Senior Seminar, Chemistry Style

Michelle Grebeck and Anita Wade getting ready to present their senior seminar presentations.
Photo Credit / Kelly Dildine
Michelle Grebeck and Anita Wade getting ready to present their senior seminar presentations.
Photo Credit / Kelly Dildine




Every person who graduates from East Stroudsburg University must go through the rite of passage known as senior seminar. In the sciences, senior seminar involves creating a presentation and defending a point of view or a scientific discovery against the scrutiny of faculty members and peers.

By successfully completing a seminar, it is thought that each graduating ESU student should be sufficiently prepared to compete with others in graduate school. After surveying a few senior chemistry majors regarding their experience in seminar, most feel that they have been adequately prepared.

After presenting, Anita Wade, senior chemistry major, commented that she feels the experience was definitely a good preparation for graduate school.

In response to Wade’s comment, Heidi Davis, also a senior chemistry major, said “Although it’s stressful, the work is worth it.”

Nikki Fisher said “The question and answer section at the end of the presentation also helps get us ready for graduate school, and makes me feel more prepared.” Overall, it seems that most students find the benefit in this experience.

When attending the weekly seminar held in the Science and Technology building Tuesday, April 23, Wade was the first to present her topic. Wade chose to focus on estradiol, which is a form of estrogen and is instrumental in the female reproductive system. She gave an overview of the subject and some interesting information.

The term hormone was coined in 1905 by Starling and in 1929 the hormones esterone and estriol were isolated by Doisy and Butenandt from female urine samples.

The hormone estrone is the least abundant type of estrogen in the body and is found in postmenopausal women, whereas estriol and estradiol are found in larger quantities in both women and men. Estradiol is mainly produced in the gonads, is water insoluble and is vital to female sexual development. Estradiol is also important in cellular division, causing it to be linked to the spread of cancer. At high levels, estrogen can increase the risk of cancer because it causes infected cells to proliferate. This means that women who take birth control that contains estrogen, which all of them do, can be at a higher risk of developing some types of cancer. Estrogen is also important for bone density, for our regulatory systems, and for brain function.

Wade did a wonderful job giving an overview of the topic while showing her knowledge of biochemistry when explaining exactly how the body forms estradiol. She seemed prepared to answer the questions of her peers and teachers, which only adequate preparation could prepare her for.

Michelle Grebeck was the next to present for the seminar in which she focused on Retinol, also known as vitamin A. Grebeck gave a comprehensive overview of all things retinol.

Humans do not synthesize retinol within the body; it must be obtained from animals such as beef or chicken liver, or vegetables such as carrots or dark leafy greens. Vegetables contain beta-carotene, which the body metabolizes into retinoic acid to be used in the skin, whereas animal sources are ready for the human body to use and do not have to be metabolized.

Retinol was discovered by the Egyptians when they discovered that night blindness could be cured by eating animal livers. However, it was not until 1947 that retinol was synthetically created by Adriaan van Dorp and Arens.

Retinol is mostly known for its use in acne and anti-ageing products as well as being a vision aid. Vitamin A is fat soluble and is recommended to be taken in a daily dosage of 0.8-1.0 mg, which is equivalent to 10 medium size eggs or approximately half a cup of butter. Since vitamin A is fat soluble, too much of it in the diet can cause nausea, hair loss, liver damage and possibly cause a coma, whereas a deficiency can cause night blindness and dry, rough cracked skin.

Overall, Grebeck did a great job explaining the basics of the molecule. She was prepared to answer all the questions posed by her peers and the teachers present. She demonstrated that she had received a strong foundation to help her reach her academic and career goals.

Based on these presentations and the author’s previous experience, senior seminar is a valuable tool that allows each student to test their knowledge base, learn how to successfully prepare a presentation, and how to answer questions all in a similar manner required by most graduate schools.


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