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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Dr. Ahmed Awad has been a chemistry professor at CSU Channel Islands since 2007. He has taught everything from general chemistry, biological chemistry, organic chemistry, to independent research. Some of you may know him as the professor who brings only a white board marker to class and then proceeds to lay down impressive amounts of chemistry knowledge without using his notes. How did he become such a chemical savant and what is he doing with that knowledge now? 

Professor Awad received his Ph.D. in Bioorganic Chemistry in 2004 from the University of Ulm, Germany. At the University of Ulm, he researched developing molecules that could be used as anticancer or antiviral agents. These molecules are essentially short segments of Nucleic Acids, DNA or RNA, called oligonucleotides that can specifically bind to certain regions on the mRNA to prevent the formation of pathogenic proteins. This works by blocking the translation event during the protein biosynthesis. For these molecules to be effective, chemical modifications are necessary in order to stabilize them against degradation in biological systems. Dr. Awad then moved to the United States to work on his postdoctoral fellowship at Iowa State University from 2004 to 2006. He continued his research with Therapeutic Nucleic Acids and worked in designing a nucleic acid probe that could be used for gene imaging. The probe finds a target gene, and a florescent signal is then observed. Specifically, he worked with aptamers and their application for the treatment of cancers. Apatmers are oligonucleotides that bind to a specific target molecule. Accordingly, this method can be used to detect cancer in very early stages.
RNA C3                             RNG C3
Dr. Ahmed Awad continued his research and has accepted a second postdoctoral fellowship at UC Santa Barbara from 2006 through 2007. Now at CSU Channel Islands, he continues conducting research, only this time he has undergraduate research students helping. His research group strives to construct novel chemical modifications to produce RNG molecules (modified ribonucleic acids) in which the phosphodiester bond is replaced by guanidinium linkage. These RNG molecules should be stable against nucleases as well as have better cellular uptake, so by making them positively charged they pass more easily through the cell membrane. If you would like to learn more about this stimulating research, Dr. Awad would be more than happy to converse with you about it. In his own words:

“My undergraduate students and I are focused on having research quality publications in international journals as well as interest in presenting our work at several scientific meetings and conferences” 

Dr. Awad is a vital attribute for the chemistry department and the advancement of nucleic acid research.   We are lucky to have such an academically inclined professional here.

Dr. Awad's current undergraduate research students.
Sammy Freitag

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Many students from the various science degree fields participated in last week’s science carnival at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School. This included students from other colleges as well. The turn out was amazing! The playground was littered with children and students in lab coats. Basically, you get to walk around and students perform a scientific fete per say. Here are just some of the demonstrations.

Representing the water cycle using a mini ocean,
land mass, and paper towel cloud. 

This is the sort of food you can expect to find at the science carnival. They were making grape soda using artificial grape flavoring, artificial stevia sweetener, artificial purple dye, and dry ice. The dry ice made this station awesome because it looks like you are drinking a science experiment. And you are! They also had strawberry caviar and orange noodles made out of agar agar.

The next generation genius and also the
smallest lab
coat I have ever seen.
This guy was exploring the thrills of
archeological finds. He was digging it!

Here is Stephanie and Rosa demonstrating the 
boo bubble, the ‘boo’ part coming from when 
you touched it, the bubble filled with dry ice 
vapor would burst and the people working 
the station would say boo! Because it 
looked like you had just touched a ghost. 


                             Here you see Professor Swig and a student performing a magic trick using the indicator phenolphthaline, dilute sodium hydroxide, and vinegar which are mixed to produce the appearance and disappearance of a pink color. It was a magical experience.

The electric pickle was a particular favorite of mine because of my love for pickles. The pickle is placed across the electrodes of an isolation transformer resulting in the pickle glowing from sparks within the pickle.

Here is a dinosaur feeling the pickle’s warmth after it had been lit up.

Here Emily was preparing a child favorite; slime. It was a solution of polyvinyl alcohol in water mixed with laundry borax leading to the formation of slime. It jiggles, is colorful, and fun. It was a perfect experiment for the carnival. 

I hope watching your fellow students having this much fun has inspired many to want to share their love of science. I highly encourage all students and faculty to participate next year, because who knows you could spark the next Einstein's interest in the exciting field of chemistry. Also, everybody was has a good time, and it is a great excuse for many people to all wear their lab coats outside at the same time. Science is awesome!

by Sammy Freitag