An organic chemist with a focus on systems-level thinking, Associate Professor Michael Wentzel is out to make science more sustainable.
“Chemistry doesn’t have to be the solution to the problems it created—it could just not create them,” he says in the June 2022 cover story in Private University Products and News Magazine.
Read the full profile to learn more about Wentzel’s path from his family’s Iowa hardware store to chairing Augsburg’s chemistry department, how green chemistry is “benign by design,” and why he’s on a mission to improve science communication.
$20 million NSF grant goes to UW-Madison, Augsburg College
Augsburg College is joining a research group tasked with exploring the benefits and potential risks of nanotechnology.
Augsburg has been added as a partner to the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology, a multi-institutional research center based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Supported through a nearly $20 million award of National Science Foundation funding over the next five years, the CSN includes 15 innovative faculty members from research institutions across the United States.
Z. Vivian Feng, associate professor of chemistry, is leading Augsburg’s participation in the center.
Nanotechnology involves the use of materials at the smallest scale, including the manipulation of individual atoms and molecules.
Products that use nanoscale materials range from beer bottles and car wax to solar cells and electric and hybrid car batteries. If you read your books on a Kindle, a semiconducting material manufactured at the nanoscale underpins the high-resolution screen.
While there are already hundreds of products that use nanomaterials in various ways, much remains unknown about how these modern materials and the tiny particles they are composed of interact with the environment and living things.
Feng first became involved in the CSN during the final year of its first grant phase, which corresponded with her 2014-15 sabbatical. Her expertise in characterizations of nanomaterials and model membranes, as well as analytical method development will contribute to the understanding of various interactions at the highly complex nano-bio interfaces.
In particular, Feng will lead a team of undergraduate researchers in exploring the various toxicity mechanisms of nanomaterials to environmentally-beneficial bacteria to provide insight to redesign nanomaterials that are benign in the environment. Under Feng’s direction, Augsburg College students Hilena Frew ’17, Lyle Nyberg ’17, and Thu Nguyen ’16 contributed to the CSN’s initial research phase. Frew and Nguyen will continue working as undergraduate researchers with the support of a stipend from the new NSF grant in the coming year. Find additional information about Feng’s research interests and mentorship on her research site.
Along with UW-Madison and Augsburg, research partners on the grant include the University of Minnesota, the University of Illinois, Northwestern University and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Tuskegee University, the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Iowa, and Georgia Tech.
CSN funding is provided by the NSF Division of Chemistry through the Centers for Chemical Innovation Program (CHE-1240151).
Alex Friedrich, Minnesota Public Radio’s higher education reporter, visited Augsburg College’s campus to experience a day in the life of an Auggie. Friedrich spent Dec. 5 blogging about his experiences and found that Augsburg College has a wide variety of traditions and experiences to offer to its students, faculty, staff and alumni, and also to its neighboring communities, as well.
Read and watch his posts on the “On Campus” blog here:
Michael Wentzel, assistant professor of chemistry at Augsburg College, spoke with KSTP TV about a new study that shows marinating meat in dark beer reduces the cancer-causing carcinogens that form when grilling. Wentzel said that a chemical in beer is shown to lessen the formation of harmful molecules during the grilling process and, therefore, can help lower the harm to people who eat grilled meats. Watch the KSTP story “Augsburg chemist: Marinating meat in beer reduces cancer-causing chemicals.”
Yemissrach “Yemi” Melka ’15, a chemistry and international relations student, recently spoke with Beckie Supiano of The Chronicle of Higher Educationabout Melka’s participation in the Model United Nations. Melka, a Peace Scholar, is interested in exploring how scientists can use their expertise to promote international peacemaking. Listen to “A Science Student Talks Her Way onto the Model UN Team.”
Gift from 1965 Augsburg College alumnus is largest in College’s history
Augsburg College is honored to announce that it has received an unrestricted $10 million philanthropic gift from a 1965 alumnus.
The donor’s generous contribution will support a new academic building that will house a number of the College’s academic programs including biology, business, chemistry, computer science, math, physics, psychology, and religion.
“This tremendous gift will make possible our continued commitment to academic excellence, to the hands-on learning that is one of the hallmarks of the College, and to the continued best-use of our 23-acre campus,” said Augsburg College President Paul C. Pribbenow. “Augsburg is a 143-year-old anchor institution in the heart of Minneapolis’ Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. This gift puts Augsburg on the path of being a college for the 21st century, and one that continues to deliver academic excellence in the liberal arts and professional studies.” Continue reading “$10 million gift to Augsburg College will launch new academic building”→
The last six weeks have been an amazing ride for Katie Edelen. Not only is it unusual to graduate with three majors, but it’s extremely remarkable to receive both a Fulbright Grant and a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship, as well as one of Augsburg’s major awards.
Edelen was awarded both BA and BS degrees on Saturday with majors in environmental studies, chemistry, and biology. She was also called to the podium to accept the Marina Christensen Justice Award, presented to the graduating senior who best exemplifies Augsburg’s motto, “Education for Service,” and has demonstrated a dedication to community involvement. The award honors 1965 graduate Marina Christensen Justice, who lived in Chicago and reached out to serve disadvantaged people and communities. Continue reading “Katie Edelen: Triple majors, triple major awards”→
The 2010-11 convocation series continues on April 11 and 12 with the Sverdrup Visiting Scientist Lectures.
Barbara A. Baird is the Horace White Professor and chair of chemistry and chemical biology at Cornell University. She received her BA in chemistry from Knox College and her PhD in chemistry from Cornell University. Her postdoctoral studies were carried out as a Damon Runyon Fellow in the immunology branch of the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health before she joined the Cornell faculty in 1980. Continue reading “Sverdrup Lecture features Barbara Baird of Cornell”→
Celebrate and hear more about Brian’s accomplishments at a community-wide gathering on Thursday, Dec. 4 in the Oren Gateway Center Atrium. Refreshments will be served and a brief program will begin at 2:30 p.m.
Augsburg’s first Rhodes Scholar
Brian Krohn arrived at Augsburg with plans of being a film major. He eventually became a chemistry student. And when he graduates next month, Krohn will have a new title.