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CAMPUS SPOTLIGHT


Breea Govenar

Dr. Govenar, with the help of M.S. student Janis Hall, is researching the impacts of environmental changes on marine invertebrates that live in coastal salt marshes and at deep-sea hydrothermal vents.

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Undergraduate Research at RIC

Foreword

A couple of years after I arrived at RIC a guy with long hair and casual attire (even for a student in the early 70's) came to my office and said he wanted to major in chemistry and do research. I was dubious, but had just come back to my office from my lab where I was unsuccessful in completing what I thought was the very simple task of making a solution of electrolytes in a mixed solvent. So I showed him my lab and suggested he try his luck making the solution. I went back to my office and about twenty minutes later he came back and said he had solved the problem. It turned out that the order of addition of components is important; and the novice high school graduate, using empirical methods, solved a problem the Ph.D. couldn't quite figure out.

Jimmy Covill is now the NAFTA Area Director for Clariant Corporation's operations in the western hemisphere. He was one of the first RIC BA chemistry graduates. He started at the old Hoechst Chemical plant in Coventry as a pilot-plant chemist, using a wheel barrow and shovel to mix chemicals, and moved up from there as the company evolved into Clariant over the last thirty years. There are scores of similar stories about my students and those mentored by my colleagues in chemistry, physics, and biology. Students not only can do basic research as part of their education, but, in the sciences, where it is essential, we actively recruit students to include research as part of their undergraduate program. Experimental science is one of the last surviving crafts where apprentices learn from masters, but, unlike the Medieval model, the "masters" also learn from the "apprentices" like I did many years ago from Jim Covill.

RIC BA and BS chemistry graduates are in the process or have taken Master's or Ph.D's in chemistry from Brown, Yale, Dartmouth, UNC at Chapel Hill, University of Florida, UC Berkeley, University of Connecticut, SUNY Stony Brook, U of Georgia, Brandeis, U of Wisconsin, and others. The much younger BA degree in Physics has sent students to Harvard, Princeton, the U. of Cincinnati and the University of Pittsburgh for graduate degrees. Other graduates have gone to Brown or the New England College of Medicine for MD degrees.

RIC alumni are employed in industry and academia; DuPont, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Lily-Ponds, Paratek, Genentech, Clariant, Cal State at Northridge, University of Arkansas, University of San Diego, College of the Holy Cross, Woods-Hole Oceanographic Institute, and Scripts Oceanographic Institute, to name a few. Others have entered middle and high school science teaching in various school districts all over Rhode Island and southern New England.


John Williams
Professor of Chemistry

Page last updated: September 18, 2012