DelVal faculty member selected to participate in an international green chemistry conference

Jul 12, 2012

Melissa Langston, Ph.D., outside on DelVal's campus.
Melissa Langston, Ph.D., a chemistry faculty member at Delaware Valley College, will participate in the Gordon Research Conference on Green Chemistry, in Lucca, Italy from July 22-27.

The conference will bring together faculty and people working in industry to look at the latest research and advances in green chemistry. Green chemistry encourages the design of products and processes that minimize the use of and generation of hazardous substances. Langston is excited to bring the very latest from her field back to her classroom in the fall.

“I think it is going to be a really unique experience. The Gordon Research Conference is a prestigious event, you have to apply to go, and I was really excited to be accepted,” said Langston. “The people presenting at the event are really the leaders in the field in their segments.”

The event will cover topics such as: bio-inspired materials, energy and fuel solutions, greener chemicals, carbon dioxide utilization, and the relationship between green chemistry and industry.

Langston joined DelVal in 2010, after teaching at Kutztown University. She strives to get students to see how the topics they learn about impact their everyday lives. She is an advisor for DelVal’s Student Research Course and teaches chemistry labs and lectures.

Langston has presented at American Chemical Society meetings and other international events in the past.

She said the focus of the conference, using science to come up with solutions that are better for the environment, really fits with what DelVal stands for.

“I wanted to go as almost an ambassador, to learn things to bring back for the students here,” said Langston. “I like the connection between this conference and what we practice and preach at DelVal.”

The Albert Einstein quote, “we shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive,” inspires her.

She plans to include it on her syllabi and use that quote to encourage her students to come up with new approaches to problems using what they learn at DelVal.

Langston feels it is important to teach students about the latest advances in the field to give them an edge when they’re competing for jobs.

“I’m looking forward to being able to relay what I learn to our students,” said Langston.  “A lot of them leave us and go into industry. Any time they can have the upper hand, that’s all the better.”

She’s also interested to meet the other participants and the presenters.

“I’m excited to have the opportunity to start collaborating with people at the forefront of the field and people like me at small colleges and universities working with undergraduates,” said Langston.

When she applied for the conference she wrote about her research interests and how they relate to green chemistry, as well as experiences she’s had that would be relevant to the conference.

For her Ph.D. research at Lehigh University, she said she worked with pretty novel compounds. Her research looked at ions that self assemble to form balls that are hollow inside. The work she did at Lehigh looked at whether you could pull something toxic,  out of a compound, such as water, and have it go into that hollow area.

She has also done research related to supercritical fluid chromatography, and is particularly interested to participate in the carbon dioxide session during the conference.

“I’m hoping to learn as much as I can, network as much as I can, I think some really neat collaboration opportunities could come out of this for both myself and our students,” said Langston.

She is hoping to make contacts that will open doors for students when it comes to landing summer internships and jobs.

Langston said that the college is supportive of faculty who want to stay up-to-date on the latest advances in their fields. A professional development grant from the college is funding her participation in the chemistry conference.

“Without the support from the college and the professional development grants, I’d never be able to do this,” said Langston. “So, I really appreciate that the college has those to allow me to do this.”

Follow Melissa Langston, Ph.D., on Twitter during the conference to hear about the latest advances in green chemistry! She will be tweeting from Italy during the event under the handle @Dr_Langston.