Students in action!

Environmental Chemistry Class Tours Treasury Wine Estates’ Properties in the Napa Valley

Adjunct Professors Mani Subramanian and Ken Frost took their Environmental Chemistry class to tour Treasury Wine Estates’ properties in the Napa Valley.  The tour was hosted by Dominican Alumnus Jenna Fussell Charton, class of 2007 and former student of both professors Subramanian and Frost.  Jenna is currently Master Supply Planner for Treasury Wine Estates in Napa.  Treasury owns and operates over 80 brands around the world including Annie’s Lane, Castello di Gabbiano, Chateau St. Jean, Coldstream Hills, Devil’s Lair, Etude Wines, Greg Norman Estates, Heemskerk, Matua, Pepperjack, Seppelt Wines, Stags’ Leap Winery, Wynns Coonawarra Estate, Yellowglen and more, many of them local icons.  The class first visited a vineyard currently planted in Chardonnay grapes.  The viticulturists described the evolution of the soil by showing trenches cut about 4.5 feet deep in between rows of vines.  Each trench exposed a cross section of the soil.  Near the Napa River the alluvial sedimentation provides a rich layer of topsoil which is a mixture of clay, fine sand, and decomposed organic material.  Further away from the river the organic layer is thinner and there are more river rocks exposed indicating over the centuries of the flood cycle erosion has washed this rich layer toward the river and lower elevations.  Soil samples were taken at each trench to determine the chemical profile for each.  Simple tests for clay and sand predict the rate that water will penetrate the soil to assure healthy vines.

Following our introduction to the challenges of grape growing, the class was introduced to the basics of wine making by Etude winemaker Rob Fischer.  One of the challenges of making the varietal pinot noir is that the seeds contain a particularly bitter chemical that is alcohol soluble.  The timing of separation of tee seeds from the wine as fermentation proceeds is critical, too long and the product is bitter, too short and it has no flavor.

Through this exposure the students learned that this important regional business is a very interesting and complex chemical “laboratory.”

Winery Tour Photo 1

Winery Tour Photo 2

Winery Tour Photo 3

Winery Tour Photo 4

Winery Tour Photo 5


Dominican Physical Chemistry Students Visit Chevron Technology Center’s NMR Laboratory

Cheri McFerrin’s Physical Chemistry class visited Dr. John Zintsmaster’s nuclear magnetic
resonance spectroscopy (nmr) laboratory at the Chevron’s Richmond Technology Center.  John
introduced our students to the theory and practice of nmr and showed us the broad range of
applications and spectrometers he uses to support various aspects of Chevron’s businesses from
finished lubricants and fuels to oil field samples.

After his introduction he worked with our students on an interesting chemical problem.  Our students
were able to see the impact of solvent and temperature on a complex structural equilibrium.  This was a
great opportunity for our students and staff to work closely with an expert in this important field.

Chevron NMR Trip Photo 1

Chevron NMR Trip Photo 2

Chevron NMR Trip Photo 3


Bromothyol Experiment

Bromothyol blue is a pH indicator for acidic and basic solution.  The pka = pH when the concentration of the anion form (In-) is equal to the concentration of the molecular form (HIn). Since pH was adjusted from 1 to 12, we have been able to determine the pka for this indicator which agrees with the literature value (7.2).
Bromothyol Experiment Photo 1
Bromothyol Experiment Photo 2
Bromothyol Experiment Photo 3

Dominican Student in Nicaragua

Berkeley's Public Health Program awarded Dominican's Jessica Hernandez an NIH funded fellowship for a 10 week summer opportunity to do influenza research while performing lab work at the National Virology Laboratory.

Read more about her adventure HERE