College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

Chemistry Department Among Top 40 in Awarding Undergraduate Degrees

If there is a science to producing chemistry graduates, the University of Mississippi is certainly developing a reliable formula for it.

For the second consecutive year, the American Chemical Society’s Committee on Professional Training has ranked UM among America’s top 40 chemistry programs in awarding bachelor’s degrees.

For the 2006-07 academic year, the department awarded 48 undergraduate degrees, more than Mississippi State University, University of Southern Mississippi, Delta State University and Jackson State University combined. In the Southeastern Conference, only the University of Florida has produced more graduates than UM.

“Once again our Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry has produced more graduates than institutions more than twice our size,” said Glenn Hopkins, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “It shows that an excellent, dedicated faculty and good leadership can accomplish great things.”

The rankings were published in the December 15, 2008 issue of Chemical & Engineering News.

“We’re obviously very proud of our success,” said Charles Hussey, chair of the department. “That we’ve been able to maintain a standard of excellence over the years is a testament to the quality of our students and the faculty who teach them.”

Many of those graduates are biochemistry majors who intend to go on to medical school, Hussey said. And a number of chemistry majors are also enrolled in the university’s Sally McDonald Barksdale Honors College. “These students energize us and keep us on our toes,” he said.

But the real secret to attracting, retaining and graduating chemistry majors is that time-honored truism of teaching: students won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care, Hussey said.

“Our faculty try to make this department a comfortable place to be,” he said. “Our students are taking some of the hardest courses that the university offers. But our faculty members know this, so we pay attention to our students and take an active interest in them.

“When a student is trying to get advice about what to do, we never let him just roam around. We try to do a good job as advisers. In other programs elsewhere, it can be hard to find someone who wants to hear your situation.”

With national leaders promising a shift into a green economy, chemistry graduates will be in demand, Hussey said. “There’s going to be a greater push on environmental things. There’s a lot of chemistry involved in reducing carbon emissions and generating clean energy, so we’ll see emerging opportunities in those areas.”

But chemistry prepares students for all types of work, he continued.

“Chemistry is a central science,” he said. “Studies in science involve deductive reasoning, so it’s not unusual to see a chemistry graduate succeed in law school.

“It’s a good platform to do a lot of things. You have to put a lot of different kinds of information together. Chemistry can prepare you for just about anything.”

For more information on the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, visit https://www.olemiss.edu/depts/chemistry .