By MacKenzie MacDonald
Elm Staff Writer
On Aug. 15, Washington College introduced two new Visiting Assistant Professors of Chemistry, Dr. Dung Do and Dr. Kavita Gaur, to the Department of Chemistry.
“We hire people who have great research backgrounds, but we were also looking for someone who loves teaching,” Interim Provost Dr. Michael Harvey said. “Students should not learn from professors teaching stuff, but by teaching skills, [and Dr. Do and Dr. Gaur] stood out for their devotion to teaching undergrad as well as their talent.”
From a young age Dr. Do had a passion for chemistry. Born and raised in Vietnam, he loved figuring out not only why chemicals react the way that they do, but also finding different substructures created by discovering new ways to create bonds.
“The more I do the research the more I think, ‘oh wow that’s fascinating,’” Dr. Do said.
He got both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Vietnam National University in Hanoi. In 2009, Dr. Do came to the United States to receive his Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
According to Dr. Do, he felt that he did not get as many opportunities to gain experience in his field of study in Vietnam. He felt that, because the U.S. offered that to him, he could further sharpen his understanding and fuel passion for his field of study.
“Being here has been an eye-opening experience for me,” he said.
After graduating in 2014, Dr. Do began working as a postdoctoral research associate at Indiana University in Bloomington for two years. His first teaching position was at Vietnam National University, where he taught as an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry for three years. He eventually came back to the U.S. to be a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Connecticut’s School of Pharmacy for three years.
Though Dr. Do has never taught at a liberal arts college before, he thought it would be a good opportunity to grow as an educator. He was also excited to teach students the expertise needed to be a good researcher.
“I love teaching and doing research,” Dr. Do said. “I had some experience teaching in a college system in Vietnam, but I feel like WC offered me a unique opportunity to teach in a liberal arts college, and the chemistry department also gave me the opportunity to both teach and supervise students doing research.”
According to Dr. Do, while he may seem like a “quiet person,” he reassures students he wants those who enter his classroom to think more about their work, as well as to reach out to him with any questions throughout their studies.
“I want students to learn by asking logical questions, I don’t want my students to memorize everything, but to have the key background and build up the knowledge beyond that background,” he said.
Dr. Do wants his students to not only know the content of his courses, but he also said he wants to have a connection with students that is unique to the liberal arts setting.
“For every class I teach, I want to provide students with the knowledge that’s required for the class, but I want to have a great connection with the students and understanding their need when they come to the class,” he said. “I want to have a better understanding of the learning experience from different people from different backgrounds so I can improve my teaching.”
While Dr. Do strives to help students develop a rational sense of thinking, Dr. Gaur also aims to help students become just as confident in both their work and themselves.
Born and raised in India, Dr. Kavita Gaur received Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees from Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar University in Agra. After teaching high school chemistry in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh, India for six years, she resigned to study for her Ph.D. at the University of Puerto Rico in 2014. Dr. Gaur graduated from her Ph.D. program in 2019, when she began teaching analytical lab at UPR for two virtual semesters.
From there, she taught biochemistry at Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina from Puerto Rico for one semester online. This will be Dr. Gaur’s first time teaching face-to-face since she got her Ph.D.
“It was very difficult to teach labs online,” she said. “How can you teach the lab by just showing them the videos? Doing experiments in the lab and watching videos online are two different [experiences], so this was difficult for students as well as for teachers.”
Dr. Gaur decided to come to the U.S. because there were more opportunities for her to continue her research. Drawn to the small, close-knit campus community, she decided to apply for the position at WC.
Dr. Gaur loves to study bio-inorganic chemistry with her research being on titanium complexes and their mechanistic properties in cancer cells. In one of the research articles that she published with her colleagues titled, ‘Iron Chelator Transmetalative Approach to Inhibit Human Ribonucleotide Reductase’ Dr. Gaur studied the mechanism of action of the titanium complexes in the cancer cells. She concluded that these complexes have the potential of inhibiting molecules R1 carbonyl group and methoxy R2 Ribonucleotide reductases slowing down the growth of cancer cells.
She plans to continue her research here with student help so she can teach and research at the same time.
“I always loved teaching and I wanted to teach higher-level students,” she said. “I want to establish myself as a successful professor so I can share my knowledge with my students.”
As she herself has demonstrated, while this year may continue to look uncertain, continuing to be driven to do your very best will help get you far.
“Always try for your best [and] don’t stop doing trials,” she said. “Try, try again and you will get success.”
Photos by Izze Rios