University of Pittsburgh
September 3, 1998



PITTSBURGH, Sept. 1 -- The Department of Chemistry reached an auspicious milestone recently, conferring its 1000th Ph.D. on Edward Wovchko of Coraopolis, PA.

Pitt's chemistry department was established in 1875 and the first Ph.D. graduates got their sheepskins in 1913. Exact records of who graduated when weren't kept back then, and because graduates were listed alphabetically, the best guess is that Clinton Willard Clark was the first to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh.

It's now 85 years and 999 Ph.D.'s later and the chemistry department couldn't be prouder. "It's wonderful to know that the department has helped so many young scientists to begin productive careers. More than a thousand graduate students and thousands of undergraduates have completed their degree work in the department since its creation, and we are very proud of their accomplishments. Teaching, advising, and working next to our students, sharing with them our own excitement in the frontiers of chemical research, is our most important task. We respect our students, and it's a great pleasure to see them succeed." said Department of Chemistry chairman Craig Wilcox. "The faculty and staff are happy to be part of a Department with a long tradition of excellence in teaching and research."

Wovchko, a 1988 graduate of Montour High School and a 1992 graduate of St. Vincent College, did his dissertation on the photochemical properties of supported metal catalysts in a special field of physical chemistry known as surface science. He is now beginning a one-year teaching position at Bryn Mawr College near Philadelphia. "This is the direction I want to go," said Wovchko. "I'm hoping to teach at the small college level and do moderately-sized research." This term, Wovchko will teach general chemistry for freshman and advanced physical chemistry for senior level undergraduates.

In choosing Pitt Wovchko says he wanted to be near his home and family, and wanted to study under Professor John T. Yates Jr., one of the preeminent chemists in the field of surface science. "I had a fantastic ten-week summer undergraduate research experience at Pitt with Dr. Yates while a student at nearby St. Vincent College," said Wovchko. "That and my desire to be close to home made it easy to select Pitt for grad school."

Of course Wovchko had no idea he was in line to be Pitt's 1000th doctor of chemistry, but it's an honor he gladly accepts. "Pitt has a very strong department of chemistry and is highly recognized for it's quality of research," said Wovchko. "I enjoyed working with Dr. Yates a great deal, he's one of the top persons in the world investigating surface phenomena, he helped me tremendously."

In recent years the department has been averaging around 20 Ph.D. graduates per year, so odds are it won't take anywhere near 85 years to produce the second 1000 doctorates. For now, the department is content with it's most recent milestone and looking forward to the 125th anniversary of the establishment of the department in the year 2000.

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