July 3, 2022

Asper Receives Distinguished Service Award from VA Section of American Chemical Society

Chemistry Physics Chair and Professor Janet Asper works with several students.

Chemistry Physics Chair and Professor Janet Asper works with several students.

Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Physics Janet Asper was recently chosen as the recipient of the Distinguished Service Award by the VA Section of the American Chemical Society. She was nominated by a longstanding member, Jim Beck, who said the following:

Janet Asper joined the American Chemical Society in 1995 and has served as a member of the Executive Committee for the Virginia Section for 12+ years. She served as Chair of the Younger Chemists Committee from 2007 through 2011 and as an Alternate Councilor from 2011 through 2019. She is now a Virginia Section Councilor. She has arranged numerous meetings of the Section at the University of Mary Washington (UMW), and has been an outstanding ambassador for the ACS at UMW, encouraging and facilitating student participation in local, section, regional, and national meetings and activities.

Smith Discusses Spicy Beer Project on With Good Reason Radio

Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry Sarah Smith '12 instructs junior biochemistry major Valerie Ebenki in a Jepson Science Center lab. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry Sarah Smith ’12 instructs junior biochemistry major Valerie Ebenki in a Jepson Science Center lab. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry Sarah Smith ’12, senior biochemistry major Valerie Ebenki and Ray Parrish ’91, co-owner of Maltese Brewing Co. in Fredericksburg appeared on Dec. 17 on With Good Reason about their work to create the world’s spiciest beer and submit it to the Guinness Book of World Records. The show airs Sundays at 2 p.m. on Fredericksburg’s Radio IQ 88.3 Digital and at various times throughout the week on stations across Virginia and the United States. Check the website for show times.

Food is Family:  Ever tried to drink a bottle of hot sauce? That’s what Ray Parrish says his new Signal One beer tastes like. He’s teamed up with Sarah Smith and her student, Val Ebenki, to attempt to create the world’s spiciest beer. Listen here.

UMW Physics, Math Major Wins Preeminent Goldwater Scholarship

UMW physics and math double-major William “Henry” Mills received the highly prestigious Goldwater Scholarship for his work using lasers to make movies that chronicle the movement of molecules.

UMW physics and math double-major William “Henry” Mills received the highly prestigious Goldwater Scholarship for his work using lasers to make movies that chronicle the movement of molecules.

William “Henry” Mills was in his late 20s when he arrived at UMW. After community college and a lackluster job, he’d begun to get serious about making the most of his life. This wasn’t the time, Mills thought, for playing it safe.

“I’d always been interested in physics,” he said. “I just never thought I was cool enough to study it.”

Oh, but he was.

For his work making movies of molecules in motion in a field called “ultrafast physics” – how cool is that? – he has received the Goldwater Scholarship, among the most prestigious undergraduate awards, with winners this year from Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Princeton and Brown. His research – a complex equation of quantum mechanics, high-level math and computer programming – explores the ways in which molecules rotate, shedding light on processes like vision and photosynthesis. Read more.

Smith, Student’s Work with Local Brewery Highlighted in The Free Lance-Star

Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry Sarah Smith '12 instructs junior biochemistry major Valerie Ebenki in a Jepson Science Center lab. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry Sarah Smith ’12 instructs junior biochemistry major Valerie Ebenki in a Jepson Science Center lab. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry Sarah Smith’s work with junior biochemistry major Valerie Ebenki was recently highlighted in an article in The Free Lance-Star about how the pair are helping Mary Washington alum Ray Parrish ’91, co-owner of Maltese Brewing Company in Fredericksburg, who aspires to earn a Guinness World Record for spicest beer. Smith and Ebenki are determining the heat content of Maltese’s Signal One 2.0, a pineapple IPA infused with 500 Carolina Reaper chilies, the world’s hottest pepper. Read more.

Smith, Student Tape WJLA Segment on Alum-Owned Brewery’s Guinness Quest

Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry Sarah Smith '12 instructs junior biochemistry major Valerie Ebenki in a Jepson Science Center lab. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry Sarah Smith ’12 instructs junior biochemistry major Valerie Ebenki in a Jepson Science Center lab. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry Sarah Smith ’12 and junior biochemistry major Valerie Ebenki were featured in a segment on WJLA/ABC-7 about the pair assisting 1991 alum Ray Parrish’s quest to brew the world’s spiciest beer. With Smith and Ebenki’s scientific expertise, Parrish, who co-owns Maltese Brewing Company in Fredericksburg, is attempting to secure a Guinness World Record for Signal One. 2.0, a pineapple IPA infused with 500 Carolina Reaper chilies, the world’s hottest pepper. Read more.

Mary Washington Trio Brews Guinness World Record Opportunity

 When Mary Washington alum Ray Parrish ’91, now co-owner of Fredericksburg’s Maltese Brewing Company, decided to set the Guinness World Record for the spiciest beer, he turned to his alma mater for help. Now UMW Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry Sarah Smith ’12 and junior biochemistry major Valerie Ebenki are trying to determine the heat content of Maltese’s Signal One 2.0 beer, a pineapple IPA infused with 500 Carolina Reaper chilies, the world’s hottest pepper. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.


When Mary Washington alum Ray Parrish ’91, now co-owner of Fredericksburg’s Maltese Brewing Company, decided to set the Guinness World Record for the spiciest beer, he turned to his alma mater for help. Now UMW Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry Sarah Smith ’12 and junior biochemistry major Valerie Ebenki are trying to determine the heat content of Maltese’s Signal One 2.0 beer, a pineapple IPA infused with 500 Carolina Reaper chilies, the world’s hottest pepper. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

As children, Ray Parrish ’91 and his brother were obsessed with the Guinness Book of World Records, devouring the new, hardbound volume they unwrapped each Christmas morning. It was a lifelong dream, Parrish said, to see their own names among the recordholders.

Fast-forward to last Christmas, when Parrish, now co-owner of the firefighter-founded Maltese Brewing Company in Fredericksburg, decided to look up the world record for spiciest beer. When he found none, he contacted Guinness – started in the early 1950s by Guinness Breweries ­– about establishing one.

That set off a chain reaction with Parrish, a former physics major at Mary Washington, reaching out to his alma mater, where he connected with another alum, Sarah Smith ’12. Now a visiting professor in the recently merged Department of Chemistry and Physics, Smith looped in junior biochemistry major Valerie Ebenki.

The trio’s quest? To determine the heat content of Maltese’s Signal One 2.0 beer, a pineapple IPA infused with 500 Carolina Reaper chilies, the world’s hottest pepper. The professor and student both said they came to Mary Washington for precisely these kinds of experiences – not necessarily attempts at world records, but high-impact learning opportunities where faculty and students work closely on endeavors.

“Being able to participate in real world research, proposed by an alum who is now working in the local community, is a fantastic opportunity,” said Ebenki, who’s applying skills from Smith’s analytical chemistry courses – literature searches, data collection, results interpretation – to this project. Read more.