Professor wins chemist award

Ever had petroleum ether thrown on you? How about your beard catching on fire from a Bunsen burner?

Vern Hicks just laughs such incidents off as he prepares to retire at the end of the school year.

But, before he leaves Northern Kentucky University, he will be named the 2008 Cincinnati Chemist of the Year by the Cincinnati section of the American Chemical Society. The AMC is a congressionally chartered organization, representing professionals in all fields of chemistry and sciences, according to its Web site.

“I was in total shock,” Hicks said, noting that he hadn’t even known he was nominated.

Diana McGill, chair of the chemistry department was as surprised as Hicks.

“I was convinced Dr. Hicks deserved to win the award, butut was not very confident that we would,” McGill said. “I expected a bench research chemist to in, as is usually in the case.”

Hicks has been teaching chemistry at NKU for 35 years and is applying for phase retirement at the end of the year, which allows professors to teach half-time once they retire but may not return to full-time teaching. McGill said he will be irreplaceable.

“He was one of the original members of our department, so in that regard, he helped build our department,” she said. “He is kind, quiet, unassuming, giving, unbelievably funny, quick-witted