Sunday, December 2, 2012

Relays to the Next Level!

    As a member of the Drake Track and Field team, Christmas came early for track fans. On Wednesday, Drake announced that Hy-Vee Inc. will now be the presenting sponsor for the Relays (replacing ASICS). The biggest implication to this new sponsorship is the prize money that will be up for grabs – $50,000/running event and $25,000/field event. This will make the Relays the biggest meet in the world in terms of prize money, meaning that the fields this year are sure to be absolutely loaded with the best talent in the world.
    Take for example the men’s 110 meter high hurtles. As of today, Aires Merrit, Jason Richardson, and Hansle Parchment, this year's gold, silver, and bronze medal winners from London, respectively, are already confirmed to compete in the upcoming relays. Fifteen other Olympians who reached the podium have also confirmed they will compete at Drake too…. And it’s only December!
    Better yet, ESPN2 will broadcast 90 minutes of prime time action throughout the weekend too. It’s sure to be another Relays for the ages! It certainly gets me excited to train hard for the upcoming indoor and outdoor track seasons, who knows, maybe you’ll see yours truly on ESPN this upcoming Relays!
    You can read the entire press release HERE.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thankful for Drake!

    Thanksgiving is almost here! I, as well as most students, will be thankful for a three-day break from classes and a nice time at home with my family! Because being thankful is the reason for the season, today I decided to think about the top five things I’m thankful for about at Drake (in no particular order).

1.    Size – Being an introvert, going to a smaller University has been such a blessing. Class sizes can be very small, which gives you a great opportunity to get to know your classmates and professors really well. It’s really great! The average class size at Drake is 21 students. However, as you progress into upper-level classes, they can get really small. Last year I took three different chemistry courses, each of which contained only myself, one other student, and the professor! This isn’t the norm, as there aren’t too many chemistry majors, but the trend is visible across all disciplines and majors.
2.    People – Drake wouldn’t be Drake if it weren’t for all the people who make this University what it is. There have been so many different people who have impacted my life, and made Drake a truly incredible place. After I graduate, I know that my fondest memories will be of the relationships I formed here. For the most part, everyone is very friendly here too, which is great! Over these past four years, I’ve had the privilege to have gotten to know awesome roommates, brothers and sisters in Christ, cross country and track teammates, people whose views are much different than mine, Diane (my fantastic girlfriend!), and so many more! Drake has a reputation for being an outstanding institution, and this recognition reflects the people who make Drake, well Drake!
3.    Campus Fellowship – This is one of the Christian organizations on campus that I started getting involved in at the end of my freshman year. The things I’ve learned through it, and the relationships I’ve made through it have truly changed and impacted my life. It’s encouraging to be part of a body where there are many others who want to live for Christ!
4.    Running – I ended up choosing to come to Drake to be part of the cross country and track teams. My time on the team has been really good. It’s been fantastic to be part of a group of guys who are striving for success in running too. I’m lucky to be able to run with and workout with a hard working bunch of guys who push me to reach my potential. A lot of lessons I’ve learned through running I can apply to other areas of my life.
5.    Diversity – is present in so many ways at Drake! I’ve met people from all walks of life from all over the world, from many different cultures and backgrounds. Drake fosters an environment of diversity in many ways, one of which is by having students take courses out of their discipline. I’ve been blessed to be able to meet people from all throughout the Midwest and U.S., Asia, New Zealand, Europe, Africa, and Asia. I’ve even been encouraged to go out and venture the world and see other cultures first hand, which I did by studying abroad in Spain. The many different view points I’ve encountered have helped my critical thinking skills and have challenged me in my beliefs.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Drake Listens!

    One of the things that has impressed me most about Drake’s administrative staff and the student senate is their willingness to listen to students’ concerns and needs. I remember in high school, the student council committee was available to listen to the student body’s problems. They always promised change, but nothing ever happened. At Drake, the student senate does listen and take action. Two notable cases come to mind.
    This past year lower Olmsted was renovated and converted into a new fitness center with great strength and cardio equipment. It's now called Underground Fitness. When I first arrived at Drake, it was a dark and dreary cafeteria. Students complained that the Bell Center was too crowded (it really was). Student senate listened to our campus’ concerns, and brought the matter to the faculty senate. Long story short, there are now two great locations to workout on campus, each of which has plenty of space! It all happened because students took the initiative to voice their concerns. 
    The price of printing ink can be deceiving. For my printer, replacing the black and color carriages costs almost as much as the entire printer itself! Last year, Drake decided to allocate each student $20.00 in printing per semester. There are printing stations set up in almost every building on campus. The wireless PaperCut system allows students to print documents from their laptops to any printer at anytime. This small allocation of student funds has been a huge saving for many others and myself. I’ve noticed these changes and more throughout my time at Drake. It’s awesome to be part of a student body where the administration cares about and wants to meet our needs.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Broadening Perspectives at Drake

    One of the things I was least looking forward to when I came to Drake was having to take areas of inquiry (AOI), or more commonly known as generals. At other schools, I could graduate with degrees in chemistry and math with only having to take science and math. At first I viewed these “extra” courses as unnecessary and a waste of my time. I thought I would benefit more from taking more classes that would be directly relevant and applicable to my career. It turns out that AOIs have been some of the best classes I’ve taken at Drake. They’ve helped expand my horizons and have forced me to adapt new viewpoints and challenge my thinking. Post graduation, I’ll probably look back on these classes that I actually learned and took away more from my AOIs than I did in some of my chemistry and math classes. Honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever have the bug to think about solving a differential equation by using a Fourier Series transformation. But concepts I’ve learned in philosophy, psychology, and politics classes will continue to remain relevant in my life.
    A lot of these “extra classes” have also reinforced and expanded material I’ve learned in chemistry and math. For my math major, I took a game theory class last spring, and we studied a classic example, The Prisoner’s Dilemma, extensively in many different formats. I also learned about this dilemma in a world politics class, and just recently again in my psychology class. I feel have a broader perspective on the importance and relevance of this classic situation, thanks to exposure in multiple classes from multiple viewpoints.
    What class has been the most rewarding class from my Drake experience so far? Sophomore year I took China and the World, a class that satisfied my ‘Engaged Citizen’ AOI. In hindsight, it probably wasn’t wise that I decided to take an upper-level politics course, but it genuinely interested me. Every other student in the class was a politics major, so I had to work really hard and get caught up on things that they already understood well. The class culminated in a final paper that forced me to analyze whether or not, and in what way, is China a threat to the U.S. That’s something that I’ve never had to do in chemistry nor math classes, and it challenged me and forced me to grow in so many ways. My writing improved drastically in that course, as well as my critical thinking and analysis skills, which in turn aids me in classes in my majors. Moreover, a lot of these classes have sparked interests in me that I didn’t even know I had. To fulfill my artistic AOI, I even studied art in Madrid for a summer. I’m so glad that the Drake curriculum makes students take AOIs.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Fighting the Good Fight

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. – 2 Timothy 4:7

    My career as a Drake Cross Country runner has officially come to an end. Two weeks ago, I was running the race of my life. I was on pace to smash my 8k personal best of 25:38, I had come through 5k in 15:40, only six seconds of my 5k pb on the track, I was on pace to run about 25:10. It was one of those days where everything went right. I prepared perfectly for the race, I was feeling good, and then with one kilometer to go, bam, it hit me.
    My right hamstring cramped up, but I thought I could finish the race, and did, running 25:29, good for an eight second PB. The thing I’m most proud about of that race is that I left it all out on the course. At the finish line I was spent, and couldn’t stand up for about ten minutes until some teammates finally got me up. I fought the good fight and finished the race, and was able to get every ounce of energy out of my system. I assumed that this would be a good tune-up for the conference meet, where I would be able to run even faster and help lead Drake to a to a top three finish. My mind and spirit were itching for more, but my hamstring decided that would be my last race. It would take no more. I assumed that I would be healthy and running the conference meet two weeks later, and then regionals in another month. That was it.
    Hindsight is 20/20. In the past, where I’ve either gotten injured or have not been able to perform as well as I’ve wanted, I’ve usually been able to pinpoint what went wrong. Reflecting on this season, I honestly don’t think I could have done much better. Training was absolutely fantastic, I was in the best shape of my life, and I was doing all the little things right – eating healthy, getting sufficient sleep, foam rolling my legs, icing, stretching, the whole nine yards. This time I just caught a stroke of bad luck.
    If I did not have my identity rooted in Jesus Christ, I would have been completely devastated. All of our training is geared and centered towards peaking for the Missouri Valley Conference Championships. It seemed like in one instant, all the miles and hours of hard work instantly became meaningless.
    By having my faith in Christ, I’ve been able to see so much good come out of this experience. Because I wasn’t able to travel with the team, another one of my teammates was able to run for me instead, and he was able to get his first MVC experience and help out the team! I’m joyful right now, because I know that God has used this experience to expose where and what I’m storing and putting my hope in. God has used this experience to show me that I have kept the faith! After suffering a tragic end to my cross country career, I’m able to rejoice because God and God alone is the sole source of my joy and satisfaction. He’s used this experience to test my character and show me that I have a hope that cannot and will not fail!

And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. – Romans 5:2-5


I can proudly say that I've fought the good fight, gotten the most out of my talent, and kept the faith throughout my cross country career. My running is not done yet, I still have two years of indoor/outdoor track left!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fall "Break"

    I said I would be more consistent with my posting last time, but this time I really mean it! I’ll be writing once a week with general thoughts on my Drake experience. One notable period that just passed was fall break.
    Fall break typically represents a period where students can soak up some R & R after a stressful week of midterms and papers, and is often the time where many students travel home and visit their families. One thing I’ve noticed about this year’s courses compared to the previous three is that things have been slightly faster paced. This can be attributed to the new January-term that will begin each spring. Consequently, both the fall and spring semesters have been shortened by one week, confining the semesters from 16 weeks into 15. Most professors have not altered their curriculum; they’re just covering the material at a faster pace.
    I’ve also noticed how my fall “breaks” have slowly been transformed from true breaks to periods where I need to catch up on work over my four years at Drake. My freshman year, I went home and didn’t do much work, Sophomore year I hung around Drake and did a little more schoolwork (and crucial cleaning of my dorm room), last year I cranked out a few lab reports and prepared for several tests, and this year, I devoted almost all of the free time in my break towards preparing for my capstone.
    I have a larger credit load this semester (16 credits compared to the normal 12-13 I’ve taken my first three years), which has kept me very busy. This past Friday, I had to give a 25 minute presentation on some chemistry research I’ve done at Drake, as well as turn in a rough draft of my senior thesis. As of last Saturday, I had not started working on either, not out of procrastination, but because there were other deadlines and important topics of study to tackle first. Thankfully this past week I received a TON of grace, and was able to be super productive, and deliver a presentation I was very happy with. Of course right when it ended I needed to get started on a math take home test, study for a biology test and prepare a biology lab presentation. It seems it never ends, but it’s been a joy filled semester overall. It’s fun to learn and work hard when the material you’re learning interests you and will be relevant in your future career. More on that next time.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Drake!

    It’s been too long! I apologize for the lack of posts, there’s been a lot going on at the start of the semester, and blogging has often been the last thing on my mind. The start to the school year has been absolutely fantastic! it’s reminded me of how lucky and blessed I am to be able to spend five years of my life at Drake. School, campus fellowship, running, the chemistry club, and more is all going very well right now, lots of fun things are happening. One thing that’s new this year is that I’m now involved in Mortar Board, a senior honor society as well. It’s a group of seniors who have distinguished themselves in their academic excellence (top 25% of graduating class), leadership, and service. It’s a great way to network with alumni, and we also get together to volunteer, have fun at social events, and find ways to give back to the campus community. Right now I’m planning one of our first social events at a place called SkyZone! I went there last spring with the chemistry club, it was a blast!
    Although Drake is a relatively small University, they find ways to bring big name speakers to campus! Two weeks ago, former president Jimmy Carter and his wife came and spoke about their foundation the Carter Center as well as their other humanitarian efforts. It’s really awesome to see so many great clubs and organizations on campus that are fighting for social justice and trying to improve the world we live in, Jimmy was impressed with the efforts of DU students.
    This past weekend, Josh McDowell, a Christian apologist came to Drake and Des Moines to give several talks. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to hear his talk on Drake’s campus, but I got to see him this morning at church, his life is an amazing testament of how Christ can transform lives!
    There’s so many good things going on at Drake right now, I can’t wait to update you all in the weeks to come!

   

Monday, August 20, 2012

Ready, Set... Rest!

    For the past few decades, the penultimate Monday of August (today!) would typically signal the start of a new school year. This year, Drake’s implemented a January study term for the first time, and as a result the fall and spring semesters have each been chopped down by a week.
    Instead of being in the normal “Ready, set, go!” mindset, jumping into a new year headfirst today, I’m spending the week in Steamboat Springs, CO with eight of my cross country teammates. Steamboat is nestled right in the Rockies, so we’re enjoying some scenic runs, huge hills, and burning lungs before ringing in the school year and the start of the season.
    So far our trip’s been super chill. Besides getting in our weekly running volume and cross training, there’s been a lot of down time to hang out, rest, recharge, and get ready to tackle the school year head on. We even started a puzzle yesterday, I can’t remember the last time I’ve done that!
    I’m thankful for the change of pace, I feel like I’ve been constantly on the go since the start of summer, through my time in Ann Arbor, and even the previous week I spent at home. I’m hoping to get in a lot more miles this week, have a great time with my teammates, reflect on the summer, and think more about what I hope to accomplish/learn this upcoming school year!



Sunday, August 12, 2012

10,000 Miles

    Yesterday in the first few miles of my long run, my runnometer rolled over to 10k miles! It actually happened sometime this spring, but I didn’t start logging my mileage on RunningAhead until the end of my first cross country season. Looking back, it’s been a fantastic journey, I can say that I wouldn’t be writing this post if it wasn’t for running, because it was the deciding factor that ultimately brought me to Drake.
    I’m so glad after my sophomore year of high school I decided to give distance running a shot! I initially started running the long sprints in track my freshman year to stay in shape for basketball, but my coach thought I had good potential for cross country and the mile, so I finally gave in and signed up for cross country. I’ve never looked back since, I can honestly say it’s been one of the best decisions of my life.
    I’ve met some of my best friends through running, and have been blessed to travel and run in many beautiful locations. The one thing I really love about it is that you get in what you put out. Through hard work and dedication, I’ve seen my running times drop quite a bit over the past four years. Initially it started off as a selfish endeavor, something I thought I could be good at and receive glory and praise from others for, but it’s turned into an activity where I can glorify Christ. 
Here’s a quick few facts about my journey to 10,000 miles, and now beyond:

The Trip to 10,000 Miles
•    Start Date: 1/24/2008
•    End Date: 8/11/2012
•    10,012.9 miles in 1183:03:23 (49 days, 10 hours, and 23 minutes (7:06/mi)
•    5k PB at start of streak: 17:32 Current 5k PB: 15:34
•    8K PB after Freshman year (Drake): 27:32 Current 8k PB: 25:38
•    10k PB at beginning of streak: 39:20 Current 10k PB: 32:25
•     Notable Running Locations: Chanhassen/Chaska (MN), Minneapolis, Des Moines, New York, Mammoth Lakes (CA), Chicago, London, Ann Arbor (MI), Torrejon (Spain)


State XC Meet, junior year of high school

Chaska Men's XC won sections for the first time my Senior Year

Usain Bolt was the man four years ago, and still is today

Lake Conference track!

First college race

With 2x Olympian Ryan Hall

With Keflezighi, 4th place in the Olympic Marathon today

With one of my best friends Kyle in Yosemite National Park

Characters!

Missouri Valley Conference 10k 2012

With parents after the Roy Griak XC meet in Minneapolis



Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Adíos, Ann Arbor


    I flew home yesterday and have never looked more forward to spending time with family and friends and relaxing. I’m pretty wiped out from my trip and took today really easy, but tomorrow I’ll start shadowing two physical therapists until it’s time to return to Des Moines. My time in Ann Arbor was challenging, but there’s lots of good memories looking back. I could write thousands of words describing my experiences, but they say a pictures worth 1,000 words. Here’s 16,000 from my summer.



The AA farmer's market was fantastic! I made sure to carry on a cinnamon roll yesterday to share a little bit of AA with my mom and sister.

I cooked for myself full-time for the first time this summer. I really enjoy cooking, it's really just chemistry that you can eat!

I accidentally melted a spatula into one of our three pots. Like all good chemists, I brought it to lab the next day to dissolve it with a little Acetone.

With friends at Comerica Park on the 4th of July

1800s baseball at Greenwich Village and the Henry Ford Museum

Colorless Crystals of
Zn2+[12-MC-Zn(II), -pheHA-4]

The Ann Arbor art fair completely took over town for a few days

The Pecoraro Group, Summer 2012

Tacos are one of my go to meals

Canoeing on the Huron River with Maureen and Aaron

Last day in the lab in front of my fume hood

My desk in the Pecoraro lab

With Sibo, another REU student from Peking University in Beijing who also worked on the Metallacrown Project. I learned a lot from him and a lot about China.

"Please close door gently, growin' crystals, thanks"

The archway on the Diag, a well known icon at the University of Michigan

Enjoying some pizza with my friend Christian on our last night in AA. He was my movie buddy for the summer.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Busyness - A Blessing or Curse?

    I recently came across this article in the NY Times (in my opinion, the best news paper out there), which was simultaneously thought provoking and a slap across the face.
    Like many other college students and Americans, often I blurt out “BUSY!” when someone asks me how I’m doing or how my day is going. The past year I’ve learned that business can take it’s toll. At the past two semesters have been completely draining, by the time finals finished up, I basically spent the rest of the next week lying low in bed at home, exhausted from the toll of academics, track/cross country, chemistry club, campus fellowship, and other activities. Often during my rest week (which really is a rest week, no running!) I wonder why I continue to trudge through it all. A lot of times it seems that everything is flying by so fast that I’m not able to take any of it in. Ferris Bueller said it best: Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
    So often we’re caught up with the end goals of things (final grades, running goals, etc…) we forget to take in everything else and soak up the journey! Business often overwhelms me, but it also gives me joy. I don’t see it as a burden at all. There’s so many great opportunities and activities to explore in college and time is so limited. The problem I have is choosing, I want to do it all. Although I am often running from one thing to the next (figuratively and literally), I’m happy through all of it. For me it’s going from one thing I love to another. In order to “stop and look around once in a while”, I enjoy journaling. Honestly, before I came to college I viewed it as an activity that only “girls did”, but I’m so glad that I’ve gotten into a consistent pattern. I primarily use it to log my spiritual journey with the Lord and also write down other note worthy items or interests in my life at the time. It’s really cool to look back on how I’ve my perspectives and outlooks on all different facets of life have changed throughout my time at Drake.
    One of the greatest experiences over the past two summers has been attending the Altitude Project, a Christian running camp in Mammoth Lakes, CA. It’s a bit of a bummer this year, the camp is just entering it’s second week, and unfortunately I won’t be able to make it back because I’ve been working in Ann Arbor (which has also been a blessing). Looking back, a few key points of what I learned, routes I ran, people I met, and sights I saw stand out, but there was so much more to those trips than my memory can tell. Thankfully I was consistent in journaling each day, and have been encouraged, reminded, and delighted on all the little memories I jotted down. Journaling in a sense is one of the ways I’ve been sure that I “don’t miss it”.
    My time here in Ann Arbor has been relatively “un-busy”. Besides work and running, my days are relatively un-occupied, and I’ve enjoyed reading, watching movies, and a lot of other things I enjoy but don’t often have lots of time to devote to. It’s been a nice change of pace, but I can’t wait to get back to home and then Drake to get involved and reunited with the people, places, and activities that bring me joy!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Synthesis of Chiral Zinc Metallacrowns for Applications in Second Generation Harmonics

Here's a copy of the abstract I just submitted for the research symposium that will occur at the University of Notre Dame two weeks from today. Now I need to create my poster!

       Second harmonic generation (SHG) occurs when two photons of a specific energy are combined to form a new photon with twice the energy. Applications in opto-electronics and photonics that utilize SHG properties have traditionally been implemented in simple inorganic crystals such as potassium dihydrogenphosphate (KDP) most effectively. Recently, organic chromophores have exhibited higher and faster nonlinearities compared to inorganic crystals. The SHG properties of organic chromophores can be custom-tailored for a desired application because of the versatility of organic synthesis. Metallacrowns are inorganic analogues of crown ethers that assemble from hydroxamic acids and metals. By incorporating three or more metals into a dense ring structure, metallacrowns often exhibit unique single-molecule magnetism and luminescence properties. Metallacrowns can be used in conjunction with organic chromophores to develop novel SHG material. Engineering a crystalline material that exploits the SHG capabilities of organic chromophores has three main requirements: the crystalline structure must be non-centrosymmetric, it must arrange the chromophores such that their dipole moments are aligned parallel, and the material should be colorless so it will not absorb the frequency doubled light in the visible region. Chiral metallacrowns have been shown to form cavities that sequester and properly align organic chromophores in a non-centrosymmetric environment. Previously, a Ln(III)[15-metallacrownCu(II), pheHA-5] complex with the SHG chromophore isonicotinate exhibited modest SHG behavior. The intensity was much weaker than KDP, presumably because the crystalline blue powder absorbed much of the generated green light. Performance is likely to be increased by forming chiral metallacrowns containing zinc, which will be colorless in the visible region. This project aims to develop new chiral 12-metallacrown-4 zinc complexes using the hydroxamic acids (s)--phenylalanine and (s)--homophenylalanine. Electrospray mass spectrometry has shown that the metallacrown [12-MC-Zn(II), -pheHA-4] readily assembles in a variety of solvents. Colorless crystals of this metallacrown have been grown by diffusing a solution of pyradine with ethyl acetate. Efforts to isolate this material, optimization of the ligand synthesis, and metallacrowns with SHG chromophores for the development of SHG materials will be discussed.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Home Stretch

    It’s starting to hit me that things here in AA are starting to wind down. This week, I will need to submit an abstract for a poster session we will attend at Notre Dame the last week we are here, and this Friday I am giving the “major talk” in my group’s weekly meeting, which will summarize everything I’ve done so far.
    Yesterday we had a going away party for our visiting Italian professor, Matteo. He’s not leaving for another ten days or so, but he’s really into a local band called the Killer Flamingos and they preformed at a local club last night. He specifically “wanted to see us dance”, so we put on a good show for him. Overall, it was a good time!
    I’ll have my abstract finished up in the next few days, I’ll post it once it’s done and submitted. I’m about ¾ of the way done here, things are wrapping up. This has been one of the tougher experiences of my life for a variety of reasons, I’m certainly looking forward to returning home soon, but at the same time I’m really thankful for how much I’ve been learning about research and myself in my time here.
   

Monday, July 9, 2012

Fun!

    There’s been a lot of working this summer so far, but it’s been nice to sprinkle in some fun times as well, and explore a city and state that I’ve never been to before. Overall, the University of Michigan has a beautiful campus, and Ann Arbor is quite the charming town. There’s too much to talk about, but I’ll give a few highlights from my time here so far:

Cedar Point
    A fantastic amusement park in Sandusky, OH, all of us REU students got to spend a full day soaking in the awesome rollercoasters and thrill rides the second week we were here. One of the best parts was just getting to know each other a whole lot more. During the week, most of us work anywhere from 8:00AM-9:00PM, so there’s not a whole lot of time for socialization (plus we’re dead tired after a long day in the lab), so it was fun getting to talk and hangout all day together. Cedar Point’s famous for a lot of it’s unique roller coasters. My favorite was definitely the Top Thrill Dragster! The ride only lasts 17 sec. but the hour or so wait was definitely worth it! It begins by accelerating from 0-120 mph in less than four seconds! The second time around, my roommate Matt and I waited for the front seat (this is what it looked like through my eyes). We could literally feel our cheeks being pulled back, it was beautiful!



Farmer’s Market
    Ann Arbor’s got a great farmers market, which certainly did not disappoint. I bought possibly the best cinnamon role I’ve ever had, and will certainly be returning soon.
No caption necessary


Fourth of July at Comerica Park!
    To celebrate America’s birthday, five of us decide to attend the Detroit Tiger’s game. I’m a big baseball fan, and besides the activities planned for us through the REU program, this was the one thing I really wanted to do in my time here. The day was quite the adventure, we arrived at the park just before a monsoon swept in and delayed the game 2.5 hours. Luckily things cooled down quite a bit after the storm passed (went from 101 to 75 degrees!) and we were able to snag some great seats in the upper deck. The ballpark was beautiful and fun to see, and to top off the night, we got to see a great fireworks show from the outfield after the game. It was another sweet opportunity to get to know the other guys and gals in the program some more too.
With friends, right before the monsoon arived.

Our fantastic seats!

Fireworks. Unfortunately a day late (the game ended at 12:30), but nonetheless spectacular!


Henry Ford Museum and Greenwich Village
    This past weekend, our program got check out the historic Greenwhich village and the Henry Ford Museum. I grew up loving cars (and still do), so it was awesome to see and learn about the evolution of the automobile. The place is filled with tons of items of other historical significance including: the chair Lincoln was assassinated in, the car JFK was shot in, and the bus Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. It’s cool to see all the physical historical evidence that I grew up learning about in textbooks first hand. Greenwich village accurately portrays what life and industry was like early in America’s history. We got to see what printing, pottery, tin-making, knitting, and even baseball was like long ago. It’s amazing how technology has transformed our society and how much easier things are today.

Thomas Edison's chemistry lab. This was a big hit with our group!

The president's official vehicle

The bus that helped spark the Civil Rights Movement

I assembled a Model-T!

1860s baseball, America's pastime



The Annual Pecoraro Group Christmas in July Party
    During the holidays, almost everyone in my lab travels home for the holidays (which is really nice compared to some other labs, where you have to stay and work), so there’s an annual x-mas party every year in July, when everyone’s around. The party is held at our principal investigator, Vince’s house, which is amazing. He’s an art lover, and has paintings on just about every single wall. He gave me the entire tour, and has a fantastic collection, which includes original works from masters such as Dalí, Miro, and more!
    After a few hours of socializing, it was time for the feast! Everyone made and brought a dish to share, there was so much good food. About half of our lab members are from overseas, so there was so much new, delicious food to try. I overate, everything was so good.
    The night climaxes in the annual secret santa gift exchange. There’s a $5 limit on each gift, and there were a lot of funny gag gifts. I ended up coming home with a pretty sweet hot cocoa set. Nothing better in the middle of July than some nice, hot chocolate! We ended the night playing an intense game of Apples to Apples. It was a great time!

Matteo, a visiting professor from Italy, and the naughty Italian-English translation book he gifted

I was a big winner! Cocoa time!


    The fun has not ceased yet, many more cool things await in the rest of my stay here, it’s been a blast so far!


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Integrity

“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” – C.S. Lewis

    Tuesday marks the halfway point for my REU experience in Ann Arbor, and one of the most important lessons I’ve been learning so far regards to living, working, and acting with integrity. Doing “the right thing” has something I’ve always firmly believed in, and is easy to implement in situations that are black and white. For example, it’s easy to wonder if you’re doing the right thing if you’re thinking about stealing a shirt from a department store. It’s wrong. Case closed.
    I’ve been learning a lot about integrity here at the University of Michigan in my job. As a researcher in the Pecoraro Lab, the guidelines and expectations for me aren’t clear-cut, there’s a lot of gray area. Unlike most jobs that have specific tasks or hours one must work in order to receive their paycheck, mine has no measures in place to ensure that I’m properly doing my job. I haven’t been specified a specific amount of time I’m supposed to be working each week, nor are the expectations of the work on my project high – we’re not expecting any long-term publications or breakthroughs to result directly from my work. This is mostly due to the nature of research (after all, 95% of the things you do will fail) and because of the very short time frame (I feel like I’m just starting to get well adjusted and familiarized to everything in the lab now, and my time here is now halfway gone).
    With these factors in place, it’d be really easy to blow off my job and just coast through the next five weeks. I could potentially try to rationalize based off the requirements and expectations that have been laid out for me. But I won’t.
    I’ve been so blessed to take part in this experience. I’ve been able to learn so much about myself and my career aspirations through this journey. On top of that, the University has provided us all with a generous stipend, housing, airfare, and cool activities (three weeks ago we went to Cedar Point, next week we’re going to the Henry Ford Museum). With all that’s been given to me, I owe it to the University, the National Science Foundation (who provides the funding), my Principal Investigator (Vince Pecoraro), and God to work and try my hardest while I’m here.
    A quote that has often provided motivation for me through my school work and running career is this: “Other people may not have high expectations for me, but I have high expectations for myself”. And so does God. God receives glory through us when we try our best and make the most out of our God-give talents and abilities, regardless of our circumstances.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. – Colossians 3:17

    Although the research I’m conducting now will not be the career path I pursue, I’ll continue to push on and try my best in spite of my like/dislike for this type of work. The finish line is in sight, and even though I won’t be held accountable for the amount of time and effort I put into my project, I’ll continue to give it my all. Through this experience I’ll keep growing into the man God wants me to be, a man of integrity.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Patience.

    It seems one of the hardest virtues for me to willingly accept is patience.  This was made clear to me once again last week when I was in the lab.
    I ran into a predicament. In order to make my Zinc metallacrowns, I need to have an abundance of ligand (S-B-phenylalanine hydroxamic acid), which is one of my reagents. I ran out, so for the past 12 days or so, I’ve been trying to synthesize more. The procedure we’re following has been carried out before in our lab, so it’s not really research. It’s kind of like following a multi-step recipe to bake a cake. I figured it would be straightforward and only take a few days to work up, but I still don’t have any.
S-B-phenylalanine hydroxamic acid

    At one point I was discussing with a visiting professor from Italy, Matteo (he’s here on sabbatical) on why my synthesis wasn’t working and just yelled out, “I want my ligand!” We talked a bit more about the problem, but the thing I took away most was the last thing he said. “Michael, the greatest virtue of a chemist is patience.” (in a wicked Italian accent!)
    It seems when adversity comes my way, I always try to test the waters with patience, and mostly it comes back to bite me in the butt. Many times I’ve been injured from running, and I’ll somehow convince my athletic trainer to let me try running a week or so ahead of schedule, only to set myself back three weeks more than if I would have just waited and stuck to the schedule. Patience is one of the harder things to accept sometimes, especially when we’re anxious and feel like we need something immediately in our lives right here and now.
    Since my talk with Matteo, I’ve enjoyed less stress in the lab and know that things take time. Healing from a running injury takes time. Recrystallizing an ester in methanol takes time. Drying a solid in a vacuum takes time. Life takes time, and those who succeed most are the ones who accept their circumstances as what they are and focus on changing the things in their power.
    Another area I’m having to exercise great patience in life right now is the upcoming fall semester. In my last post, I alluded to the notion that I was confident that pursuing a graduate degree in chemistry wasn’t the chosen path for me. Over the past two weeks, the Lord has shown me more through this experience and through some conversations with people whom I respect and trust that God may have another plan for me based on what I want out of life.
    The career that’s appealed to me most so far has been physical therapist. In high school, I went through a phase where I really thought I wanted to be an orthopaedic surgeon, but once I stepped foot in the operating room, I knew I couldn’t handle the blood. As a runner who’s been consistently injured over his career, I’ve really appreciated all the help and comfort I’ve received from PTs who have gotten me back to doing the thing I love, running. It would be rewarding to help and see other people resume their normal activities, knowing that I played a role in helping them. I’m not dead set on pursing PT yet, I still have a lot of thinking and praying to do. I just need to be patient in the process and wait for the Lord to point me in the direction He’s chosen for me.

I had to wear my first shirt and tie in 10th grade for my mentorship in orthopaedic medicine. I still wear that outfit for all formal occasions, we've been through a lot together. It's next appearance: August 3, Southbend, IN to present my research on Metallacrowns.

Getting ready to head into the O.R. with Dr. Aadalen. I didn't know what was coming!


Sunday, June 10, 2012

One Hundred Eighty Degrees

One Hundred Eighty Degrees

    It’s funny how fast things can change. Last week at this time, I was in the University of Michigan’s library, taking a practice Graduate Record Examination (GRE), preparing myself for the real deal this upcoming fall. Over the last few days, I feel that the Lord has revealed to me through several different ways that pursing a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry is not in His plans for me.
    Overall, it was a frustrating and difficult week in the lab for me. My graduate student who is assigned to mentor me had to leave for five weeks to get trained in for a Post-Doc he’s starting this fall. I felt stressed and had no reason to be. After spending a week in a graduate setting, I feel that I’ve already obtained much more insight into what life in grad school would be like – a life I don’t think is for me. Research entices me because you’re diving into the unknown, trying to make and do things nobody has ever done before.
    So far, I’ve synthesized a new Metallacrown in several different solvents, however my remaining time here will be spent trying to isolate it by growing quality crystals in order to further characterize my product using X-Ray Crystallography. Essentially, I’m this guy:


    The unfortunate part of research is that it’s 99% fail and 1% success. In the coming weeks I’ll be setting up thousands of different crystallizations, and even if only one succeeds, I will have accomplished a whole heck of a lot. Finding the conditions necessary to produce crystals is the Holy Grail of my project.
    The fear of failing doesn’t bother me; I already manage plenty of that everyday. The aspect I became most frightened about this week was the fear of my future. After some reflection, I realized that I don’t really have a plan B. If grad school didn’t work out, I wasn’t really sure what I would do. Maybe get an entry-level position in industry?
    After further evaluation, these thoughts left me discontent as well. The reason I wanted to pursue a Ph.D. was so some day I could be a professor at a small institution, and mentor young adults, offering them wisdom and advice to pursue and achieve their wildest dreams! I couldn’t really do that in an industrial setting, but this passion of mine, helping people in my profession, has lead me to strongly consider another profession which I think would be a great fit (but more on that next time).
    Right now, I feel a great sense of peace regarding my future. It’s somewhat uncertain right now, but I know that it will still incorporate science. My parents are wonderful and have been able to comfort me and offer wisdom throughout these few days. This story my dad sent me particularly resonated with my emotions. I feared that I was being sucked into the black hole of graduate school with no return. Headed down a path that wouldn’t lead to a satisfied life, a life where I’d have proper work-life balance.
    The most encouraging aspect of this journey for me has been God’s promises. The book of Proverbs is full of wisdom, and these two verses offer great comfort:

The fear of the Lord leads to life: Then one Rests content, untouched by trouble. – Proverbs 19:23

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and understanding, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your path straight. – Proverbs 3:5,6


    I feel that the Lord has revealed to me that grad school is not in his plans for me. I remain uncertain of His plan for me, but I know because I’ve placed me heart in His hands, He will lead me to the career and place exactly where He wants me. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Mission to Michigan

    I’ve been in Ann Arbor for four days now and things are off to a very good start! The first few days have been a bit overwhelming in the lab. Besides getting caught up to speed on the project I’ll be working on this summer, I’ve had to go through basic and specific safety training, become acquainted with new (for me) software and instrumentation (Electrospray Mass-Spectrometry and 1H-Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy) along with being in a totally new town. A lot thrown at me at once, but I really like it here so far! My lab group is awesome, I’ve got some cool roommates, and Ann Arbor is a great town! I feel so blessed to be able to study ground breaking inorganic chemistry for ten weeks.
    Besides enjoying a new town, taking in some new research, meeting new people, running new trails and hanging out with a cool new church, my decision to pursue this opportunity revolved around one central question that I hopefully will have a solid answer to in the upcoming months: To go to graduate school or to not go to graduate school, that is the question!
    The beautiful thing about conducting research at the University of Michigan is that it is essentially a ten-week preview of what grad school will be like. In my time here, I’ll be collaborating with current graduate students, post docs (those who received their Ph.D. in the last 1-3 years), and even a visiting professor from Italy! It usually takes about five years to earn a Ph.D., and after the first two years, it’s 100% research until you’ve made significant progress in your field and your adviser feels your ready to graduate.
    As of right now, I’m a bit on the fence on whether to pursue further education, but I’m definitely leaning towards it. I’ve been immersed in research since my freshman year at Drake, but it’s clear that those who thrive in graduate school are those who are passionately driven to discover the unknown. You don’t spend five years of your life putting 50-60 hours/week or more into your research if you just like it… you have to love it! It’s definitely a trans formative process, I have been praying that the Lord would reveal His will for my immediate post-Drake future through this experience. It’s going to be a summer of fun and soul searching, I’m ready for the challenge!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Season of Rest

1There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
4a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.
- Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

The past week and a half has been a time of rest and rejuvenation for me. I ended my “season” of studying and school work, and have temporarily entered into a season of much needed rest. Overall, the semester wasn’t overly grueling, but my mind, body, and spirit were ready for a good period of rest. Honestly, I’ve spent the last 10 days or so not doing too much. After our conference track meet in Wichita, I came down with a cold and spent much of the time recuperating, and thankfully had a lot of downtime to just do a whole lotta notta! I was able to read some good books and magazines, watch a few good movies, and not have to worry about studying and working on an assignment. I even got a week break from running, which was great too.
I remember some of my high school teachers warning me about how worn down you can get from a semester of college. I was never really sure if it was true, because I never experienced any kind of burnout from high school. I’ve certainly discovered that they were correct!
This past week I’ve begun to slowly ease back into a normal routine again (I even woke up at 9:00 yesterday!). I’ve been trying to make it a point to hang out with as many friends as possible; I leave for Ann Arbor on Tuesday! I’ve also gotten to spend a good amount of time with family so far too, which I’m thankful for! It’s going to be busy out at Michigan, it’s crazy that it’s almost here. Sometimes the best way to fill the lull from one busy period to the other is without much structure at all. My soul’s been craving a period of rest, and hopefully this downtime will give me the drive and energy to tackle the summer and my upcoming senior year head on!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Hay's In the Barn

    It’s a big week coming up! It’s final exam time, and also the Missouri Valley Outdoor Track and Field Championships are this weekend as well. After battling injuries and just missing the cut my first two years, this will be my first time running at the conference meet, I’ll be running the 10k!
    Preparation is critical to success in both running and school work. One thing my high school coach would always say leading up to a big race like the state meet is: “The Hay’s in the Barn”. In other words, all the preparation and hard work is done, now it’s time to freshen and sharpen up and let the cards fall where they may.
    In terms of running, I completed my last tough track workout this past Thursday. I’ve been amazed by the grace I’ve been given in the little time I’ve been back, these next few days I’ll do a few lights workout, and just work on stretching and rolling out my legs, hydrating well, and getting a lot of sleep so I can get the best performance out of my body Friday night.
    For school, it’s been a relatively light semester, and nothing has been overly demanding. This past weekend, I actually travelled back home for my twin sister’s graduation – she completed her degree in Animal Science from the University of Minnesota Crookston in only three years! It’s tough sitting here writing this right now, knowing that I should be studying while she can relax and watch T.V., not fair!
    Honestly though, I’m not too concerned with my academics regarding this week. I’m a big believer in getting an early jump on assignments and studying for tests. Cramming just doesn’t make sense! I came across this about a week ago and found it fitting regarding the upcoming championship track season and finals:

    “Did you ever consider how ridiculous it would be to try to cram on a farm – to forget to plant in the spring, play all summer and then cram in the fall to bring the harvest? The farm is a natural system. The price must be paid and the process followed. You always reap what you sow; there is no shortcut.”
    The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People – P.22

    It’ll be a fun week, I’m looking forward to taking a break from my studies for a while and relaxing. The finish line is in sight, it’s time to kick for home and finish strong!

    “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Great Weekend of Relays!

    Another year of the Drake Relays has come and passed. This event, which has taken place annually for the past 103 years occurs on the last weekend of April when some of the world’s best athletes in track and field make their way to Des Moines to compete! This year certainly didn’t disappoint, there were some very exciting races! As a member of the track team, you can probably guess where I spent most of my time the past few days. One downside to the Relays is its timing: it occurs right before the last week of school, a time where I should probably be immersed in my studies, they got shoved to the wayside for the last few days. That means today and for the rest of the year, I’ll be studying hard and trying to finish out the school year strong! (It’s amazing how many parallels there are between running, faith, school, etc…). A few highlights of this year were:

•    The Weather! – the forecast looked pretty bad all week, but luckily the rain held off and never advanced into anything beyond a light drizzle. The meet was temporary suspended for a half hour or so on Friday night, but other than that, we were really blessed with the weather. It would have been nice to be a bit warmer, but I’m certainly not complaining with this years conditions compared to years’ past.
•    The Distance Carnival – takes place on Thursday night, it’s the night when everyone packs the stadium to watch athletes run the 5k (12.5 laps) and the 10k (25 laps)… not! In all honesty, it’s probably my one of my favorite events to watch for several reasons.
1.    As a distance runner myself, it’s impressive to watch a bunch of athletes push themselves for an extended period of time. Their efforts resonate with me.
2.    The Isisseretes are in the house! They’re a youth drumline and play throughout the night! They’re really good, and I don’t know what it is about the drums, but I just love it! In the fall, I was hoping to be able to run in the 10k this past Thursday, but I’m still not fit enough to compete with those guys. I know with that kind of competition and the drums, I’d for sure be on my way to a new personal best! Check out a video of them below!
•    Relays on the Road – A road race (8k or half-marathon) that takes place on the Saturday of relays, close to 1,000 people ran this year. I ran as well, and was hoping to dip under 26:00 (my old PB from cross country was 26:10) and I ended up running 25:38, which was good enough for 6th place. I was really pleased with my performance, and it should be a good enough time for me to run the 10k at our conference meet in Wichita, KA in the two weeks.
•    Salute to Our Troops Ceremony – This year a ceremony to honor and remember members of our ceremony kicked off the Saturday afternoon session. My coach was looking for volunteers to help carry a flag out onto the field for the “National Anthem” and “God Bless America”. I thought we’d only need a few people, but boy was I wrong! It turned out that this was no ordinary flag – it covers the entire field: end zone to end zone and sideline to sideline and weighs about 1,100 lbs! We ended up scrambling to get enough people to pull this off, we rounded up spectators, athletes, anyone we could find. The process itself was very interesting, and I learned a lot about the history of our flag from some of the Veterans who helped out as well. One thing I didn’t know is that it’s very disrespectful for any part of the flag to touch the ground. In order for this to be avoided, when it’s unveiled, people have to run under it to make sure this doesn’t happen. That was my job in the ceremony. It was something really cool to be a part of, when I was under the flag I couldn’t see anything outside, but the crowd loved it, and they even had fireworks! Check out some of the pictures I took below!
•    Catching up with old Friends – Relays is one of the best times to catch up with alumni and old friends. This year I got to see several former teammates who graduated last year (who I hadn’t seen until this weekend) and a friend from a Christian running camp I attended in CA the past two summers. The races always bring them back!







The Flag Unveiled! I'm somewhere under it in the lower right-hand corner

Unloading the flag from the truck

The line was about 80m long!

Underneath the flag during the National Anthem, making sure it doesn't touch the ground

With Boaz Lalang, winner of the Men's Invitational Mile, and a favorite to medal in the 800m this summer in London.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Street Painting!

     One of Drake’s richest traditions, street painting on Carpenter Avenue in between Cowles Library and Jewett Hall took place this past Friday, and it was a blast! If you’re not familiar with street painting, it’s a kick off to the Drake Relays festivities when 54 different student organizations/clubs create a design to reflect their group’s characteristics and uniqueness and the Relays theme. This year’s theme is “Memories in Motion”.
    This was my second year street painting, and this year I even created the Chemistry Club’s square design with my friend and former cross country teammate, Josh (He’s also my VP in Chem. Club). We both consider ourselves to be artistically challenged, but we were both pleased with the output of our work. This year there were actually more designs submitted than squares available, so we felt relieved that our design was selected!
    We decided to make molecules that were running, and dub our theme “Molecules in Motion”. We had to throw the blue oval on their too!
    Overall, there are three stages to street painting:
1.    Background Painting – our color was yellow this year
2.    Sketching – clubs sketch their designs using chalk to prepare for the actual painting
3.    Street Painting! – This when most of the work is actually done. Three hours are allotted for each club to complete their square, and at the end of the night, a winner is selected based on their creativity and how well their square reflects the theme. After clubs have finished painting (or before for that matter too) pain flies everywhere. It’s impossible to leave the street without being fully covered in paint!

Drake has a lot of talented artists! I think it’s safe to say that the Chemistry Club didn’t come close to winning the contest, but I’d give us an ‘A’ for execution! A lot of the designs are very complex, and some clubs took all three hours to finish their design. Walking up and down the street at the end of the night, I was thoroughly impressed. Each square was individually unique and beautiful in its own sense.
One of my favorite designs was actually a collaboration between five organizations: The five clubs teamed up to paint the Earths across all five squares, while adding their own character in other areas of the square at the same time. It’s really cool.
    After washing all of the paint out my hair, I’m really looking forward to this upcoming week. It’ll be full of excitement and track races, and I look forward to cheering on my teammates (and some of my high school teammates) in the relays, and look forward to running a competitive 8k in the “Relays on the Roads” race on Saturday morning! It’s going to be a great week! Check out pictures of our design and some of the square below!
Phase 1: Background Painting


Phase 2: Sketching (hard to see due to the contrast and sunlight)



Phase 3: Street Painting


Molecules in Motion!

The Blue Oval (I painted the blue!)


Not too shabby, looks like we planned!

Josh and I
The cool multi-organization collaboration

The 2012 Campus Fellowship Square! It turned out well! So much detail, I really like how they captured some of the main events we do throughout the year.


V-day!