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ISSUE 119 VOL 4 PUBLISHED 10/7/2005

Positions awarded

By Jean Mullins
Executive Editor

Friday, October 7, 2005

Three science professors received the honor of being named to endowed chairs, announced Sept. 27.

Professor of Biology and Director of Biomedical Studies Ted Johnson was named the Paul and Mildred Hardy Distinguished Professor of Science, Professor of Chemistry Gary Spessard was named the Edolph A. Larson and Truman E. Anderson Senior Chair of Chemistry and Professor of Physics Robert Jacobel was named to the Grace Whittier Endowed Chair.

Endowed chairs or distinguished professorships are positions with endowed salaries as well as additional funds for teaching and research.

"You get to spend a lot of money, but not on yourself," Jacobel said.

Johnson is the second professor to be named to the Hardy Distinguished Professorship, a position with a five-year term formerly held by Wes Pearson, Professor of Chemistry. One of the duties of the Hardy Chair is directing the annual Science Symposium, held in the spring.

Johnson would also like to do something a little different with the money. While in the past some funds have been put towards a summer student research position, Johnson said this year he would like to give a student an opportunity to spend the summer creating a curriculum for a class or a lab, or an integration of two classes.

Johnson is also using the funds from his chair to give students service learning opportunities.

"We need to walk the talk with students," Johnson said. Johnson has already taken a group to Peru this past summer to work with children with congenital defects and will return with another group this Interim.

"I don'’t think that it should just be a title," Johnson said. "There are a lot of possibilities that we can do."

Spessard has similar plans for the funds from his endowed chair. He would like to fund travel for students to go to professional conferences and present research. He has already started funding student research, starting this last summer.

Spessard and his student researchers have been searching for environmentally friendly or "green" alternatives to some chemical experiments done in lab courses. Spessard describes green chemistry as "the new chemistry."

Green chemistry started in industry as a way to cut down on costs for waste disposal. The idea is that if benign reactants are used and as little waste generated as possible, then the reactions to create medicines or other chemical products will be less expensive.

Green chemistry has just started catching on in academic circles, but Spessard and St. Olaf are still at the forefront of this movement.

"It is increasing in use and interest," Spessard said. "I think that students should be exposed to that."

Spessard may use some of the funds from the endowed chair to purchase necessary items for the department, such as licenses for a computer molecular modeling program.

Jacobel plans to do similar things with his funds from his endowed chair. He has already brought in a speaker, a colleague from his glacial research in Antarctica.

Like Spessard, Jacobel wishes to use the funds to pay for students to attend professional conferences and present research.

"More and more students are doing work of a quality that deserves national airing," Jacobel said.

Jacobel wants to spread the money around in the physics department to help pay for some other institutional items.

"You spread it around in the most useful way you can," Jacobel said.

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