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Dr. Takashi Suyama

Assistant Professor of Chemistry

Dr. Suyama’s research interest centers on medicinally useful natural products, which are chemicals that organisms produce for survival advantages. His research is interdisciplinary in nature and incorporates elements of synthetic organic chemistry, natural products chemistry, medicinal chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology, ecology, and pharmacology.

Dr. Suyama holds a PhD in Oceanography (Organic Chemistry) from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego and a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry (Biochemistry option) from Oregon State University. He was a Postdoctoral Scholar at the College of Pharmacy at Oregon State University.

What do you do?

My main responsibilities include teaching organic chemistry and its related courses. Organic chemistry is the science of how biologically relevant molecules behave and are synthesized. My students are exposed to hands-on experiences ranging from synthesizing molecules of their choice in the lab to elucidating the structure of an unknown compound. In addition, I direct a dynamic, interdisciplinary, and highly collaborative research program in natural product chemistry and medicinal chemistry involving our WU students and researchers at WVU and UCSD.

How has Waynesburg’s mission of faith, learning and serving helped guide you through your life?

The emphasis on partnering with local churches and ministries has inspired opportunities for me to be involved in filling the pulpit on an as-needed basis at a few of the local churches. This has led my family to build friendships with local ministers and Christians that have enriched our walk with Jesus. Students with like-minded enthusiasm for the Lord have inspired me to excel in my ministries as well as in exploring new curriculums such as developing a “Faith and Science” class on campus, which has led to some of the most memorable fellowship and learning experiences.

What is one thing that the pandemic has taught you about yourself?

I have learned that I am fairly resilient as the pandemic hasn’t personally affected me in a noticeable way. However, it has, for example, presented challenges and obstacles to my teaching and our research efforts, which I had to be very resourceful in navigating through.

What have you strived to keep consistent as many things are changing?

I have tried hard to build and maintain personal connections with students despite the obvious challenges that the pandemic has presented. I find that it is not as difficult to maintain relationships built prepandemic, but it is rather challenging to build new ones.

What steps do you take to prioritize wellness in your life?

While I probably do not do so well in the area of taking enough time to rest (many people tell me I’m a borderline workaholic), I pay much attention to healthy eating habits. Since I started intermittent fasting over four years ago and made efforts to cut as much sugar and refined carbohydrates out of my diet as possible, I think I’m probably in better shape and health today than when I was in college.

How do you help your students grow?

Organic chemistry can be inherently a very challenging subject to learn. Hence my students are presented with an immense intellectual challenge. I try to walk alongside them in that challenge by struggling with them to identify the best way for them to study, brainstorming through time management challenges, praying for and with them to overcome personal challenges that detract from learning, etc. In addition, I try to give open-ended assignments that require the students to take charge of their own project. I have seen tremendous personal and scholarly growth in the students through those assignments.

What is your favorite recipe to make?

I love making Indian curry-type dishes from scratch. It must be the chemist in me, but I love how different spices come together to create a unique and amazing aroma and flavor.

What was your quarantine hobby? (How did you occupy your time – any new, old or unique hobbies?)

We unknowingly purchased a house with structural issues a few days before the shutdown. I spent much of the quarantine time doing hardcore construction work. Going into the quarantine, I thought I’d find time to rest and do some writing and cooking. However, it turns out I worked nonstop as a carpenter, and apparently I am pretty good at it as attested by a structural engineer that I hired to check on my work.

Learn more

Our Department of Chemistry & Forensic Science has a suite of instruments that allows us to offer premier and exceptionally modern laboratory experiences both in teaching and research lab settings. Students work directly on the instruments; they learn operation procedures, troubleshooting, method development, and interpretation of results. The types of testing and analyses enabled by this instrumentation helps faculty and students to be innovative at the very frontiers of science.