What Did I See To Be Except Myself?

This is the title of a poem by Lucille Clifton, the poet laureate of Maryland from 1974-1985 and a two-time nominee for the Pulitzer Prize. From the perspective of the narrator, it describes the triumph they feel from achieving all that they have in the face of obstacles without any role models (“both nonwhite and woman”). How they shepherded themselves through each step of their life (“my one hand holding tight my other hand”). It is simultaneously uplifting and heartbreaking in its description of the narrator’s journey, which is probably the one way to describe the experience of being female and a person of color in America.

With that as inspiration, an idea began forming in my head about an event that would bring scientists to Davidson College that identify as and advocate for underrepresented people in STEM. The faculty in our Chemistry department all present as white, and several students have shared with me their pessimism about the lack of role models that show a person of color can make it in science. Just like Clifton, they have to look elsewhere for inspiration, or find it within themselves….

So I thought why not bring inspiration to them!? Here are the three awesome people that graciously agreed to come to Davidson and bring their message to our students:

Raychelle Burks is a professor of Chemistry at St. Edward’s University in Austin, TX, and is also a gifted science communicator. She’s been featured on the Science Channel, published in The Washington Post and Slate, and cofounded the DIYSciZone at GeekGirlCon. Her tweets are a mixture of science, politics, advocacy, and #BlackandStem.

Mary Crawford is a professor of Chemistry at Knox College and has been a voice for the LGBTQ community in the ACS for many years as a former chair of the Gay and Transgender Chemists and Allies. She was highly recommended by several people, and I couldn’t be happier to have her coming to campus!

Last but not least is Maria Gallardo-Williams, a professor of Chemistry at NC State. As far as I understand, she created her own track for teaching-focused academics in the Chemistry department, to ensure that those who are scholars of teaching are equally supported by the institution in their chosen profession.

This event is co-sponsored by Wendy Raymond’s Faculty of the Future fund and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s FIRST initiative led by Barbara Lom (Biology). The panel discussion with the three visitors will be hosted by the Black Student Coalition on February 11th at 4:30 PM.

I’M SO EXCITED!

New Members for Summer 2019

During the Fall, it’s a mad dash for students and faculty alike to find research opportunities for the following summer. And with the Davidson Research Initiative deadline coming in December, it’s a crazy time to get a new person up to speed on content and able to write a convincing proposal.

I was very fortunate to find three great people that are excited about joining me for research this summer. Ellen Warner (’20), David Choi (’21), and Alexa Greenwood (’22) are ready for action! Expect to see lots of funny photos of them learning how to use a glovebox. Hopefully, we don’t have anymore incidents of people getting sucked inside again….

I would like to make a special shoutout to Ellen because she was awarded one of the Davidson Research Initiative grants for this summer! It’s a huge honor, and a great acknowledgement of the hard work she has put in over the years to get to this point. Go Ellen!

Paternity Leave during Fall 2018!

Being a parent and a professor is commonly talked about, among professors, as a tough combo. I do agree in principle, but I’ll just say that being a parent and trying to do anything else is the hard part! But it happens, and people make it work, and everyone survives.

But thankfully, Davidson College has a parental leave policy that allows for both maternity and paternity leave, in equal measure. I’m not sure why an employer has to pay for this to happen, since our country and community are the true beneficiaries of children that turn into productive adults, but this is the situation we find ourselves in…. It certainly is a good bonus for being an employee at Davidson, so it helps with recruitment I suppose.

I took my paternity leave this past Fall, and it’s been terrific to be with our new baby as they grow up from a newborn to an infant, and finally, to a little kid. It’s also been really important to be around and provide attention and support to the older siblings that are trying to figure out, first, WHO IS THIS BRAT, and second, WHY ARE THEY TAKING ALL MY TOYS?! It’s not unlike navigating a faculty meeting.

I want to thank my department for supporting my time away from my teaching responsibilities, and to Davidson for giving me the option to be where my family needed me most.

Presenting at the EESAT

Our federal government works on a yearly schedule that officially starts on October 1st and ends on September 30th. Why? Not a clue…. But that means that over my career, this time of year is a pretty important one. It means that I’m talking about my accomplishments for the past 12 months and keeping my fingers crossed that new money shows up to get me through another 12 months!

With the generous funding I’ve received through Sandia National Laboratories and the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, I’ve supported myself and my students to get neat stuff done! Many thanks go to those agencies and my sponsors (Dr. Imre Gyuk, Dr. Babu Chalamala, and Dr. Travis Anderson). This funding has brought me to Santa Fe, New Mexico (I’m here right now!) where I gave a talk about all the great results that showed up this past year.

A big highlight for this year was the completion of the synthesis of our flow battery electrolyte ligands. I presented a lot about our guiding principles for molecular design, and I got many compliments on that. Looks like we’re set up for another great year!

Safety first… with some humor

Thanks to Twitter, I found a hilarious but useful way of bringing NMR tubes back and forth between the lab and the NMR spectrometer. It’s a 3D-printed “coffee mug” with nine spots for 9-inch NMR tubes and a few more spots for USB drives! Terrific! Thanks to Terry Moore and Nick Oberlies for the info and the design, respectively!

Welcome to Jay and David!

David Thole (’21) and Jay Nicoleau (’21) are rising sophomores that recently began their first summer research experience with me. Jay will be taking over the redox shuttle project from Nathan Rudman, and David will handle the redox flow battery project that Claudia Hernandez began last summer. They join Nick Kennedy to round out the 2018 summer class! You can read more about them on the group members page.

New funding from Office of Electricity!

The Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability has been a supporter of my research since the beginning of my independent career. I applied and received funding for two years at $25,000 per year to continue my work on new redox flow battery electrolytes. This award is currently funding three students this summer (2018) and will continue to support this effort through the academic year. Thank you to Dr. Imre Gyuk, Dr. Babu Chalamala, and Dr. Travis Anderson for their amazing support!