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ETBU Chemistry Department receives considerable research grant from The Welch Foundation

December 9, 2020

The Welch Foundation recently awarded East Texas Baptist University’s Chemistry Department $90,000 in research grant funds.

“I think that the Welch Foundation saw exactly what I see every day,” ETBU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Thomas Sanders said. “Our Chemistry team of faculty are unsurpassed in their commitment to their students and their field of study. It’s refreshing to me to hear such positive feedback from our students about the hard work that the faculty puts in, and I believe one of the reasons we received this grant is because of the way our faculty invests in their students. This is a tangible acknowledgement of this community commitment.”

The Welch Foundation, based in Houston, is one of the nation’s largest private funding sources for fundamental chemical research at universities, colleges, and other educational institutions in Texas. Since its founding in 1954, the Welch Foundation has contributed to the advancement of chemistry through research grants, departmental programs, endowed chairs, and other special projects at educational institutions in Texas. Robert Alonzo Welch, founder of the foundation, wants to ensure that chemistry continues to be advanced through research that is conducted at institutions like ETBU.

“The purpose of the grant is to support chemical research by faculty members of the Chemistry Department, and to also provide an opportunity for students to study chemistry in a less structured way,” Director of Grant Programs at the Welch Foundation Carla Atmar said.

This $90,000 grant marks one of the largest chemistry grants given to ETBU.

“East Texas Baptist is so fortunate to be among the institutions that have received this grant award,” ETBU President J. Blair Blackburn said. “This is a result of the efforts of our faculty, the presentation of the University, and the support of our students. I know that our faculty will steward the resources well.”

ETBU’s Department of Chemistry offers bachelor’s degrees in chemistry, biochemistry, and composite science, as well as minors in chemistry and forensic science. The Welch Foundation funding will allow the ETBU Chemistry Department, led by Dr. Marissa Smith, Dr. Don Spencer, and Dr. Scott Morris, to expand research in areas such as synthetic organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, and biophysical chemistry. The grant will also support the purchase of new equipment and supplies, which in science is a crucial part of maintaining any research program.

“Receiving this grant means opportunities for faculty members to interact with our students in a technical, laboratory-based manner, and opportunities for students to be trained by professionals in the field,” Assistant Professor of Chemistry Dr. Morris said. “We are able to purchase more specialized laboratory equipment and chemicals, which, in turn, leads to fascinating research opportunities for both faculty members and students. Having this research grant and various students to help take on the workload will allow us to address many questions and solve many problems in a wide range of topics. This hands-on experience will allow the students to see what science is capable of, what science is not capable of, and how challenging chemical research is. Once they can grasp the process as a whole, I am convinced that they will marvel at our brilliant Creator, who orchestrated the world we live in. Being able to learn science and then enjoy the discovery process will inevitably challenge students to consider the magnificence of our Creator.”

The department seeks to provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to prepare them for admission to professional or graduate schools, for careers in the science industry, or for the Teacher Education Program for secondary-level certification.

“Because of this grant, our department has better opportunities to train our students to do chemical research,” Professor of Chemistry Dr. Spencer said. “To me, the best part will be working with students in ways that differ from the typical classroom or teaching lab experience, and watching them grow and develop as young scientists. I anticipate that the enhanced research experience will deepen their understanding and ability to apply the concepts and lab techniques learned through their academic classes. They will further develop their problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. Better equipped graduates entering the research workforce is beneficial for the advance of chemical research and all of its technological applications.”

Because of the Welch grant funds, ETBU students will have opportunities to be paid to conduct hands-on research locally. Paid positions in research are often difficult to obtain, giving ETBU students a competitive edge before entering the job market.

 “This grant will be a great stepping stone for our students,” Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemistry Dr. Smith said. “By surrounding students with faculty and staff who are excellent in what they do as well as continually demonstrate their Christian values, our students will see examples of how they can apply these attributes in a research setting. Our students are encouraged and supported to grow academically and spiritually throughout their time at ETBU. This is part of our commitment to academia, and this grant will help us tremendously in honoring that commitment.”