hUMNs of Chemistry #17 (2024)

Table of Contents
Lee Penn Eric Schulz Casey Wouters

hUMNs of Chemistry #17 (1)

Lee Penn


Tell us about your journey to the University of Minnesota.

My first visit to the University of Minnesota was during my graduate school years at UW-Madison. I came to make measurements at the Institute for Rock Magnetism and also ended up meeting the love of my life during that visit. Fast forward, the love of my life and I live right here in Minneapolis.

We would love to hear more about your research! What do you hope to accomplish with this work? What is the real-world impact for the average person?

I'm very excited to work on projects related to the environment, green chemistry, and sustainability. We have projects focused on the behavior of iron-bearing minerals in environmental systems, microplastics, biochar, materials for sustainable energy applications, and a brand new project with the Boiteau group focusing on the ocean!

What courses do you teach? What can students expect to get out of your course?

I have had the great fortune of teaching general chemistry courses, which is great fun (most of the time). General chemistry is a tough class, and I strive to make the classroom a supportive and welcoming one. I also take every opportunity to include demonstrations during lecture, including popular Energy and U demonstrations like the screaming gummy bear, methane mamba, and the flaming tube of death.

What do you hope to contribute to the chemistry community at the University?

I hope to do innovative research in the areas of environmental chemistry and sustainability; continue and foster interdisciplinary collaborations; serve as an effective mentor and educator; engage with the broader community through research, outreach, and other activities; and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion at the U of MN and beyond.

When you visit other universities, what do you love to share about our UMN community?

Ongoing commitments to collaborative and interdisciplinary research and to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

What do you do outside of the classroom/lab/office for fun?

I'm sure that most folks know I ride bikes -- a lot. I do some other things, honestly, I do... I mean, sometimes.

What’s your favorite piece of chemistry/science pop culture media? Why do you love it?

I'm about to teach Chem 1015 (Introductory Chemistry) for the first time, and I think I might have to play this.

What was your very first job?

Mowing lawns

Tell us about who makes up your household (including pets).

Cheryl (human), Dandelion (dog), Bella (cat), and Dubby (cat).

hUMNs of Chemistry #17 (2)

Eric Schulz

Information Technology Professional

Please give a brief description of your role within the UMN Chemistry department.

If it plugs into a wall outlet or sits next to a computer or runs on a laptop and it "used to work before," I'll be asked to have a look at fixing it.

Tell us about your journey to the University of Minnesota.

I grew up in Wisconsin and came to the U of MN for a degree in engineering. As it turns out, I wasn't a very good engineer, but I was able to pick up a number of burgeoning computer skills. I've got my start in DOS, Novell Netware, hand typing HTML and fixing Apple II's; while steadily learning the workings of past computers to today's iPads, laptops, computers and operating systems. The E-Shop's previous employees have passed on a few skills to me on instrument repair, but I wished I'd paid better attention while they were here!

Do you have a background in or like chemistry? Tell us about it!

I don't have anything other then a year of college Chemistry under my belt.

What professional successes are most important to you?

I was very proud of the web server and services that I ran for a number of years. I have always felt that supporting the Department of Chemistry and its people with the best of my abilities is a very important part of who I am.

What do you hope to contribute to the chemistry community at the University?

I've a few years left, and I hope to continue to learn about new technological advances.

What was your very first job?

Burger King cashier!

What do you do outside of the classroom/lab/office for fun?

My family bought our first house a few years ago and I do enjoy fixing it up, both inside and outside. I enjoy swimming, camping with the Boy Scouts and playing cards with friends.

What non-chemistry interest or activity of yours might surprise department members?

I recently got my certification in scuba diving and went on a diving trip to Florida. Its probably not too surprising, but I like to learn how to repair cars and appliances.

Tell us about who makes up your household (including pets).

My wife, my daughter, my son, my father in-law and three cats!

hUMNs of Chemistry #17 (3)

Casey Wouters

Graduate student

Tell us about your journey to the University of Minnesota.

I grew up in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas and pursued my undergraduate studies at the University of Oklahoma. In college, I studied chemistry and worked as an undergraduate researcher in Dr. Charles Rice's lab at OU. I came to UMN directly after finishing my BS in chemistry, with my first time visiting the Twin Cities being the day I arrived with all my stuff to move here (thanks, COVID).

Are you involved in any student groups? What inspired you to get involved?

I'm currently serving as secretary of Queer Science, a group which does outreach to queer high schoolers in the Twin Cities metro. I love working with this group and think it's so important for young people to be able to see themselves represented in STEM. Additionally, I spend a lot of time working on the Graduate Labor Union and it's related causes. I am on the bargaining committee working with the university on writing our first contract! I became an organizer because I believe in the value of our work as grad students and have found my work with GLU to be incredibly fulfilling.

Tell us about an important mentor in your academic life?

My undergraduate research adviser Dr. Charles Rice served a pivotal role in my experience at OU and in my grad school application and decision process. Working in his lab gave me amazing hands-on experience and confidence in my research abilities. I even got to conduct my own project for my honors thesis, which was published last year. Having a supportive PI and a lab group that formed its own little family was so important to my time at OU.

What are your plans after graduation?

After graduation, I hope to stay in the Twin Cities and get a job in the local science industry. I also have a keen interest in science policy and hope to incorporate some element of this into my future career as well.

What do you do outside of the classroom/lab/office for fun?

I love to craft and read! Name a craft and I have probably tried it, but my favorite is knitting. I like to constantly have a bunch of works in progress at the same time and to also have a book to suit every mood.

hUMNs of Chemistry #17 (2024)
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