Quincy native on track to become first to earn new chemical microscopy degree (Quincy Herald-Whig)

Quincy Herald-Whig – April 21, 2015
by Edward Husar

Marissa Bartz of Quincy is melding her interests in art and science to earn a unique bachelor’s degree this spring.

Bartz is on track to become the first person to earn a bachelor’s degree in chemical microscopy from North Central College in Naperville — the only U.S. college offering a four-year degree in this specialty area.

Bartz, 22, plans to use this degree along with a minor in art history to land a job some day in art conservation, a field that has interested her ever since she graduated in 2011 from Quincy High School.

“When I first went to North Central, I wanted to do art conservation,” Bartz said in a telephone interview.

Then during her first week of school, North Central conducted “orientation week” activities where all the different departments put on displays for students, and professors were available to talk to the incoming students.

Bartz, who has long been interested in science as well as art, decided to talk with one of the chemistry professors about the importance of science in art conservation. That’s when she found out that North Central had just come up with a brand-new degree program in chemical microscopy.

Bartz promptly decided that was a degree she wanted to pursue.

Chemical microscopy involves the use of high-tech microscopes to solve various chemistry problems, such as particle identification and materials analysis.

These are skills that are becoming increasingly important in a variety of fields, including crime scene investigations. The same skills can also be applied to art conservation — where powerful microscopes can help analyze the makeup of valuable paintings and other works of art during the preservation and restoration process.

Just before Bartz started her college career, North Central College and the Hooke College of Applied Science in Westmont announced a partnership to begin offering the nation’s first four-year degree in chemical microscopy. Bartz would become one of the program’s first students and, now, its first graduate.

Under the partnership arrangement, students receive a broad liberal arts education during their first three years of study at North Central. Then in their fourth year, students work with faculty at Hooke College’s learning center. Many of the instructors there are senior research scientists with McCrone Associates Inc., which is internationally recognized for its work in materials science.

Bartz is now finishing her studies at Hooke and is on track to graduate June 13.

“With the well-rounded liberal arts education she received at North Central College followed by the hands-on experience and practical knowledge that she received at the Hooke College of Applied Sciences, Marissa is extremely well prepared to proceed to graduate school or enter into a career,” Jeff Jankowski, associate professor of chemistry at North Central, said in press release issued by the college.

Bartz told The Herald-Whig she plans to take off the next year before she enrolls in a graduate school to continue her education.

“I’ve been going non-stop for a very long time,” she said. “My brain needs a little bit of a break.”

Bartz said she’s hoping to land a non-paid internship this summer with an art conservation organization to gain some experience.

“A lot of the art conservation programs in grad schools require you to have some volunteer hours under a conservationist before you can apply for the program,” she said.

Bartz’s twin sister, Kayla, also is a senior at North Central College. Kayla will be graduating this spring with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in neuroscience. She intends to enter graduate school next fall.

Full press release available