UTSA First-Year Faculty: Donald Kurtz, Lutcher Brown Distinguished Professor of Chemistry
By Lydia Fletcher
Special Projects Writer, UTSA '07
(Aug. 22, 2007)--Donald Kurtz, UTSA Lutcher Brown Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, received his Ph.D. from Northwestern University.
He comes to UTSA from the University of Georgia.
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LF: What brought you to UTSA and what attracted you to San Antonio?
DK: The research opportunities afforded by a chaired professorship, the new BSE Building and great laboratory space -- the opportunity to help build a Tier-One chemistry research department. My wife is a Texas native and has always liked San Antonio and the Hill Country.
LF: What research are you conducting or hoping to conduct at UTSA?
DK: My research is a hybrid of inorganic chemistry and biochemistry. My current research focuses on enzymes that protect bacteria against oxidative stress, such as when bacteria are attacked by our immune system.
These enzymes have iron at their active sites, and we are trying to understand how these enzymes function. In principle, inhibitors of these enzymes would constitute a new class of antibiotics. We are also attempting to break into the emerging area of nanochemistry using protein scaffolds to grow metal-containing nanoparticles.
LF: What courses are you teaching?
DK: I taught the first honors general chemistry course at UTSA last fall and really enjoyed it. The small class size, motivated students and independence from the regular general chemistry sections allowed me the freedom to communicate what makes chemistry exciting and its relevance to our everyday lives.
LF: What is your impression of the teaching atmosphere at UTSA?
DK: I think our general chemistry courses are suffering from growing pains due to UTSA's rapid expansion. We desperately need a faculty position in chemical education to provide leadership in revamping the general chemistry curricula. We currently lack the support staff to assist in the large general chemistry lab and lecture sections. This results in a lower quality of both student and faculty experience in these large courses.
Our general chemistry courses should ideally serve as a recruiting tool for chemistry majors. My sense is that too often they have the opposite effect. We also need to improve student advising and remedial science and math courses. Here again, a chemistry education faculty could spearhead improvements in these areas, as well as provide outreach to local two-year colleges and high schools in science education.
LF: What is your favorite hobby?
DK: I enjoy bicycle riding through the hill country. My wife and I enjoy gardening. We've spent a small fortune landscaping our yard! Since I'm not a Texas native, I'm learning about the various areas of Texas. We enjoyed a recent trip to Big Bend National Park.