• Challenges of Teaching Organic Chemistry during COVID-19 Pandemic at a Primarily Undergraduate Institution

      Sunasee, Rajesh (American Chemical Society (ACS), 2020-07-28)
      With a sudden move to remote and online teaching due to COVID-19 pandemic, Organic Chemistry became more challenging for both students and educators with the emergence of new technological challenges and instructional strategies. The Organic Chemistry I class at SUNY Plattsburgh was shifted to an online learning model in an attempt to mimic face-to-face teaching as well as maintaining active learning. This communication highlights the instructor’s perspectives on the challenges and insights gained for teaching Organic Chemistry I (lecture component) for the Spring 2020 semester in the time of COVID-19. A combination of asynchronous and synchronous teaching methods was found to be effective for content delivery, active learning, and increasing student’s engagement. Synchronous class attendance was monitored and compared with typical face-to-face class attendance. Synchronous problem-solving exercises had an effect on student’s attendance rate and learning. An exit survey indicated about 64% of students had a preference for face to-face teaching over online teaching of Organic Chemistry.
    • Synthesis and Cytotoxicity Studies of Wood-Based Cationic Cellulose Nanocrystals as Potential Immunomodulators

      Imtiaz, Yusha; Tuga, Beza; Smith, Christopher W.; Rabideau, Alexander; Nguyen, Long; Liu, Yali; Hrapovic, Sabahudin; Ckless, Karina; Sunasee, Rajesh (MDPI AG, 2020-08-15)
      Polysaccharides have been shown to have immunomodulatory properties. Modulation of the immune system plays a crucial role in physiological processes as well as in the treatment and/or prevention of autoimmune and infectious diseases. Cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) are derived from cellulose, the most abundant polysaccharide on the earth. CNCs are an emerging class of crystalline nanomaterials with exceptional physico-chemical properties for high-end applications and commercialization prospects. The aim of this study was to design, synthesize, and evaluate the cytotoxicity of a series of biocompatible, wood-based, cationic CNCs as potential immunomodulators. The anionic CNCs were rendered cationic by grafting with cationic polymers having pendant +NMe3 and +NH3 moieties. The success of the synthesis of the cationic CNCs was evidenced by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, dynamic light scattering, zeta potential, and elemental analysis. No modification in the nanocrystals rod-like shape was observed in transmission electron microscopy and atomic force microscopy analyses. Cytotoxicity studies using three different cell-based assays (MTT, Neutral Red, and LIVE/DEAD®) and three relevant mouse and human immune cells indicated very low cytotoxicity of the cationic CNCs in all tested experimental conditions. Overall, our results showed that cationic CNCs are suitable to be further investigated as immunomodulators and potential vaccine nanoadjuvants.
    • An Engaging and Fun Breakout Activity for Educators and Students about Laboratory Safety

      Nephew, Shannon; Sunasee, Rajesh (American Chemical Society (ACS), 2020-10-13)
      To maintain a safe laboratory working environment, academic institutions are highly committed to providing safety training to all employees, and engaging educators and students in the process must be an integral component of an overall safety training program. At SUNY Plattsburgh, annual mandatory safety training is required for all employees. One of the main challenges is trying to maintain a high level of engagement of educators during the safety training session. This recently led to designing an engaging and simple hands-on breakout safety activity to teach educators and students about safe laboratory practices. The breakout safety activity mimics the fun of a typical “escape room” game. The different components of the breakout safety activity and the effect on the level of engagement of the participants are highlighted here. The versatility of the novel breakout safety activity is appealing as it can easily be modified for various science laboratories and implemented with diverse participants including educators and undergraduate and graduate students. Overall, this new breakout safety activity turned out to be not only engaging, but also fun and effective for all.