Getting to know: Leaders of NOBCChE at Illinois

The National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE) is dedicated to the professional development of Black professionals in the areas of chemistry, chemical engineering, and related fields. The UIUC section includes graduate and undergraduate students in the departments of chemistry and chemical and biomolecular engineering and is dedicated to fostering a welcoming culture and environment on our campus and hosting professional development events.

Enleyona Weir — Vice President NOBCChE

Graduate student, Wilfred van der Donk lab

How did you discover your passion for chemistry? In my high school chemistry class, we were doing an acid-base experiment by determining the pH and I saw these color changes just by adding two colorless liquids which piqued my interest in chemistry. Who doesn’t like to see pretty colors? I see chemistry as cooking which I love to do. You can take different ingredients to make something completely new. My interests in synthesis chemistry, analyzing compounds, and the work of developing drugs that could be used for therapeutic opportunities in the medicinal industry only grew from there because I knew I would be helping people in some way in the long run. These little pebbles drive where I am today.

More Q&A with Enleyona

Brittany Prempin — Treasurer of NOBCChE

Graduate student, Charles Schroeder group in materials science and engineering & Jeffrey Moore group in chemistry

How did you discover your passion for chemistry? In elementary school, I luckily had a teacher who believed in my potential and suggested that I enroll in a Science and Engineering magnet program at a local public middle school. In that program, I learned about the scientific method and creativity that was required to participate in the scientific process and participated in many Ecologically focused field trips that piqued my interest in environmental science. I intended to major in environmental science as an undegraduate and one of the pre-requisite classes for that major was Chem 101. I had never taken a serious chemistry course and struggled the first semester, but I came to enjoy the puzzle-like qualities of chemistry and ultimately fell in love with the discipline.

More Q&A with Brittany

Imani Jones — Communications Officer with NOBCChE

Graduate student, Paul Braun group & Photo-Ionics IRG in the Illinois Materials Research Science and Engineering Center

How did you discover your passion for chemistry? I have enjoyed science since my elementary and middle school science fairs. I won the district-wide science fair when I was in eighth grade. I developed an appreciation specifically for chemistry in my high school honors and AP chemistry classes. I liked that chemistry felt like a story — each topic that we learned was the basis from which we could learn and understand the next topic.

More Q&A with Imani

Kristin Martin — Communications Officer with NOBCChE

Graduate student, Joaquín Rodríguez-López lab

How did you discover your passion for chemistry? I was actually quite scared of Chemistry before I took the course in high school, but after taking it my sophomore year with my teacher, Mr. Freeman, everything changed.

Where are you from? I grew up in the second smallest county in the state of Georgia, Rockdale, and graduated from Heritage High School and from the Rockdale Career Academy where I took Culinary Arts courses to become a certified Culinarian. My parents are both from a small town in Louisiana and if you don't know anything about Louisiana, food matters, so I really enjoy cooking and baking because of them and now I can't help but also understand the chemistry behind food as well.

More Q&A with Kristin

Micah Robinson — Secretary of NOBBChE

Graduate student, Joaquín Rodríguez-López lab

Tell us about your research and your research group. Currently, I am working on a research project trying to understand the fundamental mechanism of a green catalyst. Other researchers in my group have shown that this catalyst can be used to valorize biofuel byproducts. This kind of research on sustainable topics is why I joined the Joaquín Rodríguez-López group, but I stay because I love our calm energy.

More Q&A with Micah