Department History

HISTORY OF CHEMISTRY AT UTA

The University has a long history in Arlington dating back to 1895. However, the significant rise in stature of the University and its chemistry program date to the entrance of the University into the University of Texas system in 1967. Since then UTA and its science departments have steadily moved toward Tier 1 status.

Initially the department awarded only one degree, the B.S. in Chemistry, which had been given since 1959, when the school first became a 4-year college. This degree program received American Chemical Society certification in 1972. A B.A. degree in Chemistry and a B.S. degree in Biochemistry were approved in the early 1970s, the latter receiving ACS certification in 2001. A B.S. degree in Biological Chemistry was initiated in the late 1990s, and the first degree was awarded in 2001. A significant percentage of our undergraduate students major in Biochemistry or Biological Chemistry. To reflect this distribution, the name of the department was changed to the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in 1992.

The first master’s degrees in chemistry were authorized in 1968. Even at that early date a number of the chemistry faculty had research grants from the Robert A. Welch Foundation. As more research-oriented faculty joined the department during the 1970s and 80s, and obtained research funding from many other agencies, the amount and quality of the instrumentation in the department also underwent steady growth and has continued.

In 1982 the department began offering doctoral degrees in Applied Chemistry. This was initially awarded as an industrially based D.Sc. degree, but was changed to a more typical Ph.D. in Chemistry in 1993 by eliminating some courses like patents and industrial chemistry, but keeping the popular one-semester industrial internship. Several of our graduate students who worked on mathematically oriented dissertations also pursued doctoral degrees in Mathematical Sciences with a chemistry option which was established as an interdepartmental program in 1979.

At present there are 23 faculty members and about 70 graduate students and 20 postdoctoral fellows. One measure of the quality of instruction is demonstrated by the rate of our pre-med students' acceptance into medical schools. Around 80 percent of applicants who are chemistry/biochemistry majors are accepted, as compared to a 65 percent acceptance rate for all majors.

In the late 1980s, the growth in UTA’s chemistry program resulted in the need for additional, more suitable space and facilities than were available in Science Hall. The W.A. Baker Chemistry Research Building (CRB), named for the long-time UTA vice president and professor of chemistry, opened in 1996. It houses faculty offices, research laboratories, a 95-seat lecture hall and a conference room. In 2006, the Chemistry and Physics Building (CPB) was completed. All of the department's undergraduate instructional labs are held in CPB, which also contains several additional research labs, faculty offices, and the main departmental administrative offices. The Shimadzu Advanced Analytical Chemistry Center in the CPB was opened in April 2012.

A major landmark in the development of the stature of the department was reached in 2005 when the Robert A. Welch Foundation endowed chair in chemistry was filled with the selection of Professor Daniel Armstrong. This has since been followed by the Hamish Small Chair in Ion Analysis, endowed by Dionex Corporation in 2010, and the Shimadzu Distinguished Professorship in Analytical Chemistry, endowed by Shimadzu Scientific Instruments in 2012.

Students who studied chemistry in Arlington in the early 20th century would have been amazed at the growth and advances in this, the 21st century. 

Written by:

Rasika Dias
Thomas Cogdell
Edward Bellion
Thomas Strom
Martin Pomerantz

Department Chair History
John T. Murchison 1933-1967
Donald R. Martin 1968-1976
Richard B. Timmons 1977-1990
Zoltan A. Schelly 1990-1991
H. Keith McDowell 1991-1995
Ronald L. Elsenbaumer 1996-2003
Edward Bellion 2003-2007
Purnendu K. Dasgupta 2007-2010
Rasika Dias 2010-2015
Fred MacDonnell 2015-present