When the Chemistry Is Just Right: Marina Stavytska-Barba

Ameera Butt

The 28-year-old explained molecules in the atmosphere are hit by light from the sun and absorb either all or some of the colors of the light spectrum. Molecules absorb the blue light — and that blue light is emitted, giving us a blue sky.

The native Ukrainian fell in love with molecules, light, chemicals and all things chemistry in 2001 when she was a student at Merced College.

N23_MMM-Marina Stavytska-Barba

After moving to the United States to get a better education, Stavytska-Barba said she wanted to be an engineer but was influenced by a teacher, Krista Wilson, who inspired her to become a chemistry major.

“Science made so much sense, I wanted to teach and it seems really rewarding having students who go on,” she said.

Stavytska-Barba (pictured left) has been a part-time chemistry teacher at Merced College since 2011. She was recognized for being an outstanding part-time faculty member in the science discipline by the Academic Senate at the college’s board of trustees meeting last week. She was one of six adjunct faculty members who were recognized, according to Robin Shepard, public information officer for Merced College. There are approximately 420 part-time faculty at the college, according to Shepard.

She was nominated for the award by Wilson.

The awards started three years ago, highlighting the work and recognizing part-time teachers at Merced College, according to Keith Law, Merced College Faculty Association president.

“The main point is to give them a face,” Law said. “They were invisible before.”

Not only does Stavytska-Barba juggle two lectures and two labs with more than 100 students, she also has been a graduate student at UC Merced since 2006.

She was looking to work with a good professor and ended up working with professor Anne Kelley at UC Merced. “Her lab is really good,” Stavytska-Barba said.

She hopes to get to defend her dissertation and receive her doctorate in physical chemistry in two weeks. Her dissertation deals with spectroscopy, which is the study of light and matter.

Her favorite memory of teaching students at the college is when a re-entry student in her class was showing great progress with the material. Re-entry students are typically students who are older but come back to receive an education. “She is working so hard,” Stavytska-Barba said. “It’s a pleasure to have somebody (like that) in your class.”

When asked about her love of chemistry, she said, “I think because everything in our life depends on chemistry, when trees grow, you think of chemistry. Everything you encounter in your life deals with chemistry. It’s kind of interesting.”

This originally appeared in the Merced Sun-Star and is used here with permission.



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