Chemistry chapter conducts research, earns distinction

Jill Frank, senior chemistry major, and Joey Easterling, a union alum, presented "Serving Through the Magic of Chemistry" during a national ACS meeting. The poster highlighted the chapter's services, including an ACS, grant-sponsored program they facilitate to prepare east Jackson schools for the T-Cap. | Submitted by Chemistry Department

By Beth Spain

It is the third day of school. The graphs on Jonathan Boyd’s lap are puzzling. As a junior chemistry major, he worked most of the summer alongside Dr. Randy Johnston, chemistry professor and department chair, to produce a refined catalyst.

Johnston, sitting next to Boyd on a sofa with a blanket of the periodic table draped over it, tapped his eyeglasses on his leg. He had similar findings, a chart that spiked high in several places.

“Do we have a hydride issue?” Johnston said. “Is this less stable to air?”

Boyd was one of six chemistry students conducting research during the summer. Savannah Whitted studied at the University
of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and Jill Frank worked at the California Institute of Technology on a project associated with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Throughout the summer, Dr. Charles Baldwin, Hammonds University professor of pre-medical studies, said students clocked 40 hours of work a week and checked chemical reactions during the nights and weekends.

It is this type of dedication and work ethic that forms Union’s award-winning chapter of the Student Members of the American Chemical Society. Membership gives students voting rights within the American Chemical Society and the opportunity to be part of the 160,000-member organization. However, research alone does not bring Union’s chapter of SMACS to the top achievement bracket.

“Research is not conducted to win,” Baldwin said. “Research is conducted to advance knowledge in society.

There are five rankings for the more than 1,000 SMACS chapters: outstanding, commendable, honorable mention, certificate of achievement and not for review. Over the past four years, 9 to 12 percent of the chapters obtained outstanding rankings.

This year, Union’s Department of Chemistry was one of approximately 30 SMACS chapters in the nation to receive an Outstanding Award. The award marks the 12th consecutive year Union’s chapter has received an outstanding ranking. Baldwin said the ranking is recognition of a job well-done and provides an idea of the chapter’s national ranking.

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