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The ACS What Chemists Do short videos profile chemists and the diversity of careers in the scientific profession.

 

Phillip Hustad is a senior research scientist at Dow Electronic Materials. As a synthetic chemist, Hustad’s research focuses on utilizing polyethylene to create a wide range of materials. Watch Hustad’s video to learn more about what he does and how he started his career at Dow.

 

 

 

Visit www.acs.org/Industry to discover the various industry member programs at the American Chemical Society.

 

ACS Multimedia does not endorse any products or services. The views expressed in this presentation are those of the presenter and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the American Chemical Society.

chumoyer.pngEinstein once said, I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious. Many scientists share such a trait of curiosity, and Margaret Chu-Moyer is one of them.

 

I am curious about everything, and I am fascinated by molecules, she confesses.

 

An early fascination

Growing up in Southern California, Chu-Moyer was exposed to science at an early age.  Like many chemists, Chu-Moyer fell in love with chemistry because of her high school chemistry teacher, who showed her that chemistry is everywhere in the daily life.

 

What are the chemicals in the shampoo bottle? How does chlorine keep a pool fresh? And why do medicines help people feel better? Those were the type of questions young Chu-Moyer asked all the time.

 

I used to study toothpaste and shampoo labels intently, Chu-Moyer recalls her early fascination with chemical compounds.

 

Those long, strange names such as sodium laurel sulfate and glycerol, what do they mean? She wondered.

 

A quest

The strong desire to solve the mystery behind the labels and long names, plus her experience with chemistry in high school, propelled Chu-Moyer to take an organic chemistry course while pursuing her undergraduate study at the University of California, Berkeley. 

 

The course, taught by Professor Henry Rapoport, a renowned organic chemist and a popular chemistry teacher at Berkeley, further enhanced Chu-Moyers fascination with molecules. After overhearing that it was possible to learn how to do research in Rapoports lab, Chu-Moyer approached him at the end of the course, and was accepted to study alkaloid total synthesis.

 

The two-year long research experience at Rapoports lab was positive, but Chu-Moyer was not yet convinced that chemistry was truly for her. She loved chemistry, but she was also interested in medicine. To figure out where her career path might lie, upon graduating from UC Berkeley with a BS degree, Chu-Moyer took a lab associate position at Abbott Laboratories (now AbbVie), where she started to see the possibility of having a fun and fulfilling career in medicinal chemistry.

 

Working with a super enthusiastic boss and seeing the type of work he and the other PhD-level chemists were doing, it really made me want to return to graduate school to receive further training so I could direct independent research in medicinal chemistry, Chu-Moyer recalls.

 

Honing skills

Chu-Moyers interest in how medicines work led her to Professor Samuel Danishefskys lab at Yale University. The learning experience at Danishefskys lab turned out to be invaluable. The famed professor not only taught her what it took to become a true scientist, but also showed her how to lead and guide others to make a big impact.

 

In the next 4 years, Chu-Moyer worked hard and learned as much as she could. Her talent in chemical research started to show, and her supervisor noticed.

 

“She is highly creative, dedicated, accurate and extremely well focused,” Danishefsky once commented about Chu-Moyer. “As one who has watched many generations of graduate students, Ive seen that it is often the case that very high levels of creativity are compromised by a lack of attention to detail and a lack of concern over the fine points of a problem. What makes Margaret different is that she combines extraordinary creativity with full scholarship and meticulous attention to detail.”

 

In 1993 Chu-Moyer graduated with a PhD in organic chemistry. Her independent study on Total Synthesis of the Antitumor Antibiotic Myrocin C earned her the Richard Wolfgang Memorial Prize, a prestigious award recognizing the best doctoral thesis of a graduating chemistry student at Yale. And her collaborative work on indolizomycin and calicheamicin g1I conducted before Chu-Moyer started her thesis study and after she had completed her thesis work, respectively also earned her recognition in the field and resulted in multiple publications.

 

Putting skills to work

Upon graduating from Yale Chu-Moyer joined Pfizer in Connecticut as a research scientist and started to help make therapeutic products she once was curious about. Her creativity and outstanding research skills started to bear fruit quickly. Shortly after joining Pfizer, Chu-Moyer discovered a clinical candidate for diabetic complications. In the following years, she and her colleagues further identified more than a dozen promising clinical candidates with potentials to treat various types of metabolic diseases; and her role gradually evolved from a research scientist to a project leader, a manager, and a senior director.

 

In 2009 Chu-Moyer moved to Amgen to lead the companys Medicinal Chemistry group in Cambridge, Massachusetts. With her proven ability to lead multi-functional teams, within a year after joining Amgen she was appointed as site head for the whole Amgen Cambridge location, a role she held for over 4 years. In 2014, her responsibilities further expanded to include all of Amgens Medicinal Chemistry efforts. As a result, she was managing more than 100 chemists located in both Cambridge and Thousand Oaks in California. In her new role, she successfully led the reorganization efforts that transformed Amgens medicinal chemistry into a single, cohesive unit with an aligned strategy for delivering the small molecule portfolio.  More recently, Chu-Moyers responsibility has further increased as Amgen combined other chemistry functions with the Medicinal Chemistry unit.

 

Today at Amgen, Chu-Moyers main research focus is leading her teams to identify small molecule therapeutics with potentials in multiple therapeutic areas. Under her leadership, her teams have successfully identified multiple promising clinical candidates for a number of diseases, including heart failure and Alzheimers disease.

 

Tough challenges and strategic approaches

Medicinal chemistry is not black and white, says Chu-Moyer.

 

There is a lot of judgement that goes into defining the target product profile and the right molecule for the job. In addition, translation to the clinic is still relatively inexactthere remains significant human biology that we still do not understand. So, a major challenge for medicinal chemistry has been to make the appropriate tradeoffs of certain molecule properties relative to others to achieve the best chance of clinical success, well before there is any concrete evidence favoring one profile over any other.

 

And her strategy for tackling such challenges?

 

I have a multi-pronged approach to this: (1) Align as much as possible the different functions perspectives on what the molecule profile should be; (2) try very hard not to succumb to false precision sometimes we read too much into pre-clinical findings; and (3) take a stand, make a decision and see it through if it isnt right, change the approach and try again, Chu-Moyer shares.

 

 

Making impact on peoples lives

From a teenage girl studying toothpaste labels to a scientist making life-changing therapeutic products, Chu-Moyers fascination with molecules has led her to a challenging yet fulfilling journey in medicinal chemistry and drug discovery.

Today she is as curious and passionate about molecules as before, but what she wants to know and achieve is much more than simply figuring out the meanings of the long, strange chemical names.

 

To her, diseases are personal, and so are making potentially life-saving compounds.

 

Seeing the molecule you helped develop start to shrink a tumor wow! That is what this career is about, she says.

 

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Yanni Wang is a principal scientific writer and the owner of International Biomedical Communications, a company dedicated to translating research data into clear messages. Yanni has a PhD in chemistry and writes about biomedical research-related topics for professional audiences and the general public.

Industry Member Programs is pleased to announce the launch of "Network & Learn: Consultants Tackle Your EPA Questions."

 

As you know, compliance with regulation is critical to any business, especially small businesses. For them, one fine alone could be enough to make them close their doors.  In this video, these consultants talk about how chemical businesses most run afoul of EPA, and offer tips and advice for remaining compliant within the complex regulatory system.

 

We have already prepared all of the materials you need to put together a local networking event.  All you need is a place to host. The list of resources includes a link to the video and a customizable flyer for promoting your event.  Please note that in order to access the full video, you must first register for the event.

 

The four videos below will give you a preview of what you can expect.  For more information on the consultants, visit www.acs.org/network-learn.

 

 

 

 

 

AshBorer2.jpg

My hands are a bit sore.  So are my shoulders.  I spent the last two evenings with an ax in my hand.  I really wish that wasn't the case.  I tried hard to keep the two ash trees that I hacked up alive. Their deaths, while not caused by chemistry, were due to a failing of chemistry.

 

I live in Michigan, a state now past the crest of an infestation of the emerald ash borer.  The infestation is on the wane because there are so few ash trees left. The borer has killed them all.  It is an ugly death.  The borer is a tiny bug, less than half an inch long.  The borer eats ash leaves, a minor issue for the tree, but when it mates, eggs are deposited on the bark of the tree. Larvae emerge and burrow into the bark. It is the larvae that ultimately kill the tree.

 

The larvae tunnel.  They tunnel into the bark into the cambial layer, the region between the outer bark and the wood, where they will spend their larval phase. They feed on phloem, the layer that conducts sugar and other nutrients to the tree. The action of the larvae distrusts the flow, depriving the tree of nutrients, slowly killing the tree.  The pupae hunker down for the winter, erupting through the bark in the spring.  Infected trees begin to lose their outer bark, resulting in “blinding” patches where the smooth, orangish underbark is exposed by the loss of the rough, gray, weathered outer bark.

 

I am not clear on whether it is the emergence of the beetles or the action of predators hunting the larvae that knock the bark off the tree. What I am clear about is how depressing it is to look at a majestic tree with its bark falling off.  Whole forests of ash trees stand in Michigan, dead, with their rough bark removed, now dot the landscape.

 

Two of the largest trees on my lot were ash trees. One was by far the tallest tree around. It was a magnificent tree, over eight feet in circumference at its base.  About 30 feet off the ground, it split in a beautiful Y, each arm reaching skyward, ultimately reaching about 70 feet.  It was a tree that I assumed I could save from the scourge sweeping through Michigan.

 

The borer is native to Asia, assumed to have arrived in the Detroit area in the 1990s.  First reports of dead trees in Detroit were in 2002.  My ash trees are a two hour drive away from those first dead trees.  I first saw an ash borer about 6 years ago.  I remember it well.  It is a striking bug, a beautiful iridescent emerald green.  It had taken about 8 years to go 120 miles. Signs in southern Michigan were warning about the borer, mandating steps to keep it from spreading and requesting reporting of any infestation.  By the time that I called to report my sighting, it was old news for my area. Today, reporting for Michigan’s Lower Peninsula is no longer required: the area is fully infested.

 

I decided to save my ash trees through chemistry.  Imidacloprid is a systemic insecticide, a member of the frequently maligned neonicotinoid family. I spent a total of several hundred dollars in my attempt to save the trees.  They both leafed out last year, at least two years after every other ash tree in the area was dead.  By the end of the summer, large areas of the crowns of both trees had lost their leaves. Areas of the smooth orange bark could be seen with binoculars. The patient was clearly dying.  Chemistry had let me down.

 

The trees are now down, cut down during the winter. Counting tree rings on a big tree is harder than I thought it would be.  The big tree was more than 60 years old.  I am not sure that I can accurately say it was struck down in its prime, but it was surely earlier than it should have been.  It was one of the only times in my life that a pest problem wasn't solved quickly and easily with chemistry.  This time biology won.

 

We are on a precipice with the arrival of powerful synthetic biology tools, if we haven’t already tumbled over.  Biologists – or are they biochemists? – have now engineered and released mosquitos modified to destroy a population.  In this case, it is the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, an invasive species to the Western Hemisphere, but one that has been here for centuries.  I don’t have great love for any animal intent on sucking blood, but A. Aegypti is a disease carrier. It is commonly called the Yellow Fever Mosquito, but more lately it has been implicated in carrying a host of other diseases including chikungunya, dengue fever and, most recently, zika.

 

Oxitec has completed a number of successful trials releasing “self-limiting” mosquitos.  That is the name given to their genetic modification that creates mosquitos that require tetracycline to reproduce normally.  Without it, the offspring die.

 

Releasing mosquitos carrying the trait can cause a rapid drop in the population, potentially eradicating it.  I didn’t realize that we had gone so far as to release such organisms into the wild.  I thought it was still a matter of discussion, as it is in the CRISPR/Cas9 discussion.  Gene drives made possible with this powerful new technology hold the promise of creating traits that are always inherited, including those powerful enough to wipe out a species.

 

Society cannot bring itself to destroy the last samples of smallpox, scourge that it is. Yet, we’ve taken steps to eradicate a higher species.  I feel a bit uneasy about the potential to destroy a species that is in an established, larger ecosystem, even one as easily hated as a disease carrying, blood sucking pest.  It is clear that the technology is ready to go.  The ACS will hold a series of talks examining the power and implications of genetic modifications at the Philadelphia National Meeting.  I am hoping that it brings some clarity to my thoughts on the matter.

 

As I look at the pile of ash firewood that was once a magnificent tree, I feel sad that gene drives or self-limiting modified ash borers were not deployed to stop the invasive borer. I would have deployed them to stop the emerald ash borer.  It is rapidly moving and invasive.  It does not belong in the ecosystem here and it is well isolated from the native population.  It is too late for my ash trees, but not too late to stop the scourge before it wipes out every ash tree.  It is also not too late for the next time an invasive scourge begins to wreak havoc.  I don’t know when it will happen, but history teaches us that it certainly will.

 

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Mark Jones is Executive External Strategy and Communications Fellow at Dow Chemical since September 2011. He spent most of his career developing catalytic processes after joining Dow in 1990. He received his Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry at the University of Colorado-Boulder doing research unlikely to lead to an industrial career and totally unrelated to his current responsibilities.

The ACS What Chemists Do short videos profile chemists and the diversity of careers in the scientific profession.

 

Rolf Schlake is the president and CEO of Applied Separations, Inc. Based in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Schlake’s company specializes in manufacturing supercritical fluids equipment and DNA forensic kits. Learn more about the use of supercritical fluids in chemistry in this video.

 

 

Visit www.acs.org/Industry to discover the various industry member programs at the American Chemical Society.

 

ACS Multimedia does not endorse any products or services. The views expressed in this presentation are those of the presenter and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the American Chemical Society.