2012 Annual Report

Dear Harvey Mudd Chemists and Friends,

It’s a pleasure to sit down a few days after graduation, take a breath, and bring you up-to-date on what we’ve been doing over the past year.

We just graduated nineteen majors, joint majors, and independent program of studies students with strong chemical interests. In March we sent twenty-four students to the ACS National Meeting in San Diego. In addition to making presentations and cruising the exposition at the meeting, our students were the focus of a reception for all HMC alumni in the area that drew more than seventy attendees.

Our faculty and staff have been busy, too. Prof. Kerry Karukstis will hold the inaugural Ingwersen Chair in Chemistry.  Having a named chair is quite an honor and we’re happy to see Kerry recognized. After five years as Dean of Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Prof. Bob Cave will take a much-deserved sabbatical this coming year before returning to teaching and research full time.  It will be great to have Bob back! Prof. Adam Johnson has been on sabbatical in Kyoto, Japan this year.  Many of us have been following the exploits of Adam and his family via their blog, hellokittyhappyfuntimes.blogspot.com (you kind of wonder how many eight-year-old girls will cry when they find that this URL has been taken). We look forward to their return in August. Prof. Lelia Hawkins completed her first year and continues to build and configure all manner of interesting instrumentation for atmospheric studies, some of which take place on the roof of Jacobs Hall of Science–she has already drilled a hole in the ceiling of her laboratory in order to sample the LA basin air more easily! Prof. Katherine Van Heuvelen will join the department in July.  Kathy is an inorganic chemist with interests in the synthesis, spectroscopy, and reactivity of model bioinorganic systems.   Lillian McCollum retired after fourteen years as laboratory manager this past fall.  At her retirement party we presented her with her very own HMC chair and the world’s largest cupcake (as judged solely by the volume of frosting). We will miss her sage opinions and her ability to organize her minions. She is currently “at home” in Riverside, California. Daniel Guerra joins us as our new laboratory manager.  The name might sound familiar: Daniel is the husband of HMC Biology laboratory manager Elaine Guerra.  Daniel enjoys horseback riding and bicycling.  We look forward to making use of these skills and the extensive experience he has in industry.

The College celebrated the International Year of Chemistry with the 2011 Bruce J. Nelson ’74 Distinguished Speaker Series. Madeleine Jacobs, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the American Chemical Society; Peter Atkins, retired Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oxford and noted textbook author; Peter Dervan, Bren Professor of Chemistry at California Institute of Technology; and Judith Giordan, Chair of the Advisory Board at Venture Well, Senior Advisor to the National Collegiate Inventors & Innovators Alliance, and the 2010 Francis Garvin-John Olin medalist of the American Chemical Society were the featured speakers.

We have been busy with curricular design.  We launched a new course this spring: Chemistry 40 Introduction to Chemical Research is geared towards first- and second-year students who want to get into the laboratory.  Structured as a series of four-week rotations through three different research laboratories, student and faculty feedback on the new course is strongly positive.  We continue to hone Chemistry 19 General Chemistry Intensive, our just-in-time companion course for the core chemistry sequence.  Prof. Bill Daub offered the first Choice Laboratory in chemistry. All sophomores are required to take one of these interdisciplinary laboratory experiences available on a wide variety of topics as part of their core experience.  Bill taught the reborn lead laboratory where students sampled lead in soil throughout the Bernard Field Station.

We are nearing the climax of the Stauffer Challenge. Four years ago the John Stauffer Charitable Trust challenged the College with $500,000 of matching funds in support of student summer research in chemistry.  To date we have gifts and pledges of $430,000 in hand.  Once we top out with our half of the challenge the Department of Chemistry will have ten fully endowed summer research positions for students.  This is a grand opportunity to create an exceptional learning experience for our students where your gift would be matched 1:1. If you would like a part in putting us over the top, please let me know!

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. Also, 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. We have 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 New Orleans area at the ACS meeting on April 7, 2013, 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