Skip to Content

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry


  • Branford Wilikins family photo at grduation

    Graduation Family Photo

  • My poster at discovery day 2016

    Discovery Day 2016

  • University Day Awards Ceremony

    University Day Awards Ceremony

Alumni Spotlight: Branford Wilkins

Branford Wilkins graduated from the department with an ACS-Certified B.S. in Chemistry.  He has enjoyed being a part of the program and being able to conduct research in one of the chemistry labs at USC. 

I was interested in pursuing a degree in Chemistry since high school.  While in high school, I enjoyed the chemistry classes I took due to the agreeable nature of my teacher and classmates, as well as the material I was being taught, which all seemed to make sense to me.  Therefore, when I was applying to colleges during my senior year of high school, I put down on the application that I wanted to major in Chemistry. 

When I came to USC, the first chemistry class I took was a general chemistry class taught by Professor Donna Chen.  Since this was my first year in college, I didn’t know too much about chemistry research, but I knew that it was important to make connections with chemistry professors.  I went to Prof. Chen’s office and asked her if she needed any help in her lab.  At that time she did not, but she invited me to become one of the class representatives of her general chemistry class so that she could get a better idea of how students in her class were doing.  I agreed to do this and for the rest of the class I acted as one of the representatives for Prof. Chen’s students.  After I completed that class, I kept in touch with Prof. Chen and would visit her office in subsequent school years just to talk to her and see how her research was doing. 

The summer after my freshman year of college, I got my first experience of what chemistry research was about.  My high school chemistry teacher contacted me while I was still in school and informed me about an application to participate in an REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) at UNC-Charlotte.  I had no idea at the time what chemistry research involved, but I was intrigued.  I applied to the program and I was accepted.  I spent ten weeks of the summer of 2013 doing research at UNC-Charlotte in the lab of Professor Thomas Schmedake.  During this time, I was able to see how chemistry research was conducted and I was also able to gain some insight into what the life of a chemistry graduate student was like.  It was this experience that caused me to begin considering graduate school as an option after I received my bachelor’s degree in Chemistry. 

When I came back to USC for my sophomore year, my REU over the summer had motivated me to find a professor at USC whose lab I could work in.  I talked to a couple of different professors and decided that I would like to work in the lab of Professor Hans-Conrad zur Loye, an inorganic chemist.  Prof. zur Loye allowed me to begin work in his lab during the spring semester of that school year and this is when my education about synthetic inorganic chemistry began.  I was taught many different synthetic techniques, as well as how to operate a powder X-ray diffractometer, while aiding some of his graduate students with their research.  I was even invited to spend the summer at USC and continue conducting research, an invitation that I gladly accepted. 

During my junior year of college, I continued working in Prof. zur Loye’s lab, and I also begin taking chemistry classes that dealt with topics in chemistry I had never been exposed to, namely physical chemistry.  Luckily for me, when I was taking the second half of the physical chemistry curriculum, quantum chemistry, I discovered that once again Prof. Chen was my instructor.  She taught this class just as well as when I was taking her general chemistry class as a freshman, and she helped me to understand all the concepts covered in the class.  At the end of my junior year I was awarded the American Chemical Society Division of Inorganic Chemistry Undergraduate Award, as well as the Tommy L. and Fred E. Hickman III Scholarship (which I also received at the end of my sophomore year as well).

For the summer after my junior year of college, I was once again selected to participate in an REU program, this time at UT-Knoxville.  While there, I worked in the lab of Professor Craig Barnes and gained some experience in using infrared spectroscopy and NMR spectrometry while I worked on a research project with a bioinorganic focus. 

I finished up the chemistry courses required for my major during my senior year of college when I took inorganic chemistry with Professor Richard Adams.  I was very excited to take this course because since all the research I did at USC was focused on inorganic chemistry, I felt that this course would give me a better understanding of the reasoning behind the research I was conducting in Prof. zur Loye’s lab. 

I also began looking into graduate chemistry programs during my senior year because I had decided that I wanted to continue doing research, inorganic chemistry research in particular.  I applied to Texas A&M, UNC-Chapel Hill, NC State, and UT-Knoxville and I was accepted into all of the programs.  I chose to attend Texas A&M University in the fall of 2016 to pursue a Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry.  

In addition to attending graduate school after I graduatded from USC, I also spent the summer working in a lab at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee as part of the GEM Fellowship Program which I was accepted to. 

I am extremely grateful to everyone in the department who helped to make my pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry as enjoyable as possible. 

This includes the staff in the department office as well as all the professors I constantly pestered for recommendation letters when it came time for me to apply to/for scholarships, internships, and graduate schools, Professors Donna Chen, Chuanbing Tang, Brian Benicewicz, Bill Brewer, Maksymilian Chruszcz, and Hans-Conrad zur Loye, as well as Thomas Schmedake from UNC-Charlotte and Craig Barnes from UT-Knoxville.