Category Archives: Chemistry & Biochemistry

Faculty Spotlight: Besa Xhabija of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Besa Xhabija, PhD, joined the UM-Flint College of Arts and Sciences in Fall 2017 as an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

Read below to learn more about Dr. Xhabija and her field of biochemistry or join her in one of her upcoming class:

  • CHM 350: Fundamentals of Biochemistry
  • CHM 382: Environmental Toxicology
  • CHM 451: Biochemistry Laboratory I
  • CHM 453: Biochemistry Laboratory II

Admitted students can register at or find more information about upcoming semesters at

What is your background and education?
I completed my Bachelor of Science with Honors in Biochemistry from York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada and my Doctorate in Chemistry and Biochemistry from the University of Windsor (also in Canada) under the supervision of Dr. Panayiotis Vacratsis. I then continued on to a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Karmanos Cancer Institute and Wayne State University School of Medicine in the Department of Oncology, where I worked with Dr. Benjamin Kidder. My work there focused on studying stem cell and cancer epigenetics, specifically evaluating the functions of chromatin modifying enzymes in self-renewal and genome stability.

Why are you passionate about your field? 
I absolutely adore Biochemistry. It was my first love! I believe that it is the science that will open a window of understanding about how life has evolved from a one cell organism to becoming a well-oiled intricate organism. Understanding that living things are just bags of chemicals that can function in order to think, remember, behave, walk, run, talk, read, write, is absolutely fascinating to me. I am amazed at how basic elements, such as carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen can make up a bacterial cell, yeast, skin cells, muscle cells, neurons, retinal cells, and organisms generally. This is something that I still find mesmerizing to this day.

How did you fall in love with your discipline?
This is an easy one. I fell in love with biochemistry when I was a junior in high school when we covered the principles of DNA and nucleic acids. I remember myself being very excited about the topic. I started reading on my own and learning the most that I could about how a disease is caused at the genetic level and how to solve biological problems—not realizing that I just scratched the surface of the biochemistry field. Later on, I started reading about the human body on my own and trying to understand, with very little scientific background at that time, how it functions at a molecular and cellular level. I am very glad to have chosen biochemistry as my field of expertise because it truly is my passion and not only it drives my discovery-based research approach in my lab, but also helps me teach with the passion to inspire others to do the same.

What are your favorite courses/subjects to teach?
It probably is not a surprise, but any level of Biochemistry.

What is your latest or favorite research project? 
Currently, I am in the process of setting up a system in my laboratory utilizing embryonic stem cells to study the effect of various toxins and drugs in embryo development. I am very excited about this project and I find it very informative for students and for the Flint community. Moreover, it offers students a large number of research techniques that are essential in any research laboratory.

What do you hope for your time at UM-Flint?
I hope to play an important role as an educator, in particular to sharpen students’ aspirations and allow them to develop their own branch of research or thoughts. I believe that only by pushing and supporting our students to perform to their full potential via promoting collaboration makes them succeed in their future academic paths.

Why were you excited to join UM-Flint and the Flint community?
I consider myself fortunate to have been a member of the UM-Flint Community prior to joining as a full-time faculty member now. I served as lecturer at the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in the Fall of 2016 and I was really pleased to see how strong the bonds between faculty, staff and students are.

What do you hope for students in your field? 
I hope for them to become good citizens and follow their chosen path with dedication, passion and strong ethics. I hope for them to inspire and motivate future generations and make this world a better place. I want to encourage those who choose to educate, to educate with passion, I want the health care professionals to serve their patients with care and go the extra mile. Finally, regardless what path they take, I hope that our students find their niche where they love what they do and do everything with passion and dedication. I believe that mediocrity is the enemy to success and that is something that I fight every day and encourage students to avoid avidly.

What are three things you think people should know about you? 

  • I live in Canada.
  • My door is always open and students should feel free to discuss things with me.
  • I enjoy biking.

UM-Flint alumni return to discuss life as pharmacy students

Five College of Arts and Sciences alumni returned to the UM-Flint campus on November 7th to talk to current students about their lives in the University of Michigan pharmacy program—also known as PharmD.

Jessica Tischler, PhD, Chair of UM-Flint's Chemistry and Biochemistry Department (standing, far right), introduces her former students.

Jessica Tischler, PhD, Chair of UM-Flint’s Chemistry and Biochemistry Department (standing, far right), introduces her former students.

The returning alums were Lena Gayar (’16, biology), Devon Stonerock (’17, biochemistry), Derek Linskey (’17, biochemistry), Noah Leja (’14, chemistry), and Lauren Williams (’15, biochemistry). They range from year 1 to year 4 in the Ann Arbor program.

The current UM-Flint students who attended the event all see pharmacy as a possible future career, and were able to ask the alums about their preparation, the application process, and their current studies and schedules.

Devon Stonerock, a first year pharmacy student, discusses his experiences in applying for pharmacy school and the workload of his first semester

Devon Stonerock, a first year pharmacy student, discusses his experience of applying for pharmacy school and the workload of his first semester

Each of the five alums agreed that they had excellent preparation at UM-Flint, and often find themselves to be better prepared than peers from larger institutions. They cited close relationships with faculty, hands-on experiences in labs and in conducting research, and the rigorous academic standards of UM-Flint as being beneficial.

Williams noted that she had almost not applied to the University of Michigan program, as she was intimidated by it being a top school in the country. Happily, her fears were quickly calmed as she found herself walking PharmD classmates through lab procedures and material that were second nature from her time at UM-Flint.

Dr. Tischler and her alumni answer questions about the process of becoming a pharmacy school student.

Dr. Tischler and her alumni answer questions about the process of becoming a pharmacy school student

The alumni also credited “soft skills” such as excellent written and verbal communication, problem solving, and working with with diverse groups as being equal to or more important than course content. The need for such skills in scientists and artists alike lies at the foundation of UM-Flint’s College of Arts and Sciences as a liberal education institution, and is part of what sets its students and alumni apart.

For more information on the College of Arts and Sciences, and its 18 departments, visit For information about being a pre-pharmacy student at UM-Flint, visit


UM-Flint Chemistry Professor Visits Alumni, Presents Talk at Iowa State University

Professor Jie Song, of the UM-Flint Chemistry and Biochemistry Department, was invited to give a talk at the Iowa State University (ISU) Department of Chemistry on October 27, 2017. Dr. Song did his postdoctoral research at Ames Laboratory US DOE from 2002 to 2004, located on the ISU campus, before he joined UM-Flint as a faculty member.

The talk was titled “Methods Applied in Studying Repellent-Attractant Interactions.” Besides talking to a small group of theoretical/computational chemists/physicists, Professor Song met with three UM-Flint alumni.

From left to right, Viet Nguyen ('17), David Poole ('16), Professor Jie Song, and Kristoper Keipert ('12)

Left to right: Viet Nguyen (’17), David Poole (’16), Prof. Jie Song, Kristoper Keipert (’12)

Since 2004, five UM-Flint undergraduate students who have done research with him have obtained or are studying for their Ph.D. in theoretical/computational chemistry at Iowa State University. They are:

  • Dr. George Schoendorff (Chemistry, ’06), Visiting Professor at Bradley University
  • Alexander Findlater (Chemistry, ’10)
  • Dr. Kristoper Keipert (Biochemistry, ’12), postdoctoral researcher at Argonne National Lab, US DOE
  • David Poole (Chemistry, ’16)
  • Viet Nguyen (Chemistry, ’17)

During the last 13 years, Dr. Song has supervised more than 30 undergraduate research students. Among them, seven have already obtained their Ph.D. in chemistry and three have obtained their MD.

For more information on the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, visit

High School Teachers Utilize UM-Flint Resources to Bring Science to Life

Honors Chemistry students from Byron visit UM-Flint labs on a field trip.

UM-Flint students experience hands-on learning, meaningful interactions with their faculty, and access to state-of-the-art equipment in their departments. They also make memories that stick with them for a lifetime and inspire them to come back to campus. Two UM-Flint alumni, Mandi Davis and Theresa Krejci (both teachers for the Byron Area Schools), recently returned to UM-Flint with their own students. They were hoping to show off a little of what made their UM-Flint experiences so special while giving the students access to recently renovated laboratory spaces.

Visiting Biology at UM-Flint

The Byron anatomy and physiology students began their day by visiting the gross anatomy lab with the Biology Department‘s Dennis Viele. They interacted with the university’s cadavers—examining the differing pathologies of hearts, seeing a spinal cord, and even touching an intact brain. “I wanted my students to see that UM-Flint is a great place to get their degree as well as expose them to some new opportunities in the field of science,” said Krejci. “We were able to view parts of the human body that we have or will be studying.”

Krejci graduated in 1993 with a degree in biology, a minor in mathematics, and a general science teaching certificate. “It was nice to return and see that so many improvements had been made,” she said. “The cadaver lab is equipped with lots of technology which allows for better learning for the students.”

Dennis Viele of UM-Flint biology leads students in interacting with a cadaver.

Dennis Viele of UM-Flint biology leads students in interacting with a cadaver.

Krejci teaches physical science and anatomy & physiology. She has also served as a biology teacher, a middle school science teacher, and was the curriculum director at Byron Area Schools for 11 years. She coaches 8th grade volleyball, summer softball, and works with the youth at her church.

Theresa Krejci, UM-Flint alumna and teacher for Byron Area Schools

Theresa Krejci, UM-Flint alumna and teacher for Byron Area Schools

Krejci fondly remembers UM-Flint and appreciates the ways in which her time as a student prepared her for her career. “The class sizes were not huge and you were able to talk with your professors if you needed to,” she recalled. “I enjoyed the lab experiences that I had while at U of M. I particularly enjoyed the field biology course that I took.”

Connecting Students

Byron honors chemistry students also visited UM-Flint, led by teacher and NHS advisor Mandi Davis. They were treated to chemistry demos by UM-Flint Chem Club students Noor Alawwa, Lynnette Harris, and Aaron Hancock, and then conducted their own experiments in one of the newly renovated Chemistry & Biochemistry Department labs.

Davis graduated from UM-Flint in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, a minor in math, and a teacher’s certificate. She completed her MA in educational technology in 2013. “It was great to return to campus,” said Davis. “I want to be able to expose my students to things that we cannot bring to Byron—to instrumentation, to some of the things that can inspire [and] ignite love for science!”

Lynnette Harris and Noor Alawwa of the UM-Flint Chem Club conduct a demo for visiting high schoolers.

Lynnette Harris and Noor Alawwa of the UM-Flint Chem Club conduct a demo for visiting high schoolers.

UM-Flint Laboratory Manager Monique Wilhelm helped coordinate the chemistry students’ visit. “Opportunities like these are extremely important in this day and age when everyone thinks they have all of the information at their fingertips,” noted Wilhelm. “Science is a process, not just a bunch of facts, and this process really needs a hands-on component that not all schools have the opportunity to give. Memorizing facts is not why anyone I know decided to become a scientist. It was the physical things we do and see, and the way we think, that motivated most of us to do what we do.”

UM-Flint alumni and teacher Mandi Davis with her students.

UM-Flint alumna and teacher Mandi Davis with her students.

While their experiments were running, the high schoolers had a chance to talk with current UM-Flint students and ask questions about being in college. “These students can only really learn what our campus is like by interacting with the students and faculty,” said Wilhelm. “Our campus’ biggest assets are its people.”

Students from Byron spend time with UM-Flint chemistry students in recently renovated labs.

Students from Byron spend time with UM-Flint chemistry students in recently renovated labs.

“These opportunities are important for our students,” Wilhelm continued, “as it gives them an opportunity to discuss science with non-scientists, as well as show their pride in what they do. Communication is the most important skill for any scientist and where they generally fall short is communication to the general public. This type of event is one of the things that makes the Chemistry Club such a great opportunity for all of our students.”

The Impact of Experience

Davis’ time as a UM-Flint student left her with a lasting impression of her faculty. “Dr. Virgil Cope, who was my academic advisor, had the biggest impact on my UM-Flint career,” she said. “He was a professor who was available to his students whenever we needed. We could be working on problems in the breezeway and, if we had questions, he had no problem stopping and sitting and answering them for us. He believed in me. I was nominated for the Maize and Blue Award, and he helped me to believe in myself and believe that I was worthy of the award. I won that award as well as Outstanding Graduate from the Chemistry Department. And I wasn’t even a ‘full fledged’ chemistry major—I was an education major!”

Honors Chemistry students from Byron visit UM-Flint labs on a field trip.

Honors Chemistry students from Byron visit UM-Flint labs on a field trip.

“Marina Ionina was another impacting professor,” continued Davis. “I did a lot of work with Marina and she helped me in the TCP (teacher certificate program) part of my experience at UM-Flint. She helped me to understand/explore how to teach chemistry, not just be able to do chemistry.”

Davis has high hopes that the visit to UM-Flint will be meaningful to her students and their futures. “I hope it sparks interest and excites them,” she said. “I want these experiences to be the things they look back on and think, ‘that was awesome—that was when I realized science was something I wanted to pursue.’  We all know that the ‘facts’ students learn on a day-to-day basis aren’t going to be what they remember—it’s going to be these types of experiences.”

Faculty Spotlight: Justin Massing of UM-Flint Chemistry

Justin Massing, PhD, joined the UM-Flint College of Arts & Sciences in Fall 2016 as an assistant professor of organic chemistry.

Justin Massing, PhD, assistant professor of organic chemistry at UM-Flint

Justin Massing, PhD, assistant professor of organic chemistry at UM-Flint

Read below to learn more about him and the field of organic chemistry, or join him in one of his Winter 2017 classes:

  • CHM 330 – Organic Chemistry
    (MW, 2:30-3:45pm + (4) Friday test dates)
  • CHM 331 – Organic Chemistry Lab
    (T, 8am-12pm; R, 12:30pm-4:30pm; + (2) Friday test dates)
  • CHM 452 – Biochemistry II (TR, 11am-12:15pm)

Students can register now at or find more information at

Why are you passionate about your field?
I firmly believe that chemistry has the potential to address environmental and health issues on a global scale.

What are your favorite courses/subjects to teach?
I’m most excited to teach spectroscopy of organic compounds (CHM 468) next fall. This course examines how different wavelengths of light can be applied towards elucidating organic structures. The spectroscopic techniques to be covered in this class are frequently employed in diagnosing disease and monitoring human health.

What is your latest or favorite research project?
My current research is focused on creating chemical probes that can detect molecular events associated with disease progression. Specifically, I want to noninvasively visualize epigenetic modifications known to influence DNA organization, and therefore how our genes are expressed.

How did you fall in love with your discipline?
I fell in love with chemistry thanks to my 7th grade science teacher, whose genuine eccentricity made learning the subject an engaging experience.

What do you hope for your time at UM-Flint?
To share my passion for learning, and to meaningfully impact students’ lives.

What do you hope for students in your field?
I hope that all students at UM–Flint would pursue independent research at some point during their college career.

What are three things you think people should know about you?
My wife is also a chemist.
I do the cooking and cleaning at home.
My wife and I brew our own beer.

To learn more about chemistry and biochemistry at UM-Flint, visit To register for courses, visit or

Women of STEM: Samantha Grathoff

The College of Arts & Sciences at UM-Flint is proud to recognize some of the exceptional women of our STEM disciplines. As leaders, mentors, and educators, these women bring passion and talent to our students, classrooms, and the world of science, technology, engineering, and math.

A Leader in the Curiosity Academy

Samantha Grathoff is a lab coordinator, community engagement liaison, and adjunct lecturer for the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in UM-Flint’s College of Arts & Sciences. She’s also one of the directors of the Curiosity Academy: a community club that engages middle school girls, mostly 6th to 8th graders, who have an interest in STEM subjects.

The Academy aims to reignite the girls’ interest in science, technology, engineering, and math at an age when they may be moving away from such disciplines. Through fun projects and activities, the students are connected to educators and professionals in various STEM fields. Noted one recent student, “Curiosity Academy has been an amazing experience and I love that I got to do cool science projects with my friends. My favorite activities were sending the remote controlled cars down a zipline, doing the plant scavenger hunt, and, of course, going on cool field trips!”

Sam Grathoff works with students in a Curiosity Academy session at UM-Flint

Samantha Grathoff works with students in a Curiosity Academy session at UM-Flint

Grathoff works “in all aspects of the program, from writing grant applications, developing lesson plans, advertising, and recruiting students, to recruiting speakers, coordinating field trips, developing a peer mentorship program, and, of course, working with the girls during their time with us.” She shares duties with fellow program directors Monique Wilhelm and Essence Wilson.

The Curiosity Academy’s mission closely aligns with Grathoff’s personal interests. Said Grathoff, “I believe that far too many people are intimidated by science, think that it’s only for ‘nerds’, or think that it’s a secluded community. I love to break those stereotypes by providing fun and interactive activities that explain scientific concepts and engage people.”

Grathoff’s desire for an inclusive community and increased confidence for her students is already being realized. Fifteen-year-old Alexis was asked what she likes about Curiosity Academy. She replied, “The sense of community it provides for all those in the program.” Her mother echoed the sentiment, saying, “It’s not about the exclusion of boys, that has not been an issuse for Alexis, she can and does speak out in class. It’s more about my daughter learning a sense of community with other females. . . I found a program that embodies that.”

Added Grathoff, “Curiosity Academy has transformed girls from being reserved and quiet to outspoken and confident. It’s incredible that a program that meets only two hours per week can so strongly influence the participants.”

Curiosity Academy students conduct an experiment in the UM-Flint lab

Curiosity Academy students conduct an experiment in the UM-Flint lab

A Love of Learning

When asked how she knew a career in STEM was right for her, Grathoff replied, “I was interested in math and science by elementary school. I recall doing workbooks for fun during the summers and having my parents quiz me on math at stores. It wasn’t until high school, however, that my true passion developed. I enrolled in physics, honors chemistry, and almost every biology class my high school offered. The material didn’t come naturally to me, but I loved learning it.”

Grathoff credits both her high school teachers and her parents for fostering her love of the STEM disciplines: “My high school science teachers shared their passion and enthusiasm with me and developed wonderful projects that really engaged me. I loved to see how much they enjoyed their careers, and how much fun STEM could be. My parents also inspired me. They helped me pursue my interests and gain experiences that would help advance my education.”

Grathoff’s role in the Curiosity Academy as a mentor is one that’s appreciated by both her students and their parents. Angie, one of the Academy parents, noted, “I think that the time and energy that these women put into our young women is remarkable and ‘grateful’ is really the best word to describe my feelings. The role models and examples they are [is] truly a blessing for my daughter and all of the girls.”

Sam Grathoff with one of her Curiosity Academy students.

Samantha Grathoff with one of her Curiosity Academy students.

Connecting with the Future

The Curiosity Academy is open to its participants for a small but important window of time in their lives. “My hope is that after Curiosity Academy, the girls’ perseverance, passion, and enthusiasm for STEM continues, regardless of roadblocks that they may encounter,” said Gratthoff. “Even if they decide that STEM isn’t the career for them, I hope that they can take what they’ve learned from Curiosity Academy and apply it to their personal and professional lives.”

For some of the girls, the Academy has already made a difference in their plans. Seventh grader Madison said, “Curiosity Academy has really changed my ideas on what I would like to major in college or what I would like to do for my career. I now would like to possibly go for a chemistry major or maybe even math!” She’s also found that it’s had a positive effect on her time in school: “Curiosity Academy really expanded my knowledge of science. I learned a lot more about plants, fossils, robotics, and so much more… Because of it, I learned a lot before it was even discussed at school, which helped me understand the topic a lot more.”

Madison has also absorbed the example of mentorship that Grathoff shows every day: “I love being a girl who loves STEM! it helps other girls at school see that girls can love topics like science and math, too!”

Whether they are interested in STEM disciplines or not, Grathoff believes “young girls should do what they enjoy doing, not what others think they should do.” She advises students to “try activities that you’ve never tried before. Put effort into every subject in school, even if you don’t think you like it. You never know what you’ll end up liking. Finally, don’t stop exploring. Ask questions, foster new friendships, and stay busy! It’s never too late to explore a new interest, whether it’s academic or for fun.”

2015-16 Curiosity Academy students at UM-Flint

2015-16 Curiosity Academy students at UM-Flint

Join the 2016-17 Curiosity Academy

Applications are now being accepted for this year’s Curiosity Academy class. The deadline is October 10, 2016. Admission is based solely on program interest and is limited to 24 participants. Partial and full tuition assistance is available.

To learn more about the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UM-Flint, and their opportunities for students of all ages, visit their website at To connect with Samantha Grathoff, email

UM-Flint Chemistry Professor Explores Space, Time Travel

Robert Stach, PhD, UM-Flint emeritus professor and author.

Robert Stach, PhD, UM-Flint emeritus professor and author.

“The year is 2112 and scientists are predicting that in twenty years or so an ice age will develop, that will, in all probability, be an extinction-level event…”

So begins the summation of Saving the Human Race, a science-fiction novel about six time traveling scientists and their efforts to save humans from a dying Earth. The book was written by Robert Stach, PhD, emeritus professor of chemistry and the former Director of Research at UM-Flint. Stach retired in 2012.

During his teaching career Stach engaged in academic writing, but this novel was his first attempt at creative fiction. He noted, “I had written several chapters for books, but I hadn’t written a novel until this novel and the two subsequent novels [in the series]. The second one will be published shortly.”

Stach’s career in academia was an asset to creating the story, which contains both space and time travel and examines the relationship between global warming and an ice age. Said Stach, “Because of my chemistry background, I could write from the standpoint of understanding the science and bring that to the fore in my writing.”

Stach’s desire to educate, specifically about climate change, provided inspiration for the series: “I thought writing this book and the two sequels may better demonstrate to the general public, especially climate change deniers, what can lie ahead for the human race if we don’t do something about the use of fossil fuels.”

Bob Stach speaking to a class

Bob Stach speaking to a class

That desire was also a driving force in his career. In a university interview, Stach noted, “I enjoy teaching and challenging students to become educated individuals so they can make significant contributions to our society. They need to be able to think, sometimes outside their comfort zone, and solve problems. . . No matter in what field one finds himself or herself, being well educated will allow [students] to do whatever they desire to do.”

When asked what he hopes readers will take away from his series, Stach replied, “I would hope they come away with the understanding of the exigent need to do something to decrease and eliminate energy sources that use fossil fuels to produce that energy and thus reduce the levels of carbon dioxide. It may not be too late to either prevent or ameliorate the coming ice age if we start using environmentally friendly energy producing systems.”

To contact Dr. Stach, email For more information on the Chemistry & Biochemistry Department at UM-Flint, and the ways in which it can inspire scientists and authors alike, visit

Chemistry & Biochemistry Students Visit Dow, Learn About the Future

UM-Flint Chemistry and Biochemistry Students on a visit to Dow Chemical in Midland, MI

Dr. Matthew Fhaner, Assistant Professor of Analytical Chemistry, (far left) and Steven Toth, Lecturer of Chemistry, (far right) accompanied Chemistry & Biochemistry students on their visit to Dow Chemical

This fall, Chemistry and Biochemistry students from UM-Flint were invited to visit Dow Chemical in Midland, MI, for a unique opportunity to tour facilities and meet with chemists and researchers.

Throughout the day the students walked through labs filled with state-of-the-art equipment for research, development, and production; they met with Dow employees from several different areas who shared their career experiences; and they were able to have a question and answer session with a panel of scientists. The Dow employees talked about the ways in which their backgrounds and education prepared them for work in the field, and addressed some of the roles and responsibilities chemists and chemical companies have in the world.

The students learned about equipment ranging from robots to electron microscopes and x-ray diffractor instruments to can-coaters. They received demonstrations from the equipment operators and learned about their applications in everyday products like soda cans and paint.

Assistant Professor Dr. Matthew Fhaner, trained as an analytical chemist, had this to say about the visit: “I never had any experience like this during my undergraduate education. Having the ability to see industry professionals at work and learning about the positive impacts of their efforts left the students excited about their education and future possibilities. Continuing to partner with industry peers such as Dow Chemical will be an important contribution to our department and program’s future growth.”

During the lunchtime discussion, the students heard about the varied tracks employees had taken throughout their chemistry careers. One researcher told the students that what they learned during their undergraduate experience was very important, although they may not be interviewed just for specific skills. He suggested that they think of their overall education and asked, “Are you learning what it takes to be a good scientist?”

The employees talked about the wide variety of jobs that Chemistry graduates can find, noting “even our marketers have [science] backgrounds.”

One student asked an employee what the best part of his career had been. He responded, “Inventing whatever you want it to be” and added that he enjoyed the flexibility to change or maintain his role as he wished.

The day ended with the scientists giving career advice that was both inspiring and practical:

“It’s all about developing the ability to learn.”

“Follow your interests and allow them to change. Focus on your problem solving skills, communication and networking, learning to ask questions. Be flexible and adaptable.”

“Pay attention to why you enjoy certain aspects of what you’re doing. Use that to shape your career.”

“The more you can articulate what you can bring to the table and your enthusiasm — the better off you’ll be.”

“Don’t be afraid to take control of your career.”

“Communication and collaboration will be key anywhere you work — you will likely be talking to people in and out of the industry.”

“There is always something to learn.”

For more information about the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UM-Flint, and the ways in which they prepare young chemists for successful futures, visit

Giving Blueday – December 1, 2015

Impact students. Start a journey. Fund the future.

On Giving Blueday, Tuesday, December 1, 2015, we are asking you to donate any amount you can to the departments or programs that mean something to you. Even $5 makes a difference if everyone gives!

We also ask that you share the stories of our programs’ requests–so others can give, too!

Read below for specific requests and links for each of our programs.

Give proud, give loud, and GO BLUE!


AfricanaStudies.StampAfricana Studies
The Africana Studies Department is dedicated to diversity and global awareness. To do so they utilize literature, theatre, film, and traditional academic studies. Each year they bring Africa Week to the Flint Community and they work with the Flint Public Library to present a visiting writer or author.
Share or Give:

Dr. Aiyer was an associate professor of anthropology and a passionate researcher and teacher. The Regents of the University of Michigan regarded him as “a valued student advisor [and a] respected leader in his department.” Make a gift to his namesake scholarship and help future students who demonstrate a special commitment to education.
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The Biology Department is celebrating two of its dedicated faculty by requesting gifts to their memorial funds. The Eugene “Doc” Studier Scholarship offers research support to Biology graduate students. The Holly Sucic Memorial Scholarship serves students in the Molecular Biology and Biotechnology programs.
Share or Give: or

ChemBio.StampChemistry & Biochemistry: BLECKER CHEMISTRY SCHOLARSHIP
Professor Harry H. Blecker was the founder of the Department of Chemistry and a faculty member from 1957 to 1989. This fund honors him and helps Chemistry students complete their studies at UM-Flint. In his obituary, Professor Blecker’s family said “It was important to him to help future generations. This vision was his passion for working with thousands of students at UM-Flint.”
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ComVisArts.StampCommunication: UM-FLINT DEBATE TEAM
The UM-Flint Debate team has had a winning tradition at national-level debate for the last few years. Gifts made to this fund will allow the team to continue traveling and debating at tournaments near and far. Although housed in the Communication Program, the team is open to all UM-Flint students. Give today and keep them the Victors of Debate!
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ComScience.StampComputer Science & Information Systems
Help fund study and research by Computer Science & Information Systems students by donating to their general gift fund. This ensures donations go to the area of highest need, as dictated by the program leaders.
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CriminalJustice.StampCriminal Justice
Help fund study and research by Criminal Justice students by donating to their general gift fund. This ensures donations go to the area of highest need, as dictated by the program leaders.
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EarthScience.StampEarth & Resource Science
Help fund study and research by Earth & Resource Science students by donating to their general gift fund. This ensures donations go to the area of highest need, as dictated by the department leaders.
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Economics.StampEconomics: SCHOLARSHIP FUND
The Department of Economics awards $500 scholarships every semester to our highest achieving majors. These scholarships allow students to cover any cost associated with attending, such as tuition, books, fees, etc.  Our students are very grateful to the generosity of our donors, as these scholarships make a meaningful impact on their lives.
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Help fund study and research by Engineering students by donating to their general gift fund. This ensures donations go to the area of highest need, as dictated by the program leaders.
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Every student has to buy books, but English majors have to buy a LOT of books! In the department we try to keep book costs as low as we can, but the reading remains essential. We were all cash-strapped English majors ourselves, and that’s why we want to establish the English Book Scholarship Fund. For us, anything we can do to defray these expenses is worth doing, but we can’t do it alone.
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FLLshortForeign Language & Literatures: MONICA KARNES SCHOLARSHIP
Monica Karnes was a student in Spanish at UM-Flint. Although she was seriously ill, she “continued to pursue her education . . . demonstrating a commitment to excellence which is in the best tradition of the University.” Our UM-Flint Chapter of the Phi Sigma Iota Int’l Foreign Language Honors Society established this fund in 1985 in her memory “to benefit students who share Monica’s hopes, her dreams, and her spirit.”
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Help one of our students travel to London, England, for our first international internship! This experience will have a profound effect on their love of history and future studies and career. The student will work at the Museum of London.
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InterGlobalStudies.StampInternational & Global Studies: STUDY ABROAD SCHOLARSHIP
Named for Dr. Matthew Hilton-Watson, associate professor of Foreign Language and the Director of the International and Global Studies Program, this scholarship helps undergraduate and graduate students travel the globe. Give the gift of experience, diversity, and expanded horizons to UM-Flint students while you pay tribute to Dr. Matt.
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Math.StampMathematics: FAMILY MATH NIGHT
Twice each year the Math Department hosts Family Math Night, a free event where young children and their families have fun together with math. The kids learn two important lessons: math can be fun, and they can do it! Help us continue this tradition of community engagement and inspiring future mathematics majors!
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Voice. Instrumental. Classical. Jazz. Contemporary. Music can mean so many things, but, at UM-Flint, each definition has passionate students in common. Your gift to this scholarship will help future Music majors follow their dreams toward a life of making music. Encourage them to embrace creativity! This is an endowed scholarship, so your gift will be continuous.
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Our Candace Bolter Scholarship is $2,500 away from reaching endowment status. Once endowed, the scholarship will always be available to fund future Philosophy students. Says past recipient Thomas Mann, “[scholarships] give the student the sense that someone else believes in what they’re striving for, and for the student, that can mean the world.”
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Help fund study and research by Physics students by donating to their general gift fund. This ensures donations go to the area of highest need, as dictated by the program leaders.
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PoliticalScience.StampPolitical Science
Help fund study and research by Political Science students by donating to their general gift fund. This ensures donations go to the area of highest need, as dictated by the program leaders.
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Help fund study and research by Psychology students by donating to their general gift fund. This ensures donations go to the area of highest need, as dictated by the program leaders.
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Professor Albert Price served as Director of the Master of Public Administration Program for 24 of the its 35 years. He was also one of the program’s best known faculty members and a mentor to many of its graduates. Donations to this scholarship will help future MPA students complete the program that means so much to Dr. Price.
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Gifts to this fund will benefit our students AND our city! Established in 2010 to honor the memory of Professor Wilfred Marston,
this endowed fund supports students who undertake a civic engagement project with a sociologically relevant research component that focuses on the improvement of Flint.
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Official.Theatre.Horz.Sig.png.binTheatre & Dance: FRIENDS SCHOLARSHIP
This fund supports Theatre & Dance students as they cultivate the necessary tools, both artistic and personal, to meet the demands of an ever evolving world and profession. With your support our students will stand ready to take a place of responsibility in the community at large and excel as fearless artists, flexible workers, and compassionate citizens. Thank you for giving!
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Visual Arts & Art History: STUDENT TRAVEL
The Visual Arts and Art History Faculty would like support for students and student travel for Giving Blueday. In summer 2015 our students traveled to Paris, France. They loved the experience and can already see the benefits of their time there. Your gift will allow future Visual Arts & Art History students the chance to expand their horizons and find new inspiration!
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WomenGenderStudies.StampWomen’s & Gender Studies: CRITICAL DIFFERENCE FUND
The WGS would like gifts to be made to the Women’s Education Center Critical Difference Fund. This small grant helps students facing emergency situations stay in school. Says one recipient, “I believe this grant is important because everyone needs help sometimes and even the littlest thing can save a life.” Give today and be a victor for those who need it the most.
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WritingCenterlogoWriting Center: C. SCOTT RUSSELL SCHOLARSHIP
The C. Scott Russell Scholarship helps writing students with the expense of higher education. The scholarship is awarded to students enrolled in English 109: College Writing Workshop based on their writing improvement and financial need. ENG 109 is designed as an independent study in writing. Students focus on writing issues that interest them and are important to their academic success.
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CAS Faculty Welcomed and Honored at 2015 Convocation

On Monday, August 31, both new and seasoned faculty gathered together for two events: the Academic Affairs Convocation that welcomes new faculty and celebrates our award-winning, promoted, and long-serving faculty members, and the Thompson Center for Learning & Teaching‘s pre-convocation workshop titled “The Actual and the Possible: Cultivating Learning at UM-Flint.”

The workshop featured sixteen faculty presentations, with representatives from each school or college at UM-Flint, focused on innovative and effective teaching methods used in (or out of) classrooms.

The College of Arts & Science was well represented with six faculty speaking on topics ranging from technology to storytelling.


Brian DiBlassio discusses teaching musical elements online.

Brian DiBlassio, Associate Professor and Chair of Music and recipient of the Provost Teaching Innovation Prize, was the first CAS faculty member to present. He discussed the ways in which he brings music alive for online students–where formerly they had only static words on a screen to inform their lessons. By incorporating video, moving graphics, sound, voiceover, and popular media, DiBlassio is able to answer the “challenge of teaching arts purely through text.”

Nicholas Kingsley, Assistant Professor from the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry and recipient of the Lois Matz Rosen Junior Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award, spoke to his peers about technology that works for both his teaching style and his students’ needs. From interactive digital presentations to a pen that allows recording and playback of his method for working through complex problems, Kingsley demonstrated how his technology choices serve students in the classroom and create resources for future use.


Pat Emenyonu from the departments of English and Africana Studies listens to a presentation at the TCLT pre-convocation workshop.

Jill Slater, Lecturer of Biology, presented on this past spring’s Cell-ebration: a science symposium she created to inform and inspire students from all of her classes. Slater combined more seasoned students’ experiences and newer students’ questions to present cellular research being done across her courses. Her event engaged students in new ways and allowed there to be a focus on what happens after they learn research methodologies in lower level courses. All students came away with skills they can use later in their academic studies and in their professional and research careers.

Thomas Henthorn, Assistant Professor of History, spoke on an oral history project from his class Gods in the City. Henthorn uses the lesson to emphasize listening and communication skills while students explore new topics and religion through their interviews with community members. He spoke about the value of an assignment that can’t be simply gathered from online sources. Said Henthorn, “as wonderful as technology is . . . most of the world’s important business happens face to face.”


Erica Britt talks about Vehicle City Voices and the stories of Flint residents.

Erica Britt, Assistant Professor of Linguistics in the English Department, continued with the storytelling theme by talking about her Vehicle City Voices project. Britt has utilized both graduate and undergraduate students in her collection, coding, and presentation of stories from residents around the city of Flint. In addition to being a documentation of memories, her project is a study in the vocal patterns of speakers in Flint. Students created transcripts and developed word-level, phrase-level, and sentence-level analysis on their collected stories.

Margaret Ware, Lecturer in Biology, was the final CAS speaker of the day. In her discussion she showed how combining factual health histories with fictional characters allowed her students to have a more involved and engaged experience when completing a case study project. Students worked individually to create a story from lab data and then as a small group selected their favorite story or combined elements to create a new one. Ware noted the students were able to utilize a wide variety of skills, including the unusual combination of creative writing and scientific data collection.


UM-Flint faculty, staff, and administrators listen to presentations at the TCLT’s 2015 pre-convocation workshop.

After all the presentations were made, participants had small table discussions to talk about their favorite methods from the day and also to share their own unique methods of teaching. The event was closed by TCLT’s Tracy Wacker who spoke to the joy of teaching and learning as she wished all a successful Fall 2015 semester.

The focus on UM-Flint’s teaching excellence continued later that afternoon at the Academic Affairs Convocation in the UM-Flint Theatre.


Provost Doug Knerr welcomed faculty back to another year of excellent teaching.

The event began with an introduction by Chancellor Susan E. Borrego and a warm welcome from Provost Doug Knerr.

Faculty Awards were announced, with CAS faculty claiming eight of the nine honors:

Lois Alexander, Professor of Music: Teaching Excellence Award

Lixing Han, Professor of Mathematics: Scholarly or Creative Achievement Award

Kathy Schellenberg, Associate Professor of Sociology: Distinguished Service Award

Ernest Emenyonu, Professor of Africana Studies: Alvin D. Loving Senior Faculty Initiative Award

Karen Salvador, Assistant Professor of Music: Lucinda Hinsdale Stone Junior Women Faculty Award

Peggy Kahn, David M. French Professor and Professor of Political Science: Dorthea E. Wyatt Award

Nicholas Kingsley, Assistant Professor of Chemistry: Dr. Lois Matz Rosen Junior Excellence in Teaching Award

Traci Currie, Lecturer of Communication and Visual Arts: Collegiate Lecturer Award

Ricardo Alfaro, David M. French Professor and Professor of Mathematics, was also honored as the UM-Flint nominee for the Michigan Distinguished Professor of the Year Award.


Traci Currie receives a congratulatory hug from Chancellor Susan E. Borrego


Professor Ricardo Alfaro receives his Presidents Council Sponsored Faculty Award from Provost Doug Knerr


Assoc. Professor Kathryn Schellenberg receives her Distinguished Service Award from Provost Knerr as Chancellor Susan E. Borrego looks on

Services awards were given to those who have been at the university for 10, 20, or 40 plus years:

Ten years or more: 
Jacob Blumner, English; Traci Currie, Communication & Visual Arts; Michael Farmer, CSEP; Janet Haley, Theatre & Dance; Terrence Horgan, Psychology; Jason Kosnoski, Political Science; Maria Pons-Hervas, Foreign Languages & Literatures; Jie Song, Chemistry & Biochemistry; and Jeannette Stein, Psychology

Twenty years or more:
Jamile Lawand, Foreign Languages & Literatures; Paula Nas, Economics; Stevens Wandmacher, Philosophy


Assoc. Professor Jason Kosnoski receives his Faculty Service Award for 10 years or more of service


Interim Dean Susan Gano-Phillips announced new and promoted faculty of CAS.

Promoted faculty were celebrated (click here for a full story), with those moving from assistant to associate or associate to full professor being named by Interim Dean Susan Gano-Phillips.

From associate professor with tenure to professor with tenure:
Lois Alexander, Music; Jami Anderson, Philosophy; Roy Barnes, Sociology; John Stephen Ellis, History; Michael Farmer, Computer Science and Information Systems.

From assistant professor to associate professor with tenure:
Dauda Abubakar, Africana Studies and Political Science; Julie Broadbent, Psychology; Daniel Coffield, Jr., Mathematics; Rajib Ganguly, Physics; Christopher Heidenreich, Music; Daniel Lair, Communication; Vickie Jeanne Larsen, English; Shelby Newport, Theatre and Dance; Greg Rybarczyk, Earth & Resource Science.

In addition to honoring our more seasoned faculty, the convocation also serves as a welcome to new faculty. The College of Arts & Science welcomed ten new faculty members:

Karen Bedell, Lecturer of Psychology; Halil Bisgin, Assistant Professor of Computer Science; David Duriancik, Assistant Professor of Biology; Jason Jarvis, Lecturer of Psychology; Jacob Lederman, Instructor cum Assistant Professor of Urban Sociology; Jeffrey Livermore, Lecturer of Computer Science; Brian Schrader, Lecturer of Communication; Amanda Kahl Smith, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice; Matthew Spradling, Assistant Professor of Computer Science; and Amanda Taylor, Lecturer of Psychology.

Each of the new faculty will be more thoroughly introduced to the campus and community through CAS Faculty Spotlights, located on the CAS website, throughout the Fall 2015 semester.

The College of Arts & Sciences would like to offer sincere congratulations to all of our faculty on their awards, recognition, promotion, or introduction to the University of Michigan-Flint. We are looking forward to a wonderful academic year of service and teaching.