Heffren elected new chemistry club president

Organic leader: Paul Heffren, having become the new Chemistry Club President, gets the ball rolling for the new semester.

Steven Dennis

The Washburn chemistry club is under new leadership.

Since Christopher Denton, the long time president of Washburn’s chemistry club, graduated in the spring of 2017, Paul Heffren, senior chemistry major, has stepped up and been elected to fill that role.

Heffren was not initially interested in majoring in chemistry, and instead wanted to pursue becoming a pharmacist. 

“I had to take chemistry as a requirement for a different degree path and I just fell in love with it,” Heffren said. “I just loved how ordered things are. You can predict how things are going to be. I think that’s sort of reassuring. It’s  refreshing knowing that the rest of the world could go crazy, but chemistry is still predictable.”

Looking to the future, Heffren sees himself earning his bachelor’s degree in chemistry and eventually pursuing a PhD. He is considering his options for graduate schools, but for now has his eyes on Purdue University. He also hopes to someday work as a laboratory researcher and a chemistry professor.

“I could maybe work in the industry, but I really like what I do here as a tutor in the chemistry department, seeing other students sort of come to an understanding,” Heffren said. “I really do like that aspect– the idea of becoming a professor one day.”

Heffren has also taken an interest in fragment-based drug discovery.

“Fragment-based drug discovery is the opposite way of looking for new drugs,” Heffren said. “[What we currently do is] look at a big molecule that already does some function and we optimize it. Fragment-based drug discovery looks at parts of enzymes or parts of the cell with specific patterns and proteins. Instead of taking something and improving it, we are really designing it from the very bottom up. Hopefully we will have whole new classes of antibiotics.”

Heffren has been an active member of Washburn’s chemistry club for the past three years. In his time with the club, he has participated in numerous events organized by the group.

The chemistry club has long been a staple of Washburn’s activities, providing numerous opportunities for students to learn more about the the subject and actively engage in chemistry experiments. The club also offers career opportunities by calling upon a number of guest speakers to provide insight on the ins and outs of the field, perhaps broadening the horizons of the students that attend.

The chemistry club is also actively involved in the community. It works with local schools to produce chemistry demonstrations, engaging children with fun experiments like making hydrogen balloons, elephant toothpaste and even liquid nitrogen ice cream. In addition to demonstrating the experiment, the chemistry club also works to make sure children walk away from the demonstrations with a better understanding of the chemical processes behind each experiment.

All those interested in attending and joining the Washburn University chemistry club should contact Paul Heffren at [email protected] or the faculty advisor of the club, Shaun Schmidt at [email protected]