Integrating Chemistry

Jan 2, 2007

Two new Chemistry degree programs at Kettering expand academic and professional opportunities for students.

Two new Chemistry degrees at Kettering have been instituted to replace the original Environmental Chemistry degree program, and a third may be on the way, according to Dr. Diana Phillips, associate professor of Chemistry and program director for Chemistry. The new degree programs are Chemistry and Biochemistry.

Phillips is also working on a proposal for a degree program in Chemical Engineering. "We have many of the classes necessary to meet ABET guidelines," she said. ABET, Inc., formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, is a non-profit organization that serves the public by accrediting U.S. post secondary degree programs in applied science, computing, engineering, and technology.

"This is the first year Environmental Chemistry is not listed as a degree program in the course catalog," said Phillips. The change in programs is designed to expand opportunities for students interested in science degrees and careers, and integrate better with other Kettering degree programs.

Laboratories for the new Biochemistry program are currently under construction and are expected to be open for the 2007-08 school year when the freshman class arrives on campus in July 2007.

They join the already operating Bell Chemistry Labs, and will increase lab space and include a simulated surgery area for use in the Anatomy and Physiology classes.

Currently, the two new Chemistry programs are similar in requirements for graduation, but Phillips hopes the Biochemistry program will develop specific minor concentrations in areas such as molecular science, that will differentiate it from the Chemistry degree.

"Chemists and Biochemists can go into many of the same career fields," said Phillips. "There is a great deal of overlap in the disciplines."

"The major difference in the programs is that a degree in Biochemistry is a jumping off place for students interested in medical school," Phillips said. "Biochemists are knowledgeable in how biological systems interact. Many people with Biochemistry degrees are found in drug companies, pharmacies and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, she added.

For Kettering students, a Chemistry or Biochemistry degree is attractive to co-op partners, such as the FBI, who are looking for people with good analytical skills. "Chemistry majors would be ideal in such positions," said Phillips.

Kettering's Chemistry program is patterned after the American Chemical Society's (ACS) criteria for scientific certification. "We need to add one more course to qualify for ACS certification," according to Phillips.

The Chemistry Department is currently working on developing a course in spectroscopy so students can benefit from graduating from a program with ACS certification. "ACS certification indicates a very rigorous science degree program," Phillips said.

Phillips is also exploring ideas in an attempt to identify a niche to make Kettering's Chemistry program stand out from other Chemistry programs. "There are so many changes in science recently and overlapping of disciplines, that scientific study has become more integrated, she said. "We'd like to be pro-active in integrating our program with other disciplines to prepare our students for the new marketplace."

One example of that overlap at Kettering is between Chemistry and Physics and the study of nanotechnology. Both programs use surface analysis instrumentation to work in a nano-scale. The Chemistry Department owns an Electron Spectroscopy for Chemical Analysis (ESCA) which is housed in the Physics Department, enabling Physics faculty and students to use the equipment in nano-technology research.

"No other undergraduate program in the world has an ESCA for faculty and student use," said Phillips.

Blending in another new technology, fuel cells, the Chemistry program has developed a fuel cell Chemistry class that will use both the ESCA and the Environmental Scanning Electron Microscope (ESEM) for research.

Phillips' proposal for the Chemical Engineering degree is another way to find a niche in the field of Science. The proposal includes offering a class in Arabic language because many chemical engineering positions involve work in the petro-chemical industry and include overseas postings. "I'm trying to think outside the box," she said, "and develop programs that stand out.

One marketplace advantage is the University's close collaboration with industry. Because of the cooperative education program, the Chemistry Department has an advisory board of professionals from industry who can offer advice about elements of the degree programs. This real world input is invaluable.

Already different than most science-related degree programs because of the co-operative work experience, Kettering Chemistry degrees are unlike other Chemistry programs in that they have a research requirement as well. All Biochemistry and Chemistry majors have to complete two terms of research with a faculty member to graduate, in addition to a fifth-year thesis project.

Written by Dawn Hibbard