News & Media
VSU Chemistry Recent News and Events
We recognize and celebrate the great accomplishments and achievements of our students, alumni/ae, and faculty. We publish an annual Department newsletters, are active on social media, and continuously post news about the VSU Chemistry Department on this page.
Attention alumni: Catch up with your faculty and learn about recent student accomplishments by reading our 2022 Department Newsletter. You can read our 2021 and 2018 Newsletters also. Contact us so we can connect you with the VSU Chemistry Alumni Facebook page.
Here are some recent headlines from the Chemistry Department. Contact us if you would like us to post an important accomplishment of our students, faculty, alums, or friends of the VSU Chemistry Department.
Time to celebrate the end of another successful semester! We held our end-of-semester luncheon for Chemistry students and faculty with BBQ and indoor games. (We have a friendly faculty-student Jenga rivalry.) We look forward to a relaxing winter break and a great start to our spring 2023 semester.
Chemistry is for everybody - young and old - as demonstrated by the outreach events organized by our faculty and students.
When they are not developing new antibiotics and antiviral treatment, Dr. Tom Manning and his research group design educational games. They showed off their latest creation the Shell Game to residents at the Canopy at Azalea Grove assisted living facility. The Shell Game engages players in multiple cognitive processes such as memory, sight and tactile recognition, and mathematical reasoning using Hundreds of unique sea shells collected at St. George's Island. Students felt this was a great way to share their time and knowledge with members of our greater Valdosta community. Residents enjoyed the game and talking to our students. it was a great experience for everybody.
VSU Chemistry students and faculty participated in STEAM Night at Sallas Malone Elementary School. Volunteers led activities like "Are you stronger than a cotton ball?", the chemical chameleon reaction, candy models of molecules, dying fabric with powdered drink mixes, and balloons containing lemon, orange, vanilla and peppermint. Participants also received take-home newsletters with more chemistry-related activities.
VSU Chemistry celebrates National Chemistry Week!
First, VSU Chemistry students and faculty participated in the 2022 Expo Latino by visiting the Willis L. Miller Regional Library in Valodsta to share some chemistry activities with younger students. The Southwest Georgia Local Section of the ACS sponsored this Chemistry outreach activity and the Latino Association organized the Expo. Activities included identifying the smells of chemistry, testing fibers, designing candy molecules, playing with fizzy drinks, and building batteries.
VSU Chemistry continued its tradition of handing out cupcakes to students on Mole Day (October 23). These aren't just any cupcakes, of course - they are a batch of 118 color-coded and labeled cupcakes that form a periodic table of cupcakes. Judging by the line of students, everybody loves chemistry!
Our big outreach event of the month is VSU Chemistry's Science Saturday. Two hundred young students and families visited the Chemistry Department to experience hours of hands-on Chemistry activities. Liquid nitrogen, balloons, ice cream, silly putty, dry ice, computer simulations, batteries, candy models of DNA, and flaming soap bubbles are just some of the cool things that our visitors enjoyed. With support from the Southwest Georgia ACS chapter and dozens of Chemistry student and faculty volunteers, this year's Science Saturday was the best and most attended event that we have ever held. Thank you to everybody who attended and helped!
September was a busy month for our Department!
Our student chapter of the American Chemical Society hosted a seminar by Dr. Tracy Segrest from the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences. In her talk, "So You Want to be a Forensic Scientist…What Does that Mean?", she explained the day-to-day work that a forensic chemist performs as well as the ways that a career in forensics is both challenging and rewarding.
Forensic chemistry is a popular career choice for our students. This engagement with a professional forensic chemist provides valuable insights to our students as they plan their careers. Dr. Segrest's discussion about lab skills highlighted the same skills that students learn in our new Forensic Chemistry course that Dr. de la Garza will teach this spring.
It's not every day that you meet somebody who discovered an element, so we were very excited to host Clarice Phelps, co-discoverer of Tennessine (element 117). Clarice Phelps is a nuclear chemist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. Listen to her presentation to our students about how her team of researchers detected the first atoms of Tn and read more about her visit to VSU. Besides sharing her scientific accomplishments, she gave an inspirational keynote address at our annual student mentoring luncheon. We are thrilled that Clarice Phelps could spend time visiting with our students!
We appreciate the financial support of the Southwest Georgia section of the American Chemical Society and the hard work of the luncheon organizer Dr. Linda de la Garza that made this event possible.
Our Chemistry graduates leave VSU with a degree and also a plan for their professional success. We hosted two speakers who described their career paths to our students. Dr. Tracy Segrest talked with our Chemistry students about her work as a forensic chemist at the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences. Dr. Segrest described the day-to-day work of detecting and isolating drug residues and handling criminal evidence in an entertaining talk to our students.
Gloria de la Garza (right), a VSU Chemistry alumna (2016), spoke at our First-Year Student Seminar about her experience as a Chemistry PhD student at the University of Michigan. Gloria received a Graduate Research Fellowship award from the National Science Foundation for her research of organic materials for redox flow batteries. She also told our students about her previous work at the Florida Department of Agriculture and her career plans after she earns her PhD next year.
VSU Chemistry student is an ACS Scholar! Ms. Airionna Fordham recently earned the title ACS Scholar. This is a prestigious national scholarship award given by the American Chemical Society to the best undergraduate Chemistry students. The ACS Scholars selection committee includes chemists from universities, industry, and ACS Scholar alumni. ACS Scholars are selected based on their academic record, career goals, leadership, and participation in activities such as academic research and community service. Airionna is a sophomore Chemistry major with an interest in Natural Products Chemistry. Her career goal is to start a skincare company after earning her VSU Chemistry degree. The VSU Chemistry faculty are very proud that one of our students received this well-deserved recognition. Congratulations Airionna!
Transforming education through the Governor's Teaching Fellowship - Dr. Linda de la Garza was selected among many Georgia faculty from public and private universities to participate in this year's Governor's Teaching Fellows Program. She attended six three-day workshops throughout the past academic year. Using what she learned through the Fellowship, she added project-based learning and student team assignments to her Quantitative Analysis sophomore-level Chemistry course. "It was a transformative experience,” she shared. “I now keep in mind student perspective much more than I did before." Students responded positively to the changes so she is applying these teaching methods to other courses that she teaches. Read more about Dr. de la Garza's Fellowship award.
Catching up on faculty accomplishments - Things slow down for most students during the summer but that gives us a chance to catch up with faculty who remain busy year-round.
Dr. Linda de la Garza, advisor for our Student Members of the American Chemical Society (SMACS, our student ACS chapter) received VSU's Advisor of the Year award. This award goes to an individual faculty or staff member who has displayed an exemplary level of dedication and commitment to the organization they have advised. Dr. de la Garza often goes far beyond her assigned duties to advance SMACS. Dr. de la Garza displays outstanding leadership, dedication and involvement. She is pictured fifth from the left with many of the SMACS members. Congratulations Dr. de la Garza!
We congratulate Dr. Tolu Salami for receiving a summer visiting research appointment at Princeton University. Two Chemistry students, Jayden Thomas and Jodeci Mitchel will accompany Dr. Salami and assist with research. This is a great accomplishment for all three!
Congratulations to all of our 2022 graduates! We celebrated their accomplishments at a department luncheon in their honor. Each graduate received a a beaker coffee mug and a lot of applause from the faculty. We appreciate the financial support of the Southwest Georgia ACS chapter for this event.
The next week was graduation at VSU. We welcome our newest Chemistry graduates and alums:
Daeshe' McCoy, Pre-professional Chemistry
Grant McReady, ACS Certified Chemistry
Guillermo Sanchez, Pre-professional Chemistry
Chris Telusma, Pre-professional Chemistry
Congratulations to all of our graduates!
VSU recognizes Chemistry student excellence! First, Chemistry student Makenzee Page earned the award for best STEM (Science, Technology, Math, and Engineering) Poster at the VSU Undergraduate Research Council Symposium. Her research was mentored by Dr. Yakov Woldman. Chemistry students Darshi Patel (Dr. Rose research group, Biology) and Jwalant Shah (Drs. Gopee Sreenilayam's and Ligia Focsan's research groups) earned first and third places, respectively, for their video presentations. Jade Philips and Bethany Sharpe from Dr. Tom Manning's research group earned second place in the Best Paper competition. Congratulations to all of our research award winning students!
The College of Science and Mathematics honored its outstanding students. Thanks to the generous support of our alumni and friends, the Chemistry Department awarded over $11,000 to students. Visit our Awards page to see this year's list of winners. Congratulations to all of our student awardees!
Our Chemistry students do great stuff outside the lab too! For instance, over spring break, Hope Smith, one of Valdosta State's Chemistry majors, had the opportunity to perform in one of the most prestigious concert venues, Carnegie Hall, NYC. She performed with other choir singers from VSU and from across the East coast. A total of 150 singers and 60 orchestra members opened on March 20, 2022 for that Saturday night's performance with Poulenc's Gloria and Bougie's Requiem. They were there for 5 days and had the trip of a lifetime!
Here in Valdosta, Chemistry majors and Alexa Luna and Jayden Thomas joined Drs. Linda de la Garza and Kurt Winkelmann to perform chemistry demonstrations at Dewar Elementary School. Fifth grade students learned about chemical and physical changes, such as the Elephant's Toothpaste reaction (rapid decomposition of hydrogen peroxide) and freezing objects in liquid nitrogen. Everybody had a lot of fun learning about chemistry.
VSU Chemistry students selected to present their research at Posters at the Capitol! Jade Phillips (left) and Bethany Sharpe (right) from Dr. Tom Manning's research group will present their research at the annual Posters at the Capitol event in Atlanta. They analyzed bacteria collected from the waters of the Gulf of Mexico to identify the presence of organic compounds that may have therapeutic value, such as bryostatin, a chemical that has anticancer and antibiotic properties. In addition to field work and laboratory analysis, this project gave Bethany and Jade the chance to interview other marine scientists and participate in the Ocean Exchange International Pitch Contest in 2021. held in Fort Lauderdale in October 2021. Good luck Jade and Bethany!
VSU Chemistry prepares students for careers! We are excited that students can now enroll in our new Chemistry Internships course that we offer for the first time in Spring 2022. Students are now earning college credit for their paid internship work at companies like CJB Industries and Packaging Corporation of America. Faculty help students find these internships through our existing collaborates with many local government offices, non-profit organizations, and companies that hire chemists. It's a great way for our students to earn money, gain experience, advance towards a Chemistry degree, and prepare themselves for successful careers.
Congratulations to our graduates and retiring faculty! The VSU Chemistry Department and the Student Members of the American Chemical Society (SMACS) hosted a picnic on December 4th to honor Fall 2021 graduates and retired faculty. Attendees enjoyed lunch, presentations honoring our graduates and recently retired faculty, and games in the lobby of Bailey Science Center. We are very proud of our Fall 2021 graduates Brandy Perez, Danielle McKay, Thomas Falkenhausen, and Chris Telusma and wish them great success in their future careers!
Chemistry students make finals in national research competition! VSU undergraduate students Beth Sharpe, Jade Phillips, and Kevin Soria competed against teams of graduate students from UGA, Georgia Tech, Emory, and other schools in the finals of Ocean Exchange. Their project, Ocean Pharma, is part of Dr. Tom Manning's marine chemistry research program. The Ocean Exchange competition encourages universities to develop economically viable and environmentally sustainable business ideas. We congratulate our students on their success at the Ocean Exchange competition!
VSU Chemistry celebrates Mole Day! With the support of the Southwest Georgia Local ACS Section, VSU Chemistry majors shared their love of chemistry with budding scientists in elementary school by preparing videos about glow sticks, can crushing, and apple browning (English and Spanish).
For our VSU students, the Chemistry Department prepared a delicious periodic table of cupcakes! Students also solved chemistry problems to receive prizes and awards.
Faculty got in on the fun too by wishing you a happy National Chemistry Week and Mole Day.
Our Chemistry Mentoring Luncheon was a huge success! Students and chemistry professors shared lunch and discussed undergraduate research and career goals on Friday, September 24, 2021 in the Cypress Room of the University Center. The Chemistry Department faculty and staff along with the student group Student Members of the American Chemical Society (SMACS) helped to set up the event. Goals of the event were for chemistry students to network with chemistry faculty, learn about the benefits of research, and research opportunities in the Chemistry Department. Thirty-seven chemistry majors and many chemistry faculty participated. Students received a t-shirt and padfolio, and several received prizes like a chemistry-themed blanket. For dessert, students prepared liquid nitrogen ice cream.
The Southwest Georgia chapter of the American Chemical Society awarded Dr. Linda de la Garza, Associate Professor of Chemistry, an Innovative Project grant to fund the Mentoring Luncheon. Dr. de la Garza organized and led the activities. The Department of Chemistry strives to engage students in activities that contribute to their professional development and in community service. Students interested in being involved may follow SMACS in social media, connect in Blazerlink, and attend their meetings in Bailey Science Center.
VSU Chemistry major Danielle McKay is recognized as an emerging leader by the American Chemical Society. Danielle is earning her ACS-Certified Bachelor's degree in Chemistry and plans to become a cosmetics formulation chemist after graduation. The ACS selected Danielle to participate in their prestigious, nine-month Leadership Institute Experience, which prepares bright students like Danielle to be leaders in our global society.
The VSU Chemistry faculty congratulate Danielle for this honor but we are not at all surprised. She is an exceptional member of our VSU Chemistry community. Danielle volunteers in several campus and Valdosta community organizations, serves as President of the Student Members of the ACS club (SMACS), helps manage the Chemistry Stockroom, performs research, and excels in her classes.
Read the full story about her success. Congratulations Danielle!
We welcome our new class of incoming chemistry majors - the largest group in recent memory. Students and faculty are excited to begin face to face classes and campus activity again. One much-anticipated event is The Happening that encourages students to get involved in clubs and organizations on campus. The booth for the Student Members of the American Chemical Society (SMACS) was a popular stop for students interested in chemistry.
We are looking forward to a great year at VSU with all of our new and returning students!
Here is what makes a student's experience at VSU special: watch this short video of former students explaining how VSU faculty and staff inspired them to succeed. Everybody at VSU shares the spirit of supporting students so that they can achieve their dreams.
Just because it's summer doesn't mean that the Chemistry Department slows down. In fact, the research grants earned by faculty last year enable us to support lots of research students now. We have also put the finishing touches on our latest Department Newsletter. Read about faculty research, student awardees, successful alumni, and our fantastic graduates.
We welcomed high school students to the Chemistry Department for the VSU MESA summer camp. Dr. Kurt Winkelmann showed them how to make a ferrofluid, which is a liquid that is attracted to a magnet. This strange behavior is due to the formation of iron oxide nanoparticles suspended in water. Learn more about the MESA camp and see students making a ferrofluid in this WALB News video.
Dr. Tom Manning led the MESA campers out of the chemistry lab to build their own remote operated vehicle (ROV). These are used in environmental chemistry research to collect samples and measure the properties of natural waters. After constructing their ROVs, campers successfully tested them in the VSU fountain.
Congratulations to our graduates! We are extremely proud of our excellent students. We wish each of them the greatest success and happiness in the next step of their lives. Our graduates are moving on to pharmacy school, chemistry graduate school, medical school, and careers in forensics, education, and many other fields. We will miss you and hope that you keep in touch.
We wish all of our students a happy, safe, and restful summer. See you in the fall!
VSU Chemistry recognizes outstanding students at our annual College of Science and Mathematics award ceremony. We are pleased to present our awards face to face and broadcast the event on Facebook for family and friends. Students received awards for excellence in academics, research, and their involvement in department activities.
Chemistry major Nathan Hart received the College of Science & Mathematics Outstanding Student award! Congratulations Nathan!
Visit our Awards page to see this year's list of winners. Congratulations to all of our student awardees!
Environmental Chemistry students perform real-world projects at the end of the spring semester. First, they performed water testing measurements at the beautiful Ginnie Springs park. With supervision by Dr. Tom Manning, students performed TDS, DO, pH, temperature, and ion concentration measurements throughout the day.
In the picture to the right, students pose with the remote operated vehicle (ROV) that they built to perform the water quality measurements. These types of activities let students develop and demonstrate new skills and learn how to perform chemistry in a more challenging, real-world setting.
VSU Chemistry is in the news! WALB featured VSU senior Jenu Mari Thomas-Richardson in a recent news story about her research of a potential COVID 19 vaccine in Dr. Tom Manning's research group. The Manning research group quickly pivoted from their work on tuberculosis to a COVID 19 vaccine when the pandemic began last spring. They have conducted limited clinical trials and are seeking outside investors to support further studies.
This is just one example of VSU Chemistry students performing excellent research that will have a positive impact on our world.
Congratulations to Dr. Linda de la Garza for her selection as a 2021-2022 Fellow of the Governor’s Teaching Fellows Program. This prestigious opportunity provides "Georgia's higher education faculty with expanded opportunities for developing important teaching skills" (link). Fellows meet throughout the year at the the Institute of Higher Education at the University of Georgia. Congratulations Dr. de la Garza!
Notable presentations: The VSU Chemistry Department is pleased to host two special talks in February.
First, Mr. Michael Mitchell, a VSU Chemistry alumnus (2010) and chemist at Dow Chemical. He will talk to students about his experience at VSU and as an industrial chemist. He has worked in the formulation of elastic thin films for packaging applications, in polymerization of biodegradable polymers, and other polymers for the home care market. As a student, Michael was involved in SMACS, the pre-pharmacy club, and the VSU chapter of the NAACP. He performed summer research at Argonne National Lab and worked at QSpex Technologies immediately after graduation.
On February 16 at 12:30 pm, Dr. Jennifer M. Heemstra from Emory University will present a talk about her research of Chemical Biology Toolbox for RNA Post-transcriptional Modification and capture. Biomolecules are exquisitely adept at molecular recognition and self-assembly, enabling them to direct all of the processes that make life possible.These capabilities have been fine-tuned by billions of years of evolution, and more recently, have been harnessed in the laboratory to enable the use of biomolecules for applications beyond their canonical biological roles. The common thread that is woven throughout our research program is the utilization of nucleic acid molecular recognition and self-assembly to generate functional architectures for biosensing and bioimaging. We have harnessed photoaffinity labeling to covalently tag specific RNA transcripts with small-molecule fluorophore, subsequently enabling visualization of RNA localization and dynamics in living cells. We have also demonstrated the modulation of EndoV activity to enable selective enrichment of inosine-containing RNAs, which has enabled the identification of new A-to-I editing sites.
Drs. de la Garza, Focsan, and Sreenilayam earn BSRI Grants! Each received a $5000 award from the Blazer Summer Research Institute (BSRI) that provides funding for research chemicals and supplies and, more importantly, support student researchers working with each of these faculty. The three funded projects are:
Recycling of Iron Oxide for Photoelectrochemical Cells (de la Garza)
Oxidation potentials of carotenoids measured by cyclic voltammetry in nonpolar solvents (Focsan)
Exploring Deep Eutetic Solvents as Green Solvents for Biocatalyst-mediated Organic Transformations (Sreenilayam)
It is especially impressive that three Chemistry faculty earned this honor this year since BSRI funded only 5-10 projects across the whole university. Congratulations to Drs. de la Garza, Focsan, and Sreenilayam!
Southwest Georgia ACS Section Receives 2020 ACS ChemLuminary Award! The award is for activities by a small ACS section chapter in 2019. The Southwest Georgia Section (SOWEGA) significantly increased the frequency of its regular meetings and focused on diversifying meeting content and activities. The section sponsored public outreach events, supported student member programs and engaged with local industry. Most notably, the section applied Innovative Grant funding to broaden our interaction with local community at large and supporting diversity in science and beyond.
The 2019 SOWEGA Executive Committee that led these award-winning activities includes six VSU Chemistry faculty: Profs. Ligia Focsan (Past Chair), Donna Gosnell (Chair), Gopeekrishnan Sreenilayam (Chair-Elect), Dean Duncan (Secretary), Linda de la Garza (Councilor, NCW), and Tolulope Salami (Alternate Councilor).
Chemistry alumna Donna Law is Teacher of the Year! Ms. Donna Law was awarded Teacher of the Year honors at James Madison Preparatory High School (JMPHS). She teaches physical science, biology, anatomy and chemistry. Faculty remember Donna for being active in department activities and as a Noyce Scholar. Congrats Donna!
CoSM Honors Three Chemistry Faculty! The College of Science and Mathematics (CoSM) names Drs. Ligia Focsan and Gopeekrishnan Sreenilayam as 2021-2022 Research Scholars. These awards support their research projects "Measuring Oxidation Potentials of Carotenoids" (Focsan) and "Developing Protein-Polymer Nano-Constructs as Reusable Biocatalysts in Non-Aqueous Medium" (Sreenilayam).
CoSM honored Dr. Linda de la Garza as an inaugural CoSM Teaching Scholar to support improvements to her Quantitative Analysis course.
Congratulations to all three faculty!
VSU Celebrates National Chemistry Week! Although students and faculty are practicing social distancing and avoiding large gatherings, nothing can stop us from celebrating Science Saturday and National Chemistry Week. Dr. de la Garza and SMACS students brought chemistry to home- and virtually schooled students by preparing a series of educational and fun videos. Using household ingredients with the help of their parents, young viewers can perform their own chemistry experiments. Sticking with Chemistry and Disappearing Water videos are available on YouTube. Nice work, Dr. de la Garza!