CLEMSON, South Carolina – Campus is bustling with the return of students for the 2017-18 academic year – 16 of whom are new graduate students in the department of chemistry. The students came from universities across the country, and will explore the vast amount of research emphases in the department before choosing their focuses in December.

karl works with an apparatus in his lab

Karl Dieter stepped into his role as an Emeritus Professor on Aug. 15.
Image Credit: Clemson University

However, a new class of students isn’t the only change occurring in the department.

After working for more than 30 years in the department of chemistry, Karl Dieter stepped down on Aug. 15 from his role as department chair. He will continue to serve the department in his capacity as an Emeritus Professor in the Emeritus College.

Before joining Clemson is 1985, Dieter received his B.A. (1973) from Lehigh University and his Ph.D. (1978) from the University of Pennsylvania. There, his research focused on synthesis, synthetic methods, and photochemistry under the direction of professor Amos B. Smith III. After receiving his Ph.D., Dieter was an American Chemical Society Postdoctoral Fellow (1978-1979) with professor Jerrold Meinwald at Cornell University, studying natural products chemistry. Dieter served on the faculty of Boston University before coming to Clemson. Here, his research uses organocopper, organopalladium and organosulfur chemistry to study new synthetic methods.

pennington poses in front of microscope and molecule

Pennington is the newest department chair in chemistry.
Image Credit: Clemson University

Taking the place of Dieter as department chair is professor Bill Pennington. An author of more than 260 publications and an editor of the Journal of Chemical Crystallography, Pennington studies the crystal chemistry of materials involving Lewis acid-Lewis base interactions. The Award of Excellence for Teaching in the Sciences at Clemson University (2000) and the South Carolina Governor’s Award for Excellence in Science Awareness (2002) are just two of the many honors Pennington has received in his years as an educator and researcher. He is the director of Clemson’s EUREKA! Program, a summer research program for incoming Calhoun Honors students, as well as the chemistry department’s Molecular Structure Center.

Pennington received his B.A. in chemistry from Hendrix College (1977) and his Ph.D. from the University of Arkansas (1983) in inorganic chemistry. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Illinois, researching in the area of solid state organic chemistry, and spent two years at Molecular Structure Corporation in College Station, Texas, before coming to Clemson in 1987.

In addition to faculty switch-ups, the department has been awarded funding for novel research and equipment.

dan works in his lab with student

Professor Daniel Whitehead (left) received a grant from the NSF.
Image Credit: Clemson University

Starting on July 1, professor Daniel Whitehead was awarded a continuing grant of $420,000 from the National Science Foundation (Award # 1664920) to develop new methods for synthesizing organic molecules with importance in the pharmaceutical and fine chemistry industries. Not only will Whitehead’s group educate undergraduate and graduate students in this project, but they will also be recruiting underrepresented students to participate in laboratory research. Outreach activities with K-6 Montessori students and elementary-aged homeschoolers are also in the plans for this project.

Additionally, principal investigator Leah Casabianca and co-investigators Sourav Saha, Julia Brumaghim, Mark Thies and Nishanth Tharayil have secured funding to obtain a 500 MHz nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometer with cryoprobe. The funding is provided by the Major Research Instrumentation (MRI), the Chemistry Research Instrumentation, and the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) Programs at the National Science Foundation under award number 1725919.

student (Emily, left) looks at laptop with Leah (right)

Assistant professor Leah Casabianca (right) is leading the grant for a new NMR spectrometer.
Image Credit: Clemson University

The team, along with many other researchers and students at Clemson University and beyond, will use the NMR spectrometer to examine the physical and chemical properties of atoms and molecules. The attached cryoprobe will enhance the spectrometer’s capabilities, allowing researchers to explore new questions that were unworkable before the cryoprobe’s invention.

A Fulbright Scholar, Federico Gomez, is also joining the department of chemistry to develop and use new carbon substrates for the detection of biomarkers. Gomez received his Ph.D. in Argentina and has researched at several institutions before coming to Clemson this year, where he will study under professor Carlos Garcia.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Fulbright Program is a competitive, merit-based scholarship program for students, scholars, teachers, professionals and scientists. Approximately 8,000 grants are awarded annually for the purpose of an international education exchange. The Fulbright Program was established in 1946 and is one of the most prestigious scholarships in the world.