Paying it Forward

It is rare that someone takes time out of their busy day to help a stranger – rarer, still, when that person is at the top of their field. So it was a surprise and a joy for the parents of Karina Bidani when Distinguished Professor Emeritus Dean Martin of the USF Chemistry Department responded to their email requesting a research experience for their daughter, who was still in high school.

Distinguished Professor Emeritus Dean Martin with High School Grad Karina Bidani
Distinguished Professor Emeritus Dean Martin with High School Grad Karina Bidani

Mona Bidani, Karina’s mother, emailed a select few faculty she had identified on the USF website as potentially receptive to her daughter’s interest in an independent research project. Karina was in the process of applying to colleges, with the intention of proceeding to a career in medicine, and felt that her application would be stronger if she had a research experience under her belt. Dr. Martin was the first to reply to her request, eager to nurture a young mind curious about chemistry.

Dr. Martin walked Karina through the steps she would need to take in order to carry out the research. She was to use the historic and vast records of Jonas and Edna Kamlet and Kamlet Laboratories, housed in Special Collections. The Kamlet Laboratories Collection is significant for it’s extensive documentation of the development of chemical processes and products from concept to market. Jonas Kamlet invented Clinitest, a tablet that allowed medical personnel to test glucose levels in patient urine instantly, a ground-breaking product for its time. Laboratories like these were necessarily secretive, often breaking tasks down and farming them out to other labs far and near, in order to preserve proprietary knowledge that allowed them to remain profitable. Having access to such records can be invaluable for would-be chemists and entrepreneurs interested in developing drugs, consumer products, or industrial materials that would have a commercial market.

Says Dr. Martin:

The Kamlet Collection provides a remarkable opportunity to learn about the inventive idea-to-product process.  At a time when academic institutions are looking for more funding, money-generating patents may be an attractive solution… To paraphrase  a 49er, “There’s ‘gold’ in them there boxes”

Karina graduated in June from the St. Petersburg High School IB program, and was accepted to the honors program at her top-choice university. Of course, Dr. Martin did his best to convince her to come to USF, but her mind had long been made up. What’s more, Karina’s work on this project was of a sufficiently high level to be submitted for publication, and will be featured in the Bulletin for the History of Chemistry. How many high school students have the opportunity to publish before starting college?

Barbara Martin and Dr. Dean Martin
Barbara Martin and Dr. Dean Martin

Dr. Dean Martin and his wife, Barbara Martin, have long been strong supporters of the University of South Florida. The Dean and Barbara Martin Chemistry Book Fund is an endowment established several years ago to generously provide funding for chemistry books and electronic resources (such as journals online); over the years, the Martins have honored many USF students, staff, and faculty that they find committing kind acts with a USF Libraries honorary bookplate program; and Dr. and Barbara Martin support the USF Libraries Latin American Science Fiction collection. The Martins also established a collection to support the Joint Military Leadership Training Center at USF. They are an example for us all. Their passion for, and spirited appreciation of USF is tremendous. Their continued support embodies their belief in building a strong research library.

Contact The USF Libraries Development Office to advance student success and research efforts.

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