What’s Happening in Chemistry Circles

Issue #123

April 10, 2006


[a publication of the Department of Chemistry at Texas A&M University]

written by Dr. John L. Hogg


            Dr. M. Larry Peck, professor of chemistry and recent director of the first year chemistry program at Texas A&M University, was honored with a half day education symposium and banquet on April 7, 2006. This was in honor of his retirement from Texas A&M where he has been for 32 years. I had provided some details of his impending retirement in the February 1, 2006 issue of Orbitals, but I thought I’d share the following biography he provided on this occasion.


            M. Larry Peck is the ninth of eleven children born to a family of Idaho potato farmers. His father had only an 8th grade education and his mother had been a teacher in a one room school. The importance of hard work and learning was impressed upon the children and, as a result, seven of them went to college. Two have Ph.D.’s, one has a law degree, one is a nurse and the others have become solid citizens with success in business, farming, homemaking, and health care.

            Larry entered Albertson’s College of Idaho without a clear goal. A caring teacher guided him into chemistry. After 4 years of graduate work at Montana State University and with the first draft of his thesis completed, Larry left Montana to begin a teaching career at Michigan Tech. Three years later he left for the University of Arizona where as well as lecturing he had the opportunity to help develop a guide to aid other teachers. That guide was very instrumental in his obtaining a position with the American Chemical Society in Washington D. C. There Larry developed audio and video courses for training chemical technicians The experience at ACS led to his receiving an offer from Texas A&M to return to teaching and to developing curriculum materials - particularly laboratory programs. His videotaped lab instructions have been viewed by over 100,000 Aggies. At TAMU he has had the opportunity to contribute to textbooks, lab manuals, instructor’s guides, solutions guides, etc., all designed to help others become better teachers. His first year chemistry textbook is currently in its eighth edition and is one of the more frequently used introductory college chemistry texts at both American and international schools. It is currently available in three languages. He has authored or co-authored about 30 textbooks and laboratory manuals during his career. For the past 8 years he was director of the Freshman Chemistry Programs. He has always tried to show the same enthusiasm and concern during his guidance of students and involvement with other teachers as the caring teacher who inspired him.

            Larry has been active in outreach programs. He assisted Dr. John Hogg in establishing the Texas A&M Chemistry Road Show van program. He has been successful in obtaining over a million dollars of funding for summer teacher institutes. He is known nationally for his demonstrations. After all, the M. in M. Larry Peck does stand for Merlin! For his dedication he has been recognized at local, state and national levels.

     Throughout his career Larry has had a very supportive wife and has tried to set a good example for their two daughters and six grandchildren. Upon retirement, he and his wife plan to move to Lewiston, Idaho where the fishing is good.


            This is the first of what I hope will be a continuing series of profiles of staff members in the chemistry department. Sarahlilly Hicks approached me about the possibility of her writing this series and I readily agreed. She is a recent hire in the first year chemistry stockroom after being displaced from the New Orleans area by Hurricane Katrina in the fall of 2005. Sarahlilly has been doing some of the Chemistry Road Shows with me and it was on one of these trips that she brought up this idea. Sarahlilly is quite an interesting person in her own right, having worked as a chemist, a teacher and a special criminal investigator, among other things, before coming to A&M. However, she chose to write about one of our long time employees, Melvin Williams, in the chemistry department. Here is here contribution.

            As we journey through our daily responsibilities, I wonder how well do we know the staff of Texas A&M's Chemistry Department. Melvin Williams, a staff member in the chemistry stockroom of Heldenfels, has been with the university for twenty years. Melvin is also an ordained Bishop overseeing eleven churches, four in Texas, three in Mississippi, two in Louisiana, one in Kansas and one in Jamaica. He is a family man, married to Wanda Williams. They have two sons, Barachiel and Joseph.

            Melvin is a humble man with diverse abilities that enable him to multi-task throughout the day. Each day presents different demands. Nevertheless, a day could include setting up chemicals and instruments in the first year labs; preparing demonstrations for the professors' lectures; troubleshooting equipment problems; getting the van ready for Dr. Hogg's road shows; or picking up chemicals and books from the main stockroom.

            According to Veronica Ramirez, Administrative Assistant in Heldenfels, “No matter what the request, Melvin is always cooperative. He is irreplaceable.” When some student workers were asked about Melvin, Rick Liang said, “For Melvin, this is more than a job. He cares about people here and outside the workplace."    Ashlee Jahnke says, "It is nice to work with someone you can count on to get the job done while allowing students to have fun.” When questioned about his work Melvin said, “As a people person, what I like most about work is the opportunity to interact with others. I have always been supportive of education and hope that in some way I can motivate someone to be all they can be.” As you stop for a moment to read this article, it is the intent that you not only know more about a staff member, but that you might have a greater appreciation for Melvin Williams' unique contribution to the Chemistry department. When you see him on campus, I hope you will know the caliber of the man.



            Dan Hollas (B.A. 2004) provided the following update on his whereabouts recently. “Dr. Hogg, How are you doing? I know its been a while, but just thought I'd say hello. I've been doing well... I'm working at Quest Chemical Corp. in Houston; I started out there as a QC Chemist not long after I graduated, and I was promoted to Technical Director about a year ago. We are a pretty small company, which is nice sometimes; I like being on a first-name basis with the head honchos. They do keep me pretty busy though... I've been doing all the R&D for new products and I'm taking over a lot of the regulatory work as well. They also put me over the QC department... I never pictured myself as a manager, but I'm definitely learning a lot and I really enjoy this part of the job. I also work closely with fellow Aggie Chemist Carlie Stephens (B.A. 2005), who has been with us for about 9 months. How is everything in the Chemistry department? I was surprised to hear about what happened to the Chemistry building, but it was great to hear that nobody was hurt. Are y'all back in your regular offices yet? I need to know where to come to say hi if I can ever get out to CS during the week! I was really glad to see that you have co-authored a Chemistry textbook as well. I will be ordering a copy very soon (you can't have too many Chemistry books). My little brother will be starting college at A&M this fall... he has made me proud by announcing his plans to major in Chemical Engineering... of course he could have gone into Chemistry and made me even more proud, but I'll take what I can get. Now I just have to work on convincing him to take your Organic Chemistry classes. I told him I'd work on pulling some strings to get him into the chem majors' class when the time comes. Tell Dr. Tiner and Marylin I said hello as well. Hope to hear back from you soon.” You may contact Dan at either of the following addresses: danhollas@hotmail.com or danielh@questchemicalcorp.com

            Nolan Griggs (B.A. 2003) has written recently about his experiences in graduate school at Colorado. “Dr. Hogg, congrats on the new textbook! I imagine it will cater to chem106 pretty well. It seems like yesterday I was helping you out with that class as an SI leader. Anyway, I hope things are going well for you. I have been plugging away at my Ph.D. and have about 1.5 yrs left. I’ve managed to get quite a bit finished and am planning on doing a post-doc when I complete my work here. Maybe one day I will actually see the light at the end of the tunnel, but so far, no light yet :-). Colorado has been just right this winter (mild on the plains, and crazy snow in the mountains) so I have managed to get about 10 days of skiing in this winter, all in snow up to my knees, which is pretty unbelievable. I know you will probably put this in Orbitals so Ill quit rubbing it in, but it has been a great year. Well, back to work. Please say hello to Marylin, and I wish the best for you both. Best Regards, Nolan Griggs. P.S. I would love to hear from some of my ex-peers, so E-MAIL ME and tell me HOWDY!” You may e-mail Nolan at the following address: griggsn@colorado.edu

              Mike Sarahan (B.S. 2005) has decided to leave industry (I’m not sure how much the hurricanes last year had to do with this) and enter graduate school at the University of California at Davis where he has been offered a fellowship. He’ll be starting on a computational chemistry project with Giulia Galli sometime in May. You can contact Mike at: msarahan@gmail.com

            Dr. Stephen Jeffery (B.S. 2000) completed the requirements for his Ph.D. in chemistry from Texas A&M University on March 3, 2006 under the direction of Dr. Marcetta Darensbourg. His dissertation title was: “Metallodithiolate Ligands as Building Blocks for Molecular Constructions.” Congratulations Stephen!


            Stephen Kerlegon, who will complete his B.S. in chemistry this May, has accepted a position as a research chemist with Celanese in Clear Lake, Texas. Congratulations Stephen!

            Adam Dao, who will complete his B.S. in chemistry in May, has been accepted into medical school at UT-Houston. If he chooses to do so, he will begin the research part of the MD/Ph.D. program in the summer of 2007. Congratulations to Adam!

            Sheena Ellis, who will complete her B.A. in chemistry this May, has been accepted into medical school at the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine in Ft. Worth for the fall 2006 semester. Congratulations to Sheena!

Blake Yarbrough, who will complete his B.A. in chemistry this May, has accepted a position as a chemistry with URS Corporation in Austin. Congratulations Blake!

            Carissa Smith, who will complete her B.A. in chemistry this May, has been accepted into graduate school in chemistry at Rice University. She made the decision to enter the program at Rice after hearing a presentation earlier this year from some former A&M chemistry majors now in the graduate program at Rice. Congratulations Carissa!

            Dominique Galvan, senior B.S. chemistry major, has accepted an internship at Celanese in Clear Lake for the summer of 2006.

            Holly Henderson, who will complete the B.A. degree in chemistry this May, will enter medical school at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center this fall. Congratulations Holly!


            Chemistry 326 (Physical Chemistry Laboratory II) is not going to be offered in the fall 2006 semester. Therefore, if you need this to graduate in December of 2006 you will have to take the course in Summer Session II at A&M!



            We have around 30 undergraduate chemistry majors scheduled to graduate this May. It would be nice to include the post-graduation plans of as many as possible in the May issue of Orbitals. That means that you need to send me the information in the near future. Get the hint?



            As we begin the pre-registration process for the Fall and summer semesters, continuing undergraduate students are asked to enroll for courses that they anticipate actually taking. Students are asked to please refrain from over- or under-registering for courses. Accurate pre-registration behaviors on the part of students will permit colleges and departments to make adjustments as necessary to accommodate additional demands. 


            Pre-registration began April 6. You will find the class schedule information and information about when your registration time will be sent to you by accessing the following web site http//myrecord.tamu.edu. You may also find the information at the Registrar’s web site (http//www.tamu.edu/admissions/records/registration/index.html).

            Just as for last fall’s registration, students must register using the Internet. You will be assigned a registration start time and have 48 hours from that start time to complete registration. The start times are totally random within a certain classification. Information about this may be found athttp//register.tamu.edu/


            Chemistry majors must take the special section of Chemistry 227 (Organic Chemistry I) taught by Dr. Hogg or the honor’s section taught by Dr. Harding unless they have permission from Dr. Tiner or Dr. Hogg to do otherwise. You should register for the laboratory for chemistry majors (Chem 231) when you take Chemistry 227. Do not register for Chemistry 237 or 238 if you are a chemistry major. If you have completed Chemistry 227 and 231, you will then register for Chemistry 228 and 234. We encourage students who were unable to register for Chemistry 234 this spring to take it this fall and not delay enrollment in this course. We have a difficult time accommodating all of the students who try to register for the course in the spring.

            To remind you once again, all B.S. and B.A. chemistry majors must take Chemistry 234 (offered in both the fall and spring semesters now) after taking Chemistry 231 but only B.S. students are required to take Chemistry 334 after taking Chemistry 325. B.A. majors take the sequence Chemistry 325/326 instead. See your degree plans in the catalog.

            B.S. students should substitute Chemistry 362 for the required Chemistry 462 course. Chemistry 362 does not require completion of physical chemistry as a prerequisite and can be taken by juniors. Chemistry 462 (which now has Chem 362 as a pre-requisite) can be take as an advanced chemistry elective now.


            Both summer and fall registration may be completed during this time. You should schedule an appointment to talk with Dr. Tiner or Dr. Hogg well in advance of that date to avoid the rush.  


            College of Science undergraduate degree candidates for the spring semester will receive their diplomas at the ceremony on Friday, May 12 at 9 a.m. Details about graduation may be found at: http//graduation.tamu.edu/ceremon.html


            OI Analytical in College Station is looking for a chemistry student for a part-time position testing analytical instrumentation. The person must be able to read schematics, electrical, pneumatic and flow diagrams. OI Analytical specializes in the research, development, manufacturing, and marketing of high technology analytical equipment. Please mail, fax or e-mail your resume to:

            OI Corportation

            Human Resources Department

            P.O. Box 9010

            College Station, TX 77842

            Fax: 979-690-6183

            e-mail: sjones@oico.com


            AMGEN has associate and senior associate positions available for people with Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees in chemistry in their medicinal chemistry and chemistry process research divisions. Applicants should be able to operate specialized laboratory equipment and computers, demonstrate good analytical skills and have a basic knowledge of GLPs. Well developed interpersonal and communication skills (both written and oral) are also required. The positions would involve assisting research scientists in performing experiments, organizing date, and analyzing results. More details may be found on the announcement outside Room 104 Chemistry. Apply on-line at www.amgen.com Enter the system by selecting the Careers link, followed by the Job Search link. At JOB ID field, scroll to: amge-00018051 and click Submit. Click on the job title for a description an on-line application. Positions are available in Thousand Oaks and San Francisco, California and Cambridge, Massachusetts.


            The local American Chemical Society student affiliate chapter has scheduled their annual banquet for Friday, April 28th in one of the student recreation center banquet rooms. At this event we take the opportunity to recognize outstanding undergraduate chemistry majors in a variety of different categories. Watch for details in an upcoming e-mail.