Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

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Great Teaching, Great Learning

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Undergraduate Research - The Ultimate Learning Experience

The Chemistry department is pleased to be part of the College’s celebration of Great Teaching and Great Learning.  The success of our department in producing graduates who go on to obtain their PhD or MD is indicated by our current ranking as fourth in the nation among undergraduate institutions in the number of graduates who obtain their PhD and, according to the last available data, as seventh in the nation who obtain the MD.   But that is only part of our success:  some of our majors go directly from F&M into the chemical or pharmaceutical industries or find satisfaction in other fields such as the ministry or breeding horses.  Many of our graduates are leaders in their field—Presidents or CEOs of companies, Directors of research groups, Presidents of Colleges—and some of these stories are documented in our Excellence in the Sciences site.

 The department has been fortunate to have had a succession of teachers who, like William Weisgerber, one of the department’s founding fathers, were dedicated to improving our students’ ability to reason, to analyze data, to understand scientific methodology, and to learn the basic concepts of chemistry.  A keystone of the department’s teaching early on, primarily through the efforts of Fred Snavely ‘49 and Fred Suydam ‘46, became undergraduate research.  A series of National Science Foundation Undergraduate Research Participation grants in the late 50s and early 60s provided stipends for students to do research during the summer.  These summer programs were important because of the greater intensity and focus possible during the ten-week summer program, but also because of the additional rapport developed between faculty and students.  These student-faculty relationships frequently developed into life-long friendships that have became an important part of the lives of both.  A Chemistry major, William Hackman ’39, and his wife Lucille provided a generous gift to the Department that was used to endow summer stipends.  This program was extended to the entire College and there are now more than 70 “Hackman Scholars” who participate in undergraduate research across the College each summer.

Undergraduate research in the department was further supported by the generosity of William Scott Moore ’74 and Charles D. Schaeffer, Jr, ’70 in developing the Moore-Schaeffer Mentorship, which allows us to offer students a stipend to do research for a month before they begin their first year of classes.  This allows us to attract students with excellent credentials who frequently become some of our best majors.  Our research is also supported by external grants obtained by faculty members from foundations such as the National Science Foundation, the Petroleum Research Fund, the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, and Research Corporation.

The other half of the teaching-learning process is our students.  Early in the department’s history many of our students were first generation college students from within a 100-mile radius of Lancaster.  These hard-working, intellectually motivated students were role-models for their peers as well as for our current students, who come from a much more diverse geographical area.  Our students continue to understand that success requires hard, consistent work, and they respond to the faculty’s ever-increasing expectations.  For them, the rapport and learning developed during student-faculty research continues to be the ultimate learning experience.