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Harnessing Solar Energy for the Next Generation

Renewable energy, the fastest-growing energy source in the country, is quickly becoming accessible to the average consumer and Capital students are ready to excel in the industry.

Immersed in real-world science, students enrolled in “Going Green: Solar Energy” created working solar cells and experimented with the area of study that is rarely done outside of a professional lab.

Expected to graduate in 2023 with a dual major in chemistry and biochemistry, Shayne Smith enjoyed learning more about renewable energy in an interactive environment.

“A solar cell is a device that can harness the light given off by the sun and convert it into usable energy,” said Smith. “This topic is important to the department, because renewable energy is a very promising area of work as the globe pushes for these energy options.”

Taught by Steve Clymer, Ph.D., associate professor of Chemistry, the elective course was part of an upper-level chemistry series offered each spring. A different topic is selected each term and allows chemistry and biochemistry majors to dive deeper into additional areas that were not originally part of the curriculum.

“I think it is great that we can offer an elective class each spring that we can tailor to the students’ interests. We’ve offered classes in battery technology, solar cells, and separations technology,” said Tracey Arnold Murray, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “The classes are flexible enough that faculty can spend time in the lab when needed so that students can explore the topics in a hands-on way – like building their own solar cells.”

Expected to graduate in 2022 with her B.S. in Chemistry, Haleigh Osman explained that a solar cell is a cell that can use solar radiation and convert it into electricity using a semiconductor material in the cell.

“This is directly related to chemistry in that the principle of the solar cell is electronic orbital movements that we discuss in our chemistry courses, and the materials for the cell are inorganic chemistry compounds,” she said.

The hands-on approach to a real-world industry changed the way Osman thought about her future.

“This course opened my eyes to a branch of chemistry and a career field I did not even realize existed,” said Osman. “Solar energy is becoming a more popular choice for renewable energy, so I really enjoyed getting to see that there are career opportunities available for chemists in solar energy.”

To read more about Capital University’s Chemistry and Biochemistry Department, go to

To learn about Capital’s Sustainability Plan, including energy savings efforts, go to