Texas A&M chemistry Ph.D. candidate Keturah Odoi '13 (second from right), accepting her National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE) 2015 Winifred Burks-Houck Graduate Leadership Award. (Credit: NOBCChE.)


Three Texas A&M University chemists have been honored by the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE).

Texas A&M chemistry Ph.D. candidate Keturah Odoi '13 was selected to receive the 2015 Winifred Burks-Houck Graduate Leadership Award recognizing cutting-edge research and innovative activities that broaden participation in the chemical sciences. In addition, chemists Kim R. Dunbar and James D. Batteas each earned President's Awards -- two of six bestowed overall -- for their career leadership and advocacy for underrepresented communities in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

The trio were presented with their annual awards at NOBCChE's 42nd Annual Conference, "Bridging Generations Through STEM," held September 21-25 in Orlando. The awards gala and banquet marks the capstone event of the conference.

Odoi, who came to Texas A&M in 2009 and received her master's degree in chemistry in 2012, previously was honored at the 2014 NOBCChE conference with the E.I. DuPont Graduate Fellowship Award. Dunbar and Batteas each serve as faculty advisors for Texas A&M's NOBCChE chapter, founded in 2012 to stimulate interest and promote awareness in chemistry, chemical engineering and related areas for under-represented students.

See a past feature article in Chemical & Engineering News describing Odoi's first NOBCChE meeting experience and the motivation behind establishing Texas A&M's chapter.

Batteas notes that Odoi was instrumental in establishing the chapter as a charter member. In addition to serving as both a past president and treasurer, she continues to support the chapter as its liaison to the Texas A&M Office of Graduate and Professional Studies.

"First, let me say that Keturah Odoi is one of the finest people I know," Batteas said. "As an advisor to our NOBCChE chapter, it has been a privilege to work with her. One of the primary principles of Texas A&M University is the spirit of selfless service, and Keturah sets a very high bar for that principle. She has not only been an accomplished scholar, but also an exceptional leader in our department, the university and the local community."

Odoi, who graduated cum laude with a bachelor's of science degree in chemistry and a minor in mathematics from Southwestern Oklahoma State University in 2009, is a member of Texas A&M chemist Wenshe Liu's research group, where she conducts research in biological chemistry focused toward developing chemical and biotechnological methods for producing proteins with unique functionalities. To date, her work has resulted in three peer-reviewed publications and selection as a Texas A&M Center for Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL) Fellow. She also has considerable classroom experience, serving as a teaching assistant in both general chemistry and quantitative analysis laboratories as well as for organic chemistry II lectures and senior seminars. Since 2014, she has mentored other students as a graduate teaching consultant, helping her peers to hone their own teaching and professional skills.

A member of the American Chemical Society, Odoi is set to complete her Ph.D. in May. She is active in numerous STEM-related outreach and educational endeavors across the campus, including as a volunteer for Texas A&M Student Research Week, the ADVANCE Scholar Symposium for Women Faculty of Color in STEM and as an Annual Biomedical Research for Minority Students abstracts reviewer. Odoi also has served in many related capacities for events sponsored by the College of Science Educational Outreach and Women's Programs Office, including as a workshop leader for Expanding Your Horizons, a moderator for both the Regional and Junior Regional Science Bowls, a participant in the Susan M. Arseven '75 Women In Science & Engineering Conference and a volunteer for Texas Science Olympiad. She is also a five-year participant in Texas A&M's Big Event, the largest student-run community service project nationwide.

"You only need to chat with Keturah for a few minutes to recognize her enthusiasm for science and for service," Batteas said. "She is always among the first people to volunteer and has never backed down from a challenge."

Odoi's award is named for Winifred Burks-Houck, the first female president of NOBCChE. During her tenure as president (1993 to 2001), Burks-Houck expanded the organization to include many new professional and student chapters. She also developed a strong relationship between NOBCChE and the American Chemical Society that has enhanced both organizations' outreach programs for minority chemists.

"It is through the life chapters of notable leaders like Winifred Burks-Houck that I found my own unique story," Odoi said.

To learn more about Texas A&M's NOBCChE chapter, visit http://nobcche.chem.tamu.edu/index.php.

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Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or shutchins@science.tamu.edu or Dr. James D. Batteas, (979) 458-2965 or batteas@chem.tamu.edu

Hutchins Shana

  • Texas A&M chemists James Batteas (above, center) and Kim Dunbar (below) each earned NOBCChE President's Awards for their career leadership and advocacy for underrepresented communities in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). (Credit: NOBCChE.)

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  • (From left:) Alex Kosanovich, Keturah Odoi, Brian Mosby and chemistry professor James Batteas helm the Texas A&M Chemistry booth at NOBCChE. For his help in establishing a NOBCChE chapter at Texas A&M in 2012, Batteas received a NOBCChE President's Award at this year's conference. "He deserves the award," Odoi said. "He made NOBCChE at Texas A&M what it is." (Credit: Jeff Huber/C&EN.)

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