Grad Student Spotlight: Irene Metz

Irene Metz


Image at right: Irene performs a methane bubbles demonstration for her students. Do not attempt this demonstration on your own.

Irene grew up in Greenleaf, Wisconsin. She achieved her undergraduate degree at Michigan Technological University in 2007 and a Master of Science in Chemistry at the University of Iowa in 2009. In 2010, she started teaching Intro to General Chemistry and General Chemistry I at Hawkeye Community College, and she continues to teach there while she pursues her PhD. Irene enjoys working at the community college level because it offers her more autonomy as an instructor and curriculum developer, and allows her to devote more time to student success. She says she enjoys working one-on-one with her students, and is especially gratified whenever she helps a student reach a moment of epiphany and deeper understanding of the course material.

Irene did not initially intend to pursue a PhD, but in 2012 Dr. Sara Mason came and spoke to her students about computational chemistry. During the presentation, Irene recognized a need that she could fill for her students. There had never been any serious attempts to offer formal courses on computational chemistry to students at the community college level, so Irene is now working to provide these opportunities. She is working on curriculum development and using open-source software to design computational chemistry laboratory activities for her students. While traditional software would be prohibitively expensive at the community college level, open-source software makes these activities economically feasible and alleviates staff and faculty from the trouble of renewing and maintaining licenses. Irene presented her work over the summer of 2018 at the Biennial Conference on Chemical Education in South Bend, Indiana, and she hopes her efforts to bring computational chemistry to the community college level will one day go mainstream.

After achieving her PhD, Irene hopes to continue her work in curriculum development and would like to one day serve as the Dean of STEM and Business IT at Hawkeye Community College.

As a part-time PhD student who does most of her work away from the University of Iowa campus, Irene offers the following advice that applies to all future graduate students, whether they pursue a traditional path or otherwise: discipline and dedication are vital to success in pursuing a PhD. Irene uses a number of tools and applications to help her prioritize her work and manage her time. She also emphasizes that good time management isn’t just about work – it also includes budgeting time to have fun and spend time with loved ones. Finding the right balance is critical. She also encourages new graduate students to step outside their comfort zones. Irene never saw herself pursuing a PhD, but her thesis work now enables her to offer more to her students and bring new innovations to the work she loves.


Our graduate students make a difference! Additional Graduate Student Spotlight pieces are linked here.