Students recognized for outstanding chemistry achievements at Chemistry Awards Picnic

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Editor's note: This article was originally published in April 2013.

On Friday, 17 awards were given to students for outstanding achievements in chemistry at the annual Chemistry Awards Picnic.

The event was held in the UCF Physical Sciences building atrium. Awards ranged from CRC Freshman of the Year to Dissertation Presentation of the Year.

The event commenced with a buffet of pulled pork, coleslaw, potato salad, baked beans and salad. After students had their fill, Dr. Kevin Belfield, department chair and professor of chemistry, introduced the speakers and the awards that would be presented.

The Organic Chemistry professors also presented an award to a student who aced both Organic Chemistry classes, which according to professors, is very tough.

Of the 17 awards given, only three students received more than one award. With a major requiring as much brainwork as chemistry, it is an honor for students to receive one award, let alone two.

"It's a lot of painstaking work and long hours, but the payoff is rewarding," said Hafeez Haniff, a senior chemistry major.

Haniff was one of the three students who received two awards at the picnic. He was presented the ACS Organic Chemistry award and the Undergraduate Research Seminar award.

"In 2011 I got the CRC award for freshman chemistry and I was searching around for research opportunities because it is required in our major. Luckily, after the awards Dr. Belfield kind of just scooped me up and added me to his team," Haniff said.

Haniff, who has been working for Belfield for the past three years, is currently researching the application of tetrahydroxy squaraine dyes in bioimaging, as well as their photophysical properties. He is also looking to explore their utility in dye-sensitized solar-cell applications for efficient energy conversion.

"My work has gotten me one publication already, and I have a second one in the works right now," Haniff said.

He received the Undergraduate Research Seminar award for his presentation about his research.

"It was almost a 45-minute presentation, which is three times the normal time. It was almost on the level of dissertation, which is what a graduate student would present to get a Ph.D.," Haniff said.

Belfield has helped guide and mentor Haniff for the last three years throughout the span of his research. He started meeting with Haniff when he was nearing the end of his freshman year and noticed how eager he was when he first became a member of Belfield's team.

"He was so anxious to get going on a project," Belfield said. "Once he got a hold of some papers I was interested in and [the] background work, he began something I've never seen a student do at that age. He started proposing some of his own research projects."

Not only do these students excel in research and their classes, they also were recognized for community service and mentoring other students.

Along with recognizing students' achievements, Dr. Christian Clausen and Dr. Frank Kujawa, both chemistry professors, were recognized for their 45 years of service in the Chemistry Department at UCF.

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