Science Prof Chosen for Oxford Program

Josh Watson

It may take half a day to fly to Oxford, England, but OC chemistry professor Dr. Amanda Nichols (03) is more than happy to make that trip.

Amanda was one of just 25 scholars from around the world chosen for two summers of study in the Scholars and Christianity in Oxford (SCIO) program at the University of Oxford.

Symmetry suggests a design, which also suggests a designer. Dr. Amanda Nichols

An associate professor of chemistry at OC, Amanda was selected for her proposal to study the aesthetics and functions of molecular symmetry.

“We classify molecules in inorganic chemistry based on symmetrical look and function,” said Amanda, who joined OC’s faculty in 2008. “These classifications are worthy of additional research because the symmetry suggests a design, which also suggests a designer.”

During her two summers at Oxford, Amanda will research literature overviews and case studies of specific molecules. According to Dr. Jeff McCormack (83), dean of OC’s College of Natural and Health Sciences, Amanda’s accomplishment is a reflection of excellence in her work.

“Dr. Nichols is a dedicated teacher and researcher who truly serves OC’s students,” McCormack said. “It is a great honor to have Amanda representing Oklahoma Christian alongside such esteemed colleagues.”

In addition to funding her research and travel to Oxford, the SCIO program will fund an undergraduate research assistant position for Amanda at Oklahoma Christian. 

Amanda will mentor the student, who will serve as a co-author for Amanda’s published research. In addition, Amanda will receive a stipend to help fund a science and religion club at Oklahoma Christian.

“My selection by the SCIO program will enhance how we integrate faith and science in our classes at OC,” Amanda said. “The research assistant position and the new club will provide significant career- and faith-building opportunities that students simply don’t receive at other universities.”

Amanda teaches chemistry classes in OC’s College of Natural and Health Sciences as well as a course on science and Christianity in OC’s Honors Program. 

Her recent research is focused on science education and mentoring female undergraduates studying STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects. She is a member of the American Chemical Society and has served as a section chair in recent years.

While the SCIO program is new this year, Amanda was encouraged to apply by two OC professors who were chosen for a similar experience a few years ago.

Professor of Physics Dr. Len Feuerhelm and Professor of Bible and Philosophy Dr. Jim Baird (78), a graduate of Oxford and OC’s Honors Program director, attended a similar program on the intersection of faith and science at Oxford. That experience led the professors to further enhance their popular Honors Program course, “The Bible, Science and Human Values.”

“I am incredibly thankful for the encouragement I received from Dr. (Jim) Baird (78) and Dr. (Len) Feuerhelm,” Amanda said. “Their guidance was extremely important throughout this process. I am honored to follow in their footsteps.”

Summer 2015

View more stories from the Summer 2015 issue of Vision magazine.