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Tinnerman Prepares Chemistry Students for Pre-Health Fields

Tinnerman Prepares Chemistry Students for Pre-Health FieldsIn corked bottles and gallon jugs in Robertson Hall, students prepare wine or vinegar from fruits like grapes, strawberries or peaches (or any fermentable carbohydrate). The experiment is part of Dr. Bill Tinnerman’s organic chemistry lab, which requires students to prepare a wine alcohol from their own recipe and write a term paper on the chemistry involved in the preparation of wine. It is a way to show students how science is part of daily life.

“This is one of the organic chemistry labs the students look forward to doing,” Tinnerman said. “They go through the chemistry of making the wine, so they can see the biochemistry and biological processes that go into fermentation. I use it as a launch pad for how chemistry is involved in everyday life.”

View a video of sample class by Dr. Tinnerman with current chemistry students and a successful alumni physician.

Tinnerman, a professor of chemistry, has taught at the University of St. Thomas for nearly 35 years, and seeing students grasp the difficult material motivates him to keep teaching.

“I enjoy seeing when a student starts to catch on to an understanding of organic chemistry – when they can respond with a reasonably well-thought-out solution,” he said. “Sometimes, long after the course is over they come by or send a note and say they did well on an admissions test or exam on that subject.”

Chemistry courses are part of the University’s successful pre-health professions program that prepares students for medical, dental, pharmacy and veterinary schools in Texas and beyond. UST currently has at least one student in every medical school in Texas, with an 82 percent interview rate for medical school students and a 70 percent acceptance rate over the past 5 years.

“The University has had a very good success rate of students getting into schools,” Tinnerman said. “There’s something special about what we do because we’re small.”

UST’s pre-health professions programs include pre-dental, pre-medical, pre-nursing, pre-optometry, pre-pharmacy, pre-physician’s assistant, pre-physical therapy and pre-veterinary programs.

It is through individual attention, which includes learning every student’s name by the second week of class, providing office and home phone numbers, and offering volunteer help sessions, that Tinnerman is able to motivate students to learn organic chemical concepts. The preparation gives students the ability to achieve a career in the health professions.

Tinnerman Prepares Chemistry Students for Pre-Health Fields“I will stop whatever I’m doing, short of teaching lab, for students who come by,” he said. “The biggest hurdle I have is convincing students that I’m here to help them learn the material. When they ask questions and come by for help, they’ll get as close to individual attention as they can get.”

And for someone who lives about 60 miles from campus in Anahuac, Texas, providing extra help outside of class can mean long days. But Tinnerman is even willing to open his home to students during an annual backyard picnic. On a Saturday before spring finals, he cooks barbecue brisket, sausage, boiled crawfish, corn on the cob, new potatoes and baked beans for all the chemistry majors – current and past.

“There’s no RSVP required, so I never know how many we’ll have,” he said. “There always seems to be a surprise person, such as someone I taught 10 years before, or sometimes a parent and child, and I’ve taught both.”

It is Tinnerman’s patience, tenacity and genuine concern for others that has made him a pillar of the Chemistry Department and helped prepare hundreds of students for success in graduate school and their careers.

To learn more about a degree in chemistry at UST, email Dr. Tinnerman at or call 713-525-2135.