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Holiday Greetings from Dean Trapa

HOLIDAY GREETINGS FROM DEAN TRAPA

 

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

As the fall semester draws to a close, I want to take a moment to wish you and your loved ones a happy and restful holiday season.  This time of year invites reflection on all that we have to be thankful for.

Here at the College of Science, I am grateful to our exceptional students, faculty and staff, whose passion for discovery and commitment to excellence make the College a vibrant place of learning and innovation.   I also want to thank our alumni and donors for their steadfast support, making possible transformative educational opportunities and enabling us to pioneer new research directions.  I am deeply grateful for all of you and for your involvement and investment in our mission.

Warmest thoughts and best wishes for a joyful holiday season and a wonderful New Year!

Sincerely,


Dean Peter Trapa
College of Science
University of Utah

Lightning, camera, gamma ray!

lightning, camera, gamma ray!

In September 2021, an unprecedented thunderstorm blew across Utah’s West Desert. Lightning from this storm produced at least six gamma ray flashes that beamed downward to Earth’s surface and activated detectors at the University of Utah-led Telescope Array. The storm was noteworthy on its own—the array usually clocks one or two of the lightning-triggered gamma rays per year—but recent upgrades led to a new observation by the Telescope Array scientists and their lightning collaborators.

 

“The ability of the Telescope Array Surface Detector to detect downward TGFs is a great example of serendipity in science,” said John Belz, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Utah and co-author of the study. “The TASD was designed to do astroparticle physics, by studying the particle showers produced by energetic atomic nuclei from deep space. Purely by happenchance, the astroparticle showers share many properties—including energy, duration, and size—with the gamma ray showers known as downward TGFs. So in a sense, we are able to operate two groundbreaking science facilities for the price of one.”

Telescope Array collaborators from the University of Utah, Loyola University Chicago, the Langmuir Laboratory for Atmospheric Research at New Mexico Tech and the National Institute for Space Research-Brazil (INPE), have installed a suite of lighting instrumentation to the existing Telescope Array, a ground-based grid of surface detectors primarily designed to observe ultra-high energy cosmic rays.

Read the full article by Lisa Potter in @TheU. 

PHOTO CREDIT: RASHA ABBASI Lightning captured with the highspeed camera at 40,000 frames per second.

Snowflakes Falling

The science behind snowflakes

In a study that could enhance weather forecasting, Utah researchers discover that how snowflakes move is astonishingly predictable.

 

Tim Garrett

Tim Garrett has devoted his scientific career to characterizing snowflakes, the protean particles of ice that form in clouds and dramatically change as they fall to Earth.

Now the University of Utah atmospheric scientist is unlocking the mystery of how snowflakes move in response to air turbulence that accompanies snowfall using novel instrumentation developed on campus. And after analyzing more than half a million snowflakes, what his team has discovered has left him astonished.

Rather than something incomprehensibly complicated, predicting how snowflakes move proved to be surprisingly simple, they found.

“How snowflakes fall has attracted a lot of interest for many decades because it is a critical parameter for predicting weather and climate change,” Garrett said. “This is related to the speed of the water cycle. How fast moisture falls out of the sky determines the lifetime of storms.”

“Letters sent from Heaven”

The famed Japanese physicist Ukichiro Nakaya termed snow crystals “letters sent from heaven” because their delicate structures carry information about temperature and humidity fluctuations in the clouds where crystal basal and prism facets competed for water vapor deposition.

While every snowflake is believed to be unique, how these frosty particles fall through the air—as they accelerate, drift and swirl—follows patterns, according to new research by Garrett and colleagues in the College of Engineering. Snowflake movement has important implications for weather forecasting and climate change, even in the tropics.

“Most precipitation starts as snow. How the question of how fast it falls affects predictions of where on the ground precipitation lands, and how long clouds last to reflect radiation to outer space,” Garrett said. “It can even affect forecasts of a hurricane trajectory.”

Read the full article by Brian Maffly in @TheU.
Read additional coverage of this article in Earth.com  and Science News.

Cosmic Ray on SciFri

Sci Fri: Cosmic Ray Burst

Around 30 years ago, scientists in Utah were monitoring the skies for cosmic rays when they detected a surprising particle. It struck the atmosphere with much more energy than they had previously seen—enough energy to cause the researchers to dub it the “Oh My God Particle.”

 

John N. Matthews of the U's Department of Astronomy and Physics, standing beside large telescope mirrors at the Telescope Array Project's florescence detector station just outside the Drum Mountains, Millard County, Utah. Photo by Joe Bauman, May 25, 2013. Banner Photo above: The surface detector array of the Telescope Array experiment, deployed by helicopter. Credit: Institute For Cosmic Ray Research, University Of Tokyo

Over the years, a collaboration of researchers in Utah and Japan has detected other powerful rays—about 30 a year—but none that rival the OMG. In 2021, however, a second particle was detected. It was only slightly less powerful than OMG, but still many times more powerful than can be created on Earth. That 2021 particle was named “Amaterasu,” after a sun goddess from the Japanese Shinto religion. The researchers described their observations in a recent issue of the journal Science.

The researchers believe the particle must have come from relatively nearby, cosmically speaking, as otherwise it would likely have collided with something in space and lost its energy. However, when they tried to trace the particle back to its origin in space, they were unsuccessful. Both the OMG particle and the new Amaterasu particle seem to have come from empty regions of space, with no violent events or massive structures to create them.

Dr. John Matthews, a research professor in physics and astronomy and manager of the Cosmic Ray Physics Program at the University of Utah, joins Ira to talk about cosmic rays, how they’re detected, and the challenges of finding the origin of particles like Amaterasu.

Revisiting the Coast Salish Woolly Dog

Revisiting the Coast Salish Woolly Dog

Researchers and Coast Salish people are analyzing a 160-year-old Indigenous dog pelt in the Smithsonian’s collection to pinpoint the origin and sudden disappearance of the culturally significant Coast Salish Woolly Dog.

 

Chris Stantis. Banner photo above: The reconstructed woolly dog shown at scale with Arctic dogs and spitz breeds in the background to compare scale and appearance; the portrayal does not imply a genetic relationship. Credit: Karen Carr.

Researchers from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History led a new analysis that sheds light on the ancestry and genetics of woolly dogs, a now extinct breed of dog that was a fixture of Indigenous Coast Salishcommunities in the Pacific Northwest for millennia. A team of researchers analyzed genetic clues preserved in the pelt of “Mutton,” the only known woolly dog fleece in the world, to pinpoint the genes responsible for their highly sought-after woolly fur.

The study’s findings, published Dec. 14, in the journal Science, include interviews contributed by several Coast Salish co-authors, including Elders, Knowledge Keepers and Master Weavers, who provided crucial context about the role woolly dogs played in Coast Salish society.

“This was one of the most exciting projects in my career as an archeologist and an isotopes expert because of the way that we were able to weave together these different types of knowledge,” said Chris Stantis, postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Geology & Geophysics at the University of Utah and co-author of the study.  “To work with geneticists, historians, and Indigenous Knowledge Keepers just makes better research to bring it all together.”

Read the full article by Lisa Potter in @TheU. 

Catalyst 2023

CATALYST 2023


Down to Earth 2023

The official magazine of the U Department of Geology & Geophysics.

Read More
Our DNA 2023

The official magazine of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Utah.

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Synthesis 2023

Wilkes Center, Applied Science Project and stories from throughout the merged College.

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Aftermath Summer 2023

Anna Tang Fulbright Scholar, Tommaso de Fernex new chair, Goldwater Scholars, and more.

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Air Currents 2023

Celebrating 75 Years, The Great Salt Lake, Alumni Profiles, and more.

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Spectrum 2022

Explosive neutron stars, Utah meteor, fellows of APS, and more.

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Aftermath 2022

Arctic adventures, moiré magic, Christopher Hacon, and more.

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Our DNA 2022

Chan Yul Yoo, Sarmishta Diraviam Kannan, and more.

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Spectrum 2022

Black Holes, Student Awards, Research Awards, LGBT+ physicists, and more.

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Aftermath 2022

Student awards, Faculty Awards, Fellowships, and more.

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Our DNA 2022

Erik Jorgensen, Mark Nielsen, alumni George Seifert, new faculty, and more.

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Notebook 2022

Student stories, NAS members, alumni George Seifert, and Convocation 2022.

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Discover 2021

Biology, Chemistry, Math, and Physics Research, SRI Update, New Construction.

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Our DNA 2021

Multi-disciplinary research, graduate student success, and more.

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Aftermath 2021

Sound waves, student awards, distinguished alumni, convocation, and more.

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Spectrum 2021

New science building, faculty awards, distinguished alumni, and more.

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Notebook 2021

Student awards, distinguished alumni, convocation, and more.

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Spectrum 2021

Student awards, distinguished alumni, convocation, and more.

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Aftermath 2021

Sound waves, student awards, distinguished alumni, convocation, and more.

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Our DNA 2021

Plant pandemics, birdsong, retiring faculty, and more.

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Discover 2020

Biology, Chemistry, Math, and Physics Research, Overcoming Covid, Lab Safety.

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AfterMath 2020

50 Years of Math, Sea Ice, and Faculty and Staff recognition.

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Our DNA 2020

E-birders, retiring faculty, remote learning, and more.

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Spectrum 2020

3D maps of the Universe, Perovskite Photovoltaics, and Dynamic Structure in HIV.

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Notebook 2020

Convocation, Alumni, Student Success, and Rapid Response Research.

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Our DNA 2020

Stories on Fruit Flies, Forest Futures and Student Success.

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Catalyst 2020

Transition to Virtual, 2020 Convocation, Graduate Spotlights, and Awards.

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Spectrum 2020

Nuclear Medicine, PER Programs, and NSF grant for Quantum Idea Incubator.

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Discover 2019

Science Research Initiative, College Rankings, Commutative Algebra, and more.

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Spectrum 2019

Nuclear Medicine, PER Programs, and NSF grant for Quantum Idea Incubator.

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Notebook 2019

The New Faces of Utah Science, Churchill Scholars, and Convocation 2019.

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Catalyst 2019

Endowed Chairs of Chemistry, Curie Club, and alumnus: Victor Cee.

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Our DNA 2019

Ants of the World, CRISPR Scissors, and Alumni Profile - Nikhil Bhayani.

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Catalyst 2019

Methane-Eating Bacteria, Distinguished Alumni, Student and Alumni profiles.

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Spectrum 2019

Featured: Molecular Motors, Churchill Scholar, Dark Matter, and Black Holes.

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Our DNA 2019

Featured: The Startup Life, Monica Gandhi, Genomic Conflicts, and alumna Jeanne Novak.

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AfterMath 2018

Featured: A Love for Puzzles, Math & Neuroscience, Number Theory, and AMS Fellows.

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Discover 2018

The 2018 Research Report for the College of Science.

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Spectrum 2018

Featured: Dark Matter, Spintronics, Gamma Rays and Improving Physics Teaching.

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Catalyst 2018

Featured: Ming Hammond, Jack & Peg Simons Endowed Professors, Martha Hughes Cannon.

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2023 Catalyst Magazine

2023 Catalyst Magazine

 

Catalyst is the official magazine of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Utah


Read the full issue
here

Dear Friends of Chemistry:

It has been a while since we published our last issue of the Catalyst. Many things have changed since then–we have new colleagues, lost some of our friends, weathered the complexity of the pandemic, and continued to build the department. What has remained the same is the underlying passion, drive, and excellence that I observe day to day in our faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students, and postdoctoral researchers. I see this while advising and mentoring my own research team and working with my colleagues and our staff to address challenges.

Perhaps the clearest view of our culture was on display in October as we recognized our four 2023 Distinguished Alumni Awardees

(who will be highlighted in detail in the next issue!). Their message to our current faculty and students was the same: you are providing and receiving an outstanding education that will allow you to lead the next generation of scientists, managers, and students. Their message was inspiring and a grand reminder of why we do what we do every day.

In this issue we feature the culture of our department and bring you up to date on several highlights from the last two years. This includes some descriptions of our successful alumni, including the 2020 Distinguished Alumni–Rik Tykwinski, Carrie Wager, and Raymond Price. In addition, a previous Chemistry Distinguished Alumnus, Clifton Sanders, has been recognized in several Universitywide honors, including the 2023 U

Distinguished Alumni Award and the 2023 Hugo Rossi Lectureship. Finally, we do a deep dive into one of our more recent graduates, Rory “Ziggy” Uibel and his adventures in growing a highly successful local instrument company.

The issue also highlights faculty and students who have received prominent recognition and have had exciting research accomplishments. While there are many to acknowledge, I would like to give a shout-out to Cindy Burrows (Pauling Medal), Valeria Molinero (Irving Langmuir Award and induction into the National Academy of Sciences), Michael Morse (Distinguished Professorship), and Luisa Whittaker -Brooks (U Presidential Scholar, ACS-WCC 2024 Rising Star Award, and MRS Outstanding Early Career Investigator Award). It is always rewarding to see our colleagues honored for their excellence!

On a sad note, we lost several of our former colleagues, including Laya Kesner, Frank Harris, and Wes Bentrude. I was personally close with Wes as he retired soon after I arrived but remained present for several years while I was building my program. He was such a kind and giving person with an easy smile and great sense of humor. I will also note that his research on understanding the reactivity of unusual radicals has circled into the mainstream many years after his initial publications. The organic chemistry community is utilizing his insights as the use of radicals has had a renaissance in recent years.

As a final note, this is my last year as department chair. This has been a demanding job, and I look forward to passing the reins to my successor. However, I can say with all honesty that working with such an incredible group of people has been a pleasure. The culture of our department–collaboration, excellence in education and science, and a good sense of humor–has been a centering force through the challenges encountered.

Sincerely,

 


Chair Matt Sigman

Read the full issue here

Carrie Wager, Chemistry Alumna

U CHEMIST LEADS MATCHUP AGAINST GENETIC DISEASE

 

CARRIE WAGER, PHD’00, RECIPIENT OF CHEMISTRY’S 2020 DISTINGUISHED ALUMNI AWARD, HAS ALWAYS VALUED TEAMWORK WHETHER ON THE SOCCER PITCH OR IN THE LAB.

While studying at the U, she researched total synthesis of natural products in Gary Keck’s lab and played on an intramural soccer team where she met her husband.

Wager is a chemistry midfielder in her career, driven to cover a lot of ground by her passion for working in a fast-paced, team environment. After graduating from the U, she spent 17 years at Pfizer as Senior Principal Scientist, Director of Business Planning, Chief of Staff for Pfizer Medical, and Medical Strategy Lead in Oncology. Then she earned her MBA from MIT in 2017 before joining Ascidian Therapeutics. “I really found the place where my heart belongs, and that’s working in startups,” she says. “In those situations, it’s pretty high risk, but also high reward. The strength of the team is critical, and I really enjoy that part. I’ve always been into team sports. I love having a phenomenal team that I work with.”

EXON-EDITING IS THE NAME OF THE GAME

Carrie Wager

The team Wager currently works with at Ascidian is taking a new approach to gene therapy, influenced by the organisms that the company is named after. Wager says, “We were inspired by what happens with sea squirts or ascidians because they re-engineer the transcriptome. They start as creatures that are free-floating … but then they become these structures after they re-engineer their transcriptome and are fixed on the bottom [of the ocean].” As sea squirts (Ascidiacea) mature, they self-edit their messenger RNA to change the proteins that are expressed and, ultimately, their structure.

Ascidian’s strategy for fixing genetic diseases in humans is different from other existing methods of gene therapy because it works by editing RNA through a process that is already inherent to the cell. “DNA is transcribed into RNA in the nucleus,” Wager explains. “It’s initially transcribed into pre-messenger RNA (pre-mRNA) and pre-mRNA becomes mature RNA, which leaves the nucleus. But the process of going from pre-mRNA to mature RNA is the excision or the cutting out of introns.” The splicesome is the enzyme responsible for removing the introns and leaving the exons which are then joined to form the mature strand of RNA.

Ascidian designs molecules to target mutant exons and replace them with a wild-type version. “We use these molecules that are packaged in an adeno-associated virus to gain entry into the nucleus. Then those molecules are built to bind to specific locations in messenger RNA. … The spliceosome machinery comes along and flips-in our healthy exon that’s packaged in our molecules and removes the mutant components. Then that [corrected RNA] continues on outside of the nucleus into the ribosomes, and you generate the healthy protein.”

The procedure or process can sound convoluted and dicey–like a wellplaced strike by Spain’s Olga Carmona during the final of the recent FIFA Women’s World Cup. But the stakes are just as high (and even higher for its beneficiaries) for Wager and her team whose exon editing method has many advantages over other gene therapies. Since only the RNA is being edited, risks associated with DNA editing are reduced. Harnessing a natural cellular process prevents the need for bacterial enzymes, which pose an immunological threat, to be introduced to the cell.

The most impactful benefit is the amount of editing that can be done at one time. For example, Ascidian is currently focused on addressing Stargardt’s disease, a genetic retinal disease that causes blindness and stems from mutations in the ABCA4 gene which codes for the protein involved in clearing vitamin A from the retina. Without the healthy protein, toxic compounds begin to accumulate in the eye, destroying cells and impairing central vision function.

Rather than doing “point mutations or small base insertion,” Wager uses technology that replaces whole exons. “We can swap out up to 4,000 nucleotides. So that allows you to make a difference in diseases that have really big gene sizes and genes that have high mutational variants. With one drug we can cover the majority of patients.” If Ascidian’s exon editing idea passes human trials and FDA approval, the treatment is something any ophthalmologist could do during a half-day clinic.

No Magic Bullet

While RNA exon editing is an exciting new strategy for tackling genetic disease, that’s not to say that other tools like CRISPRCas9 aren’t useful. “I’ve been in drug discovery for twenty-three years now,” says Wager. “I don’t think that there is one type of way to ameliorate disease. [T]here’s lots of different ways. They all have their niche.”

In this way, the multi-faceted dynamic of the fight against genetic diseases mirrors that of the startup culture where Wager excels. “When you find a place where it’s not just that you enjoy what you’re doing, but you thrive, that’s what the startup environment for me is [with] super intelligent people [who are] super motivated to make a difference in patients’ lives.”

Each scientist brings something different to the startup, and Wager’s expertise along with her technical skills which she attributes to her time at the U makes her a valuable addition to the team. Through her training she “learned how to exquisitely design and execute research problems in this [startup] environment… .”

“I truly believe that my graduate training here [the U] has set me up to be able to do whatever I want. … I’ve had a bunch of twists and turns [in] my career… I didn’t stay in one kind of role for more than five years. The U just teaches you skills that carry over in everyday life and in your career, and I really am grateful for how we were set up [early] to do research.”

The extensive application of Wager’s education is a testament to the quality of the chemistry department’s graduate program, successfully preparing students for careers in academia, industry, and beyond. The Distinguished Alumni Award celebrates Wager’s impressive career since her time at the U, but really, she’s just getting started in her match against genetic disease. <

By Lauren Wigod

Life in the Gas Lane

life in the gas lane

 

Industrial chemist Ziggy Uibel performs at high octane.

Occasionally, one stumbles upon someone who convinces you, through a combination of training, tenacity and enthusiasm on an existential level, that they could do or be anything in this life.

Such is the case with Rory “Ziggy” Uibel, PhD ’03 who recently provided for a select group of non-chemists a tour of Process Instruments, Inc. Founded by Lee Smith, Process Instruments (PI) has pioneered Raman spectroscopy analysis for process control, primarily for refinery and petrochemical plants at sites that can be environmentally extreme, from arctic to desert and from tropical climates to off-shore locations.

If that sounds arcane, it becomes clearly grounded and articulated by the tour guide who leads an X Games-style stunt-double life as an extreme athlete. Even so, he’s categorically in his element as a chemist at the office and shop located in Research Park southeast of the University of Utah.

Uibel moves about the floor of PI with the wild-eyed energy of a kid in a candy shop. He might as well be on inline skates or skiing, two pastimes of his as a younger man. He is fond of picking up a dense spectrograph housed in something to the uninitiated that looks like kryptonite casing and dropping it with a satisfying thud on the bench to show how shockproof his product is.

It needs to be. A Raman analyzer uses a laser to excite a molecular vibration of molecules where a tiny portion of the incident radiation is shifted to a longer wavelength and produces a Stokes Raman scattering band. The wavelength-shifted Raman bands provide a structural fingerprint by which molecules in a sample can be identified. Process Instruments manufactures Raman instruments for not only extreme environments but for the rough handling of petroleum engineers. Its featured, online process monitoring provides updates in real time of up to seventeen different process streams per machine.

“We think of ourselves as more of an information company than an instrument company.” says Uibel. “A refinery with our real time information will be able to optimize stream blends and reduce giveaway of more expensive components,” such as octane.

PI’s optically fast spectrometer and low loss sequential optical multiplexer are paired with a set of fiber optic cables for exciting the sample and collecting the Raman scattering. At PI, the analysis and the machinery – from computers to the cooling apparatus and from the laser probes to the fiber optic conduits – can all be monitored and maintained remotely. Equipment includes back-up components and, if needed, are repaired or replaced on demand, by calling a certain mobile phone number at the other end of which is none other than Uibel (“Hi. This is Ziggy!”) who arranges to assess the situation and then often travels personally to the site to provide service.

This kind of customer service is legendary in the sector and has garnered the loyalty of clients who also benefit from rent-to-own set-ups that would otherwise run them $500,000. Most clients see a return on investment within two-to-four months, says Uibel with a grin. From a modest shop of five employees beginning in 1993, Process Instruments has grown to a staff of 16 and currently boasts a share of 20% of all U.S. refineries and 6% of the worldwide market.

But it isn’t just nerd-out technology that Ziggy’s team offers; it’s clearly encased in business acumen that is innovative and relentlessly hands-on with clients. “We are working on reaching approximately 60% total penetration with many of the individual refineries having multiple (5-10) instruments. The demand for instrumentation within the refinery markets has kept us quite busy and with the limited spare time we do have to continue to work on additional applications for our Raman instruments.”

Those applications are numerous — and always expanding. Petroleum products vary broadly from state to state, and nation to nation based on regulations related to clean air and other considerations. In addition to offering gasoline solutions such as reducing octane loss and the “giveaway” of Reid vapor pressure, (a common measure of and generic term for gasoline volatility), PI helps optimize jet and diesel fuel. The company also provides upstream solutions which optimize crude oil and offshore solutions. More than a dozen streams of samples can be analyzed with a single instrument/system. 

Uibel is also keen to talk about applications outside the fuel industry, including pharmacology packaging (using a unique Raman spectrometer to analyze each pill, for example) as well as food production and distribution. The petroleum industry may be the “low hanging fruit,” says Uibel, but the company’s Raman analyzers are also being used in tracing ppm sulfate detection in offshore waterflooding streams and direct determination of olefin concentrations in motor gasoline (US Patent No.7,973,926). Blood testing is already being done with handheld Ramen systems.

Bowling with brio on Grandeur Peak.

A Canadian by birth, Uibel has pretty much always had a dual life: one in the lab and one on the streets and the slopes where his athleticism really shines. In fact, chemistry did not appeal to him at all when he was an undergraduate at the University of Washington in Seattle. Instead, he was infatuated with aeronautics and while taking general chemistry courses researching a pressure sensitive paint for wind tunnel applications using a porphyrin molecule (water-soluble, nitrogenous biological pigment) Uibel worked with NASA and Boeing developing the paint and over time his interests shifted from aeronautics to spectroscopy.

Uibel wanted to continue his studies in spectroscopy for this purpose, and after asking around, discovered that Joel Harris’s name was at the top of everyone’s list. He decided that the University of Utah would be the ideal location for his graduate career. “I can easily say that coming to the U of U was one of the best decisions of my life,” he remarks.

That’s saying a lot, considering what Uibel’s life (and times) looks like these days, even as he’s entered middle age. What started as a seasonal gig as a “liftee” at Snowbird turned into a full “gap year” between his bachelor’s and graduate school at the U. Between skiing in the winter and rock climbing all summer near Elko, Nevada, he actually thought he would eventually find himself in a classroom teaching. That changed after earning his doctorate in analytical chemistry and landing a job at PI to design, assemble, test, calibrate and install Raman analyzers.

If this sounds like intensive work, it is. But Uibel is an intense man, and it seems to fit not only his inherent brio but also to play out and build on his activities outside of work. A globetrotter with clients from Canada to Singapore, and from Australia to off the coast of South America, Uibel has racked up a million-plus airline miles in no time (and without knowing he’d done so). This is an unassuming man who had to fetch his business card when asked what title he had at PI. (Turns out it’s Applications Manager or, maybe, Vice President of Technology.)

That’s not to say Uibel is a shrinking violet. As a youth he competed on MTV Sports as a stunt model. He recently completed the Rage Triathlon in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and he doesn’t stop at donning the Lycra for the swimming, bicycling and running competitions; he’s famous for summiting Grandeur Peak in Salt Lake Valley not once in a single day but a whopping five times (31 miles). The Peak has a special place in Uibel’s heart. Following the discovery of “misplaced” brick in his backpack compliments of his jokester friends, he started carrying a bowling ball and pins to the summit during the winter and bowling in carved-out lanes of snow “with an automatic return” (i.e., uphill). Stand-by participants who happen to be on-hand are awarded a tag for their backpacks emblazoned with “I Striked out on Grandeur Peak.”

“We try not to do it in the summer,” says Uibel. “Don’t want a bowling ball landing downhill on Interstate 80.”

Bowling on a mountain peak in the dead of winter? Why not? It’s consistent with Ziggy Uibel who has gone from his ambitions to be an aeronaut, a teacher, an academic and researcher, and purveyor of stunt double-inspired antics to, these days, an industrial chemist using the latest technologies and techniques to advance everything from petroleum refining to blood testing. 

By David Pace

CO2 changes over past 66 M years

CO2 Atmospheric changes

Carbon dioxide has not been as high as today's concentrations in 14 million years thanks to fossil fuel emissions now warming the planet.

 

Gabriel Bowen

Today atmospheric carbon dioxide is at its highest level in at least several million years thanks to widespread combustion of fossil fuels by humans over the past couple centuries.

But where does 419 parts per million (ppm) — the current concentration of the greenhouse gas in the atmosphere—fit in Earth’s history?

That’s a question an international community of scientists, featuring key contributions by University of Utah geologists, is sorting out by examining a plethora of markers in the geologic record that offer clues about the contents of ancient atmospheres. Their initial study was published this week in the journal Science, reconstructing CO2 concentrations going back through the Cenozoic, the era that began with the demise dinosaurs and rise of mammals 66 million years ago.

Glaciers contain air bubbles, providing scientists direct evidence of CO2 levels going back 800,000 years, according to U geology professor Gabe Bowen, one of the study’s corresponding authors. But this record does not extend very deep into the geological past.

“Once you lose the ice cores, you lose direct evidence. You no longer have samples of atmospheric gas that you can analyze,” Bowen said. “So you have to rely on indirect evidence, what we call proxies. And those proxies are tough to work with because they are indirect.”

Read the full article by Brian Maffly in @TheU.
Read more about Gabe Bowen, recipient of the College of Science's Excellence in Research award,  and his work with isotopes here.

Read related article "'Call to Action': CO2 Now at Levels Not Seen in 14 Million Years" in Common Dreams.