPorte co-delivered “Stabilizing Effects of Photochlorination and Photobromination of Haloalkanes.” Their research combines chemical synthesis, analysis by gas chromatography and other methods, and exploring reaction mechanisms by probing electron density using the program Spartan. The presentation engaged the audience, eliciting several questions by its conclusion.

    NCC students Nick Mielke and Marcus LaPorte present their research on photohalogenation reactions.

    Irene Cesa, Chicago’s Environmental and Lab Safety chair, gave a timely presentation on allergens and sensitizers. The annual pollening of our environment poses challenges for many people, and Cesa took the opportunity to point out that these problems exist year-round for people sensitive to certain cosmetics, detergents, and other everyday chemicals. The Chicago Section is developing its website’s Safety page,, to maintain an archive of these Safety Minutes and this presentation will be available for viewing soon.

    Photos of the event are posted in the gallery: .

    A special thank you goes out to Paul Brandt, our host at North Central College, along with Eryn Pondo and Andrea Twiss-Brooks for making the arrangements to bring in John Busch for this intriguing and engaging presentation. A delicious Mediterranean menu was served thanks to arrangements made by Paul Brandt, Simonida Grubjesic, and Eryn Pondo. In addition, we had 4 satellite locations for a live stream of the presentation: Purdue University Northwest (Hammond, IN), Loyola University (Chicago), North Park University (Chicago), and Wilbur Wright College (Chicago).

    If YOU are interested in hosting a remote site for a meeting, please contact eventsupport-at-chicagoacs-dot-org.

    Back to top

    Who Is This?

    1996 Gibbs Ceremony Honoring Fred Basolo

    - by Josh Kurutz, Section Historian

    This May’s Willard Gibbs Award ties together two special figures in Chicago Section history: Prof. Fred Basolo and Prof. Marcetta Y. Darensbourg. To help celebrate, we present photos from Basolo’s 1996 Gibbs Award ceremony, and ask for assistance identifying the people therein.

    Beloved Northwestern University Professor Basolo inspired his department to establish a major award for inorganic chemistry in his name: The Basolo Medal. In 2013, the 23rd Basolo Medal was given to Texas A&M Prof. Darensbourg for her outstanding work in bioorganometallic chemistry, particularly for her insights into hydrogenases. (The Basolo award lecture and reception is held jointly between the Chicago Section and Northwestern, and you can see a glimpse into Darensbourg’s 2013 event here: Once she accepts the Gibbs Medal, both Basolo and Darensbourg will officially be Gibbs Medalists.

    1996 PHOTOS

    Basolo’s Gibbs Award ceremony was attended by much of his family and Northwestern faculty and students. We have located only two dozen photos from the occasion, and we need your help identifying the people in them. The full photo gallery is available on the Section website:


    Fred and Mary Basolo (FB, MB) seem to be seated for a family photo, with FB holding his Gibbs medal. If you know the names of the apparent other family members, please write to historian-at-chicagoacs-dot-org.

    At the head table, we can identify a few people, including Tobin Marks (TM, Northwestern Prof. and 2001 Gibbs medalist), Fred Turner (FT, 1996-7 Chicago Section Chair), and Helen and Jack Halpern (HH; JH, Univ. of Chicago Prof. and 1986 Gibbs medalist). 9605-K may be Columbia Univ. Prof. Ron Breslow, who was President of the ACS in 1996 and went on to receive the 2004 Gibbs medal.

    Seated in the audience, there appear to be members of a lab from Northwestern, but it is unclear who they are. We encourage professors to bring their students to all of our meetings, but it is especially nice for them to attend the Gibbs ceremony. Without having to travel to a national event, students at a Gibbs meeting can network with major figures in chemistry and luminaries from ACS leadership in addition to local professionals. Seeing the reward for a near-lifetime of accomplishment can be especially motivating for early-career scientists.

    If you have any insights into the identities of the people depicted, please write to historian-at-chicagoacs-dot-org.

    Thanks for help with the April photos go to Dolores Kenny, Gail Wilkening, Margy Levenberg, and Herb Golinkin.

    Back to top

    Historical Feature

    The International Legacy of a Chicago Danish-American Chemist

    With the surname KOEHLER, few would guess my Danish-American heritage. However, in our family’s ancestral town of Waupaca, Wisconsin, where the Danish heritage is engrained in the town’s history, the Koehlers are known as the descendants of the Sorensens and Pedersens. We are Vikings through-and through.

    It is therefore fitting that I recall another Chicago Danish-American chemist, who immigrated to Chicago nearly 140 years ago, was a very active member of the Chicago Section of the ACS in the early days of the Section, and left an everlasting legacy in Denmark which, even today, connects our two nations.

    Max Henius was born in Aalborg, Denmark in 1959.   He attended the Aalborg Latin School and the Polytech Institute in Hanover, Germany. Following that, he went on to earn his Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Manburg in Germany.  

    Max Henius’ college pal from both Hanover and Marburg was a Milwaukee born gentleman named Robert Wahl, who went to Germany to study the science of brewing.   He too earned his Ph.D. in chemistry. Robert Wahl returned to the USA after his education in Germany and he encouraged Max Henius to follow. After graduating in 1881, young Max Henius immigrated to the United States, settling in Chicago. Together Max Henius and Robert Wahl became lifelong business partners.

    One of their first joint business ventures was a pharmacy. However, both Wahl and Henius were more interested in the art of brewing. From this passion for fermentation, the two opened the American Brewing Academy in Chicago, later known as the Wahl-Henius Institute of Fermentology. This institute was one of the world premier centers for brewing science and education in the US and published some of the best known books on the topic. At the Institute, Wahl and Henius would conduct research, teach courses on brewing, and work with breweries worldwide to develop brewing processes, specialized yeasts, and premier beers.

    Henius became a nationally renown chemist and the Wahl-Henius Institute in Chicago was recognized around the world as a center of excellence. But Max Henius didn’t just focus on his wildly popular brewing institute. Max believed in the strong social responsibility between brewers and the culture of a nation. He admired the contributions of the Carlsberg Foundation (Carlsberg Breweries) who built museums, art galleries, and places for public enjoyment throughout Denmark. He encouraged his colleagues to be socially engaged and active contributors to society. Max himself was a very active member of the ACS and the Chicago Section, participating in the monthly meetings and Annual ACS meetings. He presided over the 1907 National ACS meeting which was held in Chicago. He was the Board President of the Chicago Public Library. He also was very active in the Chicago’s Danish-American social organizations.

    Although Max spent most of his adult life as a chemist in Chicago, his fond memories of his early years in Aalborg led him to establish his best known legacy … back in Denmark. In his later years, Max worked tirelessly to raise funds to establish a place in Denmark where the Danish-American bond could be celebrated. Beginning in Chicago, he led a campaign to raise money to buy a piece of land near his childhood home outside of Aalborg. Eventually, he raised enough money to buy 200 acres. Once purchased, he presented the deed for the land to the King of Denmark to establish what is by all accounts the first National Park in Denmark in 1912. Max Henius turned the park over to the Danish State with three conditions:

    • That the area should remain in a natural state … (something I think he learned from his fellow Chicago-Danish compatriot Jens Jensen)
    • That it would be open to the public
    • That Danish-Americans could celebrate American holidays at the park.

    Today, this land is known as the Rebild Bakker National Park and has grown to 450 acres. Here, at Rebild, the bonds that tie Danes and Americans are celebrated. Each year on July 4th, the largest celebration of the US Independence Day outside of the USA is held in Rebild Bakker National Park in Denmark, a lasting tribute the friendship between Denmark and America. From Aalborg to Chicago .. and then back to Rebild near Aalborg … connecting the dots for a Chicago Danish- American chemist whose legacy at Rebild National Park remains a lasting tribute to the bonds between our people. Today if you visit the Rebild National Park, you will see a bust of Max Henius, prominently placed at the gates to the Park as a lasting tribute to this most esteemed chemist and member of the Chicago Section of the American Chemical Society.

    Rebild National Park in Denmark, where the Danish and American flags fly side-by-side, celebrating the friendship between the two nations.

    A bust of Chicago’s Danish-American chemist Max Henius stands near the gates of Rebild Bakker National Park in Denmark, as a lasting tribute to the park he founded.

    Learn More about Rebild National Park at:

    - Michael G. Koehler, Ph.D.

    Back to top

    Calendar of Events


    May 1-4: Great Lakes Regional Meeting in Lisle, IL.

    May 3: Chicago ACS Willard Gibbs Award Banquet. Dr. Marcetta Y. Darensbourg, Texas A&M University, is the recipient of the 2019 Willard Gibbs medal at the Sheraton Lisle.

    May 4: The Marie S. Curie Girl Scout Chemistry Day program at Oakton Community College

    May 11: STEAM Conference, Northeastern Illinois University.

    May 18: Chicago Section Scholarship Exam at Benedictine University

    June 11-13: 23rd Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference and 9th International Conference on Green and Sustainable Chemistry in Reston, VA.

    June 17: You Be The Chemist National Challenge

    July 21-25: ChemEd 2019, the largest North American biennial conference for primarily K-12 teachers of science and chemistry, will be hosted by North Central College in Naperville.

    August 8-18: The Illinois State Fair in Springfield. Come volunteer at the ACS booth.

    August 25-29: 256th American Chemical Society National Meeting and Exposition “Chemistry & Water”, San Diego, CA.


    Back to top