Ask students at West Virginia University what their favorite class is and theres a good chance it isnt chemistry. Ask Aaron Peoples and hell say its a fascinating world of possibility.
A senior chemistry major from Canonsburg, Pa., he spends school nights taking what hes learned and teaching it to others at WVU s Chemistry Learning Center.
His hard work and determination have paid off. Peoples is headed to graduate school next year, and he has received honorable mention on USA TODAY s 2004 All-USA College Academic Team. The national newspaper made the announcement in todays edition.
A graduate of Canon-McMillan High School, Peoples is an honors students and has a 3.93 grade point average. He has always had an interest in science, but it wasnt until his freshman year at WVU that he decided he wanted to study chemistry full-time.
Now Peoples, who once dreamed of a career in forensics, would like to either teach chemistry or work in the pharmaceutical industry instead of cracking crimes.
Dr. Harry Finklea, chairman of the Bennett Department of Chemistry, said Peoplesenthusiasm for learning is contagious. Finklea first became aware of him through Peoplesleadership in the American Chemical Society-Student Affiliates.
That organization had suffered a decline in membership and activity until Aaron arrived. He along with several enthusiastic colleagues decided to make the ACS -SA a fun organization for chemistry and non-chemistry majors,he said.
I have known many bright and talented young students in my 24 years as a professor,Finklea added.Aaron stands out in that group through his combination of high academic ability, organizational and leadership skills, and dedication to service.
That dedication to service played a key role when Peoples decided he wanted to create a center where chemistry majors and non-majors could get tutoring help.
I realized the difficulties and frustration that students were having finding tutors who were well-versed in chemistry. There was an obvious need for a specialized tutoring service, and I was determined to find a solution to this problem,Peoples said.So after securing a room in Clark Hall and coaxing nine of my peers to volunteer as chemistry tutors, I began to lay the foundation for the Chemistry Learning Center.
According to Peoples, nearly 1,000 visits were made to the CLC during the fall 2002 semester.
Aarons creation of the Chemistry Learning Center, an evening tutoring center staffed by students and free to any general chemistry student, has been a tremendous boon to the chemistry department and has generated considerable positive feedback for us,Finklea said.
Besides the tutoring center, Peoples has been involved on campus as a teaching assistant, Resident Assistant and member of the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Student Advisory Committee. Peoples established himself as a standout in WVU s chemistry department and earned numerous honors, including being designated as an Eberly Scholar in 2003 and 2004. He is a four-time recipient of the CVS /Pharmacy Foundation Scholarship.
Peoplesoutside study includes the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, which enabled him to study muscular dystrophy; and an internship with the Research and Development Analytical Chemistry Laboratory at Mylan Pharmaceuticals.
He has also co-authored a paper looking at myoblast fusion in dystrophic skeletal muscle cells and the implications for Duchenne muscular dystrophy published in theMolecular Biology of the Cell.
Peoples, who will graduate May 16, credits his diverse experiences at the University with his academic success.
It was not until I enrolled as a student that I noticed everything this school has to offer. I would call home with exciting news such as FallFest, meeting my �€~RFL and having Mrs. (Susan) Hardesty as my Orientation 1 instructor,he said.With graduation approaching, I am pleased to say that my undergraduate experience at WVU has been the most rewarding and influential time of my life. Throughout my four years here, I was able to assume a variety of roles that cultivated my personality and skills.
Peoples was selected from more than 600 nominees from four-year colleges nationwide who applied to USA TODAY s 15th annual All-USA Academic Team. The newspaper names 20 students each to the 2004 First, Second and Third teams. Peoples was one of 13 undergraduates who earned an honorable mention.
Over the 15 years weve been honoring these teams, we have spotlighted students whove taken their education beyond bettering themselves to bettering the world, USA TODAY editor Karen Jurgensen said.We salute these students to call attention to some of the good things happening at the nations colleges and universities.
Peoples isnt the only student from WVU s chemistry department to earn USA TODAY honors. In 1999, Anna Blobaum made Second Team honors.