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Sunday, January 16, 2022

Faculty & Staff

Iconic chemistry professor leaving UH after 18 years


Instructional professor of chemistry and student favorite Simon Bott will be leaving UH for University of Swansea in Wales, United Kingdom. | Courtesy of Media Relations

Instructional professor of chemistry and student favorite Simon Bott will be leaving UH for Swansea University in Wales, United Kingdom. | Courtesy of Media Relations

UPDATE: There will be a farewell party for Simon Bott from 6:30 to 8 p.m., Aug. 25 in the Elizabeth D. Rockwell Pavilion. Contact [email protected] if you have questions.

Instructional professor of chemistry Simon Bott has been a fixture at UH for longer than most incoming freshmen have been alive. But he’s leaving before he can teach the newcomers the basics of chemistry and Cougar spirit.

After 18 years as a student-favorite chemistry professor at University of Houston, Bott has decided to move on to the next chapter in his career — as founding professor of Swansea University’s chemistry department.

“I know I’m taking away in my heart just great memories, fantastic students and a lot of people that I hope will stay in touch with me for a long time,” Bott said. “I hope I’ve left behind in those students some love for the University and a little bit of chemistry knowledge.”

Over the past decade, Bott has been the recipient of eight awards for his instructional teaching, advising and faculty member excellence.

At annual freshmen orientations, he was often the first college professor the new students met, introducing them to the University with his speeches about UH spirit. During Bott’s time at UH, he also published hundreds of works pertaining to organic and inorganic structural chemistry and molecular recognition.

Old and new horizons
Although Bott has considered UH home for the majority of his academic career, he was recently offered a position at Swansea University in Wales that he considers an “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

“They’re a major university,” Bott said. “Twelve years ago, they closed their chemistry department for funding reasons. It was a good department but it sort of hit hard times, and now they’re reopening it. I’m going to go over pretty much with a blank canvas to how I want to build a chemistry department.”

Swansea is ranked similarly to UH, but with a leadership not quite as “dynamic” as UH Chancellor and President Renu Khator, Bott said. Even so, he believes the opportunity to assemble a chemistry department with the experience he gained from teaching at UH is worth the move overseas.

After visiting the Swansea campus, however, Bott acknowledged several things he will miss about UH.

“I was just looking around at the town and the campus and I thought ‘I am going to miss the diversity that we have here,’” Bott said. “And there are many of the students (at UH) that are willing to work for what they get. It’s refreshing, and it really makes you want to work with them.”

Bott’s legacy
News of his departure before the start of the fall term has saddened many of his former students, whom often compare him to the character “Doc” in the film “Back to the Future.”

Public relations senior Kimberly Fulmer considered her first class with Bott one of her most memorable experiences at UH.

“There were 550 students lined up to enter the largest teaching auditorium on campus,” Fulmer said. “Dr. Bott brought a student up to the front of the class that was wearing a UT shirt, gave him a UH shirt and told him to change. He was one of my absolute favorite professors because he cared about all 550 of us and our university.”

In addition to holding the Undergraduate Chair position of the Department of Chemistry as well as the Director of the Honors Program in the Health Professions, Bott was the founder and director of the UH PALS and Cougar Trading Cards programs.

Fellow professor of chemistry Steven Baldelli fondly remembers working alongside Bott for the past few years.

“There is no one in our department I admire more than Simon,” said Baldelli. “He has made our chemistry education program one thousand percent better and he will be greatly missed.”

Over the next several weeks, Bott intends to focus on helping his family transition from the U.S. to the U.K., where he was born and earned his undergraduate degree.

In his new position, Bott hopes to utilize his connections at UH to enhance international collaborations, including study abroad, between Swansea and Texas universities, especially UH. He also won’t be leaving behind his never-ending Cougar spirit.

“Of course, I’ll probably yell so loudly over there that you’ll hear me here when we beat Oklahoma and then get into the Big 12,” Bott said.

[email protected]

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