I began teaching at Randolph College thinking that I would only be here a year. But when the opportunity arose to make the temporary position permanent, it wasn’t hard to make a decision. Randolph is a completely different world than I was accustomed to from my educational background at large state universities, and I really liked the personal feel to the college. The red brick campus began to feel like home almost immediately.
I knew early on that I wanted to go into teaching. As an undergraduate at Florida State University, I tutored chemistry students and worked as a teaching assistant. The challenge of finding ways to make the complex understandable and the satisfaction of seeing someone finally “get it” were and continue to be my motivation. My teaching philosophy is focused on understanding the concepts which underlie chemical phenomena. Of course, most chemistry courses have a large quantitative component, but for me it is just as important for students to explain why something happens as it is to calculate the result. In my classes, students will spend much of their time analyzing diagrams, graphs and chemical demos and not just performing calculations.
Of the courses I teach (General, Analytical, Environmental, and Inorganic Chemistry), the Environmental course is my favorite because it brings together all of the material learned in introductory courses and places it in the context of important national global issues. Smog, ozone depletion, greenhouse gas emissions, global warming, alternative fuels, and ground water contamination are all issues of tremendous current importance, and are also all issues that cannot be understood without understanding the chemistry of the species and processes involved. Although many of these issues represent great concerns, they also provide great opportunities.
As the United States contemplates its dependence on foreign oil, there has been an explosive increase in research related to industrial production of alternative fuels. Well trained chemists will be essential in developing these technologies. Chemists will also be at the forefront in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, cleaning up polluted rivers and streams, and in the development of greener alternatives to current industrial practices. Truly, this is a time in which chemists can expect many new challenges and many exciting opportunities.
For the last several years, my research with students has focused on remediation of lead-contaminated soil. Lynchburg, with its many stately and historic homes, has many areas in which lead from paint on older houses has contaminated the surrounding soil. This lead contamination is a serious health hazard, particularly for children. My students have conducted research on the migration of lead in soil and on novel strategies for remediation of lead in contaminated sites. Most notably, my students have investigated phytoremediation, which is the use of plants to remove lead from the soil. This is a new technology, but is one that is rapidly gaining recognition as a cost effective and environmentally friendly remediation strategy.
When not in the classroom or lab, you can find me tending the garden, cooking, or cheering for the ‘Noles with my wife Sally and son Jack.
I knew I wanted to be an organic chemist in high school and that I wanted to teach it at the college level when I was a sophomore at the University of Michigan, so I'm pretty sure I've found my dream job! I also get to teach Biochemistry, a course in nutrition and Topics in Organic Chemistry. My current research interests involve the study of various techniques to quantify antioxidants in the lab, and the investigation of tyrosinase enzyme kinetics.
I advise students interested in the health professions and really enjoy helping students both sort out their interests in the many fields available and help them work through the admissions prerequisites and required paperwork.
My hobbies are reading, sewing and crocheting.
My passion is teaching. I am one of the richest people on the planet in that I get paid for doing something I thoroughly enjoy.
In all of my classes, I expect my students to work hard and to strive for excellence.
Accomplishments are not measured in how many details are memorized or in how many processes are mastered. What is important is that a true, quality understanding is achieved, such that the student both sees the world with different eyes and can deal with the challenges in her or his future.
To improve my ability to communicate an understanding of chemistry, I have spent the previous fifteen summers teaching general chemistry at the University of Virginia. A memorable piece of student feedback: "I took the chemistry test. I did not know the answers to all of the questions, but what I did not know I could figure out. I made a perfect 800."
I was invited to present an ACS Webinar on Creative Problem Solving in Chemical Research (May 5, 2011). The ACS weekly webinar series is designed to connect ACS members and scientific professionals with subject matter experts and global thought leaders in chemical sciences, management, and business on relevant professional issues. In addition to presenting the webinar, I have participated in numerous weeklong ACS Speakers Tours, been invited multiple times to speak to several local ACS sections, was invited to be the 27th Annual Harold Hammond Garretson Speaker at Lynchburg College, and have been invited back dozens of times to talk about problem solving in research to undergraduate students at the University of Virginia. In each case, the audience response has been positive, reflecting both their improved insights and abilities in problem solving and the entertaining nature of the talk.
In addition to teaching general, analytical, and instrumental chemistry and to working both on and off campus with students on research projects, I offer a popular course in creative and critical problem solving. The students greatly improve their abilities to think and to solve problems. A memorable piece of student feedback came from a student after a summer: "After I was working on my job for two weeks everyone was calling me MacGyver because I was so good at problem solving."
I have spent 23 of the past 25 summers teaching or conducting research at the University of Virginia, James Madison University, the University of North Carolina, and the University of Tennessee. I served as a senior reviewer charged with helping to audit all Advanced Placement chemistry courses in the nation, a consultant for the South Carolina Course Alignment Project, a question writer for the American Dental Exam, an Educational Testing Service chemistry Advanced Placement reader, a National Science Foundation panel member for grant evaluation, a director of the Central Virginia Regional Science Fair, and a master of ceremonies for a high school Academic Competition for Excellence program.
It is very important to me that my students like me, but what is most important is that, 10 years into their futures, they are grateful for what they have learned.