What’s Happening in Chemistry Circles

Issue #129

March 20, 2007

 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



 Dr. F. Albert Cotton, considered one of the world's foremost inorganic chemists and one of the most honored faculty members in the history of Texas A&M University, died February 20, 2007 at the age of 76.
Cotton came to Texas A&M in 1972 as the Robert A. Welch Professor of Chemistry and was named Distinguished Professor of Chemistry one year later. He earned his doctorate from Harvard and, before coming to College Station, taught at MIT. In 1961, at age 31, he became the youngest MIT faculty member to attain the rank of full professor.
"Al Cotton is one of the most important faculty members in the history of Texas A&M University," said Dr. H. Joseph Newton, dean of the College of Science. "He was an integral part of its transition from an all-male, all-military school to the full-scale, world-class research institution it is today."
Former Texas A&M University President Robert M. Gates reiterated the significance of Cotton's contributions as well as of his loss. "Al Cotton is a legendary figure at Texas A&M," Gates said. "From my first day on campus, I knew how important he was to Texas A&M. This is indeed a sad day in the history of the university."

Interim Texas A&M University President Ed Davis noted that Dr. Cotton came to Texas A&M the same year he arrived. "Al Cotton's contributions to the scholarship in inorganic chemistry have been enormous over the intervening 35 years," Davis said.
Cotton, holder of the W.T. Doherty-Welch Foundation Chair in Chemistry at Texas A&M and director of the Laboratory for Molecular Structure and Bonding, won more awards than any faculty member in Texas A&M history.
Among others, he was awarded the National Medal of Science, the Robert A. Welch Award in Chemistry, the Priestley Medal-the highest honor given by the American Chemical Society-the Award in Chemical Sciences of the National Academy of Sciences and the highly prestigious Wolf Prize, viewed by many scholars as having the status of a Nobel Prize. The jury for the Wolf Prize called him the "preeminent inorganic chemist in the world." His body of work on metallic elements has impacted not only inorganic chemistry but also biochemistry, molecular biology, chemical engineering and physics.
The F.A. Cotton Medal, established in 1995 by the Texas A&M Department of Chemistry and the local section of the American Chemical Society, is presented annually for excellence in chemical research. Another award bearing his name is the F. Albert Cotton Award for Synthetic Inorganic Chemistry, which is presented at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society each spring.
Cotton was a member of the American Philosophical Society and the National Academies of Sciences of the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France and Denmark. He was awarded 29 honorary doctorates by universities around the world, believed to be the most in school history.
He has written five text and reference books that have sold in excess of half-a-million copies, including editions in 40 foreign languages. He authored or co-authored more than 1,600 publications, by far the most in Texas A&M's 130-year history.
In an interview several years ago, Cotton said he was most proud of the students he had helped. He directly supervised the work of 116 graduate students-including 67 at Texas A&M-who went on to earn their doctoral degrees, yet another school record for faculty.

"The thrill of discovery and the challenge of finding out something that perhaps no one has yet-those things are still very, very exciting to me,"Cotton said. "Maybe I was born with a lot of energy, because I still love what I'm doing, and seeing my students walk across the stage and get their degrees still gives me a big kick. That's the part I'll never get tired of."
Befitting to Cotton, there will not be a traditional funeral; however, in a few weeks, his life will be celebrated in a memorial to be held in the College Station area. In lieu of flowers or other offerings, his family has requested that donations be made to the F.A. Cotton Endowed Memorial Graduate Travel Award to support graduate students in the Department of Chemistry in care of the Texas A&M Foundation, 401 George Bush Drive, College Station, Texas 77840-2811.
Cotton is survived by his wife of 47 years, Diane "Dee," and their two daughters, Jennifer and Jane.

 (The obituary above was taken from the TAMU Department of Chemistry web site:www.chem.tamu.edu. Details of the planned memorial service may be found at the same site.)


 Dr. Marie Mullen (B.A. Chemistry and B.S. Biology, 1991) dropped by for a visit on January 26. She was in town visiting her sister (Dr. Christine Mullen) and family. Christine (B.S. Chemistry and Biochemistry, 1994) is a lecturer in the chemistry department. I had not seen Marie for many years and it was fun reminiscing with her. She is an Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Massachusetts where she teaches emergency medicine residents the art and science of emergency medicine. She is doing research on severe sepsis and septic shock with a focus on early goal directed therapy. It was obvious from our discussion that Marie loves what she is doing. She was tossing around medical terms and discussing procedures just as if she thought I really understood what she was talking about. It’s always amazing to see the transformation that students make as they progress in their careers. Marie couldn’t help but remind me that either I had given her a C in second semester organic chemistry or she earned a C in the course. It just goes to remind me that there are some very successful physicians (and other professionals) who, at some point in their lives, weren’t too fond of me and the way I teach organic. However, Marie reluctantly admitted that the experience of struggling in organic prepared her to do well in other courses and to develop the work ethic she needed to be successful. Friends may contact Marie at: atm4ever@hotmail.com

 I should not let the opportunity pass to point out that there is a third Mullen sister,Johanna, that has been associated with the chemistry department at TAMU. Johanna received her B.S. in biochemistry in 2002 and is now working at Amgen in California.

 Haley (James) Yaklin (B.S. 2005) wrote recently to announce that she is now married. Hey Dr. Hogg, I'm sorry that I have not written since I graduated but I wanted to see how things were going at A&M. I'm sure that you are picking on your current students just as much as you did us! Well, I'll catch you up on what's going on with me. As soon as I graduated, I continued working at Aqua-Tech Labs in Bryan while planning my wedding that March. So I got married to Joseph Yaklin and I am now Haley Yaklin! When he graduated in May we moved to Spring, TX. I started working as a chemist at Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in Channelview. We bought us a mobile home and we found this really nice mobile home park that we love! So everything is great here in Spring. The only thing is that I drive about 45 min.-1hr. to work (one way) so I have started looking into getting my teaching certificate and teaching chemistry at one of the schools in either Spring or the Woodlands. I'm still deciding though because I like what I'm doing right now but it is just too much of a commute every day, especially when we want to start having kids (which won't be any time soon though). Anyways, I hope all is well in College Station and I will email again soon!” Friends may contact Haley at: haleyyak@yahoo.com


Rachel Wooley (B.A. 2006) has accepted a postion as a science textbook editor at Holt, Rinehart & Winston in Austin. She is currently working on a series of middle-school science books called Holt Science & Technology. Rachel combined her B.A. degree in chemistry with a minor in professional writing while at Texas A&M University. Friends may contact Rachel at: rswooley@gmail.com


Jennifer Goss (B.S. 2005) wrote recently to reveal she has fallen into the quagmire of organic chemistry as a graduate student at Boston University. She is in her second year of study toward the Ph.D. in chemistry. I share the following with you. “Hi Dr. Hogg! Well this holiday went by so quickly, I wanted to send an email to let you know how I was doing! I'm nearly finishing up my second year here at BU, and just beginning my Oral Qualifying Exams. Phew are those a stress causer! I'm actually working on a bit of organic methodolgy and a potential application to a few natural products. To be more specific, I'm working on the asymmetric acid-catalyzed Biginelli Reaction. Who would of thought? Organic Chemist! I've been keeping pretty busy with long lab hours and teaching responsibilities. I'm actually teaching organic lab and have already converted two pre-meds to chem majors! I'm starting to think that teaching must be a definite future for me. My parents are actually living in Libya right now and are trying to retire within the next few years. They built a house a little north of Boston, in Ipswich, and I think my Mom spends more time in their future retirement dwelling than overseas with my Dad! It's been an exhausting couple of years with the family spread out all over the world. Evan (my boyfriend) is graduating in May, and I've already booked a ticket to fly to College Station for it, so I'll definitely have to plan a visit to stop by! Separate from the family and friend chaos and the life of a grad student, I've gotten involved in kick boxing again - something I hadn't done since high school. Not too often you see a butt-kicking chemist! Oh and one more thing! I forgot to tell you that Evan and I ventured over to Norway this past August to visit my best friend. I was fortunate enough to stop by the International School and say a quick hello to the new Principal of the High School - Mr. T.A. Hennard! (Note added by Dr. Hogg: T.A. Hennard got his B.S. degree in chemistry from TAMU in 1991 and was one of Jen’s high school teachers.) I hope that you're doing well and still inspiring. Thank you so much for everything you have done, you are a truly wonderful teacher and friend. I wish you all the best, and hope to hear from you soon. If any soon-to-be grads are interested in the Boston area or have any questions, feel free to give them my email address.” You may contact Jennifer at: jengoss@bu.edu


Bryan Osborne (B.A. 2003) has enrolled at the University of Texas where he is working on a Masters in Energy Resource Management, doing renewable energy research. He worked with and in the energy industry for a while after graduation. His focus now is on coal gasification technologies and risk management within emissions cap and trade programs. The energy industry really needs scientists instead of the politician types that control it now, according to Bryan. Friends may contact him at: bosborne@gmail.com


Ben Cieslinksi (B.S. 1998) sent an update on his life recently. “Howdy Dr. Hogg. I hope all has been well with you the last few years. No more Dewars exploding, I hope! It's been a long time since I last gave you an update on what's been going on. I just went back and read the last few issues of Orbitals (stopped receiving them since I have a new address... and job) and realized that almost all the 1998 graduates were at the Nebraska game... including myself!

 First, let me give you my condolences on the loss of Dr. Cotton. He was a hell of a chemist and a great ambassador for Texas A&M chemistry.

 Second, I decided to take my career in a different path. As you know, I was with Severn Trent Laboratories (formally Radian International) in Austin since graduating. I worked my way up to VOC analytical laboratory supervisor, manager, and then project manager. But after eight years, I decided I wanted a change of pace, and decided to apply my trade on a more socially conscious level. And no, I wasn't fired... just decided to move on.

 I am now a Chemist IV for the City of Houston, Bureau of Air Quality Control. I was hired to develop, design, and operate the Mobile Ambient Air Monitoring Laboratory (MAAML). It's a very visible project designed to use a GC/FID/MS system to collect ambient air samples across the City of Houston, with an emphasis on east Houston areas surrounding the Ship Channel. We will measure certain ozone precursors and air toxics and use receptor modeling to create reverse trajectories to find emission sources. With the dense population of petrochemical plants and refineries surrounding Houston (largest concentration in the world), discovering exactly who is releasing what is much more difficult than expected. No local government in the country has ever taken on this much responsibility towards their air quality, and it's very cool that I'm personally involved. I should receive the vehicle chassis in two months, and am dying to get to work on it.

 It's really different working on this side of environmental chemistry. In the "for-profit" world, it wasn't my concern on how my clients utilized their data. Now, it's my job to analyze the same data and come to conclusions that may shape environmental policy. Since changing jobs in October, I've represented the City of Houston's environmental policies to a conference of environmental regulators, written grant proposals, worked on defining environmental policy for the city council, and participated in community awareness programs. One of my big jobs right now is training the City of Houston's Environmental Investigators in how to use analytical tools and reports (such as portable FIDs, canister sampling, and FLIR infrared cameras) to come to scientifically defensible conclusions regarding environmental violations.

Outside of work, everything is going very well. I'm living just south of Houston in Pearland, and am despising decorating a new house. I have a weekly golf game with my best friend Johnny Gipson (Chemical Engineering, '98) and go to the coast as much as possible. This month, I'm going scuba diving at the Flower Gardens in the Gulf to see the mass mating of hammerhead sharks... cool. And I picked TAMU to go all the way in the NCAA tournament... so don't let me down!

 Please add this address to the Orbitals mailing list, and give everyone a "howdy" from me. Take Care.” You may contact Ben at: Ben.Cieslinski@cityofhouston.net


Domnique Galvan (B.S. 2006) has accepted a position as an analytical chemist with Champion Technologies in Fresno, TX. You may contact her at: chemchic02@neo.tamu.edu


Margaret Haring (B.S. in chemistry and B.A. in physics, 2002) provided some rather interesting details of her life in Austin recently. Here is the slightly edited version of her recent e-mail. “Hi Dr. Hogg, Greetings from Austin. I am still teaching high school math and physics. It has been a fun year. Tom and a collective of people opened a non-profit thrift store here, Elizah is in 3rd grade and playing soccer, and Ptolemy is 3 and uses words like obviously. (Clearly getting ready to fake his way through proofs.)

 I have taken on an alternate identity and am spending my free time pursuing a new career as a Texas Roller Girl. I have just started and had my first bout March 4 where we suffered a devastating loss but my picture was in the Austin Chronicles Sports review along with a little nice comment on how I played. I'll be playing again tomorrow. You can go to www.txrollergirls.com if you are curious but would have to look for Olivia Shootin' John of the Honky Tonk Heartbreakers. The current pictures are make shift ones I took in my yard but I hope to replace them with action shots soon. Our bouts are the first Sunday of every month from March through August so if you every want to come see one let me know.” You may contact Margaret or Olivia Shootin' John at: margaret_haring@yahoo.com



We have 27 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 begins April 12. 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).


The list of classes may be accessed at the following web site: http://courses.tamu.edu/


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. 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. Information about this may be found at: http://admissions.tamu.edu/Registrar/Current/RegSchedules.aspx



 College of Science undergraduate degree candidates for the spring semester will receive their diplomas at the ceremony on Friday, May 11 at 9 a.m. Details about graduation may be found at: http//graduation.tamu.edu/ceremon.html



 First of all, let me refer you to the January 2007 issue of Orbitals (Issue #128) for information about the changes in chemistry course numbers and semesters of offering for the 2007-08 academic year. The main changes that will affect currently enrolled students are that :

Chemistry 327 (Physical Chemistry I) replaces the “old” Chemistry 324

Chemistry 328 (Physical Chemistry II) replaces the “old” Chemistry 323

Chemistry 362 will now be offered in the spring semesters

Chemistry 433 will now be offered in the fall semesters

Chemistry 334 will now be offered in the fall semester

Chemistry 434 will now be offered in the spring semester.

This will require some careful long-range planning on your part (and ours) to make sure you take the courses in a timely fashion to complete your graduation requirements. When in doubt about anything related to these courses, please call our office (845-0520) to check. We don’t want you to have to attend school for an extra semester (or year) simply because you didn’t plan ahead.

 Chemistry majors must take the special major’s section (503) of Chemistry 227 (Organic Chemistry I) taught by Dr. Romo this fall or the honor’s section taught by Dr. Hogg this fall unless they have permission from Dr. Tiner or Dr. Hogg to do otherwise for a valid reason. Chemistry majors should register for the first-semester organic laboratory for chemistry majors (Chem 231) when they 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 in a subsequent semester. 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. As far as physical chemistry lab goes, B.A. majors take the sequence Chemistry 325/326 but B.S. students are required to take the laboratory sequence of Chemistry 325 followed by 334. See your degree plans in the catalog.

 B.S. students should now substitute Chemistry 362 for the “required” Chemistry 462 course from earlier degree plans. 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.

 B.S. students must take Chemistry 433 and 434 labs whereas B.A. students are not required to do this.


Degree Plans for Catalog #130 (2007-2008 Academic Year) are attached to this issue of Orbitals for information purposes. Currently enrolled students should use these degree plans only for the purpose of seeing in which semester certain chemistry courses are to be offered in the future and to plan the timing of their enrollments. Courses listed in boldface have been changed and/or moved when compared to earlier catalogs.



Degree Plans