Science Symposium 2020

The Symposium Experience

Each year the Natural Sciences division of Wheaton College hosts a science symposium. Each department within the sciences takes a turn focusing on their discipline. The Chemistry Department had the privilege of organizing and hosting the science symposium in 2020 (just before the pandemic).  This well-received topic drew intense interest and some very good discussion.

Chemistry’s Role In Feeding the Majority World

Wheaton College Science Symposium 2020

Reliable food sources and access to clean water are fundamental necessities for human survival that we take for granted in the United States. Speakers in this symposium will discuss the challenges that other parts of the world face in these areas, and how the science of chemistry can help to address some of these concerns in a sustainable and environmentally-conscious manner.


Location: Meyer Science Center, Room 145 

Monday, February 24

10:40 am
Chapel with Ms. Melissa Herman (The Reckoning International)
"Intersection of Ordinary and Divine"

7:00 pm
Dr. Warren Dick (Emeritus Professor, The Ohio State University)
"Healthy Soils for Healthy People: How Chemistry Can Bridge the Gap"

Dr. Warren Dick will make a presentation that defines a healthy soil and how information gained from the chemical analyses of the environment (i.e. soil, water and air) is crucial in how we manage our valuable natural resources. He will illustrate this from the work he is doing in Ethiopia and how the development of high-quality analytical laboratories is crucial in helping create sustainable and nutritious food production systems in the majority world.

8:00 pm       
Mr. Mekael Teshome (Federal Reserve Bank)
"The Role Science Can Play in Achieving Global Food Security"

This presentation will frame the challenge of achieving global food security in the context of projected demographic and economic trends. It will also highlight opportunities where scientific solutions can help developing countries overcome hurdles to sustainable agricultural development and food security. 

Tuesday, February 25

6:30 pm
Ms. Melissa Herman 
"Teaching Chemistry to the Scientifically Illiterate"
How can scientific solutions be implemented in the field and translated to farmer empowerment? How can the science be explained when many farmers in the majority world only have a primary school education and chemistry terms are not easily translated into the farmer's native language? Melissa will be sharing stories from the field on how she and her team have succeeded at training farmers in basic soil science and chemistry that translate to sustainable farm practices -- all while using no scientific words. 

7:15 pm       
Dr. Stephanie Velegol (Penn State)
"The Use of Moringa Seeds for Sustainable Water Treatment"

8:15 pm       
Panel Discussion led by Noah Toly (Wheaton College) with Symposium Speakers


Warren Dick

Warren grew up on a diversified farm in North Dakota and graduated with a chemistry degree in 1975 from Wheaton College.  His graduate degrees are in soil biochemistry from Iowa State University in 1977 (M.S.) and 1980 (Ph.D.). From 1980 to 2016, Warren conducted research and taught at The Ohio State University in the areas of soil and environmental sciences and also served as Editor in Chief of both the American Society of Agronomy and the Soil Science Society of America.

He retired in 2016, but continues to be active as Professor Emeritus and as the founder of Bethel Agricultural Association, Inc., which has as its main goal the establishment of an agricultural and environmental university in Ethiopia.

Melissa Herman

Scientist kneeling in fieldMelissa obtained her M.S. degree from The Ohio State University and currently serves as the agricultural director for The Reckoning International, an NGO dedicated to exploring innovative and lasting solutions to poverty in five different countries. She has served on the field in both Kenya and Uganda since 2013.

Her work targets holistic transformation with a Biblical foundation. Projects include farmer trainings in crops, horticulture, and animal husbandry; and helping farmers re-think agriculture for better profitability and sustainability.

Mekael Teshome

Mr. Teshone is vice president and senior regional officer of the Pittsburgh branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. He has extensive experience monitoring economic trends in the agricultural space, and will speak to the economic forces involved in the development of agricultural systems.

He has also been involved with Bethel Agricultural Association since 2012, through which he has spoken to many key governmental officials in Ethiopia. He obtained his B.A. in political science from Taylor University and M.A. in economics from Vanderbilt University.

Stephanie Velegol

Dr. Velegol is currently an Associate Teaching Professor in Chemical Engineering and has been at Penn State University for 10 years.  She received her B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Drexel University and her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.  During her PhD she studied the behavior of proteins, polymers and surfactants both in solution and on surfaces.  Her postdoctoral research expanded on this work to include the adsorption of bacteria to surfaces.

For the past 10 years she has been applying her expertise in colloids and surfaces to the area of water treatment.  The goal of this work is to create a sustainable water treatment technology for the developing world that utilizes Moringa oleifera seeds.  She has worked with dozens of undergraduate students on this research.  In addition, she pioneered the use of a “flipped” classroom to encourage more active learning in the classroom.   More can be found at