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Florida State University

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Florida State University student Samuel Bacaner, like many incoming students, entered his first 8 a.m. class ready to conquer college. It was to his surprise that a general chemistry class and its instructor — chemistry and biochemistry department Honors Lecturer Mark Kearley — would have such an impact on his college journey.

"Dr. Kearley spoke about the varied majors he had and jobs he held before he settled on chemistry," Bacaner said. "It was important for me to hear as a freshman that I didn't have to have it all figured out."

Based on Kearley's advice, Bacaner explored some of his interests, including pre-engineering, biochemistry, biomathematics and chemical engineering. Through the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program, Bacaner spent a year in an inorganic chemistry lab synthesizing crystals with spin crossover properties.

"Essentially, these materials would change spin when exposed to different stimuli such as pressure or light," Bacaner said. "It was a pretty cool experience which I highly recommend to younger students."

Bacaner ultimately decided that a major in applied mathematics would best suit his goals. Bacaner also chose to add a discipline that would have an immediate impact, thus adding accounting as a second major.

Kearley, who has taught college students for the past 20 years, characterized Bacaner as one of his best students.