Retired husband-and-wife professors publish second chemistry textbook

Drs. Jeffrey Gaffney and Nancy Marley are enjoying their retirement from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, but the couple does not see retirement as an excuse to remain idle when they still have important academic lessons to share.

Drs. Jeffrey Gaffney and Nancy Marley are enjoying their retirement from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, but the couple does not see retirement as an excuse to remain idle when they still have important academic lessons to share.

The husband and wife team, both retired professors, published their second chemistry textbook. Wiley published “Chemistry of Environmental Systems: Fundamental Principles and Analytical Methods” in November 2019.

“We think of this as a legacy,” Gaffney said. “Both of us have a tremendous amount of experience. We wanted to leave a legacy for something that people could go to as a reference to understand fundamental principles. We thought it was important, especially with all the continuing environmental problems like climate change facing the world.”

Written for students of environmental chemistry, environmental science, environmental engineering, geoscience, Earth and atmospheric sciences, the textbook offers a comprehensive review of modern environmental chemistry and discusses the chemistry and interconnections between the atmosphere, hydrosphere, geosphere, and biosphere.

Having previously taught an environmental chemistry class at UA Little Rock, Gaffney wanted to provide a newer, comprehensive textbook for college students.

“I was teaching this class for years, and there wasn’t a textbook that was comprehensive enough,” Gaffney said. “I had previously been contacted about rewriting one of the textbooks I had been using that was written in 1978, and I didn’t feel like that made sense. My wife and I wanted to come up with a better, more modern textbook for students.”

Before coming to UA Little Rock, Gaffney and Marley worked at Argonne National Laboratory for 18 years. They worked with engineers in the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Labs and realized that engineers need a working knowledge of chemistry to be successful.

Gaffney served as a senior chemist at three of the U.S. Department of Energy Labs and was the lead scientist for the DOE Atmospheric Science Program’s Megacity Aerosol Experiment in Mexico City. Marley worked as a senior chemist at the Florida State Department of Environmental Regulation and the Florida State Childhood Lead Poisoning Program before joining Argonne. Both Gaffney and Marley served as mentors of the DOE Global Change Education Program.

“My wife and I celebrated our 29th wedding anniversary in December, and we have been working together as a team for 31 years,” Gaffney said. “The two of us together have a lot of experience. Writing this textbook was not an easy thing to do, as we found out. We’ve been writing it together for three years. My wife actually fell and broke her shoulder in three places last January just after we submitted the draft to the publisher.”

Marley, who worked as a research associate professor in applied science, beat her husband to retirement in 2013. Gaffney served as the chair of the Department of Chemistry from 2006 to 2016 when he retired as an emeritus professor.

The couple published their first joint textbook, “General Chemistry for Engineers,” in November 2017 by Elsevier, though they started writing the textbook a year before Gaffney retired. After joining the faculty at UA Little Rock, Gaffney developed a course called General Chemistry for Engineers, which led to an interest in writing a textbook to help engineering students learn chemistry skills.

“This book was started to fill a need for a one-semester course in chemistry for engineers and also as a textbook for engineers to refresh their chemistry skills,” Gaffney said. “It was written with ABET requirements in mind and makes use of case studies to connect engineering to chemistry.”

The couple’s first journey as joint authors came with the publishing of their 2014 book, “Confessions of a Birdaholic: A Journey from Cockatiels to Cockatoos and Beyond.” As self-described birdaholics, the book describes the couple’s hilarious journey from innocently owning a few birds to their addiction to everything bird-related.

While the professors have no plans to write another textbook, they have discovered a love of jewelry making in the past few years and plan to start selling jewelry locally as a small business.

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