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Current USNCO Mentors

2021 USNCO Mentors


Joseph Houck

Joseph Houck

Head 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.


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.


Laura Serbulea

Laura Serbulea

College Mentor

Laura Serbulea earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Bucharest, Romania, and her Ph.D. degree at the University of California, Los Angeles. She joined the faculty at the University of Virginia in 2012, where she is Associate Professor of Chemistry, General Faculty, and Director of Undergraduate Program. Dr. Serbulea is actively involved in the development of organic chemistry lecture and laboratory curricula, focusing on improving the coordination between the topics in the lecture course and the experiments that are carried out in the laboratory. Laura Serbulea received the All-University Teaching Award (2016) at University of Virginia, Mead Endowment Honored Faculty (2015) and several grants for STEM course redesign.