In many ways, this past year feels like both a testament to how productive our collection of faculty can be, and also a look-ahead to what we can become as we prepare for larger spaces and improved facilities. Planning for the new Sobrato Campus of Innovation and Discovery, which will see our entire department move into brand new teaching and research spaces, has provided an exciting opportunity for us to envision what we can do with our students in larger, open research spaces and innovative teaching rooms.
Once again, our faculty and students have enjoyed tremendous success as measured by external and internal awards, publications, and off-campus presentations. In 2017-18, several publications in high quality journals, all with undergraduate SCU co-authors, came from the labs of Wheeler, Fuller, Stokes, Tillman, Abbyad, and Hoggard. Journals ranging from Catalysis to Journal of Physical Chemistry to Supramolecular Chemistry to Journal of Chemical Education illustrate the breadth of research currently being explored in the department, and the numerous undergraduate coauthors exemplify the student-centered research programs that have become a hallmark of our department. As we head into the summer, over 30 students will be working alongside faculty mentors and will be supported by active grants from the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Health, Jean Dreyfus Award, and Petroleum Research Fund (in addition to internal support). A cohort of faculty and students attended and presented at the ACS meeting in New Orleans, in sessions ranging from Inorganic Chemistry to Cyclic and Topological Polymers. Also, a group of faculty and students participated in this year’s local ACS meeting held at Mills College.
Without question, a departmental highlight was Paul Abbyad receiving tenure along with promotion and securing a highly prestigious NSF CAREER award within about a week of each other. While neither came as a surprise to his colleagues, they provided well-deserved recognition for the high caliber of research and teaching that Paul has sustained since joining SCU in 2012. Another highlight came when Amelia Fuller was named John Nobili Professor, an endowed professorship that recognizes the productivity of her research lab. The department was also awarded a Jean Dreyfus Lectureship award, which will bring out Christy Haynes from the University of Minnesota in Fall 2019. Ching Pan, a graduating senior majoring in Biochemistry, was awarded the DeNardo Senior Prize based largely on his productivity in the research lab: four publications and counting! He will move from the Tillman lab to the Abbyad lab this summer, and remain as a research technician as he prepares to enter Medical School.
In last year’s Chair’s Corner, it was mentioned that Ian Carter O’Connell joined our department, and he is off to an outstanding start teaching in the biochemistry series. His lab is already up and running, and he will have several students working with him this summer in research that sits at the interface of chemistry, biochemistry, molecular, cellular, and systems biology. Megan Tichy finished her first year as Senior Laboratory Instructor, and has made positive changes to the General Chemistry laboratory curriculum. And while we have no “new” faculty joining our department next year, we couldn’t be happier to welcome Korin Wheeler back from her productive, year-long sabbatical at ETH Zurich.
At the end of the school year, we recognized winners of the Michael Sweeney Endowed Award for “student(s) who best exemplify Dr. Sweeney's passion for teaching, curiosity, and humor”, funded by an endowment established by donations from the Sweeney/McSweeney families. This year, similes authored by our majors Ching Pan and Celia Boone were chosen. Other student awardees include Ching Pan (John C. Gilbert and Stephen Martin Organic Chemistry Award), Jennifer Yin and Celia Boone (Joseph Deck Award), and Kalli Dowell, Damon Rideaux, and Harrison Szeto (Bastiani Summer Research Awards).
My second year as department chair is coming to an end, and it’s been great to be part of so much success in our department. As the University continues to move full speed ahead on a new STEM complex, it’s certainly an exciting time to be a chemist at Santa Clara. I invite you to check out our Facebook page to keep up with what’s happening in our department.
Chair, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry