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Chemistry Faculty Receive 2021-2022 Awards from the College of Liberal Arts

Posted on: June 28th, 2022 by nhammer
Jared Delcamp, associate professor of chemistry & biochemistry, is recipient of the 2022 Melinda and Ben Yarbrough, M.D. Senior Professor Research Award for the Natural Sciences and Mathematics

Jared Delcamp, Associate Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry

Several Faculty in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry were Honored at Graduation from the College of Liberal Arts. These include Jared Delcamp, Saumen Chakraborty, and Emily Rowland.

College of Liberal Arts Award for Research, Scholarship, and Creative Achievement:

 

 

The Melinda and Ben Yarbrough, M.D., Senior Professor Research Award is presented annually to an outstanding tenured faculty member in the natural sciences and mathematics.  Jared Delcamp, Associate Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry, is this year’s recipient. The award is given in recognition of sustained exemplary performance in research, scholarship, and/or creative achievement at the national/international level while serving as a faculty member at the University of Mississippi.  The recipient each year will have achieved scholarly recognition and influence well beyond the University of Mississippi community and made a positive contribution to the success of their department. Recipients of the award are not eligible to receive the award again. Each recipient is recognized with a $2,000 cash prize and a medal, which will be presented at the College of Liberal Arts graduation ceremony in May.

 

Saumen Chakraborty, assistant professor of chemistry & biochemistry

Saumen Chakraborty, Assistant Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry

Dr. Mike L. Edmonds New Scholar Award in The College Of Liberal Arts:

 

 

 

The Dr. Mike L. Edmonds New Scholar Award in the College of Liberal Arts is presented annually to untenured, tenure-track professorial rank faculty members in the College of Liberal Arts who are within 6 years of their initial tenure-track academic appointment and who have demonstrated exemplary performance in research, scholarship, and/or creative achievement. Candidates must be untenured when nominated. Depending on the quality of the pool of nominees, up to four awards will be available, with one each chosen from the areas of (1) Natural Sciences and Mathematics, (2) Social Sciences, (3) Humanities, and (4) Fine and Performing Arts.  Jared Delcamp, Associate Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry, is this year’s recipient. Saumen Chakraborty, Assistant Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry, is this year’s recipient.  The ideal recipients each year must have significantly enhanced the scholarly reputation of the College and University through exceptional contributions to their disciplines and demonstrated a positive impact on the success of their department.  Individuals may only receive this award one time, but recipients will retain their eligibility for the College of Liberal Arts Award for Research, Scholarship, and Creative Achievement (Humanities), Sanford and Susan Thomas Senior Professor Research Award in the Social Sciences, Hensley Family Senior Professor Research Award in the Fine and Performing Arts, and Melinda and Ben Yarbrough, M.D., Senior Professor Research Award for the Natural Sciences. These awards are only given to post-tenure, senior faculty.  Each recipient will receive a $1,000 cash prize and medal to be presented at the College of Liberal Arts graduation ceremony in May. Awardees will be invited to be members of the platform party during these ceremonies.

 

Emily Bretherick Rowland, instructional associate professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry

Emily Bretherick Rowland, Instructional Associate Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry

Liberal Arts Outstanding Instructor of The Year:

 

In 2011, the College of Liberal Arts began recognizing the Liberal Arts Outstanding Instructor of the Year. Criteria for the annual award include, but are not limited to, excellence of class instruction, intellectual stimulation of students, and concern for students’ welfare. The recipient is recognized during the College’s commencement ceremony, has his or her name added to an award plaque in the Dean’s office, and receives $1,000. Eligibility is limited to instructors, lecturers, senior lecturers, and instructional professors who taught full time during the academic year they are nominated. Visiting instructors and previous recipients are not eligible.  Emily Bretherick Rowland, Instructional Associate Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry, is the 2022 Liberal Arts Outstanding Instructor of the Year.

 

Department Welcomes Prof. Vignesh Sundaresan

Posted on: May 31st, 2022 by nhammer
Vignesh Sundaresan, Assistant Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry

Vignesh Sundaresan, Assistant Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry

Dr. Vignesh Sundaresan will join the University of Mississippi Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry on July 1st. Dr. Sundaresan received his Bachelor of Technology from Central Electrochemical Research Institute in Karaikudi, India in 2014 and a Doctor of Philosophy in Chemistry from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA in 2018 under the direction of Prof. Katherine A. Willets. He then joined as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Notre Dame under the mentorship of Prof. Paul W. Bohn before joining the faculty at UM. His group will use and develop coupled electrochemical and optical techniques for studying the behavior of single entitles such as nanoparticles, molecules, and enzymes to not only answer fundamental questions but also to develop ultra-sensitive chemical and biosensors.

Imaging electrochemical reactions and biological phenomena at the nanoscale and single entity level can provide rich details on 1) heterogeneity in the system and 2) enhanced mechanistic insights that are not possible with traditional electro- and bio-analytical tools. The Sundaresan Lab vision is to use and develop high-throughput multimodal imaging techniques such as optical, electrochemical, and electron imaging to understand electrochemical and biological phenomena at the single entity level and utilize the obtained insights to design better performing catalytic and biological systems at the ensemble level. Accordingly, the group will focus on interfacing novel high-resolution optical imaging techniques, including super-resolution imaging, with electrochemical techniques that can address fundamental scientific questions in the fields of electrocatalysis, materials science, and biology. Additionally, the developed methodology can be used to design ultra-sensitive chemical and biosensors.

 

 

University Hosts Regional Conference for Chemists, Chemical Engineers

Posted on: May 28th, 2022 by nhammer
Tomayo Berida, a UM pharmacognosy research assistant, won first place in the poster presentation competition during the National Organization of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers Conference. His study of ‘Novel 1,2,4-Triazolyl Pyridine Agent’s Potent Against Mycobacterium tuberculosis’ focuses on ongoing efforts to develop of a new class of agents that are potent against the organism that causes tuberculosis. Submitted photo

Tomayo Berida, a UM pharmacognosy research assistant, won first place in the poster presentation competition during the National Organization of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers Conference. His study of ‘Novel 1,2,4-Triazolyl Pyridine Agent’s Potent Against Mycobacterium tuberculosis’ focuses on ongoing efforts to develop of a new class of agents that are potent against the organism that causes tuberculosis. Submitted photo

 

OXFORD, Miss. – Chemistry and chemical engineering students from across the Southeast and Southwest gathered recently at the University of Mississippi for a two-day conference designed to promote STEM careers for people of color.

Some 120 students and researchers, including 95 in-person participants, attended the joint Southeast and Southwest regional conference of the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers, or NOBCChE on the Ole Miss campus. Students represented 70% of the total participants for the hybrid event.

“The conference showcased the research excellence of Black chemists and engineers regarded as top experts in their respective fields,” said Murrell Godfrey, professor of chemistry and NOBCChE immediate past president. “It also provided young researchers with a platform to present original research and receive valuable feedback.”

More than 75 students from underrepresented backgrounds in chemistry, chemical engineering and related STEM fields took part in networking and professional development opportunities. Milcah Jackson and Joerg Schlatterer, both of the American Chemical Society, presented professional development workshops on creating effective resumes and curriculum vitae and on making personal connection that matter.

Former NOBCChE presidents Emanual Waddell and Marquita “Dr. Q” Qualls presented on “Opportunities with the National Science Foundation” and “Establishing Your Brand,” respectively.

Students also participated in oral and poster presentation competitions, with prize money at stake. First-, second and third-place winners in each category split $1,650 in prize money.

Tomayo Berida, a pharmacognosy research assistant at UM, won first place in the poster presentation competition. The native Nigerian’s poster, “Novel 1,2,4-Triazolyl Pyridine Agent’s Potent Against Mycobacterium tuberculosis,” deals with ongoing efforts to develop a new class of agents that are potent against the organism that causes tuberculosis.

“I was more than excited (about winning),” Berida said. “It was gratifying to note that my poster presentation was well received by students, faculty and judges at the conference.”

Attendees at the National Organization of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers regional conference at the university include (from left) Montray Leavy, the first African American to earn his doctorate in chemistry from UM, in 1999; Margo Montgomery-Richardson, who received her doctorate in 2012; and Murrell Godfrey, who earned his doctorate in 2003. Formerly director of the Ole Miss forensic chemistry program, Godfrey is assistant graduate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion. Submitted photo

Attendees at the National Organization of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers regional conference at the university include (from left) Montray Leavy, the first African American to earn his doctorate in chemistry from UM, in 1999; Margo Montgomery-Richardson, who received her doctorate in 2012; and Murrell Godfrey, who earned his doctorate in 2003. Formerly director of the Ole Miss forensic chemistry program, Godfrey is assistant graduate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion. Submitted photo

 

Davita Watkins, UM associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, was among the keynote speakers. She recently won a prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER Award for her work on elucidating the role of sigma-hole interactions in advanced functional materials that she develops in her labs on campus.

Others who delivered keynote addresses included LSU professor Isaiah Warner, and Philip W. West, emeritus professor of analytical and environmental chemistry at LSU; Montray Leavy, deputy chief technology officer at Entegris in Singapore; and LaRico Treadwell, R&D chemist and material scientist at Sandia National Laboratories.

Students also participated in a graduate exposition that allowed the undergraduate students to learn about top academic graduate programs and job opportunities. Schools and organizations represented included:

  • Auburn University
  • Texas A&M University
  • LS-PAC MODELS Center
  • Jackson State University
  • Entegris
  • the UM departments of BioMolecular Sciences and Chemistry and Biochemistry and School of Engineering
  • Emory University Department of Chemistry
  • Louisiana State University
  • the American Chemical Society

The Ole Miss academic units provided undergraduate students with information on various doctoral programs and tours of their departments. Both professionals and students had an opportunity to visit the School of Pharmacy’s marijuana and medicinal plant gardens.

“The conference provided a space for discussion to foster partnerships and collaborations that can lead to new research, innovations and solutions to global challenges,” Godfrey said. “It also allowed members of the NOBCChE student chapters to give back to the community by performing a chemistry magic show for approximately 30 9th-to-12th-grade Coffeeville, Mississippi, Upward Bound students during the conference-ending cookout.”

The National Science Board recently bestowed its 2022 Public Service Award to NOBCChE. The award honors exemplary public service in promoting public understanding of science and engineering.

Department Welcomes Prof. Kensha Clark

Posted on: May 18th, 2022 by nhammer

 Kensha Clark, Assistant Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry

Dr. Kensha Clark will join the University of Mississippi Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry in Summer 2022.  Her research interests include ligand design, development of transition metal-based electronic materials, synthetic organometallic chemistry, and catalysis.  Dr. Clark received her Ph.D. in 2010 under the direction of Prof. Alan Heyduk at the University of California Irvine, which was followed by an NIH Post-doctoral Fellowship under the mentorship of Prof. Amir H. Hoveyda at Boston College (2010-2011). After completing her postdoctoral studies, she began work as a Research Chemist in the Polyolefins Catalyst and Product Development Group at Chevron Phillips Chemical Company, LP (2011-2017). From 2017-2022 Dr. Clark was an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Memphis.  She was awarded a Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) starting July 1, 2022.  Clark’s award for $700,000, entitled “Exocyclic Imine Ligands for Electron Transfer,” capitalizes on redox noninnocence in transition metal complexes for the purpose of: (1) predicting electronic and magnetic behavior, (2) exploring ligand facilitated intermetallic interactions, and (3) the design of new functional molecules. This research will develop new synthetic strategies for metal ions with tailored electronic and magnetic properties to produce rationally designed multimetallic complexes that are engineered to manifest desired behavior. Development of these novel synthetic strategies will have an impact on a variety of applications, including sustainable chemical processes via artificial photosynthesis, computing, medical devices, and grid energy storage.  In addition to the proposed research, her Career award will provide increased opportunities for undergraduates in the STEM fields through a STEM major “boot camp” program. By introducing incoming students to exercises to help strengthen their critical thinking skills, support resources (e.g. learning centers and campus tutoring), STEM based clubs/activities on campus, and opportunities for undergraduate research in Clark’s laboratory, this program will facilitate a smooth transition into intensive, university level STEM coursework.

RESEARCH GROUP WEBSITE

 

 

Prof. Watkins Named 2022 Rising Star

Posted on: May 4th, 2022 by nhammer

Davita Watkins among nine honored by ACS Women Chemists Committee

May 4th, 2022 By Lydia Lagarde

Davita Watkins

Davita Watkins

Dr. Davita Watkins, an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Mississippi, has been awarded a 2022 Rising Star Award by the American Chemical Society’s Women Chemists Committee.

This award “recognizes exceptional early to midcareer women chemists across all areas of chemistry on a national level … to help promote the retention of women in science,” the society’s guidelines state.

Watkins is among nine women scientists honored with the award this year. She said she was “overwhelmed with gratitude” when a committee representative called to congratulate her on the honor.

“I have known about ACS since high school and began participating in the organization in graduate school,” Watkins said. “In my independent career, I began to be more active and have been voted onto several executive committees.”

Honorees received stipends to attend an award symposium and to show their work at the annual spring meeting of the American Chemical Society in March.

“It is great to see Dr. Watkins receive national recognition for something we’ve known locally in the department for quite some time,” said Greg Tschumper, chair and professor of chemistry and biochemistry. “She’s been on a stellar trajectory as an independent scholar ever since she joined the University of Mississippi as an assistant professor.”

Watkins received a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Vanderbilt University in 2006 and earned her doctorate in chemistry from the University of Memphis in 2012. She joined the Ole Miss faculty as an assistant professor in 2014 and was promoted to associate professor in 2020.

Her research interests include organic and materials chemistry, supramolecular chemistry, organic electronics, noncovalent interactions, semiconductors, biomaterials, smart materials and conjugated nanostructures.

The Watkins Research Laboratory develops novel functional materials with tunable properties through molecular self-assembly. Watkins and the researchers design, synthesize and study organic molecules that possess unique structural and functional properties.

“Knowing that my role models in the field as well as my peers acknowledge the work I do is humbling and encouraging,” Watkins said. “Additionally knowing that UM values these efforts – particularly recognizing that representation matters – is utmost rewarding.

“I am grateful to my university, colleagues and department for support my work and for ACS’s recognition.”

To learn more about Watkins and her work, visit https://chemistry.olemiss.edu/davita-watkins/

To learn more about the Watkins Research Laboratory or to apply to be a researcher, visit https://watkinsresearchgroup.org/.

Chemistry Professor Honored for Student Service

Posted on: April 29th, 2022 by nhammer

OXFORD, Miss. – Two University of Mississippi employees who have demonstrated dedication and passion for helping students succeed have been honored with a campuswide award for student service.

Norris “EJ” Edney, assistant vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion, and Eden Tanner, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, have been selected as this year’s Frist Student Service Award honorees.

They were chosen from dozens of nominations submitted by students, faculty and staff. A committee appointed by the chancellor weighs nominations and selects faculty and staff winners each year.

 

“As one of the highest honors on our campus, it is not surprising that EJ Edney and Eden Tanner were selected as this year’s Frist Award winners,” Chancellor Glenn Boyce said. “These deserving recipients embody and exemplify the caring nature of our campus community.

“I commend and thank them for their extraordinary and sincere focus on upholding our universitywide commitment to serving and supporting our students.”

Any full-time faculty or staff member, except previous winners, is eligible for the award, which includes a $1,000 prize and a plaque. The honorees also will be recognized during the end-of-the-semester faculty meeting on Friday (May 6).

Eden Tanner, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, has been selected as the faculty recipient of this year’s Frist Student Service Award. Submitted photo

Eden Tanner, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, has been selected as the faculty recipient of this year’s Frist Student Service Award. Submitted photo

 

Although she joined the faculty only 18 months ago, Tanner has drawn praise for encouraging diversity in her academic and research pursuits. Her laboratory group includes one postdoctoral scholar, six graduate students and 18 undergraduates, about 65% of whom are women or nonbinary people, and 40% are people of color.

“She goes out of her way to make her lab a safe space for students of all genders and sexualities and nationalities,” a student wrote in nominating Tanner. “She is a strong advocate for disabled students and equity for people of color.”

Tanner actively works to make sure students are “happy, comfortable and don’t have food insecurity,” the student said, noting that she works to make sure minority students are considered for fellowships and scholarships, and tries to involve them in conferences and other professional opportunities.

“I am both medically disabled as well as a person of color,” the student said. “When I became sick, she herself brought me to the hospital and took a significant portion of her time ensuring that I had time, access to care and supplies to recover.”

Tanner was seeing students during her office hours when the chancellor called to tell her about the award, she said.

“It was a big surprise, and I got to share the news with some of my students,” she said. “I’m deeply honored because student service is why I’m in this kind of work.

“Being able to work with students and provide an open door and opportunities for them is really at the core of our mission here.”

The Frist Award is the most cherished of the recognitions she has received, said Tanner, who joined the faculty after serving as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Oxford in England and at Harvard University.

“I’m so privileged to have a group of bright, talented students to work with,” she said. “It’s an honor to be able to work with them. I’ve worked at some of the top institutions in the world throughout my training, and the students here are really unbeatable.”

The Frist Student Service Awards were established with a $50,000 gift from the late Dr. Thomas F. Frist, of Nashville, a 1930 Ole Miss graduate. Previous Frist winners include faculty members Aileen Ajootian, Michael Barnett, Luca Bombelli, Robert Brown, Donald Dyer, Denis Goulet, Ellen Meacham, Ken Sufka and Eric Weber; and staff members Thelma Curry, Carol Forsythe, Cindy May, Anne McCauley, Valeria Ross, Marc Showalter and Linda Spargo.

Chemistry Major Named 2021-22 Hall of Fame Inductee

Posted on: April 12th, 2022 by nhammer

Matt Knerr honored for service, achievement and potential for success

 

Ten University of Mississippi seniors have been inducted into the university’s 2021-22 Hall of Fame, one of the highest honors given to Ole Miss students.

The inductees were selected by a committee in accordance with policy developed by the Associated Student Body. Selections are based on outstanding contributions in all aspects of campus life.

Members of the UM 2021-22 Hall of Fame were introduced in ceremonies Friday evening (April 8) at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. They are: (front, from left) Grace Dragna, Katelin Hayward, Ella Endorf and Brianna Berry, and (back, from left) Madison Gordon, Matt Knerr, Devan Williams, Merrick McCool, Jon’na Bailey and Ian Pigg. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Members of the UM 2021-22 Hall of Fame were introduced in ceremonies Friday evening (April 8) at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. They are: (front, from left) Grace Dragna, Katelin Hayward, Ella Endorf and Brianna Berry, and (back, from left) Madison Gordon, Matt Knerr, Devan Williams, Merrick McCool, Jon’na Bailey and Ian Pigg. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

This year’s Hall of Fame members are Jon’na Bailey, of Pickens; Alexis “Brianna” Berry, of Brandon; Grace Louise Dragna, of Mandeville, Louisiana; Ella Rose Endorf, of North Bend, Nebraska; Madison Cecile Gordon, of Meridian; Katelin Virginia Hayward, of Grenada; Reinhard Matthew Knerr, of Paducah, Kentucky; Coleman Merrick McCool, of Oxford; Ian Vaughn Pigg, of Clifton, Tennessee; and Devan Devon Williams, of Jackson.

“The 2022 Hall of Fame class exhibited significant leadership during one of the most unique and challenging times in the history of this institution due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Brent Marsh, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs and dean of students. “Nevertheless, they persisted in their academic, leadership, and service endeavors.

“Since the first Hall of Fame inductees were honored in 1930, these students join a long line of individuals who’ve made this university a better place.”

The honorees were introduced during a ceremony Friday evening (April 8) in the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

 

Matt Knerr

Matt Knerr

 

Knerr, a biochemistry major, Stamps Scholar and Barksdale Award recipient, recently was named a 2022 Goldwater Scholar. His collegiate experience has been defined by service to the campus and Oxford communities, mainly focused on Hill County Roots, UM Green Roofs and UM Environmental Coalition.

As president of Hill County Roots, Knerr developed the first student-run tree farm in the state, leading to more than 200 college students becoming more environmentally active.

“I’ve watched myself grow as a leader, a servant and as a person as I’ve worked on this tree farm,” said Knerr, who believes his legacy will be that he helped make the university more sustainable. “My work has given hundreds of college students, public school students and Oxford citizens the opportunity to connect with nature, improve their understanding of Oxford’s environment, smile from the work they’ve done and the causes they’ve helped.”

UM Chemistry Alumnus Selected for Prestigious Teacher Fellows Program

Posted on: April 12th, 2022 by nhammer

Christopher Fox, a University of Mississippi alumnus and Oxford High School teacher, has been selected as part of the 2022 cohort of the Knowles Teacher Initiative.

Christopher Fox, a University of Mississippi alumnus and Oxford High School teacher, has been selected as part of the 2022 cohort of the Knowles Teacher Initiative.

Christopher Fox, a recent University of Mississippi alumnus embarking upon a teaching career at Oxford High School, has been selected for inclusion in a prestigious teacher fellows program.  Fox, who earned his bachelor’s degree and doctoral in chemistry from UM, is among 31 teachers nationwide chosen by the Knowles Teacher Initiative for its 2022 cohort of teaching fellows. The initiative supports a national network of mathematics and science teachers who are collaborative, innovative leaders improving education for all students.

“I was honored to have been chosen to be a part of the 2022 cohort,” said Fox, a second-year teacher at Oxford High School. “I am not a traditional teacher, having been formally trained as a research scientist, and so when I was selected to be among the 31 teachers, it was definitely a confirmation to me as an educator.”

Findings from the Pascagoula native’s doctoral research were published in Biomacromolecules, a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

“I chose to continue my education at UM because I wanted to remain relatively close to family,” Fox said. “I also wanted to attend an institution that would prepare me the most for my next stage in life.”

As a graduate researcher, Fox worked with many Ole Miss freshmen while functioning as a teaching assistant for general chemistry labs as well as a tutor for general chemistry courses. Working with undergraduate students, Fox quickly discovered a passion for teaching and found it rewarding and fulfilling.

“While earning my doctorate, I decided to earn my teaching license via an alternate route program in order to teach on a secondary level,” he said.

Fox finds the interpersonal relationships and bonds formed with students the most rewarding aspect of teaching.

“From my experience, I am convinced that this is what forms the fertile ground for education and learning to prosper in young learners,” he said. “I planned to utilize every opportunity offered by the fellowship to collaborate and network with teachers across the nation. 

“My desire is to learn from this community of educators to perfect my understanding of pedagogy.”

The stipend offered by the fellowship allows for Fox to explore new educational resources and develop labs that help provide practical experience for the students.

Susan Pedigo, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry who served as Fox’s research adviser, said she is not surprised by his achievement.

“I have immense respect for his intellect, his intrinsic sense for the scientific method, his empathy for the human condition, his absolute moral clarity and his thoughtful regard of each person as an individual,” Pedigo said. “Chris could do anything. There are no limits to his abilities or options. 

“Teaching is not a fallback choice; it is his first choice.”

The Knowles Teaching Fellowship is an intensive and cohesive, five-year program that supports early-career, high school mathematics and science teachers in their efforts to develop teaching expertise and leadership from the classroom. Through the program, fellows have access to grants for expenses associated with purchasing classroom materials, engaging in professional development and spearheading leadership activities that have an impact beyond their own classrooms.

Fellows also can get stipends, mentoring and coaching from experienced teachers and teacher educators, and membership in a nationwide community of nearly 450 teachers who are committed to improving education.

Click Here for the original article by Edwin Smith.

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.