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MSU Chemistry Holds Community Celebration

Professor and department chair Tim Warren speaks to community members during October's celebration.
Professor and department chair Tim Warren speaks to chemistry community members during October's celebration.
It was a night of celebration for Spartan Chemistry as faculty, staff, and students alike gathered to commemorate achievements within the community. The first such gathering for the Department of Chemistry in several years, October's event not only recognized the many stellar accolades recently earned by MSU chemists, but served as a chance to highlight the many unique individuals who make MSU Chemistry possible—from hardworking graduate students and staff to brilliant faculty, both established and newly-arrived.  
“There are so many wonderful, inspiring things going on in the Chemistry department,” said Professor Tim Warren, department chair and MC for the night’s event. “With the numerous day-to-day responsibilities we have as faculty, specialists, students, and staff to carry out our mission in research, teaching, learning, and service, it’s sometimes a challenge to see how we each fit into the bigger picture. This celebration provided a moment of pause to recognize so many among us for the amazing work the department is doing together.” 
Among those honored for prestigious ACS awards this past year were Professor James K. McCusker, who won the Josef Michl Award in Photochemistry, and Professor Marcos Dantus, who received the Ahmed Zewail Award in Ultrafast Science and Technology. To commemorate these awards and the pioneering research behind them, both McCusker and Dantus were likewise presented with glass plaques by graduate students from their respective labs. These plaques were created by MSU’s own senior scientific glass blower, Scott Bankroff.
Professor James K. McCuskers poses with lab members and a plaque commemorating his Josef Michl ACS Award in Photochemistry.
Professor James K. McCuskers and his lab members posing with their commemorative plaque.
Also being recognized for major faculty achievements were Professor Angela K. Wilson, who served as ACS President in 2022 and was the recipient of an Iota Sigma Pi Honorary Member Award; Professor Jetze Tepe, who was named MSU’s 2022 Innovator of the Year; Professor Elad Harel, who earned MSU’s 2023 Innovation of the Year Award (and further secured MSU’s first ever Keck Foundation Award in a collaboration with Professor Dantus); Professor Kin Sing Lee, who received a $3.1 million NIH Grant to develop Alzheimer’s disease treatment; and Professor Rob Maleczka, who was named a 2021 AAAS Fellow.  
In admiration of Chemistry’s outstanding family of support and staff members, recent winners of the Naomi and Donald Hack Distinguished Staff Award were additionally given a well-deserved spotlight. These included Dawn Kuhn, Brenda Minott, Glenn Wesley, David Voss, and Chriss Pfeffer. Of note were also Bob Rasico and Aaron Odom who received special “Banging Dollars into the Building” awards—commemorative hammers symbolizing their tireless work as Chemistry facilities undergo nearly $24 million worth of upgrades and renovations. 
Bob Rasico and Aaron Odom with their "Banging Dollars into the Building” awards. 
Bob Rasico and Aaron Odom with their "Banging Dollars into the Building” awards. 
These growing pains in part reflect the unprecedented expansion of MSU Chemistry in recent years as it continues to attract innovative faculty and staff from across the country. During the night’s festivities, nods were given to many new arrivals including ten tenure track faculty: Mary C. Andorfer, Melanie Chiu, Katharina Domnanich, Joseph Gair, Alyssa Gaiser, Tian (Autumn) Qui, Tuo Wang, Weiwei Xie, Nicole Becker, and James Shepherd; two academic specialists: Steven Hurney and Elizabeth McGaw; and five staff members: Lisa Goforth, Bethanny Potter, Anika Harden, Dan Isaacson, and Connor Yeck.  
October's event was a moment to further salute those who recently left MSU chemistry, and a chance to thank them for decades of dedication that made our department the success it is today. These retirements included Professor Bill Wulff, Professor John Frost, Professor David Morrissey, Professor Paul Hunt, Professor Kathy Hunt, Dr. Tom Carter, Brenda Minott, Beth McGaw, and Dr. Kathy Severin.  
And it wouldn’t have been a true celebration of Spartan Chemistry without a round of applause for MSU’s stunning cohort of students. Special graduate student achievements were recognized, including Dare George receiving a John A. Penner Fellowship in Hematology, Thrombosis, and Inflammation, as well as Konika Konika, Soumika Das, and Noel Chau being named 2023 NatSci Great IDEA Fellows. Student-led organizations were also highlighted for ongoing work that's enriched our community through professional and social outreach, such as the Chemistry Graduate Student Organization (CGSO) ACS Women in Chemistry (WiC), the Research Safety Team (RST), and the undergraduate Chemistry Club.