What’s Happening in Chemistry Circles

Issue #121

February 1, 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


            Probably most of you have not noticed but there has been a little delay in this issue of Orbitals. The recent (January 12) accident in the chemistry building has caused a longer displacement from our offices than I expected. Things are getting back to normal in the offices but the research space is coming more slowly. Everyone has been doing a wonderful job trying to make the temporary displacements as painless as possible. The research groups affected have certainly suffered far more than anyone else but, as everyone agrees, accidents happen and no one was injured. Thanks for bearing with us if you’ve tried to contact us during the past few weeks.


            Dr. M. Larry Peck, professor of chemistry and director of the first year chemistry program, has decided to retire and move to Lewiston, Idaho. His retirement becomes official sometime in April but, in the mean time, he and wife Sandy are busy with the process of having a new home built in Idaho. He eagerly looks forward to lots of fishing and boating since Lewiston is between the Snake and Clearwater Rivers. I will provide more details of Dr. Peck’s departure in a future issue of Orbitals. As most people know, he has been a leader in chemical education at A&M, in the state of Texas and nationally. He has received numerous awards for his efforts with the program over the past 32 years. Just this past year he received the Skoog Cup Award sponsored by the Howard Hughes Foundation awarded by the Science Teacher’s Association of Texas for his career-long achievements to science education at all levels. Dr. Peck also received the Southwest Regional ACS Award on November 3, 2005 for his contributions to the advancement of chemistry, chemical education and the profession in general.

            On a personal note, every chemistry demonstration I’ve ever done has been stolen from Dr. Peck and I owe him a huge debt of gratitude for this and many other things. His commitment to chemical education and his dedication to working with teachers at all levels has been very inspirational to me. We will greatly miss Dr. Peck but wish him well in his new life.


            Dr. Eric Simanek, associate professor of chemistry, has been appointed to the position of Director of the First Year Chemistry Program at Texas A&M University. Dr. Simanek's research interests in separation science and cancer therapy continue, and are funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

            Dr. Simanek has hit the ground running and is already working to establish new endowments to support the First Year Chemistry Program. The first endowment, identified as the Peck Endowment for Chemical Education, honors the legacy that the former director, Professor Larry Peck, leaves the Department, the State of Texas, and the nation. The second endowment is intended to support costs associated with the First Year Program Lecture Series. The first public lecture in this newly established series will be Thursday, February 2 at 7 p.m. in Rudder Theatre. Dr. Ralph Mason, Department of Radiology at the Southwestern Medical Center will present a talk titled “Diagnosing and Treating Cancer with General Chemistry: A Role for Innovations in Imaging.” Information about this lecture and other events related to the First Year Chemistry Program may be found regularly at the First Year Chemistry web site: http://www.chem.tamu.edu/fyp/news.php


            Dr. Larry Brown, senior lecturer in chemistry at Texas A&M University, has co-authored “Chemistry for Engineering Students” with Thomas Holme, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. This first edition book (656 pages) is published by Brooks/Cole - Thomson. This is a first-of-its kind book to be written for teaching general chemistry to engineering students. Information about the book may be obtained by clicking on General Chemistry at the following web site: http://www.thomsonedu.com/chemistry/

            At the chemistry site you will also see information about several other chemistry textbooks co-authored by A&M chemistry faculty, including Drs. Peck (several texts for general chemistry), Simanek (Fundamentals of Organic Chemistry, 6th edition with J. E. McMurry) and Hogg ( World of Chemistry Essentials, 4th edition with M. D. Joesten and M. E. Castellion). Several of these texts are to be released this spring with a 2007 copyright.


            Holly Henderson, senior B.A. chemistry major, has been accepted into medical school at Louisiana State University at Shreveport. Congratulations Holly!

            Katie Regan, junior B.S. chemistry major,

recently received a $500 George Bush Presidential Library Foundation Travel Grant to help pay for expenses to travel to the national ACS meeting


            Michael Irwin (B.A. 2003) sent Dr. Fackler an e-mail recently and I’ve taken the liberty to include a slightly edited version of it here. I hope Michael doesn’t mind. “I’m working for Tobin Marks. It was really nice having an article in his birthday issue. I’m progressing very well in my degree. I passed all my classes with ease and my GPA is far better here than it was at A&M. I have almost completed my teaching requirements and have had fun as a “super TA” for advanced general chemistry. In this position, I’m not involved in the lab and I actually lead lecture once a week and I’m responsible for a majority of the course. It’s been a good experience. I take my qualifying exam in the spring, and I’m way ahead of the game having almost completed the written part and my presentation. All I will need to do is update results, when the time comes.

            As far as research goes, I’m working in organic photovoltaics. We are using a polyphenylenevinylene/C60 based cell. What we are currently doing is modifying the interfaces and transparent conducting electrode to increase solar conversion efficiency. Most members of the group take an engineering approach to such a project, but I’m trying to keep mine physical and chemical. I’ve had to learn a lot about semiconductor device construction and physics. Seeing my knowledge in this area was about nil, I think I have learned an overwhelming amount over the last year.” Friends may contact Michael at: irwin@northwestern.edu


              Garbriella Guzzio (B.A. 1997) wrote recently to say that she is now teaching high school chemistry in the Bronx, New York. You may contact her at: Gvg1214@aol.com


            Daniel Taylor (B.S. 2005) is continuing his education and sent the following details which I hope he doesn’t mind me sharing in slightly edited form. “Just wanted to say hi and send you and your family a belated Happy Holidays and Happy New Year. I also wanted to let you know that I have been accepted to the University of North Texas Graduate School under their Criminal Justice program. The reason I applied is that their undergraduate CJ program offers a Certificate of Criminalistics, which a non-degree seeking graduate student can obtain after taking 15 hours of courses in topics like crime scene investigation, criminal law and procedure, forensic biology, and criminalistics. They also have some pretty cool topics courses like shooting reconstruction which is a course in recreating shooting incidents and collecting evidence for such incidents. It’s funny because I thought more school was going to be the last thing on my mind and I was so worried that my academic career at A&M would hinder my progress, but I found that I have plenty of opportunities. And, I've actually found that I have a somewhat renewed spirit with regard to school after my last semester and I've found a career goal too. I'm really going to miss talking with you in your office. Half the time I would make something up just to come in there for a good laugh and there were many times that I thought I would be coming in there to tell you that I was going to give up on school entirely. I can't thank you enough for all the time, help, and guidance you have given me over the years. I always felt that I could count on you to be there to set me straight and not sugarcoat my situation. Despite some of my scholastic shortcomings I still feel like I can be a success and you helped me to see that. It's one of the things I won't forget. When I get a chance to visit CS again, I will make it a point to come in and talk with you a while. I'll keep you updated on my accomplishments from time to time. Thank you again, Danny” You may contact Danny at: dmt.tamu.@gmail.com


            Marinette (Jones) Martin (B.A 2003) and her husband announced the arrival of their daughter, Kendall Rose Martin, on Janaury 23, 2006. She weighed 6 lbs 1oz and was18.5 in long. Congratulations may be sent to: marinettejones @yahoo.com



            Thirteen undergraduate chemistry majors received degrees at the December 16, 2005 commencement ceremony.

            B.A. degrees were awarded to: Matthew T. Bell, Cassidy C. Gardner, Traci L. Germer, Elizabeth Lavender-Levi, Chance M. McInnis, Katrina A. Palmieri, and Anton Truong.

            B.S. degree recipients were: Christopher R. Dalrymple, Haley M. James, Raiman D. Johnson, Lacey C. Martin, Michael L. Singleton, and Daniel M. Taylor.          



            Pfizer, Inc. has issued an invitation for us to participate in the Pfizer Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship Program in Synthetic Organic Chemistry. Students who propose to engage in synthetic organic chemistry research project during the summer between their junior and senior years are eligible for consideration. We may nominate up to two students for fellowships for the summer of 2006. Each award will total $5000 ($4000 as a direct stipend to the student and $1000 to the department or mentor for expenses in support of the research.

            If you are such a student, please obtain the application form from Dr. Hogg in Room 104 as soon as possible. Both the student and faculty mentor must contribute to the application. If more than two students apply, the organic faculty will decide which two nominees to send forward. The deadline for postmark of the applications at Pfizer is February 17, 2006 so all completed applications must be returned to Dr. Hogg by noon on February 14.