The Mercyhurst College Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry is exploding with excitement this year; among the catalysts are a record number of majors, a growing number of alumni landing topnotch research jobs and entering leading doctoral programs, and the debut of a state-of-the-art organic chemistry lab.
The latter, the Sister Mary Charles Weschler Chemistry Lab, will be officially dedicated on Thursday, Dec. 18, in room 303 of Zurn Hall. Already, more than 80 Trustees, faculty, administrators and students have indicated they will attend, with college President Dr. Thomas J. Gamble, Provost Dr. James Adovasio, and Advancement Vice President Dr. David Livingston doing the dedication honors.
The new lab is named in honor of the late Sister Mary Charles Weschler, who served as chair of the college's Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics from 1963 to 1977.
Sister Mary Charles' nephew, Patrick Weschler, Esq., will speak at the dedication ceremony.
The new lab replicates the industrial lab of today and affords students a true hands-on view of what's happening in the chemical world. The high-tech environment includes 13 fume hoods that give students individual space to conduct organic reactions safely and efficiently. Nearby is a new instrument lab, equipped with research-grade equipment like infrared, fluorescence and UV-visible spectrometers, devoted exclusively to research.
"There's a lot to be excited about," said Dr. Ron Brown, chemistry department chair, who has taken the program from 20 majors five years ago to precisely double that today, including an all-time high of 10 freshmen.
The new lab, estimated at $850,000, is part of an ongoing commitment to elevate the sciences at Mercyhurst. In recent years, the college has constructed or rebuilt a half dozen labs, including the bone lab, conservation facilities, the Donald and Judith Alstadt Laboratory for Cellular and Molecular Research, the physics lab, the geology lab, the ecology lab and now the Weschler chemistry lab.
Meanwhile, Brown said chemistry graduates are already establishing a legacy of success.
Of last year's six graduates, one is pursuing an M.D. program at Penn State; three are in Ph.D. programs at the University of Pittsburgh, University of Rhode Island and Florida International University, respectively; and another is in a coordinated M.S. program in dietetics at Pitt. In recent years, graduates have also gone on to study at Florida State University, University of Tennessee, University of Maryland, Northwestern and Cornell Medical College. The department also boasts a senior scientist at Pfizer, and a researcher at Scripps Institute in San Diego.