Equipping students for a better tomorrow

Equipping students for a better tomorrow

Several years ago, professor and ECU alumnus Dr. Keith Holmes recognized a great need of the Department of Chemistry.

“We had this beautiful facility, the Science and Technology Building, but the equipment was old,” he said. “We are doing our best job to educate students, and we want everyone to get the best education in the lab that they can. However, we need new lab equipment to accomplish this.”

Thus began the team effort to raise funding to equip the undergraduate teaching labs in the department. The combined funding of $337,000, which came from industries, the Golden LEAF Foundation, and allotted money from the provost, has made the dream of providing students with the best lab equipment available a reality.

Equipping students for a better tomorrow

Members of the Advisory Board standing with Dr. Rickey Hicks and Dr. Keith Holmes. From left to right, Lee Pedersen, Dr. Rickey Hicks, Walter Williams, Parker Overton, Dr. Keith Holmes, and Phil Hodges.

On Thursday, October 21, the department recognized at an awards ceremony the industries and members of the department’s advisory board who made purchasing this new equipment a possibility.

At the ceremony, Dr. Rickey Hicks, head of the Department of Chemistry, talked about the importance of lab experience and how much the donations have benefited students.

“We believe it is important to link the lab and lecture experience to help students get a grasp of the real world,” he said. “Hundreds of students would be turned away without these contributions.”

Jennifer Tripp, director of development in the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, added that all support to East Carolina University, Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, and the Department of Chemistry is very much appreciated.

“We are a great university; however, the contribution of additional support helps fund the margin of excellence at ECU, and gives our chemistry students the much needed resources to enhance their educational experience,” she said.

Industries who made contributions include Merck & Company, PPD Inc, Purdue Pharmaceuticals, DSM, and Metrics Inc.

Advisory Board members include Phil Hodges of Metrics Inc.; Parker Overton, entrepreneur; Lee Pedersen, from the UNC–Chapel Hill Department of Chemistry; and Walter Williams, 2010 Outstanding ECU Alumnus Award recipient.

Equipping students for a better tomorrow

Industry contributors tour the Good Manufacturing Practices Lab.

A special award, the Dr. Chia-yu Li Society Award for Outstanding Industrial Support, was also given out at the ceremony. This award recognized Metrics Inc. as the first company to contribute $50,000 to the chemistry department.

Metrics has funded 14 undergraduate teaching assistantships per year, making it possible for more students to gain hands-on lab experience.

“Teaching is so good for students because they learn the material themselves as they teach,” said Hodges, president, CEO and founder of Metrics Inc.

Hodges also said East Carolina’s Department of Chemistry has been an invaluable resource to attract great employees. “An anchor of the company has been the strength of the ECU Department of Chemistry and the quality of the graduates,” he said. “We are honored to give back to the department and the university.”

Metrics Inc. was also instrumental in supporting the Good Manufacturing Practices Lab (GMP), funded by the Golden LEAF Foundation. The lab, which began seven years ago, instructs students how to work successfully in the industry by teaching to keep logbooks and lab reports that meet FDA regulations.

Only an individual who has had industrial experience may teach the GMP course, and it is the only class taught in this particular lab.

This lab experience is crucial to students as they prepare to enter the workforce. In fact, according to Hicks, going through this lab can reduce a graduate’s training time at a new job by as much as three to six months.

“Our GMP lab is the only one like it in the state,” he said. “Having this lab on their resume pretty much guarantees a graduate an interview.”

Bruce Petersen of PPD echoed Hodges’s sentiments about the importance of giving back to the university.

“It feels wonderful to be recognized for this contribution and PPD is proud to help the university,” he said. “We want to prepare students to enter the workforce and to help ECU develop high-achieving chemists.”

Walter Williams, Outstanding Alumnus Award recipient and Pitt County native, also emphasized the great impact that East Carolina University has on North Carolina and the importance of best equipping graduates with the skills sets they need to be successful in life.

“East Carolina University is the hub of eastern North Carolina; our university is the leader,” he said. “We have to be on the cutting edge. We cannot go to sleep.”

By Meagan Williford
University Marketing