Dr. Mike Carney working with chemistry students.
Recognizing educators who came before himThe chemistry department at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire is recognized nationally, ranking in the top two percent of undergraduate programs for the number of students who go on to obtain doctoral degrees.
The success of the program is further defined by a 100 percent placement rate for chemistry graduates — either in jobs or continuing education in the past four years.
Dr. Mike Carney, professor of chemistry and department chair, attributes these distinctions to the contributions of the educators who came before him and wants to make sure their efforts are recognized.
In addition to his contributions to the chemistry department fund since 1986, Carney recently led an effort to establish a scholarship through the UW-Eau Claire Foundation in the name of his mentor and friend, Dr. Jack Pladziewicz. Pladziewicz taught chemistry at UW-Eau Claire from 1973-2002. Carney seeded the fund with a gift of $10,000.
"This scholarship honors the high standards Jack set as a teacher and scholar," Carney said. "Collaborative research with Jack was the defining experience of my undergraduate education. It showed me the scientific process in action. It convinced me that I could be a research chemist and, maybe more importantly, that I wanted to be a research chemist."
According to Carney, his research experience helped him stand out in graduate school applications and prepared him "extremely well" for graduate level research.
"The chance to work with undergraduates was the most important factor in my decision to return to UW-Eau Claire," Carney said, noting that Pladziewicz was the department chair at the time, giving him the dual pleasure of knowing him as a professor and as a colleague.
Carney's return allowed him to begin repaying what he called a long overdue debt.
"I wanted to give back in part by providing students with research opportunities — to help them decide if they really want to be research scientists. Sometimes the answer is yes and sometimes the answer is no. Both are positive outcomes because students can reach that informed decision early in their careers."
Carney said the goal is to fully endow the fund so that it can support, at the minimum, a $1,000 annual scholarship to be awarded to an outstanding chemistry major engaged in undergraduate research.
"I’ve encountered many UW-Eau Claire students with incredible potential to be research scientists. This new scholarship will help recognize their achievements and hopefully give them the confidence to pursue a research career."
Support from the Foundation has helped students and faculty in the chemistry department achieve many milestones, including opportunities to meet leading figures in the chemical sciences through a seminar program; participate in faculty-student collaborative research from which papers have been published in peer-reviewed journals; present at regional, national and international meetings; and opportunities to use state-of-the-art equipment and instrumentation.
"The chemistry department and the university as a whole have a long history of teaching and scholarly excellence," Carney said. "I gain a great deal of satisfaction knowing that my financial contributions help continue the traditions of excellence established by Jack and his colleagues."