2019 Newsletter

Chemistry, Biochemistry, Geology, and Physics at WU

Big picture


Pat Owens, Chair

Greetings from Sims to all Winthrop chemistry, biochemistry, physics, and geology program friends!

2019 was another tremendous year of student accomplishments with the third largest graduating chemistry class ever, the third highest number (ten) earning ACS professional certification, and a record 12 alums matriculating into doctoral programs—seven into Ph.D. programs and five heading into professional health programs—one to dental and four to medical schools. Notably, 3/12 (25%) of doctoral matriculations are graduates from under-represented groups achieving a central program goal established by department faculty in 2008 during our drive to initiate the Winthrop Eagle STEM program. While overall Winthrop enrollments have been flat for well over a decade, the chemistry program has continued to grow. The past four graduating chemistry classes are all among the five largest in program history. ACS approval of Winthrop’s program in 2003 sparked a surge in growth at the time; ASBMB accreditation of Winthrop’s Biochemistry program in 2013 is providing a significant boost. Our central program focus on student undergraduate research is bringing students interested in these opportunities to campus as is the forensic chemistry track led by Dr. Calloway since its establishment ten years ago. Our faculty are the central reason for these achievements. It has been an honor to serve as Chair these past 25 years with such distinguished professionals who are all so totally centered on students and their professional outcomes! Since the Sims renovation, our faculty have also worked tirelessly to gain over $10 million in external grant funding to make student summer research possible.

Another highlight this year has been the well-deserved appointment of Dr. Takita Sumer as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, 15 years after her Winthrop arrival. Dr. Sumter was promoted to Professor of Chemistry in 2014, served for a year as Chair of the Human Nutrition Department and for two years as Vice-Provost for Faculty Affairs. In 2017, Dr. Sumter was elected by scientists across the nation to serve as an ASBMB council member. Takita served as the research mentor for 30 students, many of whom have now completed graduate degrees. This spring, the department was fortunate to hire our top candidate, Dr. Timea Fernandez, into Dr. Sumter’s position; Timea brings a wealth of expertise to our program, and we are looking forward to her arrival.

This spring also saw the retirement of Rachel Law, who arrived at Winthrop in January of 2011 to lead the Winthrop Eagle STEM Scholars program, providing students from low-income families and under-represented groups increased opportunities for graduate work. By 2019, five Eagle STEM cohorts had graduated; 42 (62%) of 68 Eagle STEM alum matriculated into graduate programs. Among these alums, 19 started Ph.D. programs across the nation, ten went to professional health doctoral programs primarily in South Carolina, and 13 began master's degree study across a number of disciplines. The Winthrop Eagle STEM Scholars program was the central objective of Chemistry faculty’s 2008 INBRE II NIH proposal; since its initiation, Winthrop has assumed 100% financial support for its sustainment. The Eagle STEM Scholars program is centered on Winthrop’s core values as stated so well in its mission statement “Winthrop prides itself on being an institution of choice for groups traditionally under-represented on the college campus.”


Fatima Amir

THIS PAST YEAR HAS BEEN a whirlwind. Teaching, researching, attending conferences, advising, and preparing for tenure has kept me extremely busy. I continue to teach physics with calculus I and II along with modern physics. I appreciated the students that engaged into and worked so hard in these classes. Thanks to the support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Winthrop University Research Council, my research continues around supercapacitors as a new energy storage system due to their high energy density, long-lasting lifetime, and high cycle efficiency. Three undergraduate research students, Darien Nguyen, Isabella Schepisi, and Sean Wechsler, have accompanied me over the past two summers at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island, NY to conduct experiments at the Center of Functional Nanomaterials (CFN). Students were trained on the cleanroom procedures. In addition, they were trained and conducted experiments on the e-beam evaporator, x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), field emissions, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (EDS), and high resolution transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Darien and Isabella co-authored my paper entitled “Extraordinary cycling stability of Ni3(HITP)2 supercapacitors fabricated by electrophoretic deposition: Cycling at 100,000 cycle,” in the chemical engineering journal, Chem. Eng. J. 2019, 378, 122150-122157. Sean co-authored my published article entitled, “Superior Electrochemical Performance of Pristine Nickel Hexaaminobenzene MOF Supercapacitors Fabricated by Electrophoretic Deposition,” in the ChemSusChem journal, DOI:10.1002/cssc.201902691. Additionally, Darien presented his work at the Southeastern Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society (SERMACS) conference last year in Augusta, GA and Sean presented his research this year at SERMACS in Savannah, GA. Along with my teaching and research time commitments, I am continuing in my Pre-Engineering Program advisory role with Dr. Gelabert and Dr. Maheswaranathan.

Timea Fernandez

TIMEA JOINED the department August 2019 as an assistant professor, with primary teaching responsibility in biochemistry. She replaced Dr. Takita Sumter (new Dean for ACS). Timea graduated with a major in chemistry from Lorand Eotvos University in Budapest, Hungary in 1997 where she also received her Ph.D. in 2001. Timea then moved to the United States to complete a post-doctoral at the University of Chicago and Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Sciences. This past fall, she began incorporating an inquiry-based biochemistry laboratory curriculum into the biochemistry education at Winthrop. Her research project focuses on how antibiotics affect the function of regulatory RNAs as well as using these natural RNA aptamers to aid delivery of antibiotics to resistant bacteria. (Refer to the New Faculty and Staff section for additional information)

Tasker: I'M EXCITED ABOUT my new life as a teacher-scholar at Winthrop. After living in Hungary, Chicago, rural Indiana and suburban Texas the move to Rock Hill turned out to be a very good fit for me and my family. Teaching biochemistry and familiarizing myself with undergraduate research at Winthrop, as well as learning the general flow processes of the department have taken the bulk of my time in the fall. However, I have made some good strides in setting up my research lab. The time has gone by so fast, I cannot believe that the first semester is finished. In the Spring term I’m looking forward to ordering new equipment and supplies for my lab and starting my research projects with three talented Winthrop students. In summary, I am glad that I made the decision to join the Department of Chemistry, Physics, and Geology at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

Maria Gelabert

DR. GELABERT CONTINUES HER regular teaching of physical chemistry, and in the fall offered a new one-credit hour CHEM420 Special Topics in Materials Chemistry: Hydrothermal Crystal Growth. This course covered some of the variety of ways that water enables the growth of crystals, and importance of this growth to the environment and living systems. Besides synthesis of nanoscale to large industrial-sized crystals, the mineralogy and biology within the anaerobic conditions of hydrothermal ocean vents were studied. Dr. Gelabert continues as the Winthrop institutional director for the multi-institutional materials grant, MADE in SC, administered by SC EPSCoR and now in its 3rd year (out of 5). Dr. Gelabert, Dr. Amir and Dr. Harris participated in the MADE in SC Faculty and Fellows conference, held at the USC Alumni Center in Columbia, South Carolina, on September 20, 2019. Students Sean Wechsler ('20), Thomas Sullivan ('21), and Blake McCloskey ('20), presented posters on their work. The meeting included scientific talks, faculty interactions for establishing collaborations between experimental and computational research, and a panel discussion by the Industrial EPSCoR Advisory Board for student career development.

Christian Grattan

THIS PAST YEAR HAS BEEN another great one in the classroom and lab! In the classroom, I continue to teach organic, bioorganic and essentials of organic lectures. While the content is the same, the way the material is being presented continues to be updated. Dr. Hurlbert and I worked on incorporating a module into the bioorganic curriculum that allows the students to compare various derivatives of oseltamivir (Tamiflu) based on binding with neuraminidase (Influenza A). This work and the data we have gathered so far has been submitted for publication. In the lab, I had a tremendous group of students the past year and summer: Caylie McGlade (2019), Melody Iacino (2020), Miquela Santoro (2020) Kenny Butler (2023) and Tiffany Dwyer (2020); who synthesized more than 30 derivatives of our sphingosine kinase inhibitor template drug. We are currently getting the final NMRs and plan to publish these results over the Christmas break. There have been a number of students who have worked on this project over the years, and I plan to identify all as coauthors. Personally, my wife and kids are doing great! My oldest is a freshman in high school while the middle is in 6th grade and Thomas is in 3rd (prayers appreciated!). I look forward to hearing from all the graduates on where you are and what you have been up to.

Nick Grossoehme

I LOVE my job! I went to college at a very small Lutheran college in Nebraska where I was the only chemistry major in my year. As such, I was able to have very close and meaningful relationships with my professors; however, I recognized that the size of the school was quite restrictive in the opportunities that it afforded. For example, the only research experience that I had during my undergraduate years was a short 9 week program at the University of Arkansas. As I progressed through graduate school (Dartmouth College) and my post-doctoral education (Indiana University), I kept these thoughts in mind. I knew that I wanted to find a place that was small enough that meaningful student/professor relationships could be developed while also affording more research opportunities: I found that Winthrop’s chemistry program provided both of these.

After arriving at Winthrop in 2010, I immediately began building my research program and have continued to expound upon my research over the last two years. My laboratory focuses primarily on understanding how bacteria are able to control metal ion concentrations. You may be wondering what is so remarkable about metals and why it is worth studying. Well, absolutely all living organisms rely on metal ions for survival. If you completely remove metals from the environment, life cannot survive. Conversely, if the concentration of metals inside the cell is allowed to exceed a certain threshold, it becomes very dangerous, and eventually lethal, for any living entity. As scientists, if we can understand the machinery that dangerous organisms use to control metal ion concentrations inside the cell, we may be able to leverage this knowledge to create drugs that target metal ion homeostasis. For example, if we can prevent a cell from recognizing that metal concentrations are building to dangerous levels, the cell will not know that it needs to create detoxification systems and it will die. With my 2018 and 2019 student collaborators, Kiera Alexander, David Brandyburg, Brandy Ellison, Sophie Nguyen Alexandra Perez, Lucia Rodriguez, Hunter Sellers and Katrina Schneider, we have been investigating three main metal systems: copper (in all bacteria), nickel in S. coelicolor, and iron in S. pneuminiae. Our efforts have yielded several published journal articles.

During the last two years at Winthrop, I have continued to be very passionate about adjusting my teaching strategies based on published studies as well as empirical data that I have collected. Nearly all of my classes use the flipped classroom model with active learning strategies incorporated into essentially every class. I believe deeply in creating learning environments that are effective for all students independent of background; this is a very difficult but very worthy goal to strive for and it provides me with daily motivation to think carefully and creatively about the struggles that I’ve observed from each student. I love my job!

Jay Hanna

THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS HAVE BEEN AN exciting time in our research group. We were able to secure an ACS-PRF grant for our investigations into the photoredox-promoted addition of organoborates to imines, and we published the preliminary results in Photochemical and Photobiological Sciences. Students working on this project have given several conference presentations at SERMACS and NC Photochem; in fact, Evan Thibodeaux (’21) was named runner up for Best Undergraduate Poster at NC Photochem 2019. This is especially noteworthy considering that there were undergraduate students from several top schools in the area, including UNC Chapel Hill and Davidson College. Evan, along with a couple of new additions to the group, Molly Quetel (’23), and Eric Walters (’23), are continuing to move forward on this project. We are also making headway in our collaboration with Dr. Robin Lammi involving the synthesis and evaluation of polyhydroxy biaryls and teraryls as amyloid-β aggregation inhibitors. Since the aggregation of amyloid-β has been implicated in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, designing molecules which inhibit this process has been an active area of research. After completing the work on the terphenyl- and biphenyl-tetrols, we have begun to investigate how the inclusion of an electron-deficient aromatic ring (pyridine) in these scaffolds affects the inhibitory efficacy. This work has been carried out by a number of capable research students, most recently Brandy Crenshaw (’19), Musu Murray (’19), Benjamin Hernandez (’19), and Kendall Claxton (’22), who have been able to present their work at national and regional ACS meetings. Finally, I was selected to present a poster at the 2018 Gordon Research Conference on Heterocyclic Chemistry describing another area of interest in our group: the syntheses and anti-cancer properties of benzisoxazoloazinium salts. This project involved a collaboration with Dr. Takita Sumter and several former students, two of which have earned their Ph.D.s, and two others are currently pursuing their Ph.D.

Ponn Maheswaranathan

IT'S BEEN wonderful the past two years. I have continued to teach a variety of courses taken by chemistry, biology, exercise science, mathematics, computer science, and non-science majors and applied physics minors. These are everyday physics, general physics, general physics laboratory, material science, circuit analysis, and independent study. Due to the high demand for general physics, I taught an additional section as an overload during the fall of 2018 and 2019. My research is based on experimental solid-state physics, materials science, physics education, and professional development of teachers. Obtained a 2017-18 Research Council award for Curriculum Enhancement/Instructional Improvement, and developed supplemental online deep learning activities for general physics using the Blackboard platform. In one of the projects for the independent study course, Peter Nguyen (computer science), investigated the magnetic field produced by DC electric currents. This work resulted in valuable information, knowledge, and new equipment that are useful in teaching physics. A manuscript titled, "An Experiment to verify the current dependence of Ampere’s law for a long current carrying conductor" is accepted for publication in The Physics Teacher. Thanks to the funding from Made in SC EPSCoR grant, we (with Dr. Calloway) conducted a professional development workshop for South Carolina high school teachers at Winthrop University this past summer. This will be continued for the next three summers.

In addition, I served as a consultant for the College Board in the following endeavors: Senior Reviewer for Physics C-Mechanics & Physics C- Electricity and Magnetism, AP Physics Reader 2018 and 2019, and Scoring Guide Development Team member. I was selected to revise the scoring guides and associated teacher and reviewer resources to align with updated AP course frameworks.

I had the privilege and honor to serve as a judge at the SCAS/SCJAS (South Carolina Academy of Sciences)/South Carolina Junior Academy of Sciences) meetings at Presbyterian College (April 14, 2018) and Francis Marion University (March 30, 2019). I presented papers at the Southeastern American Physical Society meetings November 8-10 (2018) at University of Tennessee and November 7-10 (2019) at UNC Wilmington. Attending various conferences allowed me to exchange ideas and has kept me abreast of changes in the world of physics teaching and research. My expertise is also used for adjudicating Ph.D. thesis and reviewing journal manuscripts and physics textbooks for publication.

On a personal note, Shyamala and I enjoyed spending part of our summers in Sri Lanka and visiting South India. Our sons are doing well professionally. Mithu is at Duke University doing a fellowship in Rheumatology & Immunology and Niru is a research engineer at Google Brain.

Scott Werts

OUR GROUP HAS shifted focus, somewhat, from carbon sequestration in compost material to decompositional studies, remote sensing, and carbon sequestration in natural environments. We purchased some sensors that will collect the temperature and moisture content of soils every 5 minutes in several successional vegetation plots on campus and transmit the data to us over a wireless network on campus. We are tracking litter decomposition rates in all these plots and researching environmental influences on the carbon loss rates. Blake Campbell and Dakota Shope worked in the lab all summer on this project and recently presented their work at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco in December. Their work has laid the groundwork for development of further experimental plots off campus in the coming year. I also have two new collaborations with professors on campus beginning in the spring and summer. Kiyoshi Sasaki (biology) and I will begin collecting and analyzing tree cores from the piedmont area in hopes of correlating various climate records. Hye-Sung Kim (political science), Bryan McFadden (geography), and I have started analyzing soil quality and rainfall accumulation as factors of outbreaks of violence in unstable regions around the globe. New lab members, Ashley Allen and Mikayla Burke along with geography research students Michael Kendree and Sara Mulligan will begin tackling this research in the spring.

THIS PAST YEAR IN THE CLASSROOM WAS busy as I taught Subarctic Landscapes, which involves a 9-day trip to Northern Manitoba on the shores of the Hudson Bay with students in August. Twelve-hour days with students for over a week are exhausting, but there is nothing quite like teaching in the field and researching with excited students ready to learn. I was invited to give a lecture on this course development at the University of Oslo this past spring. All this summer research, teaching, mentoring, and personal travel to Kentucky, Virginia, California, and Ohio over the summer made me exhausted before the semester started. Since then, I have traveled to Minnesota for a workshop on sustainability in education, taught our university ACAD course for freshman, have been making plans for an environmental conference in January, preparing to teach a retooled version of Soils and Land Use this spring, and exploring the possibility of a U.S.-based field course for geology and geography students this coming summer. For additional information email to Dr. Werts at wertss@winthrop.edu.

Faculty Awards & Grants

Dr. Maria Gelabert

Principal investigator (PI) - Materials Assembly and Design Excellence in South Carolina; Made in SC /Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR)/National Science Foundation (NSF)

Dr. Nicholas Grossoehme

Principal investigator (PI) - South Carolina EPSCoR/IDeA/SC Commission on Higher Education (SC CHE) - ”GEAR CRP: Collaboration to develop ferritin-based bio-macromolecular assemblies for targeted interactions with cells

Dr. James Hanna, Jr.

Principal investigator (PI) - American Chemical Society’s Petroleum Research Fund, ACS-PRF Grant Visible-Light-Promoted Additions of Organoborates to Imines

Dr. Robin Lammi

Principal investigator (PI) - South Carolina’s IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE)/National Institutes of Health (NIH)



Rachel Law, founding director of the Eagle STEM Program, left Winthrop on June 30, 2019 to pursue other endeavors. According to Dr. Pat Owens (department chair), Law made an historical impact in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) field that has been one of the most important developments at Winthrop in the last decade. She put Winthrop on the national map. This wonderful legacy will never be forgotten. As the Founding Director in 2011, she took a concept and made it happen. Across five cohorts, 67 have graduated and 42 went to graduate school. The program was implemented to help mentor students from families with lower incomes, underrepresented groups, and first-generation college students. This enables selected students to pursue graduate and doctoral degrees.

In 2009, Law joined Winthrop as an adjunct faculty member in Physics. Two years later, she became the Eagle STEM Program Director. Prior to coming to Winthrop, Rachel graduated from West Virginia University with a degree in chemical engineering. Then, she pursued an extensive career in industry which included the position of director of research at a major chemical corporation, Celanese Acetate. Also, she has been engaged in the academic community in various capacities serving on numerous committees and boards including the Industrial Advisory Committee for the Department of Chemical Engineering at WVU and the Board of Trustees for York Technical College. Rachel has been active in organizations such as NOBCChE and has served as a diversity advocate. She was a contributing author to the Wiley-VCH publication Cellulose Acetates: Properties and Applications. Rachel's awareness of other cultures has been enhanced by her travels to Europe, the far East, Africa, and North America.

Practically all of the faculty and staff attended a luncheon in Rachel’s honor on June 12, 2019. Rachel will be greatly missed. This was very evident at her luncheon and reception. Numerous students, Eagle STEM alumni, co-workers, and friends attended the drop-in reception on June 19, 2019.


Elaine Brooks

Brooks was hired as the Departmental Budget Manager on May 16, 2019. She is responsible for budget and procurement activities in support of Winthrop’s external grant programs. Elaine graduated from Kings College in Charlotte, North Carolina. Prior to joining Winthrop, her previous experience includes ten years as a Senior Administrative Assistant for NationsBank (currently Bank of America), thirteen years as Logistics Manager for On Target Media (a marketing company located in Cincinnati, Ohio), and most recently, nine years as a Client Professional with H&R Block.

Amanda Cavin

Cavin became the new Eagle STEM Director on July 1, 2019. Mrs. Cavin attended Winthrop University as a post-traditional student, graduating in 2015 and 2017 respectively with a B.S. degree in Early Childhood and two M.Ed. degrees in Literacy and Special Education. She was a McNair Scholar and later served as the program’s graduate assistant and then programming assistant. She taught in the public school system briefly before becoming the Director of the Eagle STEM Scholars program. Cavin is married with four children. In her free time she loves hanging out with her husband and loving on their four dogs.

Samuel Johnson

Johnson joined the Chemistry Department as a chemistry instructor on August 19, 2019. Sam has been a Senior Service Engineer with a scientific instrument company for over 13 years. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from the University of Tulsa and a Master of Science in Analytical Chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology. His industry experience includes pharmaceutical method development and research, chemical manufacturing laboratory management, analytical chemistry consulting, and computer hardware and networking instruction. In his current role in industry, he has worked in a wide variety of academic, industrial and government laboratories solving problems and educating customers on instrumental function, troubleshooting techniques, and best practices. Also, in his spare time, Sam loves camping, reading history, keeping up with the space program, target shooting and volunteering as a Boy Scout Leader. Sam is excited to be able to share his knowledge and experience with the Winthrop community.

Dr. Timea Fernandez

Fernandez started August 16, 2019 as an assistant professor of chemistry. She was born and raised in Budapest, Hungary. She had the privilege of participating in a wide variety of research projects ranging from molecular modeling, X-ray crystallography as well as nucleic acid biochemistry and microbiology. Timea completed her undergraduate studies in chemistry at Lorand Eotvos University in Budapest, Hungary. Her undergraduate research was focused on determining the atomic resolution structure of small molecules using X-ray crystallography. Timea stayed at Lorand Eotvos University to complete her Ph.D. under the mentorship of Professor Gabor Naray-Szabo. Her research aimed to characterize protein-drug complexes using X-ray crystallography and molecular modeling.

During her graduate studies, Timea realized that in order to become an effective structural biologist she needed to learn more about biochemistry and molecular biology hence she chose to cross the Atlantic to study RNA biochemistry in the laboratory of Professor Carl Correll at the University of Chicago. Her post-doctoral research showed that two proteins, Imp3 and Imp4, chaperon RNA base pair formations that are essential for small ribosomal subunit biogenesis.

Timea started her career as an independent investigator at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Her research interest focuses on understanding how natural RNA aptamers called riboswitches regulate the expression of genes in bacteria. She uses structure probing, binding affinity as well as mutagenesis studies to assess how antibiotics alter the regulatory function of riboswitches. Timea had the privilege of teaching biochemistry and general chemistry courses in Indiana and Texas. The highlight of her teaching carrier was when she developed an inquiry-based biochemistry laboratory curriculum at Ball State University. She hopes to incorporate this curriculum into the biochemistry education at Winthrop as well.

When not teaching or doing research Timea loves to spend time with her three children Lilliann, Mikey and Charlotte. Timea is also an avid reader, loves to play and listen to music and spend time outdoors.


Hat’s off, effective July 1, 2019, Dr. Takita Sumter was appointed Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences (CAS). Prior to this appointment, Sumter had begun transitioning into higher levels of leadership roles at Winthrop University. She served in a temporary position, Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs from July 1, 2018 until June 30, 2019. She served as the Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018.

Dr. Takita Sumter was hired in the Department of Chemistry, Physics, & Geology on August 15, 2004 as an Assistant Professor of Chemistry. Her area of focus for the department was biochemistry. She received her Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of South Carolina and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine prior to joining the faculty at Winthrop. Sumter has taught courses in the general chemistry and biochemistry sequences and enthusiastically mentors undergraduate research. Her research focuses on understanding the role played by the High Mobility Group A (HMGA) Family of proteins in cancer initiation and progression. She frequently publishes in refereed scientific journals and makes editorial contributions to professional publications. Sumter has a passion for fostering the interests of students, especially minorities and women, in science.

The Department of Chemistry, Physics, & Geology is very proud of Dean Sumter’s achievements and wishes her the best! We will miss her strolling down the hallways of Sims Science Building in her navy blue lab coat!


Pam Jaco, the instrumentation manager for the department is planning to retire effective June 30, 2020. Jaco has a chemistry degree from Ashland University and extensive laboratory management experience in Research and Product Development in the textile industry. She has trained numerous CHEM108, CHEM304, and research students on the instrumentation for the department. Pam has done a superb job maintaining the equipment and the building. She will be greatly missed!


Chemistry has a new father in the department! Dr. and Mrs. Harris have been blessed with a beautiful baby daughter. Clara Harris came into the world on August 18, 2019 at 8:55 PM, twenty inches long and weighing seven pounds and four ounces. Congratulations!


World’s hottest pepper Carolina Reaper featured in new wired video that also shows Winthrop Chemistry professor, Dr. Cliff Calloway doing his smoking hot HPLC magic to determine Scovill Heat Index. The web link is https://youtu.be/1uNpjqH-mQQ. Calloway starts at 9:05 on video.


Winthrop and external grants such as EPSCoR Made in SC and SC INBRE have continued to provide exceptional support enabling the department to purchase additional equipment in 2019. This exhilarating new equipment continues to be very beneficial to faculty research, students taking various chemical courses, and performing summer research.

QuantaMaster 8075-11 Spectrofluorometer

The QuantaMaster 8075-11 Spectrofluorometer is a multidimensional system for photolumines-cence measurements (up to 5,500 nm). It ensures you get the best possible results for steady state intensity measurements, time-based experiments, synchronous scans and polarization. All that with high sensitivity, spectral resolution and stray light rejection. This level of sensitivity is achieved using a xenon illuminator, providing safety, cost and energy consumption benefits not found among competitor’s products.


The microESR is a portable research grade spectrometer that is an ideal teaching tool for undergraduate research chemistry laboratories. The spectrometer has a mass of only 10 kg and a 30.5 x 30.5 x 30.5 cm3 foot print. It can easily fit in a fume hood or glove box, or be transported to the field. It requires no special installation or regular maintenance. Professors can even demonstrate the instrument in the classroom by simply showing free radicals including electron density, spin-orbit coupling, spin-spin exchange, and forbidden transitions. The Education Package is a very good investment for Chemistry Departments as there are a wide range of labs and subjects that can be addressed with the microESR.

Nicoya OpenSPR

The Nicoya OpenSPR is a benchtop surface plasmon resonance (SPR) instrument. It provides high quality quantitative data on the interaction of biological molecules without requiring a chemical label that may alter their function.


Distinguished speaker Dr. J Phillip Bowen spoke to Winthrop Biochemistry and Chemistry majors on Molecular Modeling in Cardiovascular Research on January 17, 2019. Dr. Bowen is a Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Mercer University.

Dr. Elizabeth "Liz" Nolan, an Associate Professor of Biochemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology delivered two lectures at Winthrop on February 18-19, 2019. The topic for day one was "Using Chemistry to Study the Host Pathogen Interaction and Explore New Antibiotic Strategies." Day two was "Metals and Immunity: Bioorganic Explorations of Calprotectin."

Appalachian State Chemistry Professor Dr. Brooke Christian presented a Winthrop chemistry seminar on February 21, 2019. Her topic was on “Mitochondrial Reactive Oxygen Species.”

World leading materials scientist, Dr. Raj Bordia gave an exciting ceramics research talk on March 7, 2019. He is the Director of the $20 million Materials Assembly and Design Excellence (MADE) in South Carolina NSF research grant and a Clemson Materials Science and Engineering Professor.

Dr. Kateri DuBay, from the University of Virginia, came to our campus for a chemistry seminar on September 12, 2019. Dr. DuBay described her research on nanoscale self-assembly and computational method: Modeling self-organization within spatially and temporally variant environments.

Clemson University's department of chemical and biomolecular engineering professor, Dr. Jessica Larsen shared at the seminar on October 31, 2019. Her seminar research topic was Engineering Biologically Relevant Drug Delivery Systems for Neurologic Diseases.

Dr. Thomas Makris, from department of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, presented at Winthrop University on November 14, 2019. Iron-cofactors for Industry and Medicine was his research presentation topic.


Students Learning Beyond the Walls of Winthrop in 2019

This has been another productive year for Winthrop students and professors/mentors traveling to various places around the world. In-depth knowledge obtained has truly enhanced what students learned in the classroom and in the laboratory.

Research at Brookhaven National Lab in Upton, NY

Under the direction of Dr. Fatima Amir, Sean Wechsler and Isabella Schepisi traveled during the Summer of 2019 to Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) in Upton, New York. As they performed research, they were required to wear white bunny suits in the cleanroom at the Center of Functional Nanomaterials (CFN) at BNL. In the other photos, Sean and Isabella obtained x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) data by using the XPS system at CFN. This was another amazing opportunity for students taking physics courses. For additional information, contact Amir at amirf@Winthrop.edu.

Faculty-led Study Abroad Canadian Trip - Hudson Bay Area

Dr. Werts led a team of eight students to the shores of the Hudson Bay in northern Manitoba in the Subarctic Landscapes class in August of 2019. It is a place most do not get to see as it is only accessible by plane or train. It is both the polar bear and beluga whale capital of the world, due to its fairly unique triple junction of ecological zones, which also makes it an amazing place to study environmental science, geology and ecology.

The team of students expanded and installed a remote sensing network in the tundra environment that is collecting atmospheric and soil data and sending it back to the lab workstations at Winthrop. Students completed vegetation surveys, installed a snow fence, collected geolocation data on research plots and abandoned settlement structures, and calculated the growth rate of trees in the dwarf boreal forest. The team stayed at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre and were able to interact with many other international students and researchers during the trip.

Students had the opportunity to kayak with beluga whales as it is the height of the migration season in August. The whales use the shelter of the river to give birth, but migrate to the open waters of the Bay prior to the sea ice arriving. Students also had the chance to see the northern lights in the evening and had a surprise encounter with a polar bear (while sitting safely in the van with a bear guard). For more information, contact Werts at wertss@winthrop.edu.

Big picture

Faculty-led Study Abroad Trip to Study Geology in the Bahamas

On December 30, 2019, Dr. Diana Boyer took another class of Geology 345 students to the tropical island, San Salvador, Bahamas. This hands-on course continues to allow students to observe modern carbonate environments and coral reef communities in the Bahamian tropical island. Again students evaluated how physical and biological processes are translated into the rock record. For more information, contact Boyer at boyerd@winthrop.edu.

Big picture


Student(*) Peer-Reviewed Publications

-Wechsler, S. C.;* Amir, F. Z. Superior Electrochemical Performance of Pristine Nickel Hexaaminoben-zene MOF Supercapacitors Fabricated by Electrophoretic Deposition. ChemSusChem 2019 02691.

-Ngyuen, D. K.*; Schepisi, I. M.* ; Amir, F. Z. Extraordinary cycling stability of Ni3(HITP)2 supercapaci-tors fabricated by electrophoretic deposition: Cycling at 100,000 cycles. Chemical Engineering Journal 2019 378, 122150.

-Harris, C.; Gaster, C.;* Gelabert, M. C. Reverse Micelles as Templates for the Fabrication of Size-Con-trolled Nanoparticles: A Physical Chemistry Experiment Journal of Chemical Education 2019 96(3), 565-570.

-Manley, O. M.;* Myers, P. D.;* Toney, D. J.;* Bolling, K.F.;* Rhodes, L. C.;* Gasparik, J. L.;* Grossoehme, N. E. Evaluation of the regulatory model for Ni2+ sensing by Nur from Streptomyces coelicolor. Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry 2019 110859.

Student(*) Presentations at National Conferences

-Campbell, B.;* Shope, D.;* Werts, S. P.Remote Sensing and Decomposition Rates of Forest Succession Plots in the Piedmont of South Carolina. American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, San Francisco, CA. 2019.

Student(*) Presentations at Regional Conferences

-Dixson, S. P.;* Shope, D. P.;* Boyer, D., A Diminutive Late Devonian Recovery Fauna From The Cleveland Shale. 68th annual Southeast Regional Meeting of the Geological Society of America, Charleston, SC, 2019.

-Wechsler, S.;* Amir, F. Facile fabrication of pristine nickel hexaminobenezne (Ni3(HIB)2) metal-organic framework supercapacitor electrodes via electrophoretic deposition. 71st Southeastern Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society, Savannah, GA, 2019.

-Grattan, T. C.; Butler, K. J.* Sphingosine kinase inhibition using modified variants of a sphingosine kinase inhibitor. 71st Southeastern Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society, Savannah, GA, 2019.

-Ellison, B. W.*; Perez, A. T.;* Outten, F. W.; Grossoehme, N. E. Measuring heat related to the dissociation and reformation of ferritin using isothermal titration calorimetry. 71st Southeastern Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society, Savannah, GA, 2019.

- Thibodeaux, E. H.;* Ciesa, B. E.;* Hanna, J. M. Photoredox-mediated alkylation of imines with potassium organotrifluoroborates in the presence of an organic photocatalyst. 71st Southeastern Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society, Savannah, GA, 2019.

- McCloskey, B.;* Harris, C. Multi-step electrodeposition of p-type metal chalcogenides as components of water splitting tandems- 71st Southeastern Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society, Savannah, GA, 2019.


External Summer 2019 Research Fellowships Awarded

Nine Winthrop students were awarded external research fellowships and performed research at Winthrop University during the summer of 2019. These students presented their research results and experiences to other WU students and faculty. The students are listed below.

Big picture

Internal/Winthrop Summer 2019 Research Fellowships Awarded

Students in the department are awarded WU research fellowships to perform research under Winthrop's faculty mentors. Mentors coordinate the activities during the summer in which the students enthusiastically participate in the research.

The internal Winthrop University Fellowships activities fall under the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) program. SURE provides an exciting experience for students involved in the Department of Chemistry, Physics, and Geology research. The students are able to participate in cutting-edge research during an eight to ten week period over the summer with faculty mentors.

Students present their research in the form of presentations and posters at various meetings, conferences, and symposiums. Thanks to the financial support of various external agencies and organizations, the hands-on learning research experience provided by the mentors, and the university support for making the undergraduate research possible for department students.

Big picture
Big picture


Another year of students traveling to various conferences and meetings to present their research posters. Winthrop students continue to compete and obtain knowledge from others from various universities and locations around the world. They had amazing opportunities in 2019 to network with people in the STEM field.

GSA (Geological Society of America) Meeting in South Carolina

Remarkable Winthrop geology students presented summer research results at the GSA meeting in Charleston, South Carolina on March 28, 2019. The research data is based on fossil shales that they collected in Cleveland, Ohio during summer of 2018. Pictured on photo from left the right is research student Dakota Shope(’20) and Sara Dixson(’20) and faculty member, Dr. Diana Boyer.

Big picture

Made in SC Faculty & Fellows Conference at USC in Columbia

Students and faculty attended the MADE in SC Faculty and Fellows conference, held at the USC Alumni Center in Columbia, South Carolina, on September 20, 2019. In attendance were Sean Wechsler ('20), Thomas Sullivan ('21), Blake McCloskey ('20), and faculty members Drs. Fatima Amir, Maria Gelabert and Cliff Harris. The meeting included scientific talks, faculty interactions for establishing collaborations between experimental and computational research, and a panel discussion by the Industrial EPSCoR Advisory Board for student career development. Pictured here are Sean Wechsler and Thomas Sullivan at their posters.

Big picture

Poster Presentations at SERMACS Conference in Georgia

Students and faculty attended the 2019 Southeastern Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society (SERMACS) Conference, held in downtown Savannah, Georgia, October 20-23, 2019. In attendance were Brandon Ellison, Blake McCloskey, Alexandra Perez, Evan Thibodaux, Sean Wechsler, and faculty members Drs. Fatima Amir, Nick Grossoehme, Jay Hanna and Robin Lammi. The students presented their research posters.

Big picture

Photochem Conference at Appalachian State

Evan Thibodeaux and his mentor, Dr. James Hanna, Jr. attended the NC Photochem 2019 Conference. It was held at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina on October 26, 2019. Additional information can be found under STUDENTS RECEIVE AWARDS AND RECOGNITION section.

Poster Presentations at the AGU Meeting in California

Blake Campbell, Dakota Shope, and geology faculty member, Dr. Scott Werts attended the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco, California, December 9-13, 2019. Dr. Werts submitted the abstract for the national meeting. Undergraduate research students, Dakota and Blake presented their posters alongside graduate students, post-doctoral researchers and professors alike.

Big picture


Students continue to receive various awards at Winthrop and conferences such as the American Chemical Society (ACS). Research students have successfully competed at conferences and won.

ACS, Caskey Scholar, and Kullberg Research Award Winners

The following students won awards in 2019:

  • Lennart H. Kullberg Research Award - Caylie McGlade
  • ACS Organic Division – Winthrop Undergraduate Award - Caylie McGlade
  • Inez Bell Caskey Student-Scholar Award - Cale Gaster
  • ACS Carolina Piedmont Section – Undergraduate Research - Cale Gaster (Photo below)

Excellence in Undergraduate Research Award

Dr. James Hanna, Jr. presented Cale Gaster the 2019 Excellence in Undergraduate Research Award. A recipient is awarded annually by the Carolina-Piedmont Section of the American Chemical Society.

Big picture

Best Posters at NC Photochem Conference

Evan Thibodeaux, Dr. James Hanna’s undergrad research assistant, was named runner up for the Best Undergraduate Poster at NC Photochem 2019, held at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC on October 26, 2019. He was among four graduate students and one other undergrad.

Big picture


Students did an excellent job presenting their summer research results on June 27-28, July 25-26 and September 26-27, 2019. Other WU students and visitors gained knowledge from each student’s summer research experience by listening attentively and asking questions.

Big picture


On October 4, 2019, over fifteen Chemistry and Biochemistry majors presented their summer research results! Summer research students did an outstanding job presenting their research to other students, faculty, staff, and visitors. Click on link below for additional information on undergraduate summer research at Winthrop University.


Big picture


Chemistry Majors Key In Big South Tennis Championships

On April 19, 2019, top-seeded Winthrop women’s tennis team (16-7, 9-0 Big South) won its 21st all-time Big Conference Championship title and automatic place in the 2019 NCAA Tournament. This is the team's third straight Big South title in which three chemistry majors were key in each victory. The three awesome chemistry majors are Catlin Cridland (2017), Aida Kelic (2018), and Ellie Burns (2019).

Big picture

SAACS at the STEAM Festival Downtown Rock Hill, SC

Dr. Clifton Harris and members of SAACS (Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society) participated in Rock Hill’s STEAM Festival on September 28, 2019.

Big picture

Chemistry Major Starts a Minority STEM Group at Winthrop

Merilyn Shanell Palmer started a STEM group for minorities this past fall. The group is for Minorities who are Astonishingly Driven Scientists (M.A.D. Scientists). They were chartered through Winthrop's Council of Student Leaders (CSL) on September 30, 2019. Based on Merilyn's research, the group was started because minorities are currently underrepresented in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Winthrop STEM students will gain exposure to possible careers, internships, research help, professional development, and volunteer opportunities. STEM students can join and benefit from the group without any financial stipulations! The officers are Merilyn Palmer (Founder and President), Carla Wilson (Vice-President), Bryson Samuel (Secretary), and Mrs. Willie Ruth Aiken (Advisor).

On October 25, 2019, the group participated in Oakdale's after school Reading Tent activity. They shared and demonstrated the chemistry involved in making slime. The elementary students enjoyed learning how to make slime!

Big picture



Class of 2019 students matriculated into various graduate programs and into industry. When students graduated, some had not made a decision, while others matriculated into doctoral or masters programs or pursued careers in industry. In 2019, a couple of students from previous classes matriculated into doctoral programs.

Big picture
Big picture

2019 Doctoral Degrees

Kudos to the biochemistry and chemistry alumni that received doctoral degrees in 2019. Your achievement is a testimony of the education at Winthrop University.

Big picture

Alumni Sightings

Big picture
Big picture
Big picture
Big picture

Under Gift Designation, select "Chemistry Department Enrichment Fund" or mail a check payable to Winthrop Univ. Chemistry Dept.; 101 Sims; RH, SC 29733; Acct# 142250-2555-200.