Award-winning professor improves SMC’s chemistry labs

In late August, Santa Monica College chemistry professor Deborah H. Schwyter received the Northrop Grumman/Marvin Elkin Chair of Excellence in Physical Sciences after submitting a proposal for purchasing equipment for use in her organic chemistry and biochemistry courses. Schwyter will be awarded $5,000 annually for three years to be used for her special project.

A chemistry and biochemistry instructor at SMC since 1995, Schwyter hopes to enhance the laboratory component of organic chemistry and biochemistry courses. To do so, she plans to use the money to invest in a new spectrophotometer, an instrument that measures the amount of ultraviolet and visible light absorbed by biologically important molecules such as proteins.

She foresees that the investment will give SMC students a more “hands-on” experience in the lab and improve their learning environment.

“Spectrophotometry can be used to study the structure of biologically important molecules, such as proteins, and to follow biological reactions,” says Schwyter, who wants students to be familiar with this concept.

Every year, the SMC Foundation selects and rewards professors for their proposals in ten different fields including life science, physical science, earth science, music, performing arts, art, nursing, philosophy and social science, business, and communication. The donations give valuable opportunities to professors and students to enrich their experience at school.

Schwyter was born on the East Coast, grew up in Southern California, and attended California State University, Long Beach before receiving her doctorate in biochemistry from University of California, Los Angeles, where she also did research in her field of study.