What’s Happening in Chemistry Circles

Issue #131

September 1, 2007


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

written by Dr. John L. Hogg


            Twenty nine chemistry majors received degrees at the May 11, 2007 commencement ceremony.

              David Pyle, Sarah Swingle, and Stephanie Wetch graduated summa cum laude (GPR > 3.9). William Foley, Stephanie Houlgrave, Lauren Nieto and Frances Varner graduated with magna cum laude honors (GPR 3.70 - 3.899). Katharyn Cochrane, Nicole Honesty and Lauren Spencer graduated cum laude (GPR 3.50 - 3.699). Katharyn Cochrane received a B.S. degree in biochemistry and the B.A. in chemistry, LeAnthony Holliness received a B.A. in biomedical science and a B.A. in chemistry and David Pyle received a B.S. in psychology and a BA. in chemistry.

            The eighteen students receiving the B.A. degree were: Neil Boesl, Leslie Cobb, Katharyn Cochrane, Erin Elias, William Fortin, Eric Heidt, LeAnthony Holliness, Stephanie Houlgrave, Elvia Martinez, Kimberly Nash, Lauren Nieto, Eric Nordt, Shyala Pisharodi, David Pyle, Lauren Spencer, Frances Varner, and Stephanie Wetch.


            The eleven students who received the B.S. degree were: Erin Cochran, William Foley, Lauren Gehman, Robert Harwell, Nicole Honesty, Breanna Jatzlau, Matthew Keyser, Robert Mitchell, Katherine Regan, Sarah Stranahan, and Sarah Swingle.


            The summer graduation ceremony included only four chemistry students. Students completing their degree requirements in time for the August 10, 2007 commencement ceremony are listed below.

            B.A. degrees were awarded to Liza Crozier, Gregory Rivera and Joseph Spencer while Michael Grubb was the lone B.S. degree recipient in chemistry.



            Francis Varner (B.A. 2007) and Nathan Snow were married at Grace Bible Church in College Station in May.


            William Fortin (B.A. 2007) will be teaching chemistry at J.J. Pierce High School in Richardson, Texas this year.


            Dr. Brandon Posvar (B.A. 2002) sent the following congratulatory note and news in May. “I just wanted to pass on congratulations for being awarded the Presidential Professorship for Teaching Excellence award. I really enjoyed seeing the fulfillment you got from teaching while I was a chemistry undergraduate. I remember from my prior days reading the Chemistry Department newsletters that you all enjoyed department alumni updates, so Ill take this opportunity to also pass on my familys update.


            After moving to Houston for med school after graduation in May 2002, I married my wife, Helen, in January of 2003 (we had met at St. Marys and further developed our relationship while taking Biochemistry together at TAMU). I graduated from medical school in May 2006 and started my medicine internship here in Houston that same June. In December of 2006 we learned of the best news of our marriagethat we were pregnant (after four years of prayer). We are excited about our boys not soon enough arrival expected this September. In about a month well be moving up to Dallas where Ill start my specialty training in Ophthalmology at UT-Southwestern.


            Thanks for all the work you and the whole Chemistry department invested in my education. I enjoy bragging about TAMU, and Id put the opportunities at A&M up there with just about any of my colleagues. Its no wonder that at least four of the top students in my graduating class were A&M graduates. Hope things are going well for you, your family, and the whole Chemistry department.” Friends may contact Brandon at: brandon@posvar.com


            Kirk Billings (B.S. 1994) established contact again via e-mail in June. I’ve taken the liberty of including his slightly edited e-mail here. “Good Afternoon Dr. Hogg, My name is Kirk Billings and I graduated from A&M’s Chemistry program with a B.S. Degree in December of 1994. A lot has happened since then. I basically became a rock climbing bum for 10 or 12 years, but now I’m working for the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality’s Air Quality Division. (known as the DEQ’s AQD; government has no shortage of acronyms.) I’ve been with the division for about a year now and I like the work. I get to use my brain and work to protect a state that I have adopted as my own. I also wanted you to know that in spite of all the wallets I’ve gone through over the years, I have taken the time to transfer two things each time. The first is your card from the year I graduated and the second is the microscopically small periodic table that the ACS gave out when I was a freshman. Both remind me of my time in College Station. The periodic table has even come in handy a few times over the years! I always kept the business card (made obsolete by the internet) because I entertained (tongue in cheek) hopes of one day speaking to the Horizons in Chemistry class. I have included the title slide from that theoretical talk for your viewing pleasure. Please don’t hesitate to give my contact information to anyone who would like to get in touch with me. I can’t imagine that the opportunity will arise, but I’ve lost touch with some of the folks I went to A&M with and would love to hear from them -- Kathy Prater and Brian McBurnett, to name a few. Of course, if any young chemists have any rock climbing questions I would be happy to field those, as well. I hope this finds both you and Marilyn Warren well.” Friends or rock-climbing enthusiasts may contact Kirk at: KBILLI@state.wy.us


            Daniel Taylor (B.S. 2005) sent the following news in early summer. “Hello, Dr. Hogg! I just wanted to check in, say hello, and give you an update. Life is pretty good right now. I just finished my certificate in criminalistics from UNT, which I highly recommend for students who are thinking of pursuing careers in forensic sciences. It was only 15 credit hours and well worth my time. And if you can believe it I made four A's and one B. I think that's the first time I've done that since third grade or something. Absolutely enjoyed it, made some connections in the industry and have a really good shot at acceptance to their masters program in criminal justice, but I have not decided yet if that's the route I would like to take. Other than that, I have taken a position with Fruit of the Earth in Grand Prairie with the R&D department performing their product stability tests and assisting with product formulations. I'm also helping to push for a new QA lab, which will save the company a lot of money and hopefully create some opportunities for hiring chemists, or a raise and more work for me. Hopefully just the raise. I plan on taking a trip down there later this summer, I would definitely like to stop by and say hello if you are available, I will give you some notice. I will also let you know about potential job openings, one of the ideas we talked about was hiring interns. This may be something the undergrads/grads might be interested in. Please forward my contact information if anyone is interested in hearing more about the forensics certificate and criminal justice at UNT. I have some really good contacts if they would like. Take care.” You may contact Daniel at the following addresses: dmt1_uncc@yahoo.com or dmt.tamu@gmail.com


            Kendall Fruchey (B.S. in chemistry and in physics, 2005) and Vanessa Chapa (B.S. 2004; M.S. 2006) were married on July 28, 2006. Vanessa provided that detail in a congratulatory e-mail in May. Here it is. “Just wanted to say hi, congrats on your award and fill you in on my semi-new job up here. I've been working for Gilead Sciences since September. Gilead is a relatively small pharmaceutical company based in Foster City, CA w/~2000 employees worldwide. I'm working in the Analytical Dept. in Foster City and am really enjoying it. Gilead holds the patent to TamiFlu, but, up until recently, was primarily focused on HIV one-a-days. Now they're branching out to other focuses such as pulmonary arterial hypertension. It's a nice job b/c I get to work with many types of pharmaceuticals in their various stages. I'm also unofficially the only Texan and Aggie in my department. I tend not elaborate too greatly on Aggie traditions b/c I know it'll only confuse people! Aside from work, I'm enjoying the cooler weather and get to see Kendall (Ph.D. program at Stanford) whenever he's not working on his busted laser. Hope all is well in College Station. Come fall I'll be having my Aggie football withdrawals. Stanford is definitely not a football powerhouse!” You may contact Kendall and Vanessa at: vfruchey@gmail.com


            Dr. Thai Ho (B.A. 1998) wrote in May with the following details of his career pursuit as well as news of some classmates. “Dear Dr. Hogg. Hope all is well, I still read Orbitals every other month to see what everyone is doing. I figure I should write you instead of waiting for you to Google my name. I am almost done with my internship at Washington University/Barnes-Jewish Hospital here in St. Louis. Although internship is the most feared time of medical training, my internship has not been bad at all. In response to the 80 hour work week caps, my residency instituted call schedules where there is no overnight call which protects our sleep. I have been out of a lab for more than 1 year and I already miss it. I figure I should be back in lab within the next 3 years to continue on an academic career, although somehow I took the longest possible route. I managed to use my vacation to go home to Vietnam for the first time in my life and it was interesting. As always the best way to embrace a culture is through the food. I was recently a groomsman in Larry Medina's (B.S. 1998) wedding in March; he now works for Agilent Technology selling GC systems putting to work both his chemistry and business degrees. Roberto Rodriguez (B.A. 1998) just had a child so his life now is filled with changing diapers and heating up baby bottles instead of grading papers for his AP chemistry class. As usual feel free to directly print or misquote any contents of this email so that my secret aspirations to become a politician are derailed.” You may contact Thai at: thaiho@gmail.com


            Jorja Duffin (B.S. 2006) is now working in Austin and supplied the following update on her life in June. “Dr. Hogg! I just wanted to send you a note, to tell you how very much I miss you, of course. Also to tell you that I am now living in Austin and am working at Samsung Austin Semiconductor...as an engineer! Go figure. Remember when I switched from Chemical Engineering my sophomore year, and now, I guess they got me back. My job title is Engineer 1. I started here last week and will be training until August. It is a great place to work; it seems exciting, and there are a lot of young people that work here. After we are done training we will get placed in the departments where we will work. I'm hoping to work in a specific department that uses lots of organic chemicals to clean the semiconductors we make here. Yay organic!! Yesterday we started to learn about the circuits that are implanted here at the fab and how they work. I had to send an email to Dr. Soriaga to thank him for his knowledge about circuitry in Analytical Chemistry. He told me to make sure that you also heard about that, since a lot of us chem majors complained (and I'm sure they still do) to you about the electronic portion of that class. Just tell them my story, and maybe they will shut up. I am flying up to Iowa in August for Melissa Halbur's wedding! I'll send pictures if she doesn't. I hope you are doing great! Now that you know what I'm doing...I expect to see my name in Orbitals sometime soon!” Contact Jorja at: jduffin@SAS.Samsung.com


            Kimberly Nash (B.A. 2007) and Andrew Ferguson were married on May 18, 2007 in Montgomery, TX. Congratulations may be sent to the Fergusons at: kimmy7386@neo.tamu.edu


            Lorraine Lyman (B.A. 1997) sent the following e-mail recently and I hope she won’t mind me sharing it with you. If she does, it will be too late to do anything about it. “I hope you have enjoyed the summer. Can you believe it has been ten years since I graduated? I really want to get back to College Station to visit while you and Marilyn are still in there helping out so many students. I am glad to have been one of them.

            I am not sure when I was in touch with you last. I do remember speaking to you one day when I was at Carnegie Mellon. I spent two years there and finished with a Master's degree in Chemistry in 2005. Then, I moved to south Florida. I always wanted to be in Miami, so I felt that it was time. Plus, I remember the Research Director at Monsanto telling me the summer I interned that if I wanted to do well in business then I needed experience in sales. So, I decided to take a break from chemistry and work in sales. I was a Yellow Pages Advertising Consultant/Sale Rep in West Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, and Miami for one year. That was the only thing that even comes close to being as difficult as teaching chemistry in West Oakland. While working in outside sales in the hot Miami heat (in a suit, no less), I decided that I was interested in sales, but only if it was near and dear to my heart. I began thinking about things that I really enjoyed and past experiences and found a program in Consciousness and Transformative Studies at John F. Kennedy University in the Bay area. So, I hopped in the car last year and drove solo from Miami to Oakland. If I ever tell you that I am going to do that again please question me. I taught high school this past year and started my program in June. I have been busy learning about body consciousness, Maslow, Freud, Jung, and research writing APA style. I am having a blast!

            How are your children and Mrs. Hogg? If you would like to tell all the Old Ags that I said hi and am doing well that's fine with me. Hopefully, I will have some really cool stuff to share with them soon. All the best, Lorraine. You may contact Lorraine at llyman2@hotmail.com


            Lauren (Murphy) Norris (B.A. 2005) provided the following update about her recent marriage to Brent Norris (B.S. 2004). “Hey Dr. Hogg! It's been a while since I have talked to you. Well, I guess since graduation. Just wanted to send an update, and see how things were going back in good old College Station.

              I have been working as a synthetic chemist for a company called Cerilliant in Round Rock. I work in the forensic catalogue section, so essentially I make drugs. Yep! Everything from methamphetamine, LSD, heroin, dihydromorphine, cocaine, everything. I love it! It is such a fun job. I started working here about 3 weeks after graduation. Brent and I got married in May of this year, and bought a house in Pflugerville back in January. He is working toward his PhD in organic chemistry at UT right now under Dr. Bielawski. He is doing well and hopefully he will graduate sometime in the next 3 years or so.

              Anyway, I hope all is well with you. We will be in College Station for the first time since graduation on Oct. 13-14. If we get in on Friday I might stop by. Take care! You may contact the Lauren and Brent to offer congratulations at: lauren.murphy.norris@gmail.com



            I heard from Kelly DeCock (B.S. 2006) after a chance encounter with her sister seeking some help getting into a class. Kelly sent the following news (slightly edited) about her entrance into pharmacy school. “Howdy. It's Kelly DeCock. My sister came in to talk to you recently and you mentioned you wanted to know what's going on. And I've got plenty of news that makes me happy.

            I really, really enjoyed my time at A&M and chemistry will always have a place in my heart; I'm often jealous of my friends, like Jose, who stayed and did graduate work. But now there's a new love, and that is Pharmacy and also my fiancé, Zachary Bujnoch. My senior year is when I decided to go to pharmacy, so I had a lot of prerequisites to make up, you may remember. Originally I was wanting to go to UT or A&M Kingsville (if it opened up) but because I had to consider Zachary in my plans, things change. I had to decide on a big city so he could find a job, but neither of us liked Houston. At UT, I wasn't 100% confident I'd get in, so we couldn't plan for that far ahead. So I decided that the new University of the Incarnate Word - Feik School of Pharmacy in San Antonio would be best. I'm from San Antonio, so my family is here and his is nearby in Hallettsville and I know and love the city. It’s a new program so not as competitive. So we moved to San Antonio, and I had to take anatomy and physiology at a community college while I applied for school. I wanted to apply for UT too, just in case, but decided it wasn't worth the money if I was sure I couldn't just pick up and leave to go there. So I ended up taking things like genetics and biochemistry, which I didn't need for UIW. But it’s helping me now as I'm currently in biochemistry. The scheduling is all set out for us, so that all 96 of us are in the same classes, with labs split up into groups of 25. We also have a dress code, which I was unaware of, where we are required to wear professional clothes (or hunter green scrubs on lab days). It does end up looking nice, but it was a hassle and required some shopping. I introduced myself to a guy who I saw had an Aggie ring, and we've been friends since. Also, in my group, there is a girl named Bethany Archer who was a chemistry major at A&M but decided to just do the 2 years, then apply to UIW. So she's made it as well! Before we came to UIW, we had to have 80 hours of observing a pharmacist and that was very helpful and made me sure of my decision. Right now I'm considering simply working in retail, but I know I may be drawn into teaching later, so we'll see what happens as we go.
Yup, everything in my life is going very well. My career is on its way, my love life is great, my family is healthy and wonderful and I'm happy Katie is up at A&M. My friends and I get together as often as we can, though they’re distributed in CS and Austin. It's good to be back in higher learning, though right now this seems easier, compared to my great chemistry degree. Feel free to ask me anything about pharmacy school (or refer students who have questions about UIW to me) and I'll answer as best I can. Thanks for looking after my sister!”
You may contact Kelly at: chemkelly@gmail.com


            Angie Wacker (B.A. 1999) and Michael Walker were married on August 18 in Plano and honeymooned in Banff, Canada. My wife and I attended the wedding and reception and were able to visit with Dr. Shelley Lenamond (B.A. 1998) and her husband Mitchell and Dr. Patty Lathan (B.A. 1998). Shelley is currently a 3rd year Chief Resident at Methodist Medical Center in Dallas. Patty has just accepted a position as a faculty member at Mississippi State University in the vet school after completing a three year residency at Purdue University. The Walkers should be back at home in Dallas so you may send congratulations via Angie at: exasaggie99@hotmail.com. Shelley can be contacted at: shellenamond@yahoo.com. I’m not certain how to contact Patty since she promised to send me details of her new position but has not yet done so. For now, you could try to contact her at: PattyLathan@alumni.upenn.edu





            Melissa (Supak) Valadez (BS 2000) and Steve Valadez are the proud parents of a baby girl (Elena) born on June 21, 2007 at 8:41 a.m. Elena weighed 8 lbs 8 oz and was 20 inches in length. All are doing fine. Congratulations!


            Dr. Kimberly DeFriend (BA 1998) and her husband Stephen Obrey are the proud parents of a baby girl (Kate Arden) born on June 12, 2007 at 8:17 p.m.. All are doing fine. Congratulations.





            Please go to myrecord.tamu.edu to check your degree audit. This will tell you what courses you are still missing from your degree plan and, in the case of directed electives, tell you which courses will satisfy core curriculum requirements. Often, you will be able to answer your own questions about missing requirements if you simply check here before calling our office.




            The following was just received from the Registrar’s Office. To be able to participate in the December 2007 graduation ceremony, a student must be enrolled in everything they need to complete their degree requirements before November 2, 2007. We do require proof of enrollment at other universities, and the "proof" must show that the student was enrolled by the November 2nd date. This includes registration for correspondence, distance education courses and credit by exam. (NOTE: "Mini-Semesters" offered at some universities between December and January are considered to be "Spring" courses, and students cannot participate in the December 2007 commencement if they are planning on enrolling in those courses.) Please refer to paragraph 14.2 of Student Rules concerning participation in the graduation ceremony.




            We welcome 98 freshman chemistry majors to the program for the fall 2007 semester. This entering class breaks the previous record of 84 students who entered in 2004. We welcome the following students to the department.


Name                                               Hometown          State


Sami Abbassi                          Houston          TX

Lauren Abbott                        Sugarland       TX

Kevin Arendt                          Southlake        TX

Lashan Arthur                        Abilene           TX

Matthew Bartula                     Sugarland       TX

Jonathan Behlan                     Weimar           TX

Thomas Buchele                     Houston          TX

Megan Busker                        San Angelo     TX

Peter Bybel                             San Antonio    TX

Alexander Calandra                Jourdanton      TX

Nichole Cardenas                   Spicewood      TX

Molly Chamberlain                Carrollton       TX

Ryan Chang                            Plano              TX

Daniel Conway                       Fort Worth      TX

Hannah Cook                          Bossier City    LA

Alyssa Cortez                         San Antonio    TX

Hunter Couch                         Kaufman         TX

Jana Dalzell                            Navasota         TX

Dennis Dean                           San Antonio    TX

Elina Delgado                         San Antonio    TX

Bryant Delka                          Friendswood   TX

Jason Earles                            Houston          TX

Jennifer Erchinger                  Somerville      TX

Antonio Ferreira                     Bellville          TX

Sandra Fiorentini                    Manlius           NY

Lauren Fletcher                      Plano              TX

Edgar Flores                           Fort Worth      TX

Ryan Fort                                Magnolia        TX

Matthew Freeman                    Melissa          TX

Katherine Goins                     Wake Village TX

Wayland Griffin                     Red Oak          TX

Merid Haile                            San Antonio    TX

Annilee Hamilton        N. Richards Hills   TX

Laura Hanks                           Tomball          TX

Jeremy Harrison                     Lufkin             TX

Erin Havener                          Texarkana       TX

Joshua Horak                          Azle                TX

Kaytlin Huseman                    Canyon           TX

Kristine Jang                           Commerce      TX

Brooke Jenkins                       Argyle             TX

Stuart (Bryce) Kanak              Canyon Lake  TX

William Kolar                        Fort Worth      TX

Natalie Kuhn                          San Antonio    TX

Sean Lau                      College Station TX

Amande Leblanc                    Spring             TX

Stacey Lehne                          Bedford           TX

Cullan Lucas                          Houston          TX

Ashley Lunsford                     Tom Bean       TX

William(Tyler) Masimore      Watauga           TX


Brittney Maze                         Spring             TX

James McCurry                      Earth                TX

William McDonald                 Magnolia        AR

April McDonald                     Cypress           TX

Douglas Melde                       Austin             TX

William Meza                         Weslaco          TX

Nicholas Miller                       College Station TX

Courtney Miller                      Austin             TX

Nicholas Moore                       Burleson        TX

Rishi Naran                            Sugarland       TX

John Oliver                             Plano              TX

Collin Peacock                       Burnet             TX

Dennie Pool                            League City    TX

Elana Prejean                           Beaumont       TX

Courtney Reed                        Richmond       TX

William Rektorik                    Weslaco          TX

Leon Rivera                            Melissa            TX

Laura Rogers                          Carrollton       TX

Ivey Royall                             San Antonio    TX

Alexander Rush                      Spring             TX

Susan Schmidt                        Allen               TX

Cryatal Scicluna                     Cambridge      OH

Lindsey Serres                        Spring             TX

Casey Shatto                           Cranfills Gap TX

Alaina Sheehy                        Eagle              CO

Lindsey Shehan                      Canyon           TX

Abby Sisco                             College Station TX

Andrea Skill                           Plano              TX

Natalie Smadi                         Round Rock    TX

Matthew Soliz                        San Antonio     TX

Kanza Soomro                         Cypress          TX

Christine Soriaga                    College Station TX


Katy Spraberry                       Abilene           TX

Justine Sustaita                        Midland         TX

Charles (Alex) Tabat              San Antonio    TX

Kelly Trinh                             Katy                TX

Kyle Valdez                            Southlake        TX

Julianne Varley                       Bryan              TX

Bianca Villalobos                   El Paso            TX

Kaylan Vollmering                 Victoria           TX

Bonnie Walker                       Brownwood    TX

Lane Webster                         Dallas             TX

Nicholas Williams                  Cypress           TX

Stephanie Wilson                   San Antonio    TX

Andrew Yao                           Houston          TX

Felix Yu                                  Sugarland       TX

Laura Zimmerer                     Lindsey           TX

Holly Zinsmeyer                     Austin             TX





            Two transfer students joined the chemistry program for the fall semester. We welcome the following to the program.


Mason Kovar                          Bryan              TX

Codi Sanders                          San Bernadino CA