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September 8, 2008
Volume 86, Number 36
pp. 71-72

Small-Scale Chemistry

Primarily undergraduate institutions increasingly offer opportunities of large schools in a smaller setting

Faith Hayden

WHEN DESTIN S. LEINEN entered Oklahoma Panhandle State University as a biology major in the early 1990s, getting a Ph.D. in chemistry was the furthest thing from his mind.

"I needed 13 hours of chemistry to complete my biology major, and I thought I would never get through it," Leinen says. He didn't have the best experience with the subject in high school and was "really dreading" the required courses.

Courtesy of Moses Lee
Small World With the A. Paul Schaap Science Center in the background, students walk to class on the campus of Hope College.

It wasn't until he took his first chemistry class with Lynn Gardner at OPSU—a small, primarily undergraduate institution (PUI) in the tiny town of Goodwell—and other courses later with James Hill, that his fears subsided. "They made chemistry exciting for me," he says. "Hill got me into the lab working on metal purification by electrochemistry, and I just fell in love with it."

OPSU is not a school that receives a lot of federal funding for research. But it and other small liberal arts schools like it are making do with what they have and are playing an important role in the chemical enterprise. Leinen recalls Hill having to scavenge what he could from where he could and making a lot of instruments from components of other pieces of equipment. While in the lab, "sometimes the first thing you had to do w