Faculty Distinguished Lecture Focuses on Chemistry’s Impact on Our Lives

Professor of Chemistry Walda Powell presented “Life in Chemistry,” the 2023-24 Faculty Distinguished Lecture, on March 19, 2024. The lecture emphasized how chemistry affects every person’s life.

Dr. Powell opened her lecture by describing her typical morning – including getting ready for work, making breakfast, and drinking coffee before arriving in her classroom – as examples of how chemical compounds are everywhere.

“Chemistry is not just an isolated academic experience that happens in a classroom. It is something that is all around us impacting our lives daily,” Dr. Powell said. “Understanding the basics of chemistry can open doors to understanding how chemistry affects our lives.”

Chemistry is the study of matter, which is defined as anything that has mass and occupies space. “Chemistry is all around us, things we can touch, see, and smell,” said Dr. Powell. “Without thinking we use chemicals and perform chemical processes every day.”

In her lecture, Dr. Powell provided several examples of her interest in food chemistry including making coffee, fermenting cheese, and brewing beer. 

“Cooking is an extension of my lab work,” Dr. Powell said. “Understanding more about the science of cooking, baking, and fermentation, reminds me of the chemical processes I learned in a chemistry lab.”

Also, because collaboration is an important part of research and study for scientists, Dr. Powell’s lecture included a video featuring three students discussing their collaborative biochemistry project with Powell and Professor of Biological Sciences Karthik Aghoram.

Phi Kappa Phi National Honor SocietyWalda Powell Smiling with Award at Faculty Distinguished Lecture
The Faculty Distinguished Lecture was presented by the Convocation Committee and co-sponsored by the Meredith College Chapter of Phi Kappa Phi. A chapter of the Phi Kappa Phi National Honor Society was established at Meredith College in fall 2023 and the first student members will be initiated in spring 2024. Founded in 1897, Phi Kappa Phi is the nation’s oldest and most selective collegiate honor society for all academic disciplines. At the conclusion of the Faculty Distinguished Lecture, Dr. Powell was invited to join Meredith’s Phi Kappa Phi chapter.

About Dr. Walda Powell
A member of Meredith’s faculty since 1995, Dr. Walda Powell has taught a wide range of courses from Introductory Chemistry to the Science Behind CSI to Fermentation Science. Her primary areas of expertise are in general chemistry and organic chemistry.

Dr. Powell earned a doctorate in chemistry at NC State University and began postdoctoral studies at UNC-Chapel Hill in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics. She worked at Boron Biological, Inc., as a synthetic chemist and rose through the ranks as a senior research chemist and a manager before coming to Meredith.

Melyssa Allen

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