Tag Archives: PUC chemistry

Academic Spotlight: Chemistry

PUC’s department of chemistry is known for students receiving high MFT (Major Field Test) and ACS (American Chemical Society) standardized exams and offering incredible research opportunities, year after year. Students are well prepared to go into a variety of fields, including those in medical, dental, pharmacy; as well as graduate and other M.D./Ph.D programs.

Programs offered:

  • B.A., B.S. in Chemistry
  • B.S. in Biochemistry

Special Recognition

In 2017, students voted and selected Dr. Kent Davis for the prestigious annual Educator of the Year award. Davis has taught at the college since 2002 and serves as a professor of chemistry, and is one of the college’s beloved professors, as is evident by this award.

Check out our Q&A with Dr. Davis on the Admissions blog to get to know him a little more!

Fast Facts

  1. The department provides courses suitable for pre-professional curricula including pre-medicine, pre-dentistry, pre-dental hygiene, pre-nursing, allied health, and more.
  2. More than 30 students are employed in the department of chemistry each year as lab instructors, stockroom assistants, readers, computer specialists, and tutors, helping students gain valuable real-life skills they can apply to future careers.
  3. Science Presentations And Research for Kids, or SPARK, is a program that connects PUC students with local elementary, middle, and high school students under the umbrella of science. The idea is to send small groups of PUC students into schools to give age-appropriate demonstrations and explanations of various aspects of science. SPARK is supported and sponsored by professor Aimee Wyrick, chair of the department of biology, and Dr. Kent Davis, chair of the department of chemistry, who help the students coordinate with local schools and oversee the demonstrations provided.
  4. The chemistry department’s state-of-the-art microwave plasma atomic emission spectrometer (MPAES) can measure the amount of over 60 elements in many types of samples and is sensitive enough to detect one part in a billion. And unlike most schools, you can use this machine in labs yourself—no waiting around for a TA to do it.

What You Can Do With This Major

Chemistry is a popular choice among students looking to go into the medical field but it also offers career paths in research and many other areas.

  • Dentistry
  • Environmental chemist
  • Forensic chemist
  • Medicine
  • Patent lawyer
  • Pharmacist
  • Quality control chemist
  • Research chemist
  • Scientific information services
  • Teacher
  • Veterinarian

Learn more about the department of chemistry at puc.edu/academics. Our team of admissions counselors can answer any questions you have about PUC’s chemistry programs, or the other majors the college offers. Call (800) 862-7080, option 2 or email admissions@puc.edu to get connected with a counselor now and start learning about all the options available to you!

#FacultyFriday: Meet Marie Pak

Dr. Marie Pak, professor in the department of chemistry, has been teaching at PUC for close to two decades, since 1999. She specializes in biochemistry and spent six years as a postdoctoral research fellow at the National Institutes of Health in Rockville, Maryland. She enjoys reading, going to state fairs, and watching movies. Let’s spend a few minutes getting to know Dr. Pak!

Name: Dr. Marie Pak
Title: Professor of Chemistry
Email: mpak@puc.edu
Faculty since:  1999

Classes taught: Introductory Chemistry, Survey of Organic Chemistry, Survey of Biochemistry, Biochemistry, Biochemistry Lab

Education: B.S. in Biochemistry from Indiana University, M.S. and Ph.D. in Developmental and Molecular Biology from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine

What made you decide to be a teacher?  

Teaching allowed me to share my passion for chemistry and to have time for my son.

What are some of your hobbies?  

I enjoy cooking, watching documentaries, reading, going to state fairs, and nurturing plants.

What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?  

I know some NASCAR trivia.

What’s your favorite thing about PUC?  

PUC’s serene environment and its trees.

What’s your favorite spot on campus?  

Chan Shun 328 laboratory with windows.

What’s your favorite movie? (pick one)

“Seven Samurai”

What advice would you give to an incoming freshman?  

Follow your heart when choosing your major.

Professional activities (Note: Only the most recent three in each category are listed.)


  1. Pak, J.R. Hoskins, S.K. Singh, M. Maurizi, and S. Wickner (1999).  Concurrent chaperone and protease activities of ClpAP and the requirement for the N-terminal ClpA ATP binding site for chaperone activity.  The Journal of Biological Chemistry, 274, 19316-19322.
  2. Anderson, L. Phan, R. Cuesta, B.A. Carlson, M. Pak, K. Asano, G.R. Bjork, M. Tamame, and A.G. Hinnebusch (1998).  The essential Gcd10p-Gcd14p nuclear complex is required for 1-methyladenosine modification and maturation of initiator methionyl-tRNA.  Genes Dev., 12, 3650-3662.


  1. Pak and S. Wickner (1996).  Molecular chaperone function of ClpA in plasmid P1 RepA activation and degradation. Protein folding and assembly in the cell, FASEB summer research conference, July 27-Aug 1, Saxtons River, Vermont.
  2. Pak, H. Pelka, I. Willis, and L.H. Schulman (1993).  In vivostudy of E. colitRNATrpidentity.  15th international tRNA workshop, May 30-June 4, Cap d’Agde, France.

#FacultyFriday: Meet Denise Lee-Haye

Dr. Denise Lee-Haye is today’s #FacultyFriday feature. Dr. Lee-Haye spent her college years on the east coast, so with her time here at PUC she has become acquainted with the culture of the west coast, as well. With several professional presentations under her belt, she is well-equipped and comfortable at the front of the classroom, and she enjoys imparting chemistry knowledge and experience to anyone and everyone. Let’s get to know Dr. Lee-Haye!

Name: Dr. Denise Lee-Haye
Title: Associate Professor of Chemistry
Email: dleehaye@puc.edu
Faculty since: 2011

Classes taught: General Chemistry, Biophysical Chemistry, Science & Chemistry Seminars

Education: Bachelor’s degree in biochemistry, Connecticut College; Ph.D. in biochemistry, University of Connecticut

What made you decide to be a teacher?
I like to teach what I know, to those who need or want to learn it. I had experience doing that and teaching jobs were coming to my attention even before I was looking for any.  

What are some of your hobbies?
Fixing delicious foods, hiking, and finding scenic locations in the San Francisco Bay Area.

What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?
I’m Jamaican and I have both Asian and African heritage.

What’s your favorite thing about PUC?
Its location in the Napa Valley and the opportunity it gives for meaningful relationships with others.

What’s your favorite spot on campus?
The college’s back 40 property.

What’s your favorite song?
I love songs about Jesus’ birth— anytime and all year long!

What advice would you give to an incoming freshman?
Ask God for wisdom in everything. Take your teachers’ advice seriously. Test it so you can learn exactly what they mean. It’s worth getting to bed early. Get up in time to have breakfast and don’t forget to drink enough water and get some exercise outdoors. Then hopefully you’ll sleep well and think well!

A Conversation with Dr. Kent Davis, PUC’s 2017 Educator of the Year

On April 27, 2017,  the PUC Church sanctuary was packed full of students, faculty, and staff, all excitedly awaiting the announcement of PUC’s next student-selected Educator of the Year. As PUC tradition states, the winner is a tightly kept secret known only to a few people on campus and is announced at the annual Educator of the Year Colloquy.

When Dr. Kent Davis’ name was announced, there was loud and extended applause for the ever popular chemistry professor and department chair. As he sat in the seat of honor on the platform, the audience was treated to funny stories from his wife Rachelle Davis, a fellow PUC faculty member in the department of music, and touching stories from a few close students.

Not everyone has the privilege of taking classes from Dr. Davis, so we asked him a few questions to get better acquainted with the man behind the 2017 PUC Educator of the Year award.

Describe your typical work day.
I generally arrive at my office around 8 a.m. I make final preparations for my class at 9 and then go teach it. Afterwards I talk with students, make assignments covering the material from class, do other administrative tasks, or just relax for a bit. I often spend the noon hour in wind ensemble or chorale rehearsal before going back the chemistry offices to get ready to supervise labs for the afternoon.

When you were younger, what was your dream job? Is teaching similar?
I don’t know if I had a “dream” job, at least after the firefighter, astronaut, zookeeper, etc., stage of early childhood. I started college as an engineering major and switched to chemistry after my first year. My 20-year-old self would be horrified at the idea of standing in front of people and speaking out loud for a living. So no, teaching is, in that way at least, about as far from what I would have expected as possible.

How did you end up teaching chemistry at PUC?
My wife, Rachelle, was teaching music at Washington Adventist University (then Columbia Union College) and I was teaching as an adjunct professor at a Catholic women;s college in DC. The position in chemistry at PUC opened with the likelihood of a soon to open position in music and we decided to come to PUC.

Tell us about your family.
My wife, Rachelle, is a violinist who teaches in (and chairs) the department of music at PUC. Our elder son, Ethan, is a freshman at PUC Prep and our younger son, Benjamin, is a fifth grader at PUC Elementary. We have two dogs, Sammy and Gigi.

We hear you love to bake. What is the most delicious thing you’ve ever made?
I’m fairly critical of anything I bake so I don’t think I’d apply terms like ‘most delicious’ to things I made but I make a pretty good loaf of bread. We got a bread maker as a wedding present and I started there but soon got into sourdough. I’ve had my sourdough starter for about 20 years now. I feed and water it daily kind of like a pet (that I plan to eat). The sourdough experience has led me to explore other uses of bacteria/yeast cultures in food like cheesemaking. I wouldn’t say I’m an expert and many cheeses need to age for several months which makes experimenting difficult. But a nice dollop of fresh homemade goat cheese on a slice of freshly baked sourdough is quite enjoyable.

What are your other hobbies?
In another twist my 20-year-old self would be surprised to learn, since coming to PUC I have become a runner. In 2016 I ran over 1,000 miles and in 2017 I have run about 800 miles so far. The trails in PUC’s forest, the adjoining state forest, and the ridge between Angwin and Calistoga are great. I try to be out there around dawn, when I think it’s at its most beautiful. I also enjoy traveling. I’ve visited all 50 states and, in the last few years, I’ve been in Sweden, Costa Rica, the Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, Cambodia, Taiwan.

What was the last book you read?
“Big Chicken” by Maryn McKenna is about how antibiotics changed agriculture and the way we eat. I just finished reading “The Boys in the Boat” by Daniel James Brown to my sons. Currently I’m reading “Hillbilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance and “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer (inspired by “Big Chicken”). I don’t usually give a lot of thought to what mix of books I read at once but it surprises me a bit that none of these recent selections are fiction.

From left to right: Dr. Eric Anderson, former PUC president; Dr. Kent Davis; and Dr. Nancy Lecourt, PUC academic dean

What does it mean to you to be named the 2017 Educator of the Year?
I very much enjoy teaching so it is its own reward, but it’s very nice to hear from others that they think you’re doing a good job. On the one hand, I think since I’m Educator of the Year I better show why by being better at the parts of teaching I hate (like grading). On the other hand, I feel a little freedom to experiment more with my teaching (as in can I teach physical chemistry without lecturing).

What is your favorite thing about teaching?
Seeing my students grow and learn and become successful is very satisfying. Talking about hard problems and seeing students struggle (along with me) and gradually catch on is also a lot of fun.

What is your favorite thing about PUC?
The location. I run in the forest and along mountain ridges almost daily. I walk to work every day. Most people at PUC live close by so  it’s a real community in a way most other places I’ve worked have not been.

Why should someone choose to study chemistry at PUC?
We have a long history of students having success in achieving their goals. If you do well in chemistry (or the sciences in general) at PUC, you will be well situated to do well in medical school, dental school, pharmacy, or doing study in science at a higher level.

You knew it was coming—is PUC the best school to study at to get into Loma Linda medical school?
To get into any medical school requires dedication to study, ability to avoid of distraction, capable and available teachers, and a culture among your classmates that supports excellence. I think PUC has that. Of course, students who find these less important than the ease of getting to Taco Bell or luxury living accommodations probably may not be PUC material but those values suggest they might not be getting into medical school anyway.

Students, keep an eye on your PUC email inbox! Soon you will receive information about how to nominate a professor for the 2018 Educator of the Year award.

#FacultyFriday: Meet Robert Wilson

For this week’s #FacultyFriday feature, meet Dr. Robert Wilson, associate professor of chemistry. Dr. Wilson has taught at the college since 2012 and specializes in analytical and inorganic chemistry. Previously, he worked at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as a teaching assistant and graduate assistant, and at Andrews University as a laboratory assistant. While he was at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Dr. Wilson participated in several research projects, and his graduate research focused on the lipid and protein organization within the cell membrane.

Name: Robert L Wilson
Title: Associate professor of chemistry
Email: rlwilson@puc.edu
Faculty since: July 1, 2012

Classes taught: General Chemistry and its labs; Laboratory Glassblowing; Analytical Chemistry and its labs; Inorganic Chemistry; Topics in Chemistry: Organometallics; Introduction to Research; and Senior Capstone

Education: Bachelor’s degree in chemistry and mathematical studies, from Andrews University, 2007; Ph.D. in chemistry, from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, 2012

Professional activities:

Wilson, R. L.; Frisz, J. F.; Klitzing, H. A.; Zimmerberg, J.; Weber, P. K.; Kraft, M. L. “Hemagglutinin Clusters in the Plasma Membrane Are Not Enriched with Cholesterol and Sphingolipids” Biophysical Journal. 2015, Vol. 108, Issue 7, pp 1652-1659

Wilson, R. L.; Kraft, M. L.; “Quantifying the Molar Percentages of Cholesterol in Supported Lipid Membranes by Time-of-Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry and Multivariate Analysis” Anal. Chem., 2013, 85 (1), pp 91-97

Wilson, R. L.; Frisz, J. F.; Hanafin, W. P.; Carpenter, K. J.; Hutcheon, I. D.; Weber, P. K.; Kraft, M. L. “Fluorinated colloidal gold immunolabels for imaging select proteins in parallel with lipids using high-resolution secondary ion mass spectrometry” Bioconjugate Chem., 2012, 23(3), pp 450-460

Frisz, J. F.; Choi. J. S.; Wilson, R. L.; Harley, B. A. C.; Kraft, M. L. “Identifying differentiation stage of individual primary hematopoietic cells from mouse bone marrow using ToF-secondary ion mass spectrometry” Anal. Chem., 2012, 84 (10), pp 4307-4313

Frisz, J. F.; Lou, K.; Klitzing, H. A.; Hanafin, W. P.; Wilson, R. L.; Carpenter, K. J.; Lizunov, V.; Hutcheon, I. D.; Zimmerberg, J.; Weber, P. K.; Kraft, M. L. “Direct chemical evidence for sphingolipid domains in the plasma membranes of fibroblasts” PNAS Vol. 110 no. 8, E613-E622

Stoffregen, S. A.; McCulla, R. D.; Wilson, R.; Cercone, S.; Miller, J.; Jenks, W. S. “Sulfur and Selenium Ylide Bond Enthalpies” J. Org. Chem. 2007, 72, 8235-8242.

Merga, G.; Wilson, R.; Lynn, G.; Milosavlevic, B. H.; Meisel, D. “Redox Catalysis on ‘Naked’ Silver Nanoparticles” J. Phys. Chem. C 2007, 111, 12220-12226.

What made you decide to be a teacher?
I planned on doing research in the chemical industry; however, I had always enjoyed the academic environment. I was told of an open position here at PUC and applied. I am really happy I did.

What are some of your hobbies?
Glassblowing, board games, camping

What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?
I have a pilot’s license.

What’s your favorite thing about PUC?
The family-like atmosphere and tall trees.

What’s your favorite spot on campus?
In the woods.

What’s your favorite TV show?
“Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”

What advice would you give to an incoming freshman?
Study early and often, but never on Sabbath. This is what helped me the most in college and graduate school.

Interested in learning more about PUC’s chemistry program? Visit puc.edu/admissions!