The Erskine College chapter of the American Chemical Society (ACS) is serious about service, and its members engage in serious research. The students’ efforts were recognized this spring when the chapter received an Outstanding Chapter Award as well as a Green Chemistry Award at the ACS National Meeting and Exposition April 2-6 in San Francisco.
Erskine students who attended the meeting—Omar Al Quzah, Julie Butler, Eric Edwards, Justin Glover, Vince Harris, Adam Hartley, Arielle Houston, Kaitlyn Kerley, Kayla Squiggins, and Justin Van Riper—were accompanied by Professor of Chemistry Dr. Joel Boyd and Associate Professor of Chemistry and Physics Dr. Tiffany Hayden.
“We took two groups of students to the meeting—those who did research and presented their results and those who were accepting awards for the chapter,” Hayden said.
Speaking about the chapter’s awards, Boyd noted that Erskine is “one of only 27 schools in the nation to be so honored by ACS this year.”
Erskine students made three oral research presentations and four poster research presentations at the conference. Former chapter president Arielle Houston, who graduated summa cum laude in May, and current president Kayla Squiggins, now a rising senior, presented a poster describing the activities of Erskine’s ACS chapter.
Squiggins said some of the chapter’s outreach activities have included offering instruction and assistance with labs for homeschooled students; helping Boy Scouts perform experiments to earn merit badges; celebrating National Chemistry Week by giving environmental chemistry demonstrations and sponsoring speakers (not to mention giving out ‘periodic table cupcakes’); cleaning up litter during Earth Day observances with Tri Beta, the biology honor society; and performing environmental and green chemistry demonstrations for Erskine students.
“As Erskine’s ACS president, I could not be prouder of my chapter and all the work they do serving Erskine, Due West, and neighboring communities with chemistry constantly, not ‘periodically,’” Squiggins said, getting in her chemistry joke.
She is enthusiastic about the benefits of attending the ACS conference. “The national ACS meeting was a great experience and it exposed my peers and me to many different aspects of the chemistry world.”
Hayden called the ACS meeting “a great opportunity to see world-class research and network with other chemists and students, and a wonderful way for students to present their research on a national level.”
Boyd, who serves as chapter co-sponsor with Hayden, said, “It is extremely important that our students are able to get off campus and experience a much larger world of professional chemistry.”
“I think one thing the students appreciate is seeing other students from larger universities with more funding and more resources, and seeing the impact of their own contributions to research,” Hayden said.
Even with less funding and fewer resources than students from larger schools, Erskine students, with their “willingness to take on a project and solve the problems” can “get results and do a great job,” she observed.
“The chemistry department is very proud of this great group of students,” Boyd said.
“Students who attended the conference were able to network with other students and professionals from around the world, learn about cutting-edge chemical research, meet graduate school and professional recruiters, and enjoy [time] as tourists in San Francisco.”
Attending the conference “developed each student professionally and academically,” Squiggins said. Participating in poster sessions, improving their interviewing skills in workshops, networking with graduate schools, and attending professional talks all contributed to the value of the students’ experience.
“Erskine College is a wonderful place to study chemistry, and our students are doing first-class chemical and environmental research,” Boyd said. “These conference trips are career-shaping opportunities for the students that attend, and are an important part of our overall program in chemistry at Erskine.”
Funding for the trip to the ACS National Meeting and Exposition was received from the ACS national organization, the Western Carolinas Section of ACS, Erskine’s Student Finance Committee, and the Erskine Center for Environmental Stewardship.
Photo at top: front row, from left, Julie Butler, Arielle Houston, Justin Van Riper, Kaitlyn Kerley, Kayla Squiggins; back row, from left, Adam Hartley, Justin Glover, Eric Edwards, Vince Harris