Dear Harvey Mudd Chemists and Friends,
The past year was busy - are there any other kind of years around here? But it was also very productive and a lot of fun. We have much to report regarding our students, faculty and staff, alumni, and the college!
We graduated twenty-six majors and joint majors in May. Not only was this a high-water mark in recent history for number of majors, but this was a talented lot, too. The senior class included a Churchill Scholar, a Fulbright Scholar, an Astronaut Scholar, a Goldwater Scholar, and two NSF Graduate Research Fellowship winners. The American Chemical Society national meeting came to our own backyard in Anaheim this spring; three students gave oral papers and twenty-four HMC students presented posters. In addition, the college hosted a brunch at the meeting where over fifty students, alumni, and faculty gathered. This alumni event was so successful that we are already planning another for next spring in San Diego – mark your calendar!
There was much to celebrate among the department faculty. David Vosburg was promoted to Associate Professor of Chemistry with continuous tenure and Adam Johnson was promoted to Professor of Chemistry. We concluded a successful search that will bring Dr. Lelia Hawkins to the department this fall. Lelia is an analytical chemist with interests in the sources, composition, and transformations of aerosol particles as they relate to our climate. She plans to build instrumentation to measure the composition of aerosol particles both here on campus and in the Sierra Nevada (rough duty, but someone has to do it!). On a more somber note, Phil Myhre shut down the lab where he had been working since his retirement in 2001. He and Mary moved to Tennessee this summer to begin the next stage of their lives closer to family. We will miss Phil, his expertise and dry sense of humor, and all the help he provided in support of our current 400 MHz NMR spectrometer (the third workhorse NMR instrument at HMC during his career).
We taught the first year of the new core curriculum that includes a troika of chemistry courses: Structure, Energetics, and Dynamics. In the revamped core chemistry laboratory we introduced a new experiment wherein students make functioning dye-sensitized solar cells (a type of photovoltaic cell) from TiO2 nanoparticles and raspberries in the course of an afternoon. We are also heavily involved in the new core Writing 001 course, a college-wide effort using faculty from all of the disciplines to teach academic and technical writing in classes with an 8:1 student:faculty ratio. In the coming year we will offer our first Choice Laboratory; students will elect one of these required, sophomore-level laboratories from a smorgasbord of multidisciplinary choices.
The 2010 Bruce J. Nelson ’74 Distinguished Speaker Series contained a lot of fascinating chemistry. Titled Powering the Planet–Sustainably, it asked the question, “In the face of climate change, population growth, and global economic development, can solar power meet the energy demands of the planet by the year 2050?” The speakers were Nate Lewis, the George L. Argyros Professor of Chemistry at Caltech; Bill Gross P08, founder and CEO of Idealab and former CEO of eSolar; Dr. Nancy Ryan, Commissioner, California Public Utilities Commission; and Daniel Nocera, the Henry Dreyfus Professor of Energy at MIT. You can view all four lectures in this fascinating series on the YouTube channel HarveyMuddCollegeEDU. Stay tuned for the 2011 Nelson Series that will celebrate the International Year of Chemistry!
Alumni reunion was a blast . There were a lot of chemists in attendance, including a big crowd from the class of ’91 who made it back – it was great seeing everyone.
We’re working hard at staying connected to you. In addition to this newsletter, we continue our grand experiment with Facebook. If you are a Facebook user, please join the Harvey Mudd College Chemistry Alumni group at www.groups.to/hmcchemistry to get updates on departmental and campus happenings. This is about the only place I know of where you can view a movie of VH with balloon bunny ears… Let us know what is new with you – fill out the form at www.hmc.edu/chemalumupdate to let us know where you are and what you’re doing. We mean this broadly, not just the chemistry in your life!
We’re also doing our best to reach out to prospective students. Given that the average eighteen-year-old checks her email an average of once a week, we’re moving to where our prospective students are. We have developed Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr feeds for prospective students, available at facebook.com/hmcchem, twitter.com/hmcchem, and hmcchem.tumblr.com, respectively. Feel free to point an interested potential student in our direction!
We’re busy with the summer research program now. We hope the coming year finds you well. If you will be in the San Diego area at the ACS meeting on March 25, look us up. Of course, if you pass through Claremont any time, stop by. We look forward to hearing from you!
With warmest regards,
Hal Van Ryswyk