Dr. Gretchen Potts, UC Foundation Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry, was selected as a finalist for the Supernova Award and she was recognized at the Odyssey 2012:  Engineering a Dream Luncheon and Awards Ceremony.  The Young Women’s Leadership Academy Foundation established the Supernova Award to “recognize women who have distinguished themselves in their professional career and serve as role models to the next generation of female Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) leaders.” 

Dr. Gretchen Potts

Dr. Tom Rybolt, head of the UTC Department of Chemistry, says Potts has worked with a number of undergraduate students at UTC on important analytical “real-world” chemistry problems.  Their findings were published in national research journals including: Tobacco Control, Journal of Undergraduate Chemical Research, and Journal of Forensic Science.

“Most significantly, undergraduate students were included in all aspects of the scientific work and were co-authors on the final published articles.  Dr. Potts has selected interesting and important topics to investigate, including identification of human cremation remains, uptake of pollutants by plants, release of compounds by smoked electronic cigarettes, and contaminants leached from cigarette litter into surface soils.  She has presented more than a dozen talks at regional and national chemical meetings or at other universities.  Her research students have presented research results at more than a dozen regional or national scientific meetings,” Rybolt explained.

Potts has mentored 13 female undergraduate researchers in nine years at UTC.  By modeling organization, planning, scientific methodology, appropriate analytical techniques, and use of modern instrumentation, Potts has encouraged these students and seen them successfully go on to pursue higher education and professional achievements.

She recently completed her term as Chair of the Local Section of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

“Significantly, Dr. Potts was selected as of one of 13 analytical chemists in the country to serve on the ACS Exam Committee to develop a new college-level Analytical Chemistry Exam that will be used nationwide,” Rybolt said.

During the 2011-12 academic year, Potts participated in a Girl Scout Council of Southern Appalachia and AT&T sponsored initiative, “IMAGINE: Your STEM Future.”  Hundreds of area middle and high school students were invited to attend.  With assistance from Drs. Gail Meyer, Kristin Whitson, Stefanie Whitson and three female volunteers from the UTC Chemistry Club, Potts organized activities and lab materials for the chemistry sessions of the STEM Expo, the culminating event.

“We worked one-on-one making three different types of polymers,” Potts explained.

In 2011, two of Potts’ students worked under a grant from the Division of Analytical Chemistry American Chemical Society to introduce “Chemistry Concepts for Elementary Students:  A hands-on approach to bring science into the classroom.”  UTC students Katherine Thurman and Zac Perry brought the program to Brown International Academy in Chattanooga.

The Supernova Award was established in 2011.  The first recipient was Dr. Cecelia Wigal, UC Foundation Professor and Assistant Dean in the UTC College of Engineering and Computer Science.

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