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UWF Has Chemistry

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UWF Clinical Laboratory Science
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  Graduates of the University of West Florida’s Chemistry Department are making their mark in the academic and professional ranks around the country. 

Dr. Alan Schrock is a Professor of Chemistry and Chairman of the Chemistry Department at UWF. And he’s not just bragging about the success of the Chemistry Department at the university when he says they have had a lot of success: 95% of UWF Chemistry graduates in 2015 who applied for graduate programs were accepted. And many have gone on to PhD programs at some of the finest schools in the country. Dr. Schrock says the department provides a great base for students.

"We have an American Chemical Society certified degree, and with that degree people will take organic chemistry- the chemistry of molecules of living things. They'll do inorganic chemistry- the chemistry of minerals, and they'll do the experimental work. You know, how do you know that what you've made is what you think it is?"

And much of that experience involves a lot more than textbook exercises.

"Our students get the experience of not only being in the classroom, learning the book material, but going into the laboratories and getting the practical experience. But they're also allowed, and basically asked to do, independent research on very interesting projects. The projects can be academic-type projects or they can be linked to local industry. We get local industry groups, local companies, coming in to ask us to help them with their research questions."

There are about 140 students at UWF working on a Chemistry major. One of them is Matisha Kirkconnell.

"I've gone off to different schools now to learn about their chemistry programs and what kind of research they're doing and I just feel so prepared to interact with those students, even the graduate students, who know more than I do at their point in their career, but I just feel very prepared to go off and learn alongside those students." 

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Credit Bob Barrett
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  Matisha is a senior at UWF who is looking to go on and get her PhD in Chemistry and become a professor. She says being involved with hands on research will help her reach that goal.

"I've been working on some synthetic projects- so making molecules. This semester I'll be working on a physical chemistry lab so I'll be working on an actual instrument and learning how to fix it when it's broken or how to work it when I need to get data from it."

Aaron Mena is starting his third year in the program. He says the UWF Chemistry department offers a good starting point.

"When I started college I never actually thought that I was going to be a chemistry major...Right now I'm a little undecided about what I want to do. if I go the medical school route, I'd like to study oncology. However, if I go to graduate school and study chemistry, I'd really like to study physical chemistry. I'm really thankful for being at this school with this department."

And it’s the success of student’s like these that keeps the UWF Chemistry program growing.  Professor Schrock says because UWF is a smaller university, students get more attention and preparation.

"I think we're having good success and more and more people are hearing about the success. And our population fo chemistry majors is growing. Our objective is to keep the quality of education very very high and give the students the opportunity to do research, and then watch them grow, watch them prosper, and them launch them out into the world to do graduate work, or do pre-professional work, or watch them go out and work in local industries. So, you know, if you're at a big university the faculty there are focused on their graduate students. Here we don't have graduate students so the faculty can focus on the undergrads. The faculty know their undergrads, they know their strengths and their development needs. The research that is done, the work that's done in labs, the teaching assistants, they are all undergrads, unlike a big university. So the students here get a lot of, let's say, hands-on help learning how to research, learning how to be a scientist early. And then, as faculty, we back off as they grow and then they're allowed to have full independence, full access to the laboratories and then they grow. So it's an issue for the faculty, we have to be hands-on at the start and then at the end we're hands off and we've got to transition through there."

And Dr. Schrock should know. He graduated as a Chemistry major at UWF and went on to get his PhD, work in industry and then return to the school to head the department.