November 30, 2020 at 7:21 pm

Chair’s Message | New Building, New Board, New Opportunities

Dr. Stephen Bergmeier, portrait in lab

Dr. Stephen Bergmeier

By Steve Bergmeier
Professor & Chair of Chemistry & Biochemistry

I hope all is well with you. Much has changed in our local community, as in the world, due to this challenging and unprecedented time. However, our commitment to you, our extended department family of alumni, students and friends, remains steadfast. Before sharing with you some of the highlights from the past year, I wanted to take a moment to update you on what the department has been doing in response to all the recent changes.

Adapting in the Classroom and the Lab: It has been profoundly inspiring to see all the efforts department faculty, staff and students have put in to ensuring that our department’s educational mission has been able to remain strong despite the shift to online learning. Faculty quickly developed innovative content to capture as best as possible the learning experience obtained in a classroom or teaching lab. Teaching assistants and PLTL (peer-led team learning) leaders learned to help students remotely, and department staff helped keep the administrative core of the department’s research, recruitment and service running. Faculty have also found effective ways to keep their research groups moving forward with writing papers and computational studies while they are out of the labs. However, we look forward to the day when we can fully resume in-person classes, research and discussions. The enriching experience they provide inspires all of us.

Moving into New Building: Everyone in the department is looking forward to moving into the new Chemistry building. Phase 1 is construction of the new Chemistry Building and completion of the first and second floors. This is slated to be completed shortly with move in by the end of the fall semester. Phase 2a is completion of the third floor in the new building, which is slated for March of 2021. Phase 2b is renovation of the east wing of Clippinger, and Phase 3 is renovation of the west wing of Clippinger. In addition to current secured funding for the physical building, we are also planning for significant equipment improvements for which there are multiple giving opportunities.

An opening ribbon-cutting ceremony is being planned tentatively for sometime in 2021. We would love to celebrate with you and hope that many of you will be able to make it to this important event for the department and its future.

A lab awaits students in the new Chemistry Building.

A lab awaits students in the new Chemistry Building.

Welcoming New Faculty: This past year has seen some exciting faculty developments. We welcomed Dr. Ben Bythell, who started in the department August 2019 as an associate professor of Analytical Chemistry. Dr. Bythell brings to the department significant expertise in Mass Spectrometry and Computational Chemistry. His research is currently supported with grants from the NIH (Universal Metabolite Tagging) and the NSF (Chemistry of Useful Destruction).

Recognizing Accomplishments: We are also excited for our colleagues who were recognized for their significant accomplishments. Dr. Katherine Cimatu and Dr. Justin Holub were both promoted to Associate Professor with tenure beginning last fall. Dr. Peter Harrington was named an Ohio University Presidential Research Scholar: Physical Sciences & Engineering, Dr. Shiyong Wu was named an Ohio University Presidential Research Scholar: Life & Biochemical Sciences  and Dr. Rebecca Barlag received the College of Arts & Sciences Outstanding Faculty Adviser Award. Congratulations to all!

Creating an Alumni Board: A new development this year was the formation of an Alumni Advisory Board for the department. The mission of this board is to help promote the department of Chemistry to the university administration, to provide a conduit and a support base in fund raising, and to provide assistance in the areas of scholarships, awards and internships. Founding members are Rick Couch (Chair), Michael Moehring, Dustin Starkey, John Wetzel, and Peggy Viehweger. If you are interested in volunteering to be a board member, please contact Rick Couch ( or me (

Being Thankful: We are continually grateful for your support of the department. Your gifts are used in a myriad of ways to benefit the students, faculty and the department. Some examples include travel funds for students, fixing broken equipment, funding visiting speakers, and providing matching funds for grant applications. With our upcoming move to the new Chemistry Building, I am asking again that you consider making a gift to the department. In particular, items for the biochemistry teaching lab are not part of the budget for the new Chemistry Building (e.g. autoclave, incubator, FPLC system, ultracentrifuge). Other items of need for the new building include new routine instrumentation (e.g. LCMS, IR).

As budget cuts continue to impact the department, your support to help fund visiting speakers, student travel, graduate and undergraduate scholarships, and equipment for the new building are more and more important. You can make a donation to the department general fund. If your company has some lightly used equipment to donate, please contact us — it may be something that we could use for teaching or research.

Unfortunately, budget cuts in the College of Arts & Sciences have hit the department very hard. Three instructional faculty did not have their contracts renewed, and our longtime department administrator Carolyn Khurshid, graduate secretary Jackie Bennet-Hanning, and stockroom supervisor Aaron Dillon were all let go by the college. This has been a tremendous blow to our ability to both teach and carry out research.

We would love to have you visit with us this year to reconnect and catch up on news. Whether you come visit during homecoming or just want to visit Athens again, drop us an email so that we can arrange a time to meet. You can also follow us on social media for our most recent news and upcoming events (Instagram: #OhioChemBiochem Twitter: @OHIOChemBiochem Facebook: @OUChemBiochem).

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