Current USNCO Mentors

The following faculty and students are serving as mentors for the 2023 USNCO program.

Learn how to become a mentor.

View Past Mentors

See who are serving as mentors for the past USNCO program since 1984.

Esther Hines

Esther Hines, Head 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. 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. 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.

Yitian Zhu

Songwen Xie, College Mentor

Songwen Xie was born in Kunming, China. She earned her BS degree in Chemistry at Peking University, China, and her PhD in Chemistry at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. She taught as an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Indiana University Kokomo for five years before she joined Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS) in 2010. She is currently an Associate Professor of Chemistry and teaches Organic Chemistry, Advanced Organic Chemistry, Pharmaceutical Chemistry, and other upper level chemistry courses. She is in charge of the BS in Chemistry and MS in Pharmaceutical Chemistry programs and her research interest is in organic synthesis of small molecules that have potential drug use. Dr. Xie is the recipient of the 2022 Gail P. and Edward A. Bucher Trustees’ Award for Excellence in Faculty-Student Research Collaboration from MCPHS, and she also received two Faculty Awards for Teaching Excellence in 2014 and 2020. Dr. Xie has been a career consultant for American Chemical Society for nearly 15 years and has a lot of experience on career consulting related to academia. Outside of work she spends time with her husband and two children. 

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 three children.

Contact Us

U.S. National Chemistry Olympiad
ACS Office of Science Outreach