Science and math add up

From left, Steven Smith ('07) and his parents, Carol ('78 M.S.) and George ('72, '76 M.S.) Smith, studied science and math at UNT, along with his grandparents, Donald ('48) and Jean Beal Richmond. (Courtesy of the Smith Family)

 

Running through the genes of the Smith family is a love for science and math — and for UNT. Steven Smith ('07), his parents and grandparents all pursued professional careers that began with a solid math and science foundation at the university.

Steven's parents, George ('72, '76 M.S.) and Carol ('78 M.S.) Smith, met on campus in the mid 1970s when both were studying for master's degrees in biology.

A New York native, George was stationed in Mineral Wells after being deployed to Vietnam. After leaving the U.S. Army, he decided to stay in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and attend UNT.

"We both received extremely good educations at UNT, so that when we moved on to higher degrees, we were as well prepared as if not better prepared than anybody we went to school with," George says. "We were thrilled to see Steven go to UNT. He even was in classes with our biology professors Earl Zimmerman and Lloyd Fitzpatrick."

After marrying, George and Carol continued their science and medical educations. Carol earned a Ph.D. in molecular genetics at the University of Houston, and George earned his D.D.S. at the University of Texas dental branch in Houston. Together, the Smiths have run George's dental practice in Plano for more than 20 years.

Carol's parents, Donald ('48) and Jean Beal Richmond, met in a math course at UNT — Jean, a student at Texas Woman's University, was auditing the class — and both went on to earn Ph.D.s in mathematics. The Richmonds worked as code breakers for the National Security Agency during the Korean War, after which Jean became a mathematics professor at Southern Methodist University and Donald became a vice president at Texas Instruments.

Continuing the legacy of science and math studies at UNT, Steven earned a bachelor's degree in biology and is now a postdoctoral fellow attending medical school at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. He says his years at UNT brought his family's connection with the university full circle.

"My grandfather loved his time there, especially in the chemistry department," he says. "It was great taking chemistry lab classes in Masters Hall using the same stone lab benches my grandfather had."

Steven says his parents' academic success helped him decide to turn math and science into a profession.

"The love they have for their careers in science and math was something I wanted to strive toward too — a way to make a difference in people's lives," he says.

Now considering pediatrics or orthopedic surgery as his specialties after medical school, Steven chose UNT for the family connection, but also because it offered art and culture in addition to challenging science and math programs.

"Science is tough and slow, fraught with failure and tiny victories," he says. "The hard work I did at UNT helped to prepare me for that reality, mentally and emotionally — to persevere."

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