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When Vis­iting Pro­fessor of Chem­istry Mardi Billman first came to Hillsdale College, she said it was the atmos­phere of the liberal arts that appealed to her the most.

“It’s edu­cation for the sake of knowing things,” Billman said. “Not to say that the goal isn’t to find some­thing to do after college, but there is some­thing valuable in just knowing. Hillsdale felt like the place I not only wanted to be but I needed to be.”

Billman said the chem­istry department at Hillsdale College is under­going a shift in admin­is­trative duties this school year, so she was hired to help teach while others in the department took on larger admin­is­trative roles. She will teach both sec­tions of General Chem­istry, the class that covers the fun­da­mental laws and the­ories of sci­en­tific field.

“It’s a very important course because it sets the tone for the rest of the department,” said Matthew Young, chem­istry department chairman. “We’re putting a lot of con­fi­dence in her. What really stands out about Dr. Billman is her enthu­siasm for chem­istry. She brings so much energy to the classroom.”

Billman took a position teaching general chem­istry at Simpson College in Iowa, after earning her doc­torate at Col­orado State Uni­versity in August 2016. Prior to that, she attended the College of St. Benedict, an all-women’s liberal arts college in Min­nesota.

Billman taught her first classes at Hillsdale Aug 30.

“It was crazy but so exciting,” Billman said. “I love it.”

Sophomore Charlie Adams, a student in Billman’s General Chem­istry course, said that he par­tic­u­larly enjoyed a chem­istry demon­stration that she did on the first day of class.

Billman’s graduate research involved fig­uring out why halogens, a non­metal group of ele­ments on the right side of the periodic table, par­tic­ipate in halogen bonding chem­istry. Billman said halogen bonding is coun­ter­in­tu­itive because halogens, which are electron-rich, should not be able to attract other electron-rich ele­ments such as oxygen, but they do.

Sci­en­tists have used this infor­mation in biology to syn­thesize drugs since the halogen bonding allows them to manip­ulate the mol­ecule, Billman said.

“Her research is com­pu­ta­tional chem­istry, not based on tra­di­tional exper­i­ments, so that is not some­thing anyone else in our department does,” Young said. “It’s a good com­plement to the research areas we already have.”