• Having a strong undergraduate research program helped Southwestern land one of five Jean Dreyfus Boissevain Lectureships t...
    Having a strong undergraduate research program helped Southwestern land one of five Jean Dreyfus Boissevain Lectureships that were awarded in 2014. Chemistry majors Caitlin Lacker and Jimmy Alleyn are shown here working in the lab of Mike Gesinski, assistant professor of chemistry.

Southwestern is one of five institutions in the country that have been selected to receive a prestigious chemistry lectureship for 2014.

The Jean Dreyfus Boissevain Lectureships, which are awarded by The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, provide an $18,500 grant to bring a leading chemistry researcher to campus and to support two undergraduates in summer research.

Maha Zewail-Foote, chair of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department, said she plans to ask students this fall to pick the distinguished speaker they would like to bring to campus. The speaker will spend two days on campus visiting with students, attending classes, and giving both a scientific and a public lecture.

The summer research funding will be awarded to outstanding junior or senior chemistry or biochemistry majors who demonstrate exceptional promise as scientists.

“Having the opportunity to interact with a prominent contemporary scientist can profoundly influence and inspire budding scientists,” Zewail-Foote said. “It will be very invigorating for our students to be reminded that as scientists they can be torchbearers in the human quest for knowledge.”

Zewail-Foote wrote and submitted Southwestern’s proposal for the grant. Selection criteria for the lectureships include faculty research programs, internal/external research support and undergraduate participation in research.

Southwestern’s proposal noted the fact that 92 percent of its chemistry and biochemistry students have conducted collaborative work with a faculty member in the department, and many students ultimately publish co-authored research articles with their faculty mentors. Chemistry and biochemistry majors from Southwestern have been accepted into leading graduate programs such as those at Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Vanderbilt and Emory, and have also received prestigious NSF Graduate Fellowships. Megan Sassin, a 2001 graduate, was the recipient of the American Chemical Society’s 2012 Rising Star Award.

Faculty members in the department have published research in leading journals such as Nature Chemistry and also have received numerous grants to support their research and teaching from agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Merck Company Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Robert A. Welch Foundation.

The Chemistry and Biochemistry Department’s summer research program funded by the Welch Foundation served as a model for a new, expanded summer research program at Southwestern that started in 2013 and includes disciplines beyond chemistry.

The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation was established in 1946 by chemist, inventor, and businessman Camille Dreyfus. Jean Dreyfus Boissevain was president of the  foundation from 1956 until her death in 1991.

Other recipients of 2014 Jean Dreyfus Boissevain Lectureships are California State University-Fullerton, Ithaca College, the University of Colorado at Denver and the University of North Florida.