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Chemistry Department Research Mini-Symposium + Welcome New and Returning Students Picnic

The Department of Chemistry Research Mini-Symposium and Picnic will be held on Thursday, August 26th at 3:30pm in Lab Science Commons, Room 1211. Several of the chemistry faculty and/or students will give short 7 min presentations concerning their chemistry and biochemistry research. This is an open invitation for you to get involved with research, whether a freshman, sophomore, transfer student, junior, senior or a new graduate student. 

After the presentations, we will have a picnic in front of the Lab Science Commons building (on the covered front porch). The faculty presenters will be at the picnic expecting those interested in their research to let them know. Be sure to take advantage of this opportunity!

Research is often a collaborative effort and you’ll enjoy getting involved. The laboratory atmosphere is often complex – with a mix of undergraduate students and graduate students.  Don’t fret – you will be trained in what you need to know and the growth you experience will surprise even you!

Chemistry Major Earns Highest Student Honor with Derryberry Award


Rachel Baker has been named the recipient of the 2021 Derryberry Award, the university’s highest student honor.

The daughter of Denise and Tracy Baker, and a native of Holladay, Tennessee, Baker recently earned a degree in chemistry with a concentration in pure chemistry along with minors in environmental studies, agriculture and honors. Baker is the first chemistry major earn the Derryberry Award, which was established in honor of Everett Derryberry, who served as Tech president for 34 years and retired in 1974. She says that being named the recipient of the award tops off a great experience at Tech.

“I’ve loved Tech and loved every minute here, so it’s kind of sad to know that my time here is up and I will be an alumna instead of a current student,” said Baker. “I’m also excited to see what the future holds.”

Baker was named the recipient of the prestigious Derryberry award for her leadership, community service and academic success.

“Rachel has been extensively involved in campus and community activities throughout her time at Tech. Her leadership experience is unparalleled compared to any other student I have worked with in my nine years of teaching,” said Amanda Carroll, a senior lecturer in the department of chemistry. “Rachel graduated in our most rigorous chemistry concentration and maintained a good GPA while also completing the coursework for her different minors. She is a highly motivated and driven student and exemplifies the qualities demonstrated by a Derryberry award winner and a successful Tennessee Tech graduate.”

During her time at Tech, Baker was involved in several different student organizations such as the College of Arts and Science Student Ambassadors, Student Government Association, Associated Scholars Guild, Student Members of the American Chemical Society, Baptist Collegiate Ministry and American Institute of Chemical Engineers. She was also a member of the University Curriculum Committee, Pedestrian Flow Taskforce, Student Affairs Committee, Academic Council and University Assembly.

When it came to community service, Baker logged hundreds of hours helping others. Whether it was a service project near her home in Benton County, various projects led by student organizations or UT/TSU Extension and 4-H, Baker displayed a leadership quality and a selflessness that made her stand out for the award.

“Her extensive list of extracurricular activities, ranging from serving as Secretary of State in the SGA to various community service, should not be mistaken for that of a student who is simply compiling a diverse resume,” said Rita Barnes, director of Tech’s honors program. “Rachel’s activities are driven by her passions with a focus. She has future political ambitions, but they are informed by her commitment to science and service to others, not through a love of politics, nor by ego.”

“There were so many great candidates and to know I was chosen for this award makes it very special,” Baker said. My time at Tech has been outstanding. It’s been amazing. Tech is like a community of its own inside a larger community of Cookeville. The chemistry department really has a family feel, and has people you can rely on and go to even when it’s not chemistry related.”

Baker will remain in the field of chemistry, accepting a job with a company close to her home in Benton County where she will serve as a research and development chemist.

Lab Science Commons Features New Hanging Sculptures

Art and science blend into fascinating sculptures now adorning Tennessee Tech’s Lab Sciences Commons in the North and South Tower entrances. 

Tech chemistry and biology department faculty met with the sculptor several times as he designed the artwork to make sure his artistic freedom represented reality. “The sculpture in the south tower is a first-of-a-kind three-dimensional rendition of the Periodic Table of Elements,” said Jeff Boles, Tech chemistry department chairperson. “Each element is depicted with the correct electrons in the current outer shell orbits around the nucleus. The nucleus is made of dichroic glass.”  

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The north tower sculpture is just as intricate in its design and story. “It starts out as the roots of a grapevine, turns into a grapevine and then morphs into a DNA double helix with a bound Leucine Zipper protein,” said Boles. “The DNA’s nucleotide bases are correct in chemical bonding patters and are made of dichroic glass.” 

Both pieces add inspiration and beauty to the 165,000 building which opened this spring to classes. The grapevine, 10 feet in diameter, winds from the ceiling more than 26 feet, casting shadows and reflections throughout the atrium.  

“The sculptures are a great addition to the Lab Sciences Commons,” said senior Tech student Morgan Lee. “I am so excited to see them go up and the look on students' faces when they walk through the doors and see the hanging sculptures.”

Fabricated by lead artist Roger Berry, the two helices began as carefully considered sketches created by Tech professors and have come to life through the collaboration of artists, faculty and alumni of the School of Art, Craft and Design.

Research and Creative Inquiry Day 2021

The Office of Research and Economic Development held the 16th Annual Research and Creative Inquiry Day in April 2021. This event provides an opportunity to showcase student research and creative inquiry projects from colleges and departments across Tennessee Tech’s campus. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the 2021 Research and Creative Inquiry event utilized a joint virtual and digital format. Digital files of the posters and papers were submitted and provided to judges and also to the campus community for general viewing. Interactions between judges and students occurred via video conferencing, and the event culminated in a virtual award ceremony.

This year’s event featured posters and papers generated from 220 submitted abstracts on topics as varied as the 22 fields of study from which they originate. Congratulations to the students and faculty advisors who have worked hard to prepare these posters and papers that demonstrate Tech's dedication to excellence in learning and discovery. To see a list of the 2021 winners, visit this link:

2021 Winners from Chemistry:
Undergraduate (TIE):
Primary author: Allison Adams
Title: : Computational Design of Novel Inhibitors of Dihydrofolate Reductase in Three Bacterial Species 
Research advisor: Dr. Derek Cashman
Undergraduate (TIE):
Primary author: Shawna Grey Coulter
Title: Creating Color Flame Candles as an Alternative to the Rainbow Flame Test
Research advisor: Dr. Amanda Carroll
Undergraduate (TIE):
Primary author: Bailey Talent
Title: Synthesis of INAP-ETSC and INAP-tButyl
Research advisor: Dr. Ed Lisic
Graduate (Master's):
Primary author: Zachary Gulledge
Title: Metal-free, microwave assisted oxidative cyclization of 2-pyridyl N-tosylhydrazones toward unsymmetric 1,2,3-triazole complexants
Research advisor: Dr. Jesse Carrick
Graduate (PhD):
Primary author: Lesta Kocher
Title: A study on the Spectrophotometric Analysis of Hg(II) using Dithizone under Conditions Pertinent to Hg(II) Reduction in Aquatic Systems
Collaborator: Stephen Okine
Research advisor: Dr. Hong Zhang

Laboratory Science Commons and Stonecipher Lecture Hall celebrated their grand opening April 9, 2021

Tech celebrated the grand opening of the Laboratory Science Commons and Stonecipher Lecture Hall on April 9, 2021. This grand opening was part of Wings Up Weekend. It was a big day for Tennessee Tech as students, faculty, staff, alumni and special dignitaries helped dedicate and celebrate the grand opening. 

“The buildings we celebrate today are functional, beautiful and inspirational,” said Tennessee Tech president Phil Oldham. “These buildings enhance our campus and enhance the college experience for our students.”

The Lab Science Commons building is a 160,000-square-foot facility that is the largest academic building in the history of Tennessee Tech. It is also the first LEED certified building, housing the chemistry department, a portion of the biology department and lab space for earth sciences, physics and environmental sciences. The finished product is a massive structure that includes 106 miles of data cable, 960,000 feet of electrical wiring, 18,500 square feet of exterior glass and 39,000 bricks in the outside columns.

“There was no fear when this building was planned because it was built on understanding,” said Oldham. “Designers, architects, students and faculty spent month after month together planning the design.”

Included in the grand opening of the Lab Science Commons was the dedication of the Stonecipher Lecture Hall for Tech alum Harry Stonecipher.

“We need great moments like this,” said Oldham. “We need celebrations that make us stop and appreciate what is and what can be, and expressions of gratefulness for leaders like Harry Stonecipher and their belief in us.”

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Chemistry Alumnus Named Master Distiller at Jack Daniel's

For Chris Fletcher, '03 chemistry, the journey to becoming master distiller of Jack Daniel's began in Lynchburg, Tennessee, Fletcher's hometown and the home of Jack Daniel Distillery. Fletcher grew up hearing the name Jack Daniel. His maternal grandfather was the company's fifth master distiller, retiring in 1989 when Fletcher was eight years old.

Fletcher's family has a long history with Tennessee Tech as well. His parents, paternal grandfather, sister and brother-in-law all went to Tech, so when it came time to choose a university, Tech was already on his mind.

"I enrolled in chemistry at Tech because I felt like with science, you really learn unique and new things every day," said Fletcher. "Chemistry is what I wanted to study, and that led me down the path of distilling."

Research and Creative Inquiry Day 2020 Winners from the Department of Chemistry

The following students were winners at our Research and Creative Inquiry Day that was held in April 2020:

Undergraduate (1st) prize:
Primary author: Wesley Wearing
Co-author: Lillian Pipkin
Title: Spectroscopic Characterization of Phenothiazine Co-crystals
Undergraduate (2nd) prize:
Primary author: Julia Vesely
Title: Research and Development of High Protein Beer
Graduate (Master's):
Primary author: Zachary Gulledge
Title: Cleavage of tert-Butoxycarbonyl (BOC) Groups from Indoles and Other Heterocycles Using an Addition-Elimination Strategy with 3-Methoxpropylamine

For more information, visit the Office of Research page.

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