What’s Happening in Chemistry Circles

Issue #118 September 1, 2005


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

written by Dr. John L. Hogg


 As I write this, the disaster associated with Hurricane Katrina continues to unfold. We have had students and their families dramatically affected by this event. All we can hope for is that people throughout the United States not affected will open their wallets and do whatever else they can to try to alleviate some of the misery. Try to imagine how desperate you would feel in such a situation and do whatever you can to help. It’s going to be an incredibly long and difficult process and only the good will of people helping people in a time of need can make a difference.


 Twenty nine chemistry majors received degrees at the May 13, 2005 commencement ceremony. Those receiving degrees were:

 Amanda Higginbotham and Amanda Jenkins both graduated summa cum laude (GPR > 3.9). Kendall Fruchey and Anna Schell graduated with magna cum laude honors (GPR 3.70 - 3.899). Ashley Leonard, Melissa Loontjer and James Tyler graduated cum laude (GPR 3.50 - 3.699) Jennie Bauman received a second B.A. degree in history and Daniel Bell received a B.S. degree in horticulture in addition to his chemistry degree.

Students receiving the B.A. degree were: Matt Bradley, Jennie Bauman, Daniel Bell, Jessica Biles, Crystal Brown, Brad Cannon, Ashley Elizondo, Matthew Falols, Melissa Harrison, Jennifer Heiner, Melissa Loontjer, Megan McAndrew, Kerry Mulvey, Lauren Murphy, Carlie Stephens, James Tyler and Abigail Wooddell.

 Students receiving the B.S. degree were:

Erin Donahoe, Colin Evett, Kendall Fruchey, Jennifer Goss, Eric Hendrickson, Amanda Higginbotham, Amanda Jenkins, Ashley Leonard, Jess Miller, Houston Perry, Michael Sarahan, and Anna Schell.


 Four chemistry students completed degree requirements and received their diplomas on August 12, 2005. Sondra Steele received the B.S. degree. Matthew DeVay, Susan Hernandez and Tiffany Powell were awarded B.A. degrees. Kendall Fruchey, a May 2005 graduate, received a second B.S. degree in physics at the summer ceremony.


 Dr. Kimberly DeFriend (B.A. 1998) has been promoted to the position of Technical Staff Member at Los Alamos National Lab after spending some time there as a postdoctoral researcher. She completed her Ph.D. in chemistry at Rice University. You may contact Kim at: kimberlydefriend@yahoo.com

 Sharon (Merritt) Birtcher (B.A. 1990) has returned to teaching A.P. chemistry at All Saints Episcopal in Tyler. She previously taught for six years before taking some time off for children. Several years ago, Sharon’s parents endowed a scholarship in chemistry for students planning to become high school chemistry teachers and several students have benefitted from their generosity. Friends may contact Sharon at:sbirtcher@all-saints.org


Wendy Covert (B.A. 2003) has entered the PharmD program at the University of Houston. You may contact Wendy at the following address: wendycovert@gmail.com

Tammie (Tuggle) Warren (B.S. 2000) and her husband announced the birth of their second son, Cole Robert Warren, on May 28, 2005. He weighed 7 pounds 10 ounces and was 21 inches long. Congratulations may be sent to:fruityfriends@yahoo.com

 Veronica Franz (B.S. 2001) is now working on her Master’s Degree in chemistry at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

 Dr. Brooke Small (B.S. 1994) was an invited speaker at the Texas A&M University NSF-REU Career Day on July 8. Brook is a chemist with Chevron Phillips in Kingwood and talked about his work on “Catalysts for Olefin Polymerization.

 Jessica Biles (B.A. 2005) has been accepted into the College of Pharmacy at The University of Texas at Austin.

 Tiffany Powell (B.A. 2005) has accepted a position as a product classification specialist at Huntsman Corp in The Woodlands, Texas.

 Erin Cockrell (B.S. 2001) sent the following e-mail over the summer and urges her friends to contact her at the e-mail address below. “Hi Dr. Hogg! I am doing great. I have already gone through one career change since graduation in 2001. I was being trained to be a corrosion engineer for El Paso Production company. After 2 years, I decided to see if I could make a living in the fitness industry. I teach kick boxing, yoga, and cycling at 24 Hour Fitness (a huge gym here in Houston). After about a year, I have been able to branch off and work for myself (more money). I also tutor high-school and some college students on the side to give my body a break. There is a huge demand for math and science tutors in the Houston area.. I go out on my own also with the tutoring, not through an agency. This combination keeps me busy and leaves me with plenty of work. I could be doing this for a long time. Please feel free to hand out my email to anyone interested! So good to hear from you! How are the chemistry majors this year? Nothing compares to the graduating class of 2001 right?” Contact Erin at: ecc2001@msn.com

 Beverly Johnson (B.S. 2001) responded with the following e-mail after I was put in contact with her by Veronica Franz during the summer. “Hi Dr. Hogg. It was good to hear from you. How are things at A&M? I haven't been that way in such a long time. I always want to but every time I'm home for a visit there's so much to do that it seems I can't find the time. Well, not a whole lot has happened since I left school. I worked with Southwest Research on Johnston Island for a while and then came back to the states. I'm still in the demilitarization program only now with Alion Science & Technology in Newport, Indiana. I'm hoping to move back home permanently because I miss my family and friends. The really long winters don't help much either. How have you been? Has much changed? I'd like to write more but I'm on a break from work. You can give out my yahoo address as a contact if you want.” Contact Beverly at:johnson_beverly@yahoo.com


Dr. Kyle Plunkett (B.S. 2000) has received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. His dissertation, directed by Dr. Jeffrey Moore, was titled “Hydrogels for Biomacromolecule Immobilization and Sensing.” He has accepted a postdoctoral position with Dr. Klaus Mullen at The Max Planck Research Institute at Maine. Kyle was married to Cynthia Smith (‘01) in Mexico on June 5, 2005. Kyle and Cynthia stopped by for a short visit on August 22. They will leave goon for Frankfurt, where they will be living. Friends may contact Kyle at: Plunkett@gmail.com">Kyle.Plunkett@gmail.com


Alisha Roach (B.S. 2004) has moved to Irving and sent an e-mail about her new job. She is now a Formulation Chemist with NCH Corporation in Irving, TX. Friends may contact her at: adr2345@yahoo.com.

Jennifer Goss (B.S. 2005) has begun her graduate study at Boston University and provided the following details recently in an e-mail to Dr. Tiner and me. “I just wanted to touch base and see how everything's been going for you two. Things are great so far here in Boston! I've been working all summer, starting my graduate career earlier than expected.. I work with Dr. Scott Schaus' group at BU, and am loving all of it. The students are extremely fun, and who would of thought I would end up doing organic chemistry...right Dr. Hogg? I'm working on optimizing the well known Baylis-Hilman reaction. I promise to keep in touch, and expect you two to do the same! ;) I wish you both all the best and miss you very much! Gig em' Aggies!” Jen Goss may be contacted at: jengoss@bu.edu


Chastity Allen (B.S.2003) updated her whereabouts with the following note recently. “Have yet again started a new job. I am currently working for the state agency, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, as a Chemist in their Houston Lab. My new work contact information is callen@tceq.state.tx.us. My work phone is 281/452-4279. I hope all is well with you.”

Quinn Lung (B.A. 2004) has begun a new job in Colorado according to the following e-mail. “Hey Dr. Hogg, thought I'd say howdy. I just started a job as a car insurance claims adjuster for AAA. I swear I tried to get a science job, but I couldn't find any up here in Colorado. I even went to three different staffing firms, so don't say I didn't try. Anyhow, I'm in training for three more weeks, but when I'm done, I will be taking phone calls from people in Northern California. So to recap: Born and raised in Texas, got degree in chemistry, moved to Colorado, deal with insurance claims from California. Life works out funny sometimes.” Friends may contact Quinn at: qlung@yahoo.com

Omar Torres (B.S. 1998) is now teaching chemistry at Moorpark College in Moorpark, California just north of Los Angeles. He previously taught high school chemistry at two private high schools in Los Angeles after receiving his M.S. in chemistry from UCLA. The last year he taught AP chemistry in high school, all fifteen of his AP chemistry students made a 5 on the AP test and he received special recognition from the AP Testing Service for doing such an outstanding job in preparing his students. Omar had previously received teaching awards while in graduate school at UCLA. Friends may contact Omar at: otorres@vcccd.net

Creshaun Zewalk (B.S. 2004) was married to Jarrell Betts on August 16, 2005 in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Congratulations to the new couple.



 Melissa (Supak) Valadez (B.S. 2000) sent the following e-mail in June in response to a request I sent her regarding a presentation that she and Vanessa Walters (B.S. 2001) had made to the Chemistry 100 class. I thought the advice she gives might be of particular interest to some of you considering careers in forensics. “Hi Dr. Hogg, Sorry it took so long to reply. You can certainly make copies of my presentation, but just make sure that they understand there is graphic material contained within it. I was just on an interview board today to hire a new drug chemist in our Laredo lab and had many potential applicants who simply were not qualified. If you do get any students coming in to talk to you about forensics, please emphasize that they need the science degree (chemistry is the most useful and widely accepted). There are so many students out there flocking to these new forensics programs that don't offer a science based program or are very limited on the science they do offer.

Most of forensics involves everyday lab work and for that you need to know your chemistry and be familiar with a laboratory setting. We had one applicant with a forensic degree from Baylor and she will not be able to get a job in the state lab system because she doesn't have the chemistry degree. She'll probably be limited wherever she tries to go. If fact, she only had freshman chemistry and some organic chemistry. She would have to take a lot of classes outside of her degree program to be able to interview. Many of these programs, even programs here in Texas, are not consulting with actual crime labs to determine what their requirements should be.

I hope everything in College Station is going well. My husband and I just purchased a house in March north of Austin in Georgetown. We now spend our weekends mowing the yard. It looks dry as a bone but somehow continues to grow! My husband Steve left the military in December and is now working for Pactiv, the company that produces all of the Hefty products which means we have an overabundance of trash bags to put the grass clippings in! He is a distribution supervisor in the warehouse portion of the plant and is enjoying his work. We're looking forward to football season once again and returning to College Station. It changes so much every time we go back.

Thanks for the interest in the presentation and please pass on my advice to those trying to get into the field.” Friends may contact Melissa at: chemvix@hotmail.com


By the way, there are CD copies of the Forensics Presentation that Melissa and Vanessa made available for checkout and viewing in Room 104 Chemistry. As Melissa warned, there is some pretty graphic material (e.g. dead people, mutilated bodies, etc) on the CD.



 Lauren Spencer, junior chemistry major, received word in July that she had been awarded a $3000 scholarship by the Gulf Coast Chapter of the Air and Waste Management Association (AWMA). The award is made to an A&M student planning a career in environmental science.



 Emily Brock (B.S. 2004) sent the following e-mail recently. This goes to show that if you make really good grades in chemistry, which Emily did, a world of career opportunities opens up to you. “Dr. Hogg, I bet you are swamped right now with classes about to begin again for the fall, but I thought I would drop you a line and let you know what is going on with me. My big news is that I reached my goal of being a professional dancer! (not a professional chemist, I know, sorry) I am now a Dallas Mavericks Dancer and could not be more excited. I am one of only 4 new girls on a team of 18...over 350 tried out! It was a two week audition process and luckily everything turned out just the way I hoped! We have already started practices (3x a week; tough too!) and also had our calendar shoot this past week. The new team is not up on the web yet but should be soon. The website for that is www.nba.com/mavericks, so keep an eye out. I am still teaching at the Dallas Power House of Dance, but only part time now. I started a new full-time job recently, working for yet another dance company, MA Dance. I have taught summer camps for them for 6 years, and now work in their central Plano office helping coordinate the business side of things also. I am extremely busy but could not be happier with the way things have worked out this year. I never knew, however, that this is where I would be after leaving college with a chemistry degree. I hope all is well in Aggieland, and belated congratulations on your award received this past spring. You definitely deserve it! Take carambola.” Friends may contact Emily for free Mavs tickets by e-mailing her at:emily_brock@hotmail.com



 The Office of Honors Programs and Academic Scholarships, through a grant from the Association of Former Students, is pleased to make available a limited number of mini-grants to undergraduate students to help defray costs associated with research-related travel and participation in conferences. These mini-grants are available to all undergraduate students in any department or major at Texas A&M. Generally, awards will not exceed $500.00. Supported activities include travel to a regional or national meeting or symposium for the purpose of presenting a paper or poster based on research conducted by the applicant, registration fees associated with attending meetings or conferences, and travel to archives, libraries, field sites, research stations, and other similar locations for the purpose of data collection or analysis. All applications will be reviewed by a five-member committee and will be judged on the basis of merit and need. Detailed information and applications are available online at:http://honors.tamu.edu/forms/travelgrant To submit an application, or if you have any questions, please feel to contact: Steve Simcik, Ph.D., Coordinator, Graduate School Programs, Office of Professional School Advising, 205 Academic Building, e-mail: ssimcik@tamu.edu;phone: (979) 847-8938 or fax: (979) 458-0873.



 Jeff Kirkpatrick (B.S. 1996) is key recruiter with Celanese and he has provided the following at my request as a way to further highlight some of the career opportunities available to chemists. “Howdy Ags! I hope I find you well in Aggieland. I have recently taken over Key Recruiter responsibilities for my company, Celanese, at Texas A&M. Our recruiting team will be on campus this Fall looking for bright and eager Chemistry majors to join our organization. We have full time openings in Process Support, R&D, and Analytical. We also have internships for the Summer of 2006.

To give you a feel for life as a chemist within Celanese and the industry, I began working for Celanese right out of college. My first role within Celanese was as a Process Support Chemist at our manufacturing facility in Pampa, Texas. My responsibilities included day-to-day process troubleshooting, process improvement, process simulation, analytical development, and quality management. As Chemists you name it we did it. After four years in this role, I moved into a Production Management position where I was responsible for the day-to-day operation of the production unit. I had the opportunity to work in this role for two years at facilities in Pampa, Texas and Clear Lake, Texas. In late 2002 I moved to our corporate headquarters in Dallas, Texas where I became a Global Supply Chain Planner. I was responsible for planning and coordinating production and product movements for our entire distribution network to ensure customer demands were met. Currently, I have switched roles and I am supporting the supply chain organization in our new Performance Products business as a Six Sigma Black Belt.

Beginning my ninth year with Celanese, I am continuously amazed at how far I have come in such a short time span. Celanese has an outstanding culture that challenges you to grow your career in an area of personal interest. Please come visit us at the Career Fair September 13thand 14th in Reed Arena from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. We have 3 Aggie Chemists on our recruiting team this year that are excited about finding out if Celanese is a good fit for you!” You may contact Jeff at the Career Fair or at the following e-mail address: jrkirkpatrick@celanese.com



 Jason Stephenson (B.S. 2002) wrote recently to provide information about a job opportunity in nanotechnology. “I’m still at Rice University working with Dr. Tour on the reinforcement of elastomers/composites using nanotechnology (nanotubes). Recently a post doc of Dr. Tour graduated and has licensed technology from Rice and several other places to create a company called Nanocomposites Inc. This company has really made leaps and bounds in just the 1 year that it has been alive, and they are now looking for a good B.S. chemistry graduate for a job in Houston.

I told him that you post job offers often and that I could send it your way to post to your list of graduates. The company does not have a website (they like to run lean) but I highly recommend anyone who is interested to really check them out. This is a great company and I think it will provide a great opportunity for someone here in Houston to get in on the ground floor of a great business. They have already obtained financial support from Hydril here in Houston and are doing well to expand their role in the nanocomposites industry.

If you could pass on this job opening, I would greatly appreciate it. The CSO is named Chris Dyke (post doc for Dr. Tour) and can be reached at: dyke@nanocompositesinc.com if you are interested in the position.” Jason may be reached at: jjs@rice.edu



 If you are planning to graduate sometime within the next year, you should definitely check your degree progress and make sure the courses you need to complete will be taught in the semesters when you need them. For instance, several required chemistry courses are taught in only one of the two semesters each academic year. Failure to plan could result in a serious delay in your graduation.

 Students planning to graduate in December 200 should go online at http://graduation.tamu.edu/ and complete an application for a degree by September 9.



 We start the fall 2005 semester with a record number of freshman chemistry majors. Seventy eight new students have joined the department. This is only a few less than the old record of eighty four set in 2004. We welcome the following students.

Name High School Hometown

Brittney Amos Avery HS Annona TX

Jillian Arizpe Stony Point HS Round Rock TX

Ashley Babjack Andreas HS El Paso, TX

Catherine Baxter Eagle Pass HS Eagle Pass, TX

Hiren Bhakta Franklin HS El Paso, TX

Abhishek Bhaumik Cinco Ranch HS Katy, TX

Brian Bowers Randall High School Amarillo, TX

Mallory Bradsher Edward S. Marcus HS Flower Mound, TX

Christopher Bransford Montwood HS El Paso, TX

Brandon Brown Manor HS Austin, TX

Tiffany Camp Spring HS Spring, TX

Allie Carpenter MS School Math & Science Sumrall, MS

Crystal Coker Willis HS Willis, TX

Jake Contrell Snyder HS Snyder, TX

Nathaniel Davenport Pinewood Prep School Goose Creek, SC

James Delfeld Westwood HS Austin, TX

Linde Dellinger Celina HS Celina, TX

Lucille Dewitt Nacogdoches HS Nacogdoches, TX

Shyreen Dulanya Allen HS Allen, TX

Catherine Dunlap McNeil HS Austin, TX

Charles Frazar Martinsville HS Nacogdoches, TX

Omobolanle Gbadamosi HS in Nigeria Lagos, Nigeria

Mallory Gessner Clear Lake HS Houston, TX

Jonathan Greiner Pearland HS Pearland, TX

Leslie Hawkins Willis HS The Woodlands, TX

Issac Hernandez Spring High School Spring, TX

Logan Holt Powell HS Powell, WY

Katie Huseman Alamo Catholic HS Amarillo, TX

Min K Kang James W. Martin HS Arlington, TX

Christine Keefe Cypress Falls HS Houston, TX

Justin Kennedy Richland Sr. HS Watauga, TX

Ashlee Kidwell West Orange Stark HS Orange, TX

Stephanie Kochart Randolph HS Schertz, TX

Allison Kohn James W. Martin HS Arlington, TX

Susan Koons Klein HS Spring, TX

Kimberly Krenek Boling HS Wharton, TX

Christopher Labrie Keystone School San Antonio, TX

Amanda Laughlin Huntsville HS Navasota, TX

Brian Lee Amer. Intl. School of Lisbon Sugar Land, TX

Yeu-San Lin Clear Lake HS Houston, TX

Connor Marcum Richland Sr. HS North Richland, TX

Jonathan Marshall Prairie Lea HS Luling, TX

Thomas Mathew Fossil Ridge HS Watauga, TX

Christina Matz McKinney North HS McKinney, TX

David Moore North Crowley HS Fort Worth, TX

Andrew Morris Lufkin HS Lufkin, TX

Adrian Mounetou St. Augustine HS Laredo, TX

Benjamin Naberhaus James W Martin HS Arlington, TX

Matthew Neuman Ben Franklin Terry HS Beasley, TX

Lisa Olivarez Cypress Falls HS Houston, TX

Jesus Ortega Del Valle HS Austin, TX

Hshinyoung Park Mayde Creek HS Katy, TX

Devang Patel San Marcus HS San Marcus, TX

Michael Patillo W B Ray HS Corpus Christi, TX

Grantham Peltier Tomball HS Tomball, TX

Anna Plemons Carroll HS Southlake, TX

Jessica Rago Skutt Catholic HS Omaha, NE

Matthew Raiford West Brook Sr. HS Beaumont, TX

Drew Roberts Greenville HS Greenville, TX

Stephanie Rocha SP Waltrip Sr. HS Houston, TX

Fernando Rodroguez Copperas Cove HS Copperas Cove, TX

Jenna Rozell Huntsville HS Huntsville, TX

Paige Sandlin Cy-Fair Senior HS Cypress, TX

Stevanie Schneider Bellville HS Bellville, TX

Andrew Stein Hargrave HS Huffman, TX

Audrey Streckfuss Bellville HS Bellville, TX

Randall Suders Jamestown HS Williamsburg, VA

Kathryn Sullivan James W. Martin HS Mansfield, TX

Jordan Theim Del Valle HS Creedmoor, TX

Alexander Todd Bonham HS Bonham, TX

Thanh Loan Tran HS Health Professions Houston, TX

Katrina Trapp La Cueva HS Albuquerque, NM

Kelly Wagner Nolan Catholic HS Fort Worth, TX

Jared Walker Clear Creek HS League City, TX

Jennifer Wallace Cypress Falls HS Houston, TX

Kyle Weigum Fossil Ridge HS Halton City, TX

Elizabeth Wesley W.E. Boswell HS Saginaw, TX

Kathleen Wild Cuero HS Cuero, TX


We also welcome five new transfer students into the Chemistry Department. They are:


David Lakin Weatherford College

Brittany Svrek Wharton County Jr. College

Daniel Hitchcock North Harris County Comm. Coll.

Ryan Olbrich Univ. Mary Hardin Baylor

Nicole Pearsall Blinn College