Dr. Joe Vinson was born in Arkansas and grew up in the San Francisco Bay area. He attended college at the University of California at Berkley, where he received his B.S. in chemistry in 1963. He was awarded a research assistantship at the Ames Lab of the Atomic Energy Commission at Iowa State and obtained a Ph.D. in both physical organic and analytical chemistry in 1967. After several teaching positions in Pennsylvania and a two-year stint in industry at J. T. Baker Chemical Company, he returned to academe and is now a professor of chemistry at the University of Scranton in Northeastern Pennsylvania. His research has been featured in Prevention, Psychology Today, Consumer Reports, AARP, Tufts Health & Nutrition Newsletter, US News & World Report and lampooned in a cartoon in Time magazine. He has appeared on TV-Good Morning America Sunday and radio-NPR All Things Considered and The Peoples' Pharmacy, as well as being mentioned by Jay Leno and Rush Limbaugh. Dr. Vinson is the author of over 100 publications. His research interests are wide-ranging and include the effect of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants on nutrition and health.
A Scientific Look at Marijuana
Marijuana remains the most commonly abused illegal drug in the United States. Unfortunately, we are only now beginning to know something about this drug. In this talk, we will cover in layman's terms the history of marijuana and the nature of the plant and the chemicals contained in it. We will look at what happens to marijuana when it is smoked and what happens to the body when marijuana is present. We will look in detail at both the acute and chronic effects of marijuana on human health. Recent research on the use of marijuana as a beneficial drug will also be highlighted. The legal issues involved with marijuana will be covered. Ample time will be given for discussion after the presentation.
Chemistry and Biochemistry of Chocolate: A Guilt-Free Food?
Food and beverages derived from cocoa beans have been consumed by humans for 1500 years, and the beverage was originally used as currency and in religious rites by the Mayans and Aztecs. A short history of chocolate will give some perspective to the science of chocolate. Cocoa pods from the cacao tree Theobroma cacao are harvested and the beans removed from the pods and fermented. Dried and roasted beans contain about 300 chemicals including unique fats, alkaloids, and simple and complex polyphenols. The manufacturing process results in the production of the various types of chocolate including white chocolate, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, and cocoa powder. Chocolate is purported to have aphrodisiac properties and one ingredient acts on the cannabinoid (marijuana) receptor. Chocolate's antioxidant properties will be outlined and compared with other foods. How chocolate's fat and antioxidants are related to heart disease will be discussed in terms of epidemiological, animal, human supplementation, and mechanistic studies. Recent animal and human studies will be described to determine whether chocolate should be considered a guilt-free food.
Chemistry and Biochemistry of Coffee: A Healthy Beverage?
Did you know that every day over 11 billion cups of coffee are drunk, making coffee the number two beverage consumed here on Earth? That coffee is also the second most valuable commodity after oil? This talk will examine the fascinating history of coffee from its beginnings in prehistoric time, interesting mythologies, and the reasons for its popularity in various cultures. The botany of the coffee plant, its cultivation in over 50 countries, the chemistry of the coffee bean, and the roasting process will be discussed. We will examine some of the more than 1,000 chemical compounds that give coffee its aroma, taste and potential health properties. Caffeine, an important ingredient, will be scrutinized as to its positive and negative attributes. The biochemistry of the polyphenolic antioxidants in coffee will be featured and related to disease. Finally the health aspects of this amazing and complicated beverage will be discussed which will include mental acuity, physical performance, and disease prevention. Some important questions about coffee will be answered. Should I take it before a test? Will it help me be better in exercise and sports? Is coffee good for me, and how much is too much?
Drug Screening in Physiological Samples: An Olympian Task
Drugs in physiological fluids such as blood and urine are now tested in a variety of settings: the workplace, for insurance screening, in the hospital, and for traffic accidents and fatalities. Analysis in physiological fluids represents a formidable task for the clinical or analytical chemist. The problems include (1) a low concentration of the drug; (2) the drug is often metabolized; and, (3) the presence of endogenous compounds that may interfere in the analysis. After the initial screen to determine the presence or absence of a drug or drugs, the analyst may need to confirm the identity by another analytical technique and/or quantitate the drug. In this presentation, we will review the nature of commonly used and abused drugs including alcohol, amphetamines, barbiturates, tranquilizers, narcotics, and marijuana. Their pharmacology will also be described. The methods used to isolate and concentrate drugs will be discussed. These include liquid-liquid extraction and the latest solid-phase extraction techniques. The analytical techniques such as thin-layer chromatography, gas-liquid chromatography, mass spectroscopy, and immunoassay methods will be critically reviewed. Novel samples that can be analyzed such as hair will also be described.
The University of Scranton
Department of Chemistry,
Loyola Science Center,
925 Ridge Row, Scranton, PA,
United States, 18510