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Furman University first began installing solar panels on campus more than a decade ago. Now, a Furman student wants to make the technology behind them even better.

As part of his summer research project with the chemistry department, Andrew Kropilak ’14 of Knoxville, Tenn., is using the concept of halogen bonding to assist in the process of recharging a solar cell after the sunlight is converted to usable electrical energy. The goal is to improve the efficiency and overall effectiveness of solar cells, such as the ones found in panels outside Plyler Hall, he said.

Kropilak, one of sixty students participating with fourteen faculty members in Furman’s undergraduate summer research program, took time out from laboratory work to meet with chemists working in the local business community during the annual Chemistry Corporate Luncheon June 27 at Younts Conference Center.
The event, now in its twenty-seventh year, is also an opportunity for students to showcase the engaged learning they’ve enjoyed on campus. This summer, it’s included everything from nanotechnology to developing chemotherapeutic drugs for cancer treatment.

Engaged learning is about not only learning, but “then applying learning to something very useful,” said Interim President Carl Kohrt, who graduated magna cum laude from Furman in 1965 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. “We need to make those connections.”

The luncheon, attended by approximately 150 people, has continued to remain a popular annual event, as representatives from companies such as Milliken and Michelin attend annually and discuss projects they’re involved in on a day-to-day basis. The guest speaker was Furman alumna and industrial scientist Anne Payne ’97 who discussed her work supervising vaccine manufacturing science and commercialization-bioanalytics at Merck and Co. Inc.
Furman graduate Andy Ligon, president of SC Field Technical Services of Lakewood, Calif., was recognized for coming the farthest distance to attend. Preston Edwards was recognized as the guest with the most experience. He graduated from Furman in 1943 and worked as a medical doctor until age eighty-five.

“It is a great opportunity for students and other Furman folks to establish ties with representatives of high-tech companies,” said Lon Knight, chemistry department chair. “Over the recent years, an increasing number of our students are being employed by companies who have participated in this event.”

Networking is an important part of the job search for Furman graduates. Just over eighty-seven percent of 2011 graduates found employment through networking with family, friends, professional contacts or direct employer contact.

Furman is home to one of the largest undergraduate research programs in the nation. It has an enviable placement rate of ninety-six percent of graduates either finding employment or entering graduate school within six months of graduation. Leah Pendleton ’14 of Union, S.C., plans to attend medical school after completing her chemistry degree. She’s already working part-time as an emergency medical technician for Union County Emergency Medical Services on weekends.

“No one else has so many hands-on research opportunities for undergraduates,” Pendleton said. “Furman’s chemistry program is fantastic.”


Last updated July 8, 2013
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Clinton Colmenares
News & Media Relations Director