Science & Technology

UWF chemistry department prepares graduates for success

Graduates of the University of West Florida’s Chemistry Department know a great deal about statistics, and now their own numbers are speaking for themselves.

Among 2015 graduates, 95 percent of students who applied were accepted into graduate programs. 16 percent were accepted to a Top 25 ranked Chemistry PhD program, and 32 percent were accepted to a Top 50 ranked program, as rated by U.S. News.

On top of acceptance into such prestigious programs, many of the students have received merit awards, recruitment stipends and tuition waivers, often amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars over a four-year period.

Such was the case for Carla Staton, who was accepted to No. 12 Yale University and No. 15 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She will attend the top-ranking Chemistry program at the latter, and says UWF helped her get there by providing an excellent education and opportunities to present research at national conferences.

“The accomplishments that my peers and I achieved upon graduating from UWF were due to our hard work and perseverance, but would not have been possible without the support and encouragement of the faculty,” Staton said. “Both the faculty and the students in the chemistry department created an incredible learning environment that helped my peers and I succeed in our ambitions. “

Chemistry faculty say one contributing factor to the success of this year’s 27 graduates is that 100 percent of the students worked in an undergraduate research lab at UWF.

Dr. Karen Molek, assistant professor of chemistry, attributes the numbers to an “intersection of their work ethic, passion and capability aligned with dedicated faculty who provide the highest level of mentoring, teaching, advising and professional development to our students.”

Professors are particularly involved in student education and wellbeing, providing ample opportunities for growth while helping determine the most likely path to success within the bounds of individual passions and interests. They guide students in their applications to a range of graduate and professional schools across the nation.

“We continue to coach and mentor our chemistry majors to have a combination of classroom learning, and importantly, practical application of that learning in our research labs and through interning with local industries,” said professor and chair Dr. Alan Schrock. “Our chemistry majors are well prepared for their next steps, whether to industry, graduate schools, or professional schools.”

Jini Curry, named 2014 Student of the Year by the National Collegiate Honors Council, was accepted into a post baccalaureate program with the National Institute on Aging, where she will work in a lab under the direction of Dr. Vilhelm Bohr, grandson of Niels Bohr, who won a Nobel Prize in 1927.

Curry believes research is critical to success beyond graduation.“Because of my undergraduate research experience, I understand that research does not always go the way we planned, and oftentimes we have to be flexible and come up with new methods to solve the problems at hand,” she said.

Curry largely credits the UWF faculty with the success of recent graduates.

“From the beginning we are taken under the wing of different faculty members and given guidance about anything from course work to future career plans,” she said. “The faculty is never afraid to tell us how it is, even if it may not be what we want to hear. They truly care about us and are concerned about our futures.”

The future is bright for 2015 chemistry graduates, who prepare now for post-graduate work as a new class of eager undergraduates discover all UWF has to offer.