Professor Spotlight: Dr. Jennifer Kelley “Professor shares her passion for chemistry”

Nisheeka Simmons, Staff Writer

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Dr. Jennifer Kelley, Associate Professor of Chemistry, has been a part of the Francis Marion

University (FMU) faculty since August 2004.  Kelley completed her Bachelor’s degree at

Greensboro College and received her Ph. D. from the University of Illinois.

Kelley currently teaches Chemistry 101, Chemistry 102, Biochemistry 102 and Biochemistry

102. She said that she first became interested in the sciences when, in the sixth grade, she

received a bad grade in science class.

“It was the worst grade that I had made as a child, so I immediately thought, ‘Oh, I have to

figure this thing out,’” Kelley said. “Then while working as a tech, I realized that you really can’t

move up the ladder in that type of industry unless you have a chemistry degree.”

Kelley also explained that working as a lab technician for a pesticide company for four years

also influenced her decision.

According to Kelley, a love of teaching is a quality that has been ingrained in her since

childhood. She said she grew up in a small town where her role models were her teachers, and

she chose to work here because FMU is more student focused.

“I was one of those kids where if me and my cousins were playing, I had to be the teacher,”

Kelley said. “When asked what I wanted to do after graduate school I said, ‘Well, I think I’d like

to teach, but I don’t want to teach in one of these high-power institutions where it is really

research based because I am more of a people person.’”

As an advisor for the American Chemical Society (ACS) student group, Kelley says she gets

to put her people skills to work.  She was asked by the other faculty in the chemistry department

to reactivate ACS about five or six years ago, and now it is among the most active organizations

on campus. “For the past three years we have received an Outstanding Award for our chapter

activities from the Society Committee on Education,” Kelley said. “We went from nothing to

being one of the top active groups, so I am very proud of that.”

One success that Kelley finds through ACS is that she gets to know the students in a more

personal capacity than she could through the classroom.  She says she also gets to meet students

that she might not have the opportunity to teach or work with in any way.

Kelly also advises that students work not only to do well in their subject area, but also to

develop good interpersonal skills.  She said she feels that ACS gives the students an opportunity

to develop those skills and gives them a connection to others who experience the same things

they do.  Kelley explained that she feels like she is connected to these students because she was a

first-generation student.

“I know what it feels like to go home and want to talk about it, and no one understands,”

Kelley said. “If none of your family has been to college, then they do not understand why it is so

hard. Their answer will be that you need to study more, and sometimes that is just not it.”

According to Kelley, she is taking her role in ACS a step further by serving as the chair-elect

for the South Carolina section. In January 2014, she will become the official chairperson for the

group.

Kelley offered a piece of advice for students of all majors.

“Don’t flip burgers during the summer!” Kelley said. “Do something that will advance your

career.”

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Professor Spotlight: Dr. Jennifer Kelley “Professor shares her passion for chemistry”