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Chemistry Department Remembers Beloved Professor Kwang Yun

Posted on: April 7th, 2022 by nhammer

Kwang S. Yun (1929-2022), an award-winning chemistry professor who taught at UM for 30 years, was known for his creative teaching methods and dedication to students.  He received  the Cora Lee Graham Outstanding Teacher of Freshmen award from the College of Liberal Arts, the 1981 Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award for the University (now known as the Elsie M. Hood Award), and the Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society’s Outstanding Teacher Award.  Prof. Kwang Yun joined the Department of Chemistry in 1968 and taught general chemistry, physical chemistry, and graduate courses in quantum chemistry and statistical thermodynamics for 31 years. He was loved by his students and retired in June 1998, but still participated in physical chemistry divisional activities up until 2020.

Prof. Emeritus Kwang S. Yun (1929-2022)

Prof. Emeritus Kwang S. Yun (1929-2022)

Originally from Seoul, Korea, Yun received a B.A. in chemistry from Seoul National University before serving in the Republic of Korea Army from 1953 to 1955 and earning a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Cincinnati in 1960.   “I had the great pleasure of teaching the freshman chemistry course,” Yun said. “Students in this class were mostly pre-med, pre-pharmacy or engineering students who were well motivated and eager to learn new and advanced concepts in chemistry. For more than 30 years of teaching this course, I have nothing but good memories.” 

Prof. Emeritus Kwang S. Yun (1929-2022)

Prof. Emeritus Kwang S. Yun at a University of Mississippi commencement

Yun had several memorable moments from the classroom.  “I gave weekly live demonstrations related to the subjects of the week,” he said. “Students enjoyed  the demonstrations, but I had a few embarrassing moments with burning hair, burning neckties, falling from ladders and so on.”

The effectiveness of Yun’s teaching is evident.  “More than 6,000 students passed through my freshman classes during my years of teaching, which generated many well-known doctors and pharmacists,” Yun said a few years ago. “I see them often.”

“When I was an undergraduate chemistry student, he was the first chemistry professor I took that made sense,”  Associate Dean Emeritus for Research & Graduate Education and Distinguished Professor Emeritus Charles Hussey said. “He knew how to teach. When I was in his class, I was always very comfortable — he explained concepts like no one else.”

It was indeed a high priority for Yun to successfully convey the material that he was teaching.  “I held weekly help sessions and enjoyed the recitations because it was a ‘free question-and-answer period’ where students felt comfortable asking any questions,” he said. “Because my main interest in teaching was to provide students knowledge and excitement in science, I always approached students not in terms of my level of understanding but at the student’s level. I used to say to myself, ‘If a student does not comprehend an idea, it is my fault and not the student’s.’”  Prof. Randy Wadkins had Yun as a teacher while he was at Ole Miss as an undergraduate and a graduate student.  Wadkins recently indicated that “What might not be appreciated is that Dr. Yun also taught math. I kept all the notes from his class all these years.”  It is evident Dr. Yun holds a special place in the hearts of his former students and was well respected by his colleagues. He taught chemistry and helped many students prepare to pursue their careers in medicine, pharmacy, science, and other fields. He was a favorite teacher because he really cared about his students and was always willing to help them succeed.

Profs. Nathan Hammer and Kwang Yun in 2018

Profs. Nathan Hammer and Kwang Yun in 2018

Prof. Dan Mattern was a colleague of Yun for a number of years in the department.  Mattern recently said “I too am saddened by the loss of Kwang, who was always upbeat, enthusiastic, and smiling. He was also very precise in his teaching of chemistry, and his classes appreciated his careful explanations, and his consideration for his students. After he retired, he took up oil painting, with landscapes and scenes around Oxford–quite a switch from physical chemistry. A couple of years ago, he told me about his schooling under the Japanese occupation of Korea. All the instruction was in Japanese, and the teachers were rigid, but not mean. One day he went to school, and the entire teaching staff was gone. Japan had withdrawn from Korea, and that included leaving the schools, overnight. I’m always impressed with people who have to switch languages when they immigrate. Kwang had to switch from Korean to Japanese, and then to  English.  We will miss him.”

Long after his official retirement from the University in 1998, Yun continued to come to campus and check out books from the library to read.  Prof. Nathan Hammer shared that Dr. Yun also continued to perform spectroscopy experiments alongside undergraduate and graduate students in his lab up until just a few years ago.  Hammer said “Prof. Yun loved science and being in the lab.  He gave lectures to our Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program on classical physical chemistry concepts and really enjoyed attending physical chemistry division social event.  The students loved learning from his lifelong experiences and always looked forward to him bringing watermelons to our end of summer REU party.”

REU Faculty in Summer 2016 with Prof. Yun in the center.

REU Faculty in Summer 2016 with Prof. Yun in the center.

Dr. Yun was also interviewed in 2019 by Bonnie Brown for HottyToddy.com and this interview is below.

Brown: Where did you grow up? Please talk about your childhood, family, and siblings.

Yun: I was born in Seoul, South Korea in 1929. I remember that I lived with my grandparents and my parents with five sisters. My sisters and I all emigrated to the United States. Two sisters are deceased. One lives near Chicago, one in Long Island, and the other in Detroit. My wife and I have one daughter who lives in Portland, Oregon.

Brown: Where did you go to school?

Yun: In 1936, I entered an elementary school near my home in Seoul several blocks away. I enrolled in a middle school (7th to 10th grades) which was about two miles away from my home. Those are from 1942 to 1946. Since Korea was a colony under the Japanese, we have to take the Japanese educational system; everything was taught in Japanese but I learned Korean from my parents.

Dr. Yun’s Family – April 1936 with his sisters, his parents (back row), Grandparents (middle row); Dr. Yun is pictured standing in the center. Photo courtesy of Dr. Yun.

Dr. Yun’s Family – April 1936 with his sisters, his parents (back row), Grandparents (middle row); Dr. Yun is pictured standing in the center.

In 1946, after the end of World War II, we became independent from Japan. I entered a preparatory school which was a part of the Seoul National University. This prep school was similar to a German gymnasium system (a type of school with a strong emphasis on academic learning) enforcing math and foreign languages. I had two years of high school just after the Japanese left Korea.

I advanced to an undergraduate program as a chemistry major and finished my undergraduate degree in 1952 which was during the Korean conflict. I was drafted and served two and a half years in the South Korean Army and was discharged in 1955.

I was admitted to the University of Cincinnati in 1956 and completed a Ph.D. degree in 1961.

Brown: How did you choose the University of Cincinnati?

Yun: From 1946 until 1952, Korea depended on U.S. aid in the national public schools. Much of that aid was in the form of army supplies—educational manuals used in the military. My freshmen through senior high school years, we studied English text. I didn’t know anything about the various colleges. But in my sophomore year, I took organic chemistry and the textbook author was from the University of Cincinnati, so I thought that would be a good place to study.

Brown: What subjects were hardest for you in school?

Mrs. Yun with Dr. Yun on the occasion of his retirement in 1998. Photo courtesy of Dr. Yun.

Mrs. Yun with Dr. Yun on the occasion of his retirement in 1998.

Yun: The difficult subjects for me were physics and mathematics.

Brown: Who influenced your career choice?

Yun: My father, who suggested that I should study science but not law. My father was a merchant who had two years of college. I was 27 when I started my graduate work at the University of Cincinnati. My wife went to LSU but later attended Ohio State.

Brown: Tell us how/when your Ole Miss “story” began? Who hired you? How long did you work at Ole Miss?

Yun: I had two post-doctoral positions—one at the University of Maryland and the second one at the Research Council Lab in Canada. Since the post-doctoral positions were not renewable, I began to look for a teaching position. I had several offers, but the offer from Ole Miss was the best. Dr. Robert B. Scott, Jr, Chair of the Chemistry Department hired me. Dr. Andrew Stefani recommended me. Dr. Scott was my Department Chair but he also became my friend. He and his wife, Russell, helped me and my wife a lot, teaching us about Southern culture. I joined the Department of Chemistry in 1968 and taught general chemistry, physical chemistry, and graduate courses in quantum chemistry and statistical thermodynamics for 31 years. I retired in June 1998.

Brown: What did you know about Ole Miss before you accepted a position here?

Yun: The only information I had was the information provided by the American Chemical Society. So I didn’t know much about the university before I arrived. When I came to Oxford, there were about 5,000 students. My wife and I lived in Northgate Apartments on campus (faculty and staff housing). I remember the first person who helped me was Mrs. Margaret Fields. She was very kind and very helpful.

L-R, Mrs. Yun, Dr. Yun, Connie Flake (Oxford artist) and her husband, Tim Flake. Photo courtesy of Dr. Yun.

L-R, Mrs. Yun, Dr. Yun, Connie Flake (Oxford artist) and her husband, Tim Flake.

Brown: Describe your most memorable days at work.

Yun: Teaching a large class of freshmen, fresh from their high school was challenging. That was some experience! For the first two years, I was assigned smaller classes because I was less experienced. However, after that I got the large freshmen classes.

Brown: What do you consider to be the highlight of your career?

Yun: In 1981, I received the Elsie M. Hood Outstanding Teacher Award. I also received the Cora Lee Graham Outstanding Teacher of Freshmen award from the College of Liberal Arts and the Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society’s Outstanding Teacher Award.

Brown: What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Yun: Teaching! There have been more than 6,000 students who went through my classes during my years of teaching, which generated many well-known doctors and pharmacists.

Brown: If there was something in your past you were able to go back and do differently, what would that be?

Yun: Be nice to under-prepared students. I didn’t mind repeating answers to questions. Repetition in the explanation is a virtue. I was willing to repeat it until the students understood the concept.

Brown: What is the best advice you ever received?

Dr. & Mrs. Yun pictured with one of his oil paintings. He has sold over 60 paintings. Photo courtesy of Dr. Yun.

Dr. & Mrs. Yun pictured with one of his oil paintings. He has sold over 60 paintings.

Yun: Be patient and don’t jump to conclusions.

Brown: If you could have an all-expenses paid trip to see any famous world monument, which monument would you choose?

Yun: I’d travel to the Canadian Rockies. It’s so beautiful there! I lived in Canada and Boulder, Colorado. I loved visiting Estes Park and other sites each weekend.

Brown: What do you do to improve your mood when you are in a bad mood?

Yun: Listen to classical music.

Brown: Tell us something about yourself that not many people may know.

Yun: I used to do oil painting, landscapes. I took lessons from Oxford artist Connie Flake around 1985. I also enjoyed getting to know Clarksdale native Jason Bouldin, son of portrait artist Marshall Bouldin. Jason was a freshman in my chemistry class and came to me to tell me at the end of his freshman year that he was going to Harvard to major in art history. Jason has followed in his father’s footsteps and has become a noted artist in his own right. I no longer paint but I enjoyed it very much.

Brown: What gives you great joy?

Yun: Reading and listening to music. I like reading old classics. I like German novels of the 18th and 19th centuries. I like reading about human history, the creation of the university, etc. And I love listening to classical music.

Three Chemistry Majors Receive Prestigious Goldwater Scholarship!

Posted on: March 25th, 2022 by nhammer

Congratulations to Matt Knerr, Ethan Lambert, and Ally Watrous for being awarded the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship!

For the first time at the University of Mississippi, three students have been awarded Goldwater Scholarships in a single year.

Ethan Lambert, of Corinth; Reinhard “Matt” Knerr, of Paducah, Kentucky; and Alexandria “Ally” Watrous, of Lexington, Kentucky, all members of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, have become the university’s 19th, 20th and 21st winners.

The Goldwater is one of the oldest and most prestigious national scholarships in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. It supports exceptional sophomores and juniors who show promise in becoming the next generation of research leaders in these fields.

This year, the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation awarded 417 scholarships from a pool of 1,242 outstanding undergraduates nominated by 433 institutions.

“Ethan, Matt and Ally have all presented an incredible commitment to a career in research, and a genuine display of intellectual curiosity,” said Vivian Ibrahim, director of the UM Office of National Scholarship Advisement. “This is the first time UM has had three Goldwater scholars. We couldn’t be more excited for them.”

In recent years, the office has had steady success in recruiting competitive students for the Goldwater, Ibrahim said.

Knerr, Lambert and Watrous follow in the footsteps of Ole Miss Goldwater scholars Ivy Li and Austin Wallace in 2021, William Meador and Jax Dallas in 2020, and Addison Roush in 2019.

Ethan Lambert, a junior from Corinth, is studying light-induced electron transfers to help improve solar energy technologies. He has been awarded a 2022 Goldwater Scholarship to support his studies and research. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Ethan Lambert, a junior from Corinth, is studying light-induced electron transfers to help improve solar energy technologies. He has been awarded a 2022 Goldwater Scholarship to support his studies and research. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

 

An Annexstad scholar, Lambert is set to graduate in 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry with an emphasis in chemical physics and a minor in mathematics.

“I am thrilled to be named a Goldwater Scholar but this accomplishment would not have been possible without the incredible people around me in the lab,” he said. “They taught me new techniques, proofread and answered my questions at 2 a.m. when I couldn’t sleep.

“I would be a fraction of the person I am without them around me.”

Lambert hopes to apply for a graduate research fellowship from the National Science Foundation next year to fund a doctorate in chemistry with a focus on studying how to use light to induce electron transfers between small molecules. This work has potential real-world applications in solar energy conversion.

Already first author on three published research papers and co-author of a book, Lambert has been working with Nathan Hammer, UM professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

“It has been a joy mentoring Ethan in the lab,” Hammer said. “He truly has the love for science and the aptitude for research. I expect great things from him for the remainder of his time with us at UM and beyond.”

Knerr is a Stamps scholar who is pursuing a degree in biochemistry, with minors in neuroscience, biological sciences, environmental studies and psychology.

“I am fascinated by aging,” he said. “My time abroad – in Spain, Costa Rica and the Netherlands – has really shed light on different ways to approach how we age.

“In the future, I want to be able to look at aging from a scientific angle as well as a moral and humanistic one.”

Knerr has four published articles and has worked Joshua Bloomekatz, an assistant professor of biology.

“Matt is a dynamic student with a passion for research, who shows great promise as a physician scientist,” Bloomekatz said.

Ally Watrous, a sophomore from Lexington, Kentucky, already has published three peer-reviewed papers in computational chemistry. Her Goldwater Scholarship will provide funding for her junior and senior years at the university. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Ally Watrous, a sophomore from Lexington, Kentucky, already has published three peer-reviewed papers in computational chemistry. Her Goldwater Scholarship will provide funding for her junior and senior years at the university. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

 

Watrous is the only Ole Miss sophomore to be awarded a Goldwater, which will provide funding for her junior and senior years at the university. She is pursuing bachelor’s degrees in chemistry with a chemical physics emphasis, in physics and in German with minors in French and mathematics.

In the long term, Watrous is interested in collaborating internationally while conducting research in computational chemistry.

“The whole national scholarship and Goldwater process reaffirmed that grad school is something I want to do and can achieve,” she said.

Watrous has three peer-reviewed papers and one cover article to date as part of the UM Computational Astrochemistry Group, headed by Ryan Fortenberry, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

“Ally is an absolute joy to have in our group, and I count myself lucky to be on her team through her education,” Fortenberry said. “Most often, about the time that students get trained, they leave. However, she’ll be around for a few more years, and I look forward to continuing my collaboration with her.”

For more information on the Goldwater Scholarships and how to apply for them, contact the Office of National Scholarship Advisement at onsa@olemiss.edu.

Prof. Tanner’s research could improve treatment options for cancer, arthritis

Posted on: March 25th, 2022 by nhammer

University of Mississippi chemistry professor Eden Tanner (front left) and her team of researchers are a diverse group, including one postdoctoral scholar, six graduate students and 18 undergraduates, who have majors ranging from chemistry and pharmacy to engineering.

A University of Mississippi Chemistry professor and her team of researchers are working on new ways to use red blood cells and platelets to transport chemotherapies and other medicines to specific areas of the body, which could greatly reduce patients’ side effects.

Eden Tanner, UM assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, has been awarded a Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America’s Research Starter Grant in Drug Delivery for $100,000 to help fund the work. The grant, which is given to one winner annually, is designed for tenure-track faculty who are in the earliest stages of their careers to advance their research in drug delivery.

Tanner’s research interests focus on solving biomedical and bioengineering problems using physical chemistry and, particularly, ionic liquids and nanomaterials. She is working to figure out ways to use ionic liquids and nanomaterials to bond to the blood components and send medicines to specific areas.

“We are really excited about the potential that this technology offers,” Tanner said. “Currently, if you get lung cancer and surgery is not an option, basically you just get bathed in chemotherapy.

“It makes people very ill. It is not a very positive experience.”

The lab in Coulter Hall where she works contains vials of ionic liquids in varying viscosities, some of them looking like honey or maple syrup. Researchers are using different ones to determine which work best for different types of drugs.

She explains the concept of cellular hitchhiking using the example of someone being treated for lung cancer.

“If we could instead just target the lung, for instance, and not have it go everywhere, this means the side effect profile is much less severe and people aren’t as sick,” Tanner said. “Our technology could be used to hitch a ride on red blood cells, which then deliver our cargo to the lungs, as opposed to everywhere else in the body.”

Student researchers work in Eden Tanner’s lab in Coulter Hall. Tanner and her team are studying new ways to use red blood cells and platelets to transport chemotherapies and other medicines to specific areas of the body.

Tanner holds a bachelor’s degree in advanced science from the University of South Wales in Australia and a doctorate in physical and theoretical chemistry from the University of Oxford in England, where she was a postdoctoral fellow. She also served as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University.

Tanner said she will use the award to continue training the next generation of drug delivery scientists. The funding will help procure technologies for the experiments and to hire assistants for the work.

She is pleased with not only the strength of the group assembled, but also that they come from many different backgrounds. All bring different experiences, perspectives and special skills to the table, she said. Among them are one postdoctoral scholar, six Ole Miss graduate students and 18 undergraduates, who have majors ranging from chemistry and pharmacy to engineering.

Some 65% of the group are women or nonbinary people, and 40% are people of color, Tanner said.

“I have a large team of excellent students,” Tanner said. “It is a very collaborative group effort. This is not a ‘lone genius’ situation.

“We bring people together from chemistry and pharmacy and other areas because we need their expertise to help us advance this along.”

Karen Wong, a senior biochemistry and Chinese major from Gulfport, said her work focuses on targeting platelets within the blood. Working on the project has taught her the importance of such research.

It’s an exciting process, too, she said.

“Engaging in research has allowed me to gain an understanding of how important it is to the medical world because there are so many limitations and risks associated with medical procedures as well as drugs,” Wong said.

“In addition, it is a very meticulous and slow process to work toward advancing science, but one must be patient and never give up on it because you never know when you’ll have a scientific breakthrough!”

She’s also learning the value of teamwork in the lab.

“Each experiment requires a lot of preparation, and I learned the importance of teamwork because it makes carrying out large experiments more efficient because each one of us was responsible for synthesizing specific nanoparticles, splitting the tasks, and putting our work together, in the end, made everything go much smoother,” Wong said.

Joh’nis Randall, a junior pharmaceutical sciences major from Jackson, said the experience has been “nothing short of amazing.” The work has taught her much more than just the necessary parts she needed to learn.

Randall said she has grown during the process and appreciates Tanner and the rest of the team for pushing her to be her best.

“From the early mornings and late nights in the lab, preparing for the day of the bloodwork was always a tedious task,” she said. “Doing this project has gotten me out of my shell and has expanded my knowledge on different aspects of physical chemistry.

Randall wants to make a difference.

“I hope that we all make a breakthrough in scientific discovery that would one day change how medicine works,” Randall said.

The way the lab is structured creates many chances for collaboration, a skill important in any career, said Meghan Gorniak, a senior chemistry major from Glen Carbon, Illinois.

“This lab has pushed me to think critically and to understand the application of so many scientific topics,” Gorniak said. “I hope that my work on white blood cells can help further medical science discoveries.

“I cannot thank Dr. Tanner enough for being my mentor and teaching me how cool research can be.”

UM professor’s research could improve treatment options for cancer, arthritis

Daniell Mattern Named Inaugural Stefani-Miller Chair

Posted on: February 24th, 2022 by nhammer

Daniell Mattern (standing), UM professor of chemistry and biochemistry, works with his students during a class in Coulter Hall. Mattern has been named the inaugural holder of the university’s Doctors Andrew Stefani and Eldon Miller Memorial Chair for STEM Teaching and Research. Photo by Logan Kirkland/ Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

 

Daniell Mattern, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Mississippi, has been named to a new endowed chair established to bolster teaching and research in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

With a gift of $1.5 million, Dr. Rhett Atkinson and his wife, Elaine, established the Doctors Andrew Stefani and Eldon Miller Memorial Chair for STEM Teaching and Research in 2019 to honor Stefani, former professor and chair in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Miller, former professor and chair in the Department of Mathematics. Mattern is the inaugural holder of the position.

The Atkinsons’ gift provides income to the College of Liberal Arts to support the recruitment and retention of a top-tier scholar who demonstrates outstanding teaching in STEM and is also a productive researcher in biology, chemistry, biochemistry, mathematics, physics or astronomy.

“My wife and I strongly believe in education and academics, and we want to give back to the institution that gave me the background and the tools I needed to be successful,” said Atkinson, of Sedona, Arizona. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics from Ole Miss in 1970 and ’72 and graduated from the UM School of Medicine in 1979.

Mattern said he is delighted to be selected as the inaugural chair.

“I knew Andy Stefani, who was also an organic chemist and the department chair when the department hired me,” Mattern said. “I always admired his passion for teaching chemistry.

“I didn’t know Eldon Miller, although I did often see him around Oxford. He was also highly regarded as a teacher.”

Mattern is a great choice for the position, said Greg Tschumper, chair and professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

Daniell Mattern

 

“I cannot think of a more deserving candidate for the inaugural appointment to the Stefani-Miller Chair because Dr. Mattern’s pedagogical activities epitomize the very essence of the position,” Tschumper said. “He has received numerous awards for his teaching excellence.

“Over the years, he has had an incredibly positive impact on the education and lives of many, many Ole Miss students who have been fortunate enough to have him as a teacher and a mentor.”

Mattern said he already has plans for the stipend from his new position.

“I can certainly use it to help fund my undergraduate research students, but I am also looking for ways it might enhance my classroom teaching,” he said. “I’m several years into drafting an organic chemistry textbook, and it could be helpful in developing that project.”

A UM faculty member since 1991, Mattern is a previous recipient of the Elsie M. Hood Outstanding Teacher Award, College of Liberal Arts Outstanding Teacher of the Year, Alpha Epsilon Delta Outstanding Teacher of the Year and the Margaret Coulter Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and the university’s 25-Year Service Award.

“I’ve had the good fortune to teach the organic chemistry class, which means that I get a lot of great students,” Mattern said. “Most want to be doctors, or pharmacists, or engineers or even chemists, which means they arrive both capable and motivated.

“A surprising number of Taylor Medalists on Honors Day – the university’s highest academic honor for undergraduates – have taken my organic chemistry class.”

During the pandemic year of 2020-21, Mattern “flipped” his classroom.

“I made videos of all my lectures and put them online,” he said. “In class, instead of listening to me lecture, the students do problem-solving activities in groups of four.

“Now my most enjoyable class time is when I observe a group express a misconception, then watch them work through a problem and figure out the correct view by the end.”

After completing his bachelor’s degree at Kalamazoo College, Mattern earned master’s and doctoral degrees from Stanford University. He has been a postdoctoral fellow at Tufts University School of Medicine and the University of California at San Diego.

Mattern’s research interests includes organic donor-sigma-acceptor molecules, fatty acyl analogs of acarnidine and aromatic iodination.

The Doctors Andrew Stefani and Eldon Miller Memorial Chair for Stem Teaching and Research Endowment is open to gifts from individuals and organizations. Send a check, with the endowment noted in the memo line, to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655, or give online at http://give.olemiss.edu.

For more information on supporting STEM teaching and research at the university, contact Charlotte Parks, vice chancellor for development, at cpparks@olemiss.edu or 662-915-3120.

 

Chemistry Grad Student Wins 2021 Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) Competition

Posted on: December 21st, 2021 by nhammer

WontorAnd the winner is … Kendall Wontor! This year’s Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) overall winner is Kendall Wontor, a doctoral student in chemistry. Wontor’s research focuses on microplastics in oysters, with several different aspects to her overall research project.

Wontor spent most of her childhood in Texas, but most recently lived in Hawaii before relocating to Mississippi. Her time in Hawaii sparked her interest in microplastics.

“My favorite things to do were going to the beach and sailing,” said Wontor. “Whenever I would do either, it was pretty common to see small pieces of plastic in the sand and out in the ocean being tossed around in the waves. As a chemist, that really got me interested in the breakdown process of plastics and the problem of microplastic pollution.”

“Microplastics are a diverse suite of contaminants with different polymers, additives, sizes and morphologies,” explained Wontor’s advisor Dr. James Cizdziel, professor of chemistry and biochemistry and coordinator of forensic chemistry. “Microplastics can also attract other pollutants, such as heavy metals, potentially introducing them into the food chain as the plastic is caught on gills or mistaken for prey,” he added.

The first aspect of Wontor’s research is focused on developing new methods to extract microplastics from oyster tissue, and this was the main point of her 3MT presentation. An example of an extraction method is sonication. “By developing and validating this extraction method, I hope to increase the analysis speed and sustainability of microplastics research,” said Wontor.

In the second aspect of her research, Wontor uses chemical digestion to analyze oysters from ten sites across the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Here, Wontor is looking for any differences in the numbers, sizes, shapes, and polymer types of microplastics present in the oysters from the different sites. Wontor is also dissecting the larger oysters found to see if the microplastics are localizing in specific tissues, such as the gills, mantle, digestive system, or abductor muscle/heart.

“Microplastics are abundant in the Mississippi River and Mississippi Sound. Oysters are exposed to these small plastic particles. This is a concern because oysters are filter-feeders and the microplastics may interfere with oyster biology. Oysters are a foundational species in the Gulf and an economic resource to the region,” explained Dr. Cizdziel.

Wontor is no stranger to presenting her research. She presented “Microplastics in Oysters from the Mississippi Sound” at the National Environmental Monitoring Conference in a special session on “Analyzing Microplastics in the Environment: Striving to Better Assess Occurrence, Fate and Effects.”

Wontor will represent the UM Grad School at the Conference of Southern Graduate Schools’ 3MT competition in North Carolina in February 2022.

Chemistry Majors Inducted into Phi Kappa Phi

Posted on: October 11th, 2021 by nhammer

Six University of Mississippi chemistry majors have recently been welcomed into one of the oldest and most prestigious honor societies in the world.

The Phi Kapa Phi honor society’s mission is “to recognize and promote academic excellence in all fields of higher education and to engage the community of scholars in service to others.”

On a campus of about 19,000 students, it can be hard to stand out, but the newest members of the University of Mississippi chapter of the Phi Kappa Phi (PKP) national honor society are certainly able to do it.

“Phi Kappa Phi is the nation’s oldest and most selective honor society for all academic disciplines,” UM PKP President Jeremy Loenneke said. “Membership into Phi Kappa Phi is by invitation only and is open to those who have a consistent record of academic excellence.”

Approximately 560 students were invited to join the chapter for the fall of 2021. The chapter hosted its initiation ceremony in the Ford Center, Sunday, October 10, with Dr. Dave Puleo, dean of the UM engineering school, delivering the keynote address.

The UM chapter of Phi Kappa Phi has been a part of campus for more than 60 years, which Loenneke said speaks to the caliber of students and faculty at the university.

“The overall environment is also one that promotes and values academic excellence. All of this together fits right in with the mission and motto of Phi Kappa Phi, which is to ‘let the love of learning rule humanity,’” Loenneke said.

Phi Kappa Phi membership also comes with recognition on your college transcript and a chance to apply for a number of prestigious local and national scholarships. This fall’s new class of initiates includes student representatives from every school and college on the UM campus.

Loenneke said there are hundreds of UM students who should be feeling particularly proud of their accomplishments right now.

“To be selected for initiation is a great honor and means that you represent the very best of your class.”

Phi Kappa Phi has a long and impressive history. In 1897 at the University of Maine, 10 senior students, two faculty members and the school president created an honor society that was different from the few others then in existence- one that recognized and honored excellence in all academic disciplines. Under the leadership of undergraduate student Marcus L. Urann, the group formed the Lambda Sigma Eta Society, which was later renamed Phi Kappa Phi from the initial letters of the Greek words forming its adopted motto: Philosophìa Krateìto Photôn, “Let the love of learning rule humanity.”

At the University of Mississippi, notable inductees include former chancellor Robert Khayat, the late Senator Thad Cochran and bestselling author John Grisham. Presidents, senators, Supreme Court Justices, governors, Pulitzer Prize winners, even astronauts count themselves as members of Phi Kappa Phi. 

Please join the department in welcoming these 2021-2022 chemistry majors to the Phi Kappa Phi Honors Society:

Chemistry Majors Inducted into Phi Kappa Phi

Posted on: April 30th, 2021 by nhammer

Nine University of Mississippi chemistry majors have recently been welcomed into one of the oldest and most prestigious honor societies in the world.

The Phi Kapa Phi honor society’s mission is “to recognize and promote academic excellence in all fields of higher education and to engage the community of scholars in service to others.”

“This semester’s inductees deserve so much praise and respect,” Phi Kappa Phi Ole Miss board member Dr. Debora Wenger said. “They remained committed to academic excellence despite a pandemic creating innumerable challenges for learning. These students are truly scholarly all-stars.”

Phi Kappa Phi has a long and impressive history. In 1897 at the University of Maine, 10 senior students, two faculty members and the school president created an honor society that was different from the few others then in existence- one that recognized and honored excellence in all academic disciplines. Under the leadership of undergraduate student Marcus L. Urann, the group formed the Lambda Sigma Eta Society, which was later renamed Phi Kappa Phi from the initial letters of the Greek words forming its adopted motto: Philosophìa Krateìto Photôn, “Let the love of learning rule humanity.”

At the University of Mississippi, notable inductees include former chancellor Robert Khayat, the late Senator Thad Cochran and bestselling author John Grisham. Presidents, senators, Supreme Court Justices, governors, Pulitzer Prize winners, even astronauts count themselves as members of Phi Kappa Phi. 

Please join the department in welcoming these 2020-2021 chemistry majors to the Phi Kappa Phi Honors Society:

B. S. Chemistry Majors Selected for Prestigious NSF Research Fellowships

Posted on: April 22nd, 2021 by nhammer

Two University of Mississippi B .S. Chemistry majors have been selected to receive National Science Foundation fellowships that recognize and support the research-based pursuit of master’s and doctoral degrees in STEM fields.   Jax Dallas and Larry Stokes were selected for fellowships that include three years of financial support through the foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program.  The two students are the first UM students to be offered the prestigious fellowship since 2015. Both are enrolled in the university’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

“We are overwhelmed with joy that Honors College students received the coveted NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program grants,” said Douglass Sullivan- González, Honors College dean. “Their success is a testimony to their hard, persistent work with the tough questions of the day.

“Kudos also to our faculty and staff who make these opportunities possible and who work with them in the labs and in the application process to compete successfully for the highest awards in the nation. We are so proud that undergraduate research and creative performance continue to be a part of the signature experience of our honors students, and their work catches eyes in national competitions.”

Jax Dallas

The fellowship program includes an annual stipend to the student and a cost-of-education allowance to be applied toward their future graduate studies, which do not have to occur at their current institution. Through the program, the student is required to work toward a master’s or doctoral degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics or STEM education at an accredited U.S. institution.Jax Dallas, of Caledonia, earned a Graduate Research Fellowship Program award to continue his investigations into the field of quantum sensing, which uses advanced physics to perform highly sensitive measurements of a physical quantity.

A senior from Caledonia, Dallas plans to further pursue his chemistry studies at the California Institute of Technology; Meador, of Carbondale, Illinois, is a senior who will continue his chemistry studies at UM; and Stokes, of Clarksdale, is a senior majoring in biomedical engineering who is still deciding between the University of Texas and Vanderbilt University for his graduate school.

Dallas’ chemistry emphasis is in chemical physics, and his future studies will investigate the field of quantum sensing, which uses advanced physics to perform highly sensitive measurements of a physical quantity.

He plans to further explore the development of new instrumentation and methods to study light-matter interactions, as well as the combination of novel molecules for the field of quantum sensing. One research project at the California Institute of Technology that specifically interests Dallas is optimizing and applying one of the world’s few entangled photon spectrometers, which is a scientific instrument used to probe the properties of light.

“I am interested in these fields as they are on the cutting edge of what humanity has accomplished so far within the sciences, and I am extremely eager to be in on the action,” said Dallas, who in 2020 was awarded a coveted Barry S. Goldwater Scholarship, one of the country’s oldest and most prestigious national scholarships in the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics.

“Furthermore, these projects are extremely multidisciplinary and allow for overlap from the most talented scientists in fields ranging from optical engineering to molecular biology. So far, my career end-goals are undetermined, but I could see myself happily going into academia, the industry or the national laboratory setting.”

While at UM, Dallas’ research supervisor was Ryan Fortenberry, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

“I would like to thank Dr. Ryan Fortenberry, who has been extremely helpful not only during the program application process but during my time at the university as a whole,” said Dallas, who also will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. “I am extremely excited and honored to be a recipient of the fellowship, as it will allow me great amounts of freedom as I join a research group as a Ph.D. student next year.”

 

Calling the Graduate Research Fellowship Program the “fellowship that every graduate student aspires to achieve,” Meador said he was shocked and overwhelmed with emotion upon learning of his selection.

A fellow 2020 Barry S. Goldwater Scholarship recipient, Meador’s chemistry emphasis is in chemical synthesis, which seeks to build complex molecules from simpler ones through chemical reactions.

William Meador

After graduating in May, Meador’s research likely will continue to focus on the design and synthesis of near-infrared emissive small molecules for use as biological imaging agents, an area where he has gained experience over the past four years at UM. He also intends to expand his research interests into other areas while continuing his Ole Miss career, including exploring the design and synthesis of efficient low-energy absorbing dyes for solar cell technologies.

“This past spring, I decided to remain here at the University of Mississippi, where I will continue working with Dr. Jared Delcamp,” said Meador, who hopes to become a professor at a high-level research university and work with students to address some of society’s most pertinent problems.

“I am incredibly excited about this decision due to the constructive research environment here at UM that forces me to constantly learn and grow as a scientist, the opportunity to obtain crucial mentorship skills through training undergraduates, and for personal reasons, including my significant other also pursuing a professional degree here at UM.

“Not only is the research impactful, but I have the time of my life going to the lab every day, investigating ways in which we can tune how molecules interact with light.”

Delcamp, an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, serves as Meador’s research adviser, and he is one of several people Meador thanked for helping him earn the fellowship, along with his family, significant other, the Delcamp Group research laboratory and the chemistry and biochemistry faculty.

 

Alumna Honored With National Mentorship Award In Health Sciences

Posted on: April 21st, 2021 by nhammer
a young African American woman in a blue blouse

Dr. Shana Stoddard, assistant professor of chemistry at Rhodes College and University of Mississippi Ph.D. graduate from 2013, was a 2021 recipient of the Mentor Award presented by the Council on Undergraduate Research’s (CUR) Health Sciences Division. The division recognizes transformative mentoring and advising by higher education faculty across all subdivisions of health sciences—wellness, disease, health care, and health management—with awards in the early career, mid-career, and advanced career categories. Each award includes a cash prize and a certificate of recognition.

“I am truly humbled to receive the Council of Undergraduate Research Health Sciences Division early career mentor award,” says Stoddard. “I am grateful to have a group of mentors myself who have not only equipped me to be an effective and engaging mentor, but who also helped open a space for me to be a mentor here at Rhodes College. Receiving this award just encourages me to be even more diligent in mentoring.”

Stoddard’s Molecular Immunotherapeutics Research lab at Rhodes is made up of a diverse group of students using a combination of computational chemistry, biochemistry, and cell-based assays to conduct research focused on improving patient outcomes with autoimmune disorders, cancers, neurological disorders, and coronaviruses. Several of Stoddard’s students have co-authored papers published in journals.

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches, but to reveal to them their own. This ideology perfectly represents Dr. Shana Stoddard’s role as a professor and as a mentor to her students,” says chemistry major Kennedi E. Fitts ’21. “She encourages students to continue on whatever journey genuinely fulfills them. She does this by sharing the richness of her story—her obstacles and triumphs. She then utilizes such experiences to push her students to discover their own purposes. Through this, she impacts students on a personal level—one that forces them to understand themselves in a way they didn’t before meeting Dr. Stoddard. She truly puts her entire being into making sure her students feel that they belong in the room—and if they don’t, she provides them with the confidence to eventually come to that realization.”

Stoddard received a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Mississippi in 2013 and went to work for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Radiological Sciences. She came to Rhodes in 2015 as a William Randolph Hearst Teaching Fellow and joined the Department of Chemistry as assistant professor in 2017.

Founded in 1978, CUR is an organization of individual, institutional, and affiliate members from around the world. Its mission is to support and promote high-quality mentored undergraduate research, scholarship, and creative inquiry.

Rhodes’ Professor of Biology Dr. Terry Hill and Professor of Psychology Dr. Marsha Walton were awarded mentoring awards by CUR in 2020. Professor of Chemistry Dr. Loretta Jackson-Hayes is a 2021 recipient of the CUR Chemistry Division Outstanding Mentorship Award.

Chemistry Majors Win Coveted Goldwater Scholarships

Posted on: April 5th, 2021 by nhammer

Austin Wallace and Qing Ivy Li awarded one of nation’s most prestigious national scholarships

Austin Wallace, of Southaven, has been involved in computational chemistry research with UM professor Ryan Fortenberry. The 2021 Goldwater Scholar hopes to become a researcher at a national research laboratory.

 

Two B.S. Chemistry majors and members of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College at the University of Mississippi have been awarded prestigious and coveted Barry S. Goldwater Scholarships.  This makes a total of 5 Goldwater scholars in the past three years for the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. 

Qing Ivy Li, of Oxford, and Austin Wallace, of Southaven, became the university’s 17th and 18th students to receive Goldwater scholarships. Both students are junior B. S. Chemistry majors.

The Goldwater is one of the oldest and most prestigious national scholarships in the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics in the United States. It identifies and supports exceptional sophomores and juniors who show promise of becoming the nation’s next generation of research leaders in these fields.

Dean Douglass Sullivan-González said the Honors College is proud of Li and Wallace for their accomplishments as citizens and scholars.

“Austin and Ivy have poured their undergraduate careers into laboratories, seeking answers to fundamental questions at an astonishing young age,” he said. “Both have committed themselves to the task of unleashing their imagination in a very disciplined way to help advance knowledge and understanding in the world of science.

“The Goldwater scholarship acknowledges their national success. I want also to affirm that our professors make these moments possible with their investments in our students. And kudos to our new director of the Office of National Scholarships, Dr. Vivian Ibrahim, who worked to call these winners to task, align their skills and accomplishments with the right award, and push them to completion. What a team.”

Each of the students said receiving the scholarship means a great deal.

“Being selected to receive the Goldwater is a major accomplishment for me and is a critical moment in both my research journey in chemistry and my professional development,” Li said.

Wallace has been involved in computational chemistry research with Ryan Fortenberry, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry. He presented his first project on carbonic acid clusters as a poster at the Southeastern Undergraduate Research Conference 2020. The manuscript of this work has been submitted to The Journal of Physical Chemistry A.

“I am ecstatic to receive this award, since it provides support for my future career goals in research,” Wallace said. “My end goal is to become a researcher at a national research laboratory.” Wallace’s research with Fortenberry includes developing a data analysis program called 0nset, which will enhance the way in which experimental data can be interpreted. Wallace’s research also uses quantum chemistry to study clusters of small, organic molecules, such as carbonic acid, to probe the earliest possible molecular origins of life.

“The 0nset work has been published in the Journal of Quantitative Spectroscopy and Radiative Transfer in February,” Wallace said. “The program was developed in collaboration with Dr. Jared Delcamp’s research group, which focuses on developing dye-sensitized solar cells.” Delcamp’s group needed a truly analytical measure of how molecules interact with light, and Wallace provided this with 0nset.

Qing Ivy Li, of Oxford, has earned a 2021 Goldwater Scholarship for her work at Ole Miss. She is looking ahead to graduate school and hopes to someday lead her own research group at a national laboratory that focuses on renewable energy.

 

Li is a part of Delcamp’s research group, where she has conducted research since her freshman year. Her research has focused on understanding long-lived, high-energy charge separation triggered by light.

Understanding light-induced charge separations is critical to a number of applications, from night vision devices and synthetic fuels to pharmaceutical drug synthesis. Li helped with the design, synthesis and characterization of a variety of organic dyes, which are responsible for the color of a compound.

“My immediate plans are to finish my undergraduate degree and continue my chemistry research endeavors as a graduate student at an R1 university,” Li said. “In the future, I want to lead my own research group at a national laboratory that focuses on designing, synthesizing and applying novel organic molecules for renewable energy purposes.”

Li’s work on pyridyl-based CO2 sensors is published in ACS Omega and her work on the effects of halogen bonding on interfacial electron transfers is undergoing revisions with Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

She also has presented her research at the 2019 UM Research Experiences for Undergraduates Symposium, the Gulf Water Sensors meeting at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the Feeding and Powering the World Conference and at the Southeastern Undergraduate Research Conference, where Wallace also was a presenter.

Greg Tschumper, chair and professor of chemistry, said it is truly exceptional when multiple students from the same program receive Goldwater scholarships the same year, noting that the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry has done just that two years in a row. Both Jax Dallas, a physical chemistry and math major from Caledonia, and William Meador, a chemistry major from Carbondale, Illinois, were named Goldwater Scholars in 2020.

“We are truly honored to have the work of Ivy and Austin recognized at the national level,” Tschumper said. “They have taken their passion for and dedication to science beyond the classroom and into the research lab.

“These accomplishments speak volumes about not only the exceptional quality our students and faculty but also the research they are conducting together at Ole Miss.”

Along with the recognition of being named a Goldwater scholar, selected students also receive $7,500.

Last year, the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation received 1,300 applications and awarded 250 scholarships. For the 2021 competition, more than 5,000 applications were submitted from 438 academic institutions, with 410 students being named Goldwater scholars.

“Ivy and Austin presented an incredible commitment to a career in research, a display of intellectual curiosity and proven contributions in their fields,” said Ibrahim, who worked closely with Li and Wallace to craft their applications. “We’re so proud of our 2021 scholars. Want to be a future Goldwater recipient? Let’s talk!”

List of Recent Goldwater Scholars from Chemistry & Biochemistry:

2021 Ivy Li and Austin Wallace (#17, #18)

2020 Will Meador and Jax Dallas (#15, #16)

2019 Addison Rousch (#14)

2012 Nikki Reinemann (#13)  Chemistry/Chemical Engineering

2010 Anna Kathryn Hailey  (#12)  Chemistry/Chemical Engineering/Chinese