What’s Happening in Chemistry Circles

Issue #127

November 8, 2006

         web address: http://www.chem.tamu.edu/ugrad/

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

written by Dr. John L. Hogg


            I am pleased to inform you that Francis Varner, a senior B.A. chemistry major with a minor in French, was selected to receive the John B. Beckham Award in the College of Science Tuesday, October 10. This award is the highest student award offered to a student in the College of Science and recognizes achievement, integrity, leadership and significant involvement in "the other education". Fran received a check for $1000 and a medallion. She was one of two College of Science students selected to receive the award. Fran was chosen from an impressive list of about a dozen outstanding senior chemistry majors. I lobbied for us to be allowed more than one nominee because I thought we had at least two or three deserving students but that request was turned down. Please congratulate Fran if you see her around campus. She has an absolutely outstanding record of academic and extracurricular accomplishments.


            She is a Presidential Endowed Scholar, a National Merit Scholar and was a Mitte Foundation Scholar in the Mays College of Business before she changed her major to chemistry. She will have completed almost enough courses in French to qualify for a double major in French by the time she graduates. As impressive as Fran’s grades are, it is really her outstanding record of extracurricular activities and service to the University that prompted her nomination over all other candidates. Beginning with her freshman year, she was a member of the Fish Council, a member of the Boot Dance Committee, voted best new member by her sorority, a member of the women’s chorus, a member of the Freshman Business Initiative, worked on Big Event, volunteered at Big Brothers/Big Sisters and was in the University Honors Program.

             In 2004-05 she received the MSC Director’s Award, is class of 2007 fund raising chair, and was a student host for Aggie Hostel. In 2005-06 she was again a member of the Class Councils, served as Assistant Director of Maroon Out, volunteered at the College Station Medical Center, worked on Big Event, was a student worker in the Organic Chemistry Lab Program and was active in her church. Thus far in 2006, she has continued to work as a student worker in the Organic Chemistry Lab Program, participated in the Grace Bible Church Home Group, and is a member of Friendship Connection which serves as an outreach group for international women. She also spent the summer of 2006 in a Study Abroad Program in France. She is also very fluent in French.

            Join me in congratulating Fran Varner on her incredible record.





              For the second year in a row, gorgeous weather greeted the estimated 1000 visitors to the 19th annual Chemistry Open House on Saturday, October 28. The event, which has expanded into a “science extravaganza” involving participants from several science and engineering departments, was organized by Dr. Wendy Keeney-Kennicutt, associate director of the first-year chemistry program. There were three Chemistry Road Shows presented to standing-room only crowds in Room 100. Many students, staff and faculty members gave up a Saturday, or more time in many cases, to make the event a resounding success. A complete list of organized activities may be found at: http://www.chem.tamu.edu/class/fyp/ncw/ncw-2006.html





            Pre-registration for the spring 2007 term is set to begin November 16 with Honors early registration. Each student 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. Classifications are based on the current semester and not on what your classification will be at the end of the semester. Enrolled students will receive a Neo e-mail notifying them of their start date and time. Check the following web site for additional information: http://register.tamu.edu/


You may check the on-line schedule of courses at:



            Chemistry majors will want to note the following.


             Because of anticipated crowding in the Chemistry 234 sections, we are encouraging B.A. chemistry majors especially to consider postponing their registration in Chemistry 234 until the fall semester. B.A. students have more schedule flexibility than B.S. students when it comes to labs so we are asking that this be done on a voluntary basis. If the labs are oversubscribed, it may be necessary for me to ask some B.A. students to delay their Chemistry 234 enrollment to allow B.S. students to take the course in the spring semester.


            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 (or Chemistry 237 in some cases). Note that only B.S. students are required to take Chemistry 334 after taking Chemistry 325. B.A. majors take the sequence Chemistry 325/326 instead. Chemistry majors must take the special section of Chemistry 228 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.


            Several chemistry electives are offered this spring. You should note that Chemistry 462 requires completion of Chemistry 362 now. Chemistry 362 (Descriptive Inorganic Chemistry) is now the required inorganic course for B.S. chemistry majors and may count as an advanced elective for B.A. chemistry majors. Chemistry 462 may count as an advanced elective for B.S. or B.A. chemistry majors.


            Carefully check the degree plan requirements and core curriculum requirements in your particular catalog when planning your schedule. You may do a degree audit by going to myrecord.tamu.edu . Click on current students once you are there and then click on the degree audit request option. Please contact me if you have difficulty interpreting your degree audit. As always, continue to call Ms. Warren at 845-0520 to schedule an advising appointment with Dr. Tiner or Dr. Hogg. Please do not send e-mails to schedule advising appointments.



            Students who plan to graduate in the spring 2007 semester should enter the diploma fee when they register and then check the main A&M web site (http://graduation.tamu.edu/) at the beginning of the spring semester to file their degree application online. 



            Thirteen Chemistry majors are scheduled to graduate on Friday morning, December 15 at 9 a.m. in Reed Arena along with other College of Science students. Check the following web site for more details: http://graduation.tamu.edu/



            Three former students returned to College Station for their 20th class reunion on Friday - Sunday, October 13 -15. Drs. Michelle Hebert (B.S. 1986) and Brenda (Thies) Colegrove (B.S. 1986) were joined by Brenda’s husband, Dr. Lloyd Colegrove (B.S. 1983, Ph.D. 1989), and children at the reunion. Michelle, Brenda and Lloyd and their two children joined John and Janet Hogg for dinner on the evening of the 13th followed by some serious reminiscing at the Hogg home following dinner. The group toured the Chemistry building on Saturday morning recalling old times. Lloyd took special delight in pointing out the place he and Brenda first met to his two daughters.

            Michelle is now medical director of the laboratory at Huntsville Memorial Hospital and is also assistant professor of pathology with the Baylor College of Medicine. Friends may contact her at: hebert@bcm.edu. Brenda and Lloyd are both employed at Dow Chemical in Freeport. Brenda’s title is Business Analytical Leader in Specialty Chemicals and Acrylics and Lloyd is Business Quality Leader in Epoxy, Polyurethane Components, Polyglycols and Surfactants. Lloyd obtained his Ph.D. at Texas A&M University under the direction of Dr. Jaan Laane. Friends may contact Brenda or Lloyd at the following addresses, respectively: lfcolegrove@dow.com or btcolegrove@dow.com


            On Saturday morning, the gang met Dr. Daniel Romo, professor of chemistry at A&M, in his office. Daniel, a classmate of Michelle and Brenda, also received his B.A. degree in May 1986. The entire gang had lunch at the Romo house on Sunday.


            Erin (Witt) Hooks (B.S. 2000) spoke to the Chemistry 100 class on Thursday, October 26. She spoke about the variety of positions she has held since graduation. She recently accepted a new position in Austin where she and her husband are in the process of building a house. She now works for Thermo Electron in Austin, TX as a GCMS Product Support Representative. Her e-mail address is erin.hook@thermo.com.


            On September 19, I did a couple of Chemistry Road Shows in Tyler, Texas at All Saint’s Episcopal School where Sharon (Merritt) Birtcher (B.A. 1990) is teaching chemistry. I had a great time doing the shows, touring the school and meeting Sharon’s husband and two children. Based on some publicity about the show that appeared in the Tyler Morning Telegraph on September 22, I received a letter from another former student who is now working in Tyler. Karen (Pence) Shumate (B.S. 1989) is a Forensic Scientist III with the Texas Department of Public Safety Regional Crime Lab in Tyler. After taking 10 years off to begin a family, Karen began working in a crime lab once again. Karen wrote that Melissa “Brooke” Harrison (B.A. 2005) also works in the same lab. She indicated that she and Brooke analyze drug and blood alcohol cases for a 29-county area in East Texas. Friends of these students may contact them at the following e-mail addresses: Sharon Birtcher at sbirtcher@all-saints.org; Karen Shumate at karen.shumate@txdps.state.tx.us; Brooke Harrison at melissa.harrison@txdps.state.tx.us.


            This makes at least four former chemistry majors that I know are now employed as forensic scientists with the Texas Department of Public Safety since Melissa (Supak) Valadez (B.S. 2000) and Vanessa Walters (B.S. 2001) work at the Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Labs in Austin and McAllen, respectively, as criminalists. Erin (Witt) Hooks (B.S. 2000) was also employed by the Texas DPS as a forensic scientist until very recently when she accepted a position with Thermo Electron.


            Dr. Chris McFarland (B.S. 1998) is working for Ciba Specialty Chemicals in McIntosh, AL. He has been there for about one and a half years and joined them after finishing his Ph.D. and Post-doc at the University of Arkansas. Friend may contact him at: chris.mcfarland@cibasc.com


            Dr. Ruben Garnica (B.A. 1997) sent a note recently with the following news. “Just a quick hello. I am still in Cambridge, England at the big university, here but will be back in the states in a few months. I plan on moving to Warsaw, Poland with my girlfriend in February but not till after I spend some quality time with my family in LA. I hope all is well for you and you have a great holiday season. Tell everyone at TAMU hello for me and take care.” You may e-mail Ruben atsocal_garnica@yahoo.com


            Haley (Hagg) Lobland (B.S. 2003) sent some exciting news a couple of weeks ago. She wrote: “Howdy! Well, it's been a while since I last wrote, and a lot has happened since then. I got married last year to my best friend, Jeff Lobland. We had a beautiful baby girl, Taylor Eve, in May. And the whole time I've been working on my doctorate in Materials Science & Engineering at the University of North Texas. I passed my oral qualifying exam yesterday! Now there's nothing standing between me and my degree except to generate some good data in the lab. I'm on permanent sleep deprivation these days, but life is really good. I'll look for you in May when I come down for my brother's graduation.” Congratulations may be sent to Haley at: texasinline@gmail.com


            Dr. Tommy Miller (B.S. 2000) is doing research at UC-Berkeley. He provided the following update on his life as a married postdoc recently. “We are doing really well. Nicola and I are finishing our first year at Berkeley. She finally made it past immigration following months of delay and we have settled in nicely. We're trying to take advantage of the beautiful bay area by becoming out-door-folk. We've become novice jogger/hiker/cyclists. I even ran a marathon (slowly) and bought a tent. We plan to complement this ruggedness by taking some Salsa classes this fall. Work is busy, but fun. In addition to my research projects at Berkeley, I've joined a large collaborative project at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab that is focused on the understanding and development solar-powered sources of energy. Nicola has a new job at a chic architectural design company in San Francisco - all very stylish. We hope you and your family are doing well. Let me know what Ryan and Krista are up to.” You may contact Tommy at: tfmiller@calmail.berkeley.edu

            Nathan Lett (B.S. 2000) is now employed with HARC in the Woodlands doing analytical work in the Trace Detection Lab. He has provided some information about job openings at HARC. This was sent out via e-mail to the chemistry majors earlier. You may contact him at nlett@harc.edu


            Melissa (Supak) Valadez (B.S. 2000) is featured in “career profile” in a supplemental chapter to the 4th edition of World of Chemistry Essentials. The profile is titled “Meet a Forensic Scientists: An Interview with Melissa Valadez.” You may view this at the following website: http://www.thomsoncustom.com/liberalarts_chemistry/forensic_preview.pdf


            Angelica (Cantillo) Glover (B.S. 2006) provided the following update on her activities since graduation. “Dr. Hogg, I have taken a position at the Texas Dept. of Health in Austin; it's where my fiance' works, and he has liked it a lot so far. I'm starting off on Nov. 6th as a Lab Tech III, but I can move to a Chemist position pretty quickly. hey have great benefits because it's a state/government job, and who can beat saving money on gas by driving to work together! So, anyway, I thought I'd let you know. I have also decided to apply to medical school, so this position would allow me to get ready for that. The wedding is this Sunday, and then I'll become Mrs. Angelica Glover. We're going to St. Lucia for our honeymoon. Wish us luck!” Congratulations may be sent to Angelica at: angelica_vca1@yahoo.com

            Christine Kochart (B.A. 2006) wrote to tell about her new position and to offer some advice to current students about job hunting. “Hi Dr. Hogg, How are you? I thought I needed to give you an update of what I have been up to. Well after months of looking I have finally found myself a job. I have been offered a position with the TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) as an Environmental Investigator in Waco, TX. I will basically be investigating air pollution in the Waco region. I start Nov.13th, so I am busy looking for an apartment and packing to move up there. I do have some advice to give to any juniors or seniors that will be graduating soon. Tell them to start looking for jobs as soon as possible, up to a year before graduation. I didn't start looking until spring, when I should have started in the fall. The fall is when the heaviest recruiting for jobs seems to happen. It took me a lot longer than it should have to find a position. I will have to let you know how the new job goes. Hope all is well.” (Note from Dr. Hogg: haven’t you all heard this before?) You may e-mail Christine at: christineak@tamu.edu


            Nnenna Agba (B.A. 2003), former chemist and contestant on America’s Next Top Model last season provided the following update of her new modeling career in New York City. “Hi Dr. Hogg, I have been so busy but I haven't forgotten about you. I did a lot of shows for different designers during fashion week in September. Since then I have been going for castings and I have gotten jobs including a Pepsi Ad/Commercial that will run worldwide, excluding United States and Australia. I am attaching some pictures so you can see what I look like on the runway and the rest of the pictures are from my New York Portfolio. Say hello to everyone and feel free to share my pictures with whoever you wish. I just got signed to a TV agent and I am starting acting classes next month; so that means you might be seeing me on the big screen soon.” Sincerely, Nnenna. (Note from Dr. Hogg: You may contact Nnenna at: nnennaagba@yahoo.com but you will have to come to my office or send me a special request to forward her pictures to you if you’d like to see them.)

            Jenna Nelson (BA 2006) is currently teaching high school chemistry in Navasota.




            Senior chemistry majors Lauren Spencer and Trevor Ewers spoke to the Horizons in Chemistry class (Chem 100) on Thursday, October 12. Lauren spoke about her summer internship at NASA in Langley, Virginia and Trevor spoke about his undergraduate research done under the direction of Dr. Ray Schaak.