North Texas Daily

Chemistry professor earns national recognition

Chemistry professor earns national recognition

Chemistry professor earns national recognition
October 02
00:17 2014

Steven James / Staff Writer

Angela Wilson said her interest in chemistry first started in high school, where she had an older, experienced chemistry teacher with a very dry sense of humor.

She said that other than being a good teacher, he liked to show off, which sometimes led to mistakes. While cutting slices of material into small pieces for the class lab, he accidentally dropped a piece of pure, white sodium into some water near him, which caused an explosion that blew a hole into the ceiling.

“We had to evacuate,” she said.

Fast forward to August, when Wilson, now an associate chemistry professor at UNT, was named the 2015 winner of the Francis P. Garvan-John M. Olin Medal, awarded by the American Chemical Society to women chemists who make distinguished contributions to the field.

“There’s been a lot of great scientists who before me have earned it,” Wilson said. “So I’m just really kind of humbled by that.”

Wilson is a computational chemist. She said that besides chemistry, computational chemistry also has elements of mathematics, physics and computer science. Computational chemists use computers to conduct experiments and to look at models, as opposed to conducting traditional experiments in a laboratory.

Wilson’s research involves quantum mechanics and how to shorten calculation processes in computational chemistry, which was the focus of her dissertation. 

“The calculations that we do in quantum mechanics are so complicated that you can only do the equations exactly for one electron system,” she said. “Most materials have more than one electron. It was just a way to reduce the amount of computer time required using some mathematical methods.”

Other than improving computer systems, Wilson has also worked with pharmaceutical companies to develop medicine for inflammatory diseases and cancer.

She also did post-doctoral work at Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences, in which she worked with a group of researchers to develop methods for solving environmental problems.

They conducted their experiments at the Handford Nuclear Reservation in Washington, which had waste flowing into the Pacific Ocean. 

Wilson is also in charge of the Wilson Group, a group of undergraduate and graduate students who she employs to conduct research.

“I love interacting with my students—my research group,” Wilson said. “I just enjoy watching them develop and learn about the research, and then actually get to the point where they’re now gaining jobs in the workforce. It’s nice to see how much they have learned about the field and how long they’ve progressed.”

The students in the Wilson Group said they came to UNT for the computational chemistry program, which Wilson has been a part of for years.

“She puts a lot of time into working with her graduate students,” chemistry doctoral candidate Michael Jones said. “More bank for my buck, and Dr. Wilson has a reputation for being a really good professor.”

Chemistry doctoral student Chris South said that Wilson often makes time for her students, which is not common for graduate students.

“I had actually heard of UNT’s computational chemistry program while I was doing my undergraduate at TCU,” South said. “It’s really nice working for her. She’s a really good professor.”

Featured Image: Dr. Angela Wilson, right, cracks a joke before one of her students gave a presentation in the Chemistry Building. Photo by Dillon Jones – Staff Photographer

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