Alumni Awards 2015: Dr. Tara Carpenter

In the weeks leading up to the Alumni Awards Ceremony, we’ll be profiling each of this year’s honorees in detail here on the blog. First up is our Outstanding Faculty Award winner, Dr. Tara Carpenter of UMBC’s own Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

CarpenterDr. Tara Carpenter is a senior lecturer in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UMBC. Dr. Carpenter developed a passion for teaching as a graduate teaching assistant at Duquesne University, and after she completed her Ph.D., she sought out academic positions that made teaching undergraduates a priority. She was drawn to UMBC’s welcoming campus culture and its enthusiasm for undergraduate success. In her 11 years here, she has worked to change the way undergraduate students experience their first chemistry courses by helping to create a variety of resources for them, from the Discovery Center to online homework and in-person as well as virtual office hours. She enjoys working with UMBC students for their ability to “think outside the box.” She considers every semester an adventure as students continue to engage her with new and exciting questions.

Click here to register for the Alumni Awards Ceremony on Thursday, October 8 in the Albin O. Kuhn Library and Gallery!

Congratulations to Our 2015 Alumni Award Winners!

12662632914_2f93612cac_zEach year, the UMBC Alumni Association celebrates those people who have made outstanding contributions to the University, their fields, and their communities. This year, we extend that honor to the following distinguished alumni and faculty:

Engineering and Information Technology:
Andre Gudger ’99, Information Systems
Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Manufacturing, and Industrial Base Policy, U.S. Department of Defense

Natural and Mathematical Sciences:
Dr. Yoon-Ho Kim ’01 Ph.D., Applied Physics
Professor, Pohang University of Science and Technology

Social and Behavioral Sciences:
Bryan Kelly ’92, Economics
Co-Founder and Managing Partner, The Kelly Group

Visual and Performing Arts:
Dr. Lisa Urkevich ’86, Music
Professor and Chair of Music and Drama, American University of Kuwait

Distinguished Service:
The Honorable Allan Kittleman ’81, Political Science
County Executive, Howard County Government

Rising Star:
Nicole DeBlase, ’06, Financial Economics
Executive Director, Equity Research, Morgan Stanley

Outstanding Faculty:
Dr. Tara Carpenter, Senior Lecturer, Chemistry and Biochemistry
College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences

Join us as we celebrate at the Alumni Awards Ceremony on Thursday, October 8!

Learn more about our past award winners.

2014 Award Winners

2013 Award Winners

2012 Award Winners

2011 Award Winners

2010 Award Winners

2009 Award Winners

2008 Award Winners

2007 Award Winners

2006 Award Winners

2005 Award Winners

Past UMBC Alumni Award Winners

UMBC Athletic Hall of Fame

Career Q&A: Research Assistant Allison Kelly ’12, Chemistry

Every so often, we’ll chat with an alum about what they do and how they got there. Today we’re talking with research assistant Allison Kelly ‘12, Chemistry, about her current research project. 

Name: Allison Kellyallisonkelly
Job Title: Research Assistant, PhD Candidate
Major/Minor: Chemistry, Writing
Grad year: 2012


Q: What drew you to UMBC for your studies?

When I stumbled onto the UMBC website I was greeted by the words: “The school where it’s cool to be smart.”  I wanted a local college that valued academics, and UMBC seemed to fit that bill. During the course of my studies, I grew to love the focus on scholarship and the acceptance of nerd culture I found on campus.

Q: Can you recall any professors or advisors at UMBC who inspired you?

I am very grateful for my time in the UMBC chemistry department. In particular, I got to work closely with Dr. Tara Carpenter and Dr. Stephen Mang in various classes and as an American Chemical Society student member. Their commitment to undergraduate education and enthusiasm for science outreach is something I hope to emulate after finishing my PhD.  And all of the folks in the Honors College were incredibly supportive. Especially Dr. Shields, who always managed to blend professionalism and empathy.

Q: Can you explain a little about your current sustainability project?

My project focuses on polymer solar cells. The silicon solar cells available on the market can be heavy and expensive. Polymer solar cells are light weight, flexible, printable, and less expensive, but currently are not as great at converting sunlight to electricity.  Our goal is to improve the efficiencies with the goal of making polymer solar cells commercially viable. Specifically, I’m focusing on increasing the amount of sunlight the cells can absorb by adding more absorbing components to the system. But making additions to an already complex system creates complications, which I am working towards understanding.

Q: What has been your greatest achievement throughout your project? Your greatest challenge?

Daily troubleshooting, especially at the beginning, is the most challenging part of research: doing experiments that worked yesterday but not today; using established, “easy” techniques and failing; determining which step(s) of a ten step process is causing the problem. I spent two months simply trying to get my controls up to par.

But after almost two years, I’m finding my feet, playing a bigger role in directing my project, and finally getting significant results.

Q: Is there any advice you’d like to give to students at UMBC?

Give a smile and a “thank you” to the Chartwells folks.

Q: Do you have a favorite memory from your time at UMBC? 

It’s impossible to pick just one! There was a lovely Friday evening when I had the opportunity to serve dinner at a homeless shelter, played capture the flag on campus, and camped out in a dorm lobby to watch the Lord of the Rings with some friends. We paused in the middle to walk out to Pig Pen Pond and “watch” a foggy sunrise. It’s certainly not my only good memory, but one that encompasses many of my favorite things about the UMBC community.