Ambassadors for the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Ask a Chemistry or Biochemistry Degree Graduate or Current Major

  • Ask questions about preparation for a career that you are interested in.

  • Ask about what high school courses you should take to prepare for college chemistry and biochemistry studies.

  • Ask about the chemistry and biochemistry faculty.

  • Ask about course, laboratory, and research opportunities.

  • Ask questions about life at Southern Miss as a Chemistry and Biochemistry major.

ChemBiochem Ambassadors

ChemBiochem Ambassadors are individuals who graduated with a B.S. degree in Chemistry and Biochemistry from Southern Miss or are currently enrolled as majors in Chemistry and Biochemistry. Each Ambassador is interested in answering your questions. To contact one of the Ambassadors scan down through the list and choose one whose background, current interests, or career interests you.

Meet the Chemistry and Biochemistry Ambassadors

photograph of Dr. Danna Leard RehmsDanna Leard Rehms

Before attending the University of Southern Mississippi, Danna graduated Valedictorian of South Natchez Adams High School in Natchez, Mississippi in 1988. She was a Presidential Scholar and a Barry M. Goldwater Scholar while attending USM from 1988-1992. Danna graduated from USM in 1992 with Highest Honors and an ACS Certified Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry. In fall of 1992, Danna entered graduate school in Physical Chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At MIT, she studied under Nobel Laureate Mario J. Molina and received her Ph.D. in 1997 with thesis entitled "Laboratory Studies of Chlorine Activation Reactions on Ice Using an Aerosol Flow Reactor". From 1997-1999, Danna developed an aerosol mass spectrometer as a post-doctoral research associate for Boston College and Aerodyne Research, Inc. in Billerica, Massachusetts. In August 1999, she accepted a position as a research chemist for Alcoa World Chemicals. She is currently employed as Manager! of Research and Development for Alcoa’s Adsorbents and Catalysts Division in Vidalia, Louisiana. Danna now lives in Natchez, Mississippi with her husband Gary.

Dr. Rehms says this about her undergraduate degree in chemistry at Southern Miss:

At USM, the department of Chemistry and Biochemistry faculty members were instrumental in making my scientific career a success. The individual attention and encouragement I received from my freshman year through my senior year reinforced my confidence as a scientist and influenced me to see no limits in my abilities. With constant support from the department, I realized a goal beyond my imagination when I was accepted at nine major graduate schools across the country. In USM chemistry department’s faculty and staff, I found instructors, advisors, and friends who continue to play an important role in my continued growth and ultimate success as a chemist.

When I entered graduate school, I discovered that my undergraduate courses had provided the scientific background that I needed, even for MIT. For a serious student considering a graduate chemistry education, the ACS certified program is the clear choice to make as a major at USM. I found that the strong mathematics and chemistry background provided was essential in preparing me for graduate chemistry courses at MIT.

Also, the undergraduate research and teaching programs I was involved with at USM were very helpful both at the beginning and end of my graduate career. During my senior year at USM, I learned firsthand in Dr. Pojman’s laboratory what it was like to be solely responsible for an individual research project. This experience taught me discipline and attention to detail, and was extremely beneficial when I began the daunting task of thesis research at MIT. At USM, I was also given the opportunity to teach freshman chemistry laboratory. Here I learned early on that to thoroughly learn something and learn it well, you must teach it to others. Today as a scientist, researcher, manager, and teacher, I often remember this lesson learned as a college senior at USM."

To address questions to Dr. Rehms, click here.

photograph of Dr. Randy WashingtonRandy P. Washington

Randy Washington graduated as class Salutatorian from Ruleville (Mississippi) High School. At Southern Miss he majored in chemistry and pursued research on oscillating reactions in the laboratory of Dr. John Pojman. He was active in the American Chemical Society Student Affiliate Chapter and visited area high schools to present chemical demonstrations. After graduating in 1993 he was admitted to chemistry graduate program at Southern Miss and he completed the Ph.D. in 1998. Currently he is a UNCF-Merck Fellow pursuing postdoctoral research fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Oliver Steinbock at Florida State University. His studies of frontal polymerization are receiving international recognition.

Dr. Washington says this about his undergraduate degree in chemistry at Southern Miss:

My undergraduate experience at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) has propelled me to excel in various research areas ranging from tissue engineering to polymer synthesis. The diversity of teaching styles among my professors at USM allowed effective engagement and optimization for a solid research foundation, a broad knowledge base, and more importantly, a caring environment conducive for stringent learning. These professors were all at the cutting edge of their research specialty. The same attributes created a persistent drive to excel in every area of my research resulting in being chosen as one of 10 UNCF-Merck Biomedical Postdoctoral Fellows in the United States. Furthermore, the pinnacle point of my postdoctoral career is a soon-to-be released cover article in Polymer News--an international journal for polymer research, technology and business information. Thanks University of Southern Mississippi!"

To address questions to Dr. Washington, click here.

Herbert Dedeaux

Herb Dedeaux received a B.S. Chemistry and Biochemistry with a Forensics Minor in 1998. Currently is a Program Manager in the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), located in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Dedeaux has this to say about his experience at Southern Miss:

The Chemistry and Forensic Science Programs at USM contributed greatly to giving me a solid background in modern instrumentation, wet chemical methods, and various forensic testing techniques. These programs helped me to develop and maintain a certain level of discipline that is necessary in to become an effective and efficient forensic chemist in a highly technical and demandingfield."

To address questions to Mr. Dedeaux, click here.

photograph of Kayce LeardKayce Leard

Kayce graduated from Natchez (Mississippi ) High School in 1997. After graduation, she attended Copiah-Lincoln Community College for two years and subsequently transferred to USM in fall 1999. She is pursuing a Chemistry degree with a minor in Biology and plans to graduate in May 2003. After graduation, she plans to attend graduate school at a nearby university. She would like to one day become a college chemistry professor, but also is considering veterinary school.

Kayce is a member of Dr. John A. Pojman's research group. During the past two years she has worked on several projects, beginning with microgravity research. She helped develop ways to demonstrate weightlessness in the classroom using a series of drop experiments designed to simulate a few seconds of microgravity. Through that work, she earned the opportunity to participate in the NASA Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunity where a team of five undergraduate chemistry majors designed an original experiment that was performed in a microgravity environment. She also has studied frontal polymerization techniques, including pH fronts and fronts that propagate with spin patterns. She participated in research for an experiment (called TIPMPS) designed to fly aboard the International Space Station.

Kayce is a member of the American Chemical Society Student Affiliates, currently holding the position of historian. She is a student member of the Mississippi Academy of Sciences, and presented some of her research at the annual MAS meeting in February 2002. She co-authored a paper that was presented at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics convention in January 2002.

Ms. Leard has this to say about her experience at Southern Miss:

My experience with this department has been nothing but positive since the moment I enrolled as a chemistry major at USM. The faculty, staff, and graduate students are so supportive and helpful. Whenever I have encountered problems, whether they were problems with my schedule, class work, research, or even personal issues, someone has always been available to offer assistance or advice. The best thing about this department is that everyone really does want for you to succeed, and as long as you are willing to work hard, they will do whatever they can to help your success."

To address questions to Ms. Leard, click here.

photograph of Shelly GallenderShelly Gallender

Shelly graduated from Trinity Episcopal Day School in Natchez, Ms in 1999. She plans to graduate from USM with a B.S. in Chemistry in May 2003. Her current research is in the field of cosmetic chemistry, investigating the properties of particle stabilized emulsions. Previous research includes natural products chemistry using a gas chromatograph to study oxidation. Also, she was at member of the 2003 NASA Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunity Team from Southern Miss. Her team studied the behavior of plasma balls in zero-gravity while being flown in NASA's KC-135 aircraft. After graduation she, intends to move to Texas and work in industry.

Organizational involvement includes the American Chemical Society Student Affiliates (president), Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority, Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, Golden Key Honor Society, Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society (secretary), and USM Honors College. Honors received include Outstanding Freshman Female, the Robert Jordan Honors College Scholarship, President's List, Dean's List, College of Science and Technology Scholar, and the Wal-Mart Competitive Edge Scholarship. Hobbies include reading, writing, swimming and travelling.

Ms. Gallender has this to say about her experience at Southern Miss:

The Chemistry Department at USM is significant to me because of the strong ties that exist between the faculty and the undergraduates. In this department, the teachers know my name, whether or not I have been in one of their classes. They are actively helpful to any undergraduates who need help with their studies In fact, the chemistry tutorial center has proved immensely helpful to me over the years. I have also been able to ask professors for help during their office hours. The faculty members of the chemistry department also actively recruit undergraduates to participate in research. The accessibility of the faculty in this department has made huge difference to me in my time at USM and I think that it is one of the best qualities that this department possesses.

To address questions to Ms. Gallender, click here

photograph of Andrea KrellAndrea Krell

Andrea graduated as valedictorian of the North Forrest High School class of 1997. She came to USM as a Presidential Scholar and majored in Chemistry with an emphasis in Secondary Education. She participated in the Honors College and the American Chemistry Society–Student Affiliates and was recognized as the 2002 Outstanding Student in Chemical Education. For three semesters she worked as a supplemental instructor, teaching study sessions for Chem I classes. During her student teaching experience she and her mentor teacher, Mr. Jon Valasek, participated in the grant program Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers for Technology.

For her senior Honors thesis Andrea worked with Dr. Peter Butko researching the binding sites of IgM antibodies to Group B Streptococcus bacteria. She presented her research to the Mississippi Academy of Sciences in February 2001 and at the Fall 2000 Southeast/Southwest ACS Regional Meeting in New Orleans. At the ACS meeting her presentation was recognized as an Outstanding Undergraduate Poster. She also worked with Dr. Robert Bateman on a chemical education research project involving the use of molecular visualization software in Biochemistry classes.

Andrea graduated summa cum laude in May 2001. She is currently teaching chemistry at North Crowley High School in Fort Worth, TX.

Ms. Krell has this to say about her experience at Southern Miss:

Thanks to my training at Southern I was very well prepared to enter the workforce as a secondary education teacher. The Chemical Education program at USM offers students a strong background in their subject matter as well as its application in the teaching field. My school administrator even commented in my first year teaching evaluation, ‘Whatever they are doing to train teachers in Mississippi certainly works!’ The outstanding faculty members in the department are eager to offer assistance and encouragement. It is their hard work, dedication, and caring that make this department a great place to receive an education. "

To address questions to Ms. Krell, click here