Chemistry student group earns chemical society’s high honor

by Angela Herring of news@Northeastern

North­eastern University’s stu­dent chapter of the Amer­ican Chem­ical Society has been des­ig­nated as “out­standing,” the highest honor bestowed upon a uni­ver­sity by the world’s largest sci­en­tific society. The stu­dent chapter also received the ACS Green Chem­istry Award. Together, the two awards rec­og­nize Northeatern’s ded­i­ca­tion to aca­d­emic excel­lence, men­tor­ship and sustainability.

While more than 200 United States uni­ver­si­ties award doc­toral degrees in chem­istry, fewer than a dozen of these received the distinction.

“The awards reflect the broader aims of the depart­ment and the uni­ver­sity,” said Graham Jones, pro­fessor and chair of the Depart­ment of Chem­istry and Chem­ical Biology.

The number of chem­istry majors has quin­tu­pled over the last decade, growing from approx­i­mately 40 stu­dents in 2003 to roughly 200 in 2012. Oppor­tu­ni­ties for under­grad­u­ates have grown in kind.

Chris­tine Dunne, stu­dent pres­i­dent of North­eastern ACS, noted that the biweekly chapter meet­ings con­sis­tently draw about 50 stu­dents. But the group’s excep­tional men­tor­ship pro­gram and reg­ular social events make it more than an aca­d­emic society for Northeastern’s under­grad­uate chem­istry students.

Jones explained that it can be dif­fi­cult for under­grad­uate stu­dent groups to thrive in research-​​based insti­tu­tions like North­eastern. But he noted the uni­ver­sity offers a unique oppor­tu­nity for under­grad­u­ates to par­tic­i­pate in diverse, top-​​tier research projects while also taking advan­tage of the oppor­tu­ni­ties pro­vided by the ACS chapter.

Northeastern’s stu­dent chapter of the ACS was among some 55 chap­ters that received the sci­en­tific society’s Green Chem­istry award, up from 46 from a year ago. This growth reflects the society’s focus on envi­ron­men­tally sus­tain­able lab­o­ra­tory prac­tices and edu­ca­tional programs.

North­eastern is also one of 20 schools that will par­tic­i­pate in the society’s first green chem­istry accred­i­ta­tion process in 2013. The university’s chem­istry depart­ment is cur­rently devel­oping new cur­ricula, which incor­po­rates green chem­istry into the stan­dard class­room and lab­o­ra­tory pro­grams. With the help of two ACS stu­dent mem­bers, Justin Roberts and Connor Houghton, Jones and other fac­ulty mem­bers are out­lining a series of exper­i­ments and lesson plans that focus on sus­tain­able chem­istry and the tox­i­co­log­ical impact of var­ious chem­ical com­pounds. The group plans to pilot these new com­po­nents this spring, with the hope of imple­menting them into the stan­dard cur­riculum by fall 2013.

“This is an example of how the stu­dents can inspire us,” Jones said. “A large number of freshmen arrive at North­eastern with envi­ron­mental and sus­tain­ability issues on their mind. How we then har­ness that enthu­siasm in the chem­istry depart­ment presents a clear oppor­tu­nity for stu­dent engage­ment and the out­come speaks volumes.”

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Posted in Chemistry and Chemical Biology

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