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Colloquium series provides students with networking opportunities

MU's annual Colloquium series broadens students' chemistry education with weekly speakers.

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Feb. 22, 2011

With the snow behind them, the Department of Chemistry is ready to begin its spring Colloquium series.

The series was set to begin Feb. 4, but was cancelled due to snow. Instead, the Colloquium began Feb. 11 with Daniel Mindiola of Indiana University.

Program Coordinator Michael Harmata said the goal of the series is to expose graduate students to new ideas as well showcase the work of the Chemistry Department.

“In a way it’s kind of an exchange program so grad students can expand their horizons and experience things that they might not otherwise experience in their classes or research,” Harmata said.

The Colloquium generally attracts anywhere from 50 to 100 participants.

“I think it’s actually vital,” Steven Keller said. “All of the big chemistry departments have at least one weekly seminar where we bring someone in from other departments. It’s hugely beneficial.”

Keller got his masters from the University of California-Berkeley and did post-doctoral studies at the University of Texas and Penn State. All three Chemistry programs are ranked in the top 21 in the nation, according to a 2010 U.S. News & World Report study. Although MU’s program is smaller, the Colloquium series is a chance for students to get the same benefits.

“I had a chance to speak and listen to some of the professors,” Cai Zhengxin said, who is a sixth year graduate student. “It gave me a chance to know the future job offers or careers I’d like to choose.”

Although some are professors at other universities, some work in the industry, such as Saed Mirzadeh of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, who will speak in April.

“I will solicit the faculty for suggestions,” Harmata said. “We want to have diversity in terms of science. We like to get the whole faculty involved.”

Although it took time, Zhengxin said he has come to appreciate this diversity.

“The difference of Colloquium from other seminars is the comprehensiveness,” Zhengxin said. “We have topics from all the subfields in chemistry and biology. “

The Colloquium can also yield valuable networking opportunities. One of Keller’s former graduate students, Jacquelyn Knaust, did her post doctorate work with a former speaker.

“That was an absolute direct connection,” Keller said. “She met Peter Dourhout from Colorado State University when he was here on the Colloquium series.”

Former MU graduate student Gary Bohnert eventually got his Ph.D. and post doctoral with James Panek of Boston University, who was also a former Colloquium speaker.

“It is certainly open to everyone,” Keller said. “Often there will be pretty interdisciplinary kinds of things, and other faculty and grad students are certainly welcome to come.”

The Colloquium will meet at 3:30 p.m. every Friday in Schlundt Hall with a variety of different speakers.

This year’s lineup includes Gary Brudvig of Yale University and Peter Schreiner of Justus August of the University of Giessen in Germany.

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