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Smucker will tell of research and life in Costa Rica
By Austin College
Apr 3, 2019
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Sherman, Texas -- Austin College professor of chemistry Dr. Brad Smucker will discuss his recent sabbatical semester in Costa Rica in a lecture, “Pure Vida in Costa Rica: Revitalized by Energy and Culture,” on April 3, at 5:00 p.m. in Mabee Hall of Wright Campus Center. A 4:30 p.m. reception, also in Mabee Hall, will precede the lecture. The events, part of the Sabbatical Lecture Series sponsored by the Johnson Center for Faculty Development and Excellence in Teaching, are free and open to the public. 

Smucker and his wife, Jenny, and their children spent Spring Term 2018 in San Jose, Costa Rica, where the professor was able to continue his ongoing research into creating light-harvesting molecules for energy utilization. He has involved Austin College students in that research for several years and will touch on that work in his talk.                              

However, he said much of his talk will focus on “the people, culture, and resources of Costa Rica and how my experiences there transform and impact what I do now.”  

“Pura Vida” from his lecture title translates as “pure living” but the phrase has much broader meaning in Costa Rica. “It is part of the culture and the hospitality of Costa Rica so has made its way into greetings and the way people treat each other,” Smucker said. “I’ll attempt to convey that as well.”

Dr. Brad Smucker

Smucker, chair of the Austin College Chemistry Department, joined the College faculty in 2004 and was granted tenure and promoted to associate professor in 2009. In 2017, he was promoted to full professor. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College and continued his studies at Michigan State University, completing his Ph.D. at Texas A&M University. He next accepted a National Science Foundation-RSEC postdoctoral fellowship at Wichita State University in Kansas, teaching general and inorganic chemistry, then served as a visiting professor at the University of North Texas prior to joining the Austin College faculty. 

Smucker’s website says that following his education, he wanted to find the perfect job. “I was looking for an institute where I could teach smart and motivated students in chemistry and conduct cutting-edge research with students,” he wrote. “I found that place here at Austin College. The students love to learn and continuously surprise me with their creativity, insight, and service. Since 2004, I have been engaging passionate students through teaching and by directing students in research. What a great place to be!” 

The Sabbatical Lecture Series is presented by Austin College’s Robert and Joyce Johnson Center for Faculty Development and Excellence in Teaching, directed by Randi Tanglen, associate professor of English. Within the mission of the center is the encouragement of “bold exploration of intellectual frontiers” and “fostering lively intellectual dialogue within and across academic disciplines.” 

The Johnson Center schedules a number of events throughout the year, with presentations by Austin College faculty and guest lecturers. 

Austin College, a private national liberal arts college located north of Dallas in Sherman, Texas, has earned a reputation for excellence in academic preparation, international study, pre-professional foundations, leadership development, committed faculty, and hands-on, adventurous learning opportunities. One of 40 schools profiled in Loren Pope’s influential book Colleges That Change Lives, Austin College boasts a welcoming community that embraces diversity and individuality, with 46 percent of students identifying as persons of color. The residential student body of approximately 1,300 students and more than 100 expert faculty members allow a 13:1 student-faculty ratio and personalized attention. This year, the campus recognizes 100 years of co-education and has had several opportunities to recognize the history of women and accomplishments of current alumnae. Austin College is related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church (USA) and cultivates an inclusive atmosphere that supports students’ faith journeys regardless of religious tradition. Founded in 1849, the College is the oldest institution of higher education in Texas operating under original name and charter.