Nobel Laureate to Speak at South’s Mole Day Celebration


Photo Credit: Thomas LaVergne

Dr. Robert Curl, Rice University Professor Emeritus, won the distinguished prize for chemistry in 1996. Curl will present a talk Oct. 22 about the discovery of buckyballs.

San Jacinto College South Campus will welcome Nobel laureate in chemistry, Dr. Robert Curl, Oct. 22 as part of its Mole Day celebration for National Chemistry Week.

Nobel prizes are awarded to individuals for their outstanding contributions in the areas of chemistry, physics, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace. Curl received the honor in 1996, along with colleagues Richard Smalley and Sir Harold Kroto, for their discovery of fullerenes. At Mole Day, Curl will talk about the discovery of buckyballs at Rice University.

South campus chemistry professor Robert Whitmarsh said he wants this event to help students realize innovation starts with ideas from real people and “… not instantaneously translated into new products and applications.”

“Great discoveries can be explained in simple language that regular people can understand,” he added.

Furthermore, Whitmarsh said, he is glad to introduce San Jac students to a chemist who made significant contributions to his chosen field.

“The most tangible impact (on students) is increased knowledge of chemistry and the methods by which research makes chemical discoveries possible,” he said.

Likewise, students benefit from “having the opportunity to learn, not just with the regular faculty, but with a great research scientist who sees the importance of sharing what they do with our students,” he added.

This is the fourth Mole Day celebration hosted by the South campus. According to Whitmarsh, the event started as a way to celebrate chemistry but also aims to complement the classroom experience. In support of this objective, he used a two-pronged approach to select a speaker.

“First, criteria was to have a chemist; the second was to have a chemist students would find interesting,” he said.

Additionally, Whitmarsh explained the name of the celebration comes from the word mole that chemists use to refer to the number they write as 6.02×10^23. As a result, they pay special tribute to Oct. 23.

“Chemists have a cup of coffee at 6:02 a.m. on the morning of Oct. 23 and a beverage of their choice at 6:02 p.m. on the evening of Oct. 23,” he added. However, the South campus is celebrating Mole day one day early to accommodate their speaker.

Meanwhile, Department Chair Andrew Vines said Mole Day activities offer students new perspective concerning possible employment choices.

“Events like these give us an opportunity to show students how exciting a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) can be,” Vines said.

This year, Mole Day will take place in the South campus’s new science and allied health building that Vines said is an ideal venue “… to highlight the sciences.”

In turn, Whitmarsh indicated, the organizers are live-streaming the event to allow for overflow crowds and off-campus viewing adding, “I expect this year to be the biggest yet.”

Dr. Robert Curl’s presentation will take place Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. in room S1.113 of the science and allied health building on the South campus. An open reception will follow.