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SUNY Potsdam Professor Maria Hepel Honored with National Research Award from American Chemical Society

May 31, 2017

Dr. Maria Hepel was honored with a special symposium in her honor at the 253rd National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Francisco.

In her 32 years at SUNY Potsdam, Dr. Maria Hepel has supervised approximately 300 student research projects and mentored many young scholars.

“She enlightened me to a world of research and discovery that I never knew existed, by engaging me in undergraduate research,” said former student Dr. Cynthia Rice ’95, an associate professor in the Center for Manufacturing Research and Department of Chemical Engineering at Tennessee Tech University.

Now a SUNY Distinguished Professor, Dr. Hepel was recently presented with a prestigious national award for her dedication to conducting research with students.

The American Chemical Society named Hepel as the recipient of the 2017 ACS National Award for Research at an Undergraduate Institution. The award was given in recognition of her work fostering and mentoring innovative undergraduate research in diverse fields of public concern related to human health, environmental monitoring and remediation, energy conversion and nanotechnology.

The award, which is sponsored by the Research Corporation for Science Advancement, was presented to Hepel at the 253rd National Meeting of the American Chemical Society on April 4 in San Francisco. The conference was attended by 18,000 people.

A reception and symposium in Hepel’s honor was organized by the ACS Division of Colloid and Surface Science during the conference. At this symposium, several of her former research students who now hold faculty positions and her research collaborators presented, including Rice and Dr. Erica Sharpe ’08. In addition, Hepel’s colleague from SUNY Potsdam’s Department of Chemistry, Dr. Fadi Bou-Abdallah, also gave a talk. Clarkson University Professor Dr. Silvana Andreescu organized the event.

Hepel was also invited to give a plenary award lecture at the ACS Award Symposium. In her talk, she presented an overview of her research projects with undergraduates over the course of her career at SUNY Potsdam.

The award ceremony was held during a black-tie banquet at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis Hotel. Several of Hepel’s research collaborators, former students and seven of her current students attended the award ceremony.

In addition, all of Hepel’s current research students, Taylor Durgan ’19, Ricardo Espinal Mella ’17, Amanda Marotta ’17, Mackenzie Palmer ’17, Ty Santiago ’17, Madison Smith ’17 and Logan Running ’17, presented their research data at the poster sessions.

Another two students from Bou-Abdallah’s group, Alaa Farghli ’17 and Daniel Coelho ’17, also presented their posters during the ACS meeting.

The award consisted of a check for $5,000, plus travel expenses to the conference. In addition, the Research Corporation’s Cottrell Fund provided another $5,000 grant to SUNY Potsdam, which the College will use to hire chemistry research students this summer. The Cottrell Fund had previously provided funding in the past for two of Hepel’s projects.

All student travel expenses were covered by SUNY Potsdam’s Frederick B. Kilmer Fund for Undergraduate Student-Faculty Research.

In 2012, Hepel made history as the first SUNY Potsdam faculty member to be named a SUNY Distinguished Professor, which is conferred upon faculty members who have achieved international prominence and a distinguished reputation in their field. Fittingly, it’s an honor that she said she shared in part with her students.

“My reputation in the international scientific community is largely the result of my work with undergraduate students. By engaging students in undergraduate research, we will continue to inspire them to study and succeed in their pursuit of excellence,” Hepel said. “I think that our strong commitment to inspire a future generation of conscious chemists and active research scientists will lead the chemistry department to a bright future.”

SUNY Potsdam’s Department of Chemistry offers a rigorous and well-balanced curriculum that provides a solid foundation for successful graduate study or a career in chemistry or a chemistry-related field. The department is known for its strong and diverse undergraduate research programs, its $1.3 million in grants to support teaching and research, and the success of its students’ acceptance to competitive graduate and professional schools. To find out more, visit

Founded in 1816, The State University of New York at Potsdam is one of America’s first 50 colleges—and the oldest institution within SUNY. Now in its third century, SUNY Potsdam is distinguished by a legacy of pioneering programs and educational excellence. The College currently enrolls approximately 4,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Home to the world-renowned Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam is known for its challenging liberal arts and sciences core, distinction in teacher training and culture of creativity. To learn more, visit

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Alexandra Jacobs Wilke, College Communications (315) 267-2114

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