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Current USNCO Mentors

2020 USNCO Mentors


Melissa Barranger Mathys

Melissa Barranger-Mathys

Head Mentor

A native of Cleveland Ohio, Melissa completed her undergraduate work at the University of Akron and her Ph.D. at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Melissa has been a chemistry and biochemistry professor at small liberal arts colleges for many years with a strong undergraduate research program. She is interested in studying the miss-folding of proteins and fluorescent secondary structure markers. She is a long-standing member of the ACS and Sigma Xi. Melissa and her family are all PADI open water scuba divers and have explored Mexico and Hawaii. She was a USNCO mentor from 2012 to 2014 and 2019, and accompanied her team to Washington, D.C.; Moscow, Russia; Hanoi, Vietnam; and Paris, France.


Esther Hines

Esther Hines

High School Mentor

Esther Hines was born in Lima, Peru and completed her B.S. degree in Chemistry at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru. Esther earned a M.S. degree in Chemistry from the University of New Hampshire. While in graduate school, she was awarded the Lester A. Pratt Graduate Scholarship and the Albert Dianak award in recognition of excellence as a teaching assistant. Esther was a chemistry instructor at the University of North Carolina (Pembroke campus) for two years. Esther lived in Germany and Italy for four years, where she taught online undergraduate chemistry courses to members of the U.S. armed forces stationed around the world. Esther and her family settled in Massachusetts where she became a high school educator. She teaches AP Chemistry and Organic Chemistry at Billerica Memorial High School, Billerica MA. She has been an advisor of her school’s chemistry club since 2006 and was inducted into the ACS Aula Laudis Society in May 2016 in recognition of her distinguished contributions to chemistry education.


Joseph Houck

Joseph Houck

College Mentor

Joe was born and raised in Central Pennsylvania. He obtained a B.S. in Chemistry at Juniata College and a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. Upon graduation in 2013, he took a teaching position as Lecturer at the University of Maryland where he taught organic and general chemistry lectures and labs. He was the recipient of several teaching awards including the Dean’s Outstanding Lecturer Award and an Elevate Fellowship for course redesign. Now an Associate Teaching Professor at Penn State University, he teaches organic and general chemistry on campus and online. Outside of work he spends time with his wife and two children.


Harrison Wang

Harrison Wang

Peer Mentor

Harrison Wang attended the USNCO Study Camp in 2016 and 2017, and won a gold medal at the International Chemistry Olympiad in Thailand in 2017. Harrison was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, and now is a junior at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology pursuing a double major in Chemistry and Biology (5-7) and Physics (8). Harrison is an undergraduate researcher in the group of Mei Hong, applying solid-state NMR techniques to study the dysfunction of tau protein (which aggregates in Alzheimer’s disease patients). When he is not in lab putting proteins in spectrometers and pig brains in blenders, he writes, reads, practices dance and kung fu, and finds good cheap food.