UM Chapter of American Chemical Society Earns National Award

Student group honored for service to national organization, profession

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s chapter of Student Members of the American Chemical Society has been recognized nationally as an Outstanding Chapter for the 2017-18 academic year.

The Ole Miss chapter was among 69 schools that received the award, chosen from hundreds of schools that have chapters within the American Chemical Society.

“I was very excited for the chapter,” said SMACS faculty adviser Emily Rowland, UM instructional assistant professor of chemistry.

“As the faculty adviser, Dr. Emily Rowland deserves special recognition for the significant commitment of time and energy she put into making such a successful student chapter,” said Greg Tschumper, professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “Her dedication to undergraduate science education and mentoring is nothing short of inspiring.”

The chapter’s officers believe the most significant event they organized was the 50th anniversary of the Southeastern Undergraduate Research Conference, which they hosted.

“We planned (it) from start to finish,” Rowland said.

The conference gathered more than 200 undergraduate researchers and about 40 professors from multiple schools across seven states. The conference takes place to offer undergraduate researchers a chance to present their research to other undergraduates and professors and to connect with others in their field.

“The SURC conference allowed for many research opportunities to be presented at the university,” said Alex Fratesi, former chapter president.

Spencer Rushing, who serves as president and is former vice president, said he got a lot out of the experience.

“I learned a lot,” he said. “1I found certain things interesting that I wouldn’t have been exposed to if I wasn’t a part of that.”

Other events that SMACS participated in included Science Day, the university’s STEM Fest, the ACS Banquet, National Chemistry Week and various seminars.

Chase Lance, vice president and former historian, attributes all the success of SMACS last year to the determination and enthusiasm of chapter officers and said those qualities helped him be a better officer.

“I feel like all the officers last year were very motivated in their aspects of life and I gained knowledge and experience from watching them be successful,” he said.

Focusing on the community contributed to last year’s success. Throughout the year, the chapter provided multiple opportunities for people of all ages to see demonstration experiments, participate in various chemistry-related activities and enjoy chemistry-themed treats such as Periodic Table Cupcakes and rock candy.

SMACS continued to improve the lives of children by conducting a successful Operation Christmas Child event, in which members gathered items to fill 25 boxes containing small toys, socks, gloves, hair brushes, coloring books and other goodies.

Students in the LOU community have already shown their desire to continue to participate in the society’s events this year, as 250 Lafayette County fifth-graders attended National Chemistry Week events in late October.

“We had a great National Chemistry Week, which promoted the subject of chemistry to the community’s local elementary schools,” said Shannon Kirkland, the chapter’s treasurer.

Because of the chapter’s success, representatives from the University of Tennessee at Martin asked members of the university’s SMACS for assistance in hosting the upcoming Southeastern Undergraduate Research Conference, Rowland said.

“Our chemistry students should be extremely proud of this award because only about 17 percent of all national and international student chapters received this distinction for being outstanding ambassadors of science and chemistry,” Tschumper said.