"Theoretical chemistry is the coolest thing ever..."




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Senior chemistry major Becky Weber and Dr. Thomas Sommerfeld, director of Southeastern’s Molecular Simulation Lab, discuss the composition of a specific molecule.

 

Rebecca “Becky” Weber, Chemistry major

Dr. Thomas Sommerfeld, Assistant Professor of Theoretical and Computational Chemistry

 


 

When Becky Weber started studies at a Texas community college, she wanted to be a high school science teacher.

 

Several years later after getting married and starting a family she and her husband moved to Hammond to be closer to his family. It was then that she enrolled at Southeastern.

 

Becky Weber, Chemistry major

Becky Weber, Chemistry major

“When I started taking chemistry courses here, I said to myself, ‘I really, really like this.’ I thought quantum and theoretical chemistry were the coolest thing ever. It made coming to school really enjoyable.”

Now focused on becoming a university professor and researcher, Becky has thrown herself into her studies, earning the student re-entry award from Iota Sigma Pi, the national honor society for women in chemistry. In addition, she has gotten a strong taste of research having worked in Southeastern’s Molecular Simulation Lab under the direction of Dr. Thomas Sommerfeld, assistant professor of theoretical and computational chemistry, and in organic chemistry under Dr. Debra Dolliver.

 

Most recently, she got to work with a visiting scientist from Poland, Dr. Iwona Dabkowska, who selected Southeastern to do post-doctoral studies and research under a prestigious Marie Curie fellowship.

 

“It was a wonderful opportunity and a real honor to be able to interact with a scientist like Dr. Dabkowska,” said Becky, who this spring was inducted into the national honor society Phi Kappa Phi and was cited as the outstanding junior in science. “Working in this lab has given me a great appreciation for scientists like Dr. Dabkowska and Dr. Sommerfeld. It’s an experience I would not have gained by only interacting with them in the classroom.”

 

“Becky just completed a collaborative project on the mechanism of a reaction that is studied experimentally in Dr. Dolliver's lab,” Sommerfeld said. “She was very quick to pick up new concepts, and within a few weeks she was able to run and apply complex quantum-chemistry program packages. What impresses me most is that she works very independently; in fact, more independently than many students in their first years of graduate school.”

 

Becky, who is the new president of SCUMS (Society for Chemistry Undergraduate Majors) at Southeastern, is taking that basic expertise to the next level through a summer program at the University of Southern Mississippi, where she will spend several months working in computational chemistry under the National Science Foundation-funded Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program. The program allows students to go to a different institution and focus strictly on research.

 

“Becky is making the most out of her summers diversifying her research experience through the REU program,” Sommerfeld added, “and I am looking forward to starting new projects with her.”

 



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