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Professor Mary Nakhleh retires


After more than twenty years at Purdue, Professor Mary B. Nakhleh will be retiring in May 2012. She joined the department in 1990 after a thirty year career as a field research chemist and science educator.

Nakhleh remembers the grade school moment when her interest in chemistry was sparked. “During the Sputnik era of the late-1950s when the U.S. government was emphasizing science education at the very beginning of the Space Race, a lecturer visited my science class to present an exciting chemistry demonstration, and that’s when I fell in love with atoms and molecules,” she recalls. Nakhleh would make ‘molecules and matter’ a part of her diverse career over the next fifty years.

She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Georgia in 1961, pursued graduate work there, and taught high school science in Conyers, Georgia. In 1964 she moved to Falls Church, Virginia to work as a field research chemist at Melpar Co.

In 1967, Nakhleh moved to Maryland where she taught freshman chemistry at Mount St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg, Maryland for three years. From 1970-1990 she was a science, mathematics, and computer science teacher in Frederick County, Maryland, while also pursuing graduate work at the University of Maryland. She earned a M.A. in Chemistry Education in 1985 and Ph.D. in Science Education there in 1990.

That same year, she came to Purdue. "Throughout my graduate studies at the University of Maryland, I became aware of the excellent reputation of the Chemical Education division at Purdue, so gladly accepted the position," Nakhleh recalled.

While at Purdue, she has received several awards and honors for her research and teaching and is an internationally known authority on students' understanding of the particle nature of matter, with many publications and presentations to her credit. Nakhleh has had numerous Ph.D. and M.S. students and has also trained approximately 150 secondary science teachers in the fields of chemistry, earth science & physics.

Nakhleh will maintain her residence here in West Lafayette and she looks forward to traveling around the country to visit her three grandchildren. She is also happy to have more time to pursue her many hobbies including: genealogy and collecting clocks, jewelry, gems, and minerals.

Mary Nakhleh

Mary Nakhleh
Professor - Chemical Education