Reflections on working, researching, learning, and living amid a pandemic as members of the Department of Chemistry.
Stefan Stoll, professor
This past academic year, the Department was again given the opportunity to run a faculty search. We advertised an Assistant Professor position in all areas of chemistry and interdisciplinary fields involving chemistry. By the deadline of September 30, 2021, we had received well over 300 applications. The pool of applicants was overall very strong. The search committee (with me as chair) spent countless hours in several rounds of review sifting through the files with the goal of identifying the ten candidates we would be able to invite for interviews. For many applications, the committee solicited input from the rest of the faculty. This input is crucial to help the committee reliably assess the quality of candidates across the wide range of fields of modern chemistry.
Thankfully, this year we were able to conduct the interviews in person. We did have contingency plans to move the interviews online should the COVID-19 pandemic situation worsen, but luckily there was no need to deploy them: our last interview concluded at the beginning of January, just prior to the height of the Omicron wave. At the end of the search process, we had identified several accomplished, outstanding, and exciting candidates. At this point, the search committee had concluded its task, and now our chair, Munira Khalil, worked hard putting together strong and competitive offers for the top candidates. This effort was successful – we have welcomed Doug Reed as a new faculty hire and will soon be welcoming another new faculty hire to our department!
Such a successful outcome would not have been possible without the commitment and engagement from many in the department: staff for the nearly impossible task of organizing ten visit schedules, the committee for all their hard work in reviewing files, all faculty for engaging in the interview process and showing the research excellence and phenomenal spirit of collegiality in our department, and finally our chair for putting together excellent offers and adding two new outstanding researchers to our ranks.
Jose Araujo, postdoctoral scholar
I defended my dissertation right as the pandemic was getting started, and my next goal was to start a new area of research that wasn’t funded in our group. I was fortunate enough to have tremendous support from my adviser, Daniel Gamelin, while I started this new research project to develop inexpensive systems for grid-scale energy storage. Energy storage is just one piece of the clean energy puzzle, and my hope is that my research can help to develop reliable energy storage solutions that are necessary for a clean energy grid to be possible. Eventually I was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship through the Washington Research Foundation. This fellowship has really opened the door for me to explore my research goals. Because my new projects are currently unfunded, the fellowship is allowing me to continue this research, obtain publishable results, and hopefully leverage those results into a full grant application that will fund this new research direction in our group for years to come. Fellowships like the WRF Postdoctoral Fellowship and Clean Energy Institute Graduate Research Fellowships not only enable us to dedicate more valuable time to our research, but also in some cases make it possible for us to undergo exciting new research projects that we wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. I want to say thank you to the alumni, friends, and donors who support us and allow us to focus on our research.
Adapted from Jose’s remarks at the Chemistry Awards Dinner on May 24, 2022.
Eric Camp, director of Undergraduate Services
Wearing proper personal protective equipment (PPE) in the lab is one policy that remained mostly unaffected by the pandemic (apart from adding a mask, at times). After last year’s new experience of shipping lab kits to students at home, I had another first this year: ordering PPE made for a dog. Although this dog was here to provide a service to her partner, we appreciated the cuteness she provided to us all. My team (the Undergraduate Services staff including scientific instructional technicians) regularly hangs signs—either original work they create themselves or posters from equipment suppliers— reminding students of the proper protocol for PPE, so we were delighted when this student graciously agreed to volunteer their service dog to be the model for a new poster that encourages wearing proper PPE.