Jim Julca

My Memories
Jim Julca
Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus

Jim Julca
Jim Julca, Chemistry Emeritus


I earned my BS in chemistry at Pasadena College (now Point Loma Nazarene University), my MS at San Diego State College (now University). In July of 1959 I was hired as a research chemist at the Atomic Energy Project at UCLA (became Department of Nuclear Medicine and Radiation Biology). I enrolled in the doctoral program in chemistry.

On a seemingly uneventful day in December of 1960 my boss, Dr. Larry Myers, asked me, “How would you like to start a chemistry program at Santa Barbara City College?”

I answered, “Oh, sure !” I was convinced he was joking. But then he explained that his friend and former classmate Joe Cosand, President of SBCC, urgently wanted a young research chemist to build a chem department. Even so, the salary he could offer was ridiculously small. Joe Cosand was a former research chemist. He did not want a candidate with a bunch of education courses and a smidgen of chemistry.

Larry Myers was persuasive. “You have no family responsibilities. You would answer only to Joe (President Cosand insisted on being called “Joe”), who will be very sympathetic. Under Joe’s leadership the little college will grow ! You can complete the PhD program here at UCLA (you have so little left to finish), and you could live in Santa Barbara !”

I accepted. I went through the required interviews. With Joe we talked chemistry though he claimed he was obsolete. In transition from UCLA there was just one problem: I lost my security clearance at the Atomic Energy Project, hence access to my completed laboratory work (Effect of Ionizing Radiation on DNA Bases) which, though innocuous, was classified.

In 1961 I was 25 years old (and still had hair). I knew lots of chemistry but was green on teaching. Dave Williams was Chair, and the only teacher in both Geology and Chemistry. He was very happy to concentrate on Geology and leave Chemistry to me. He was very helpful in getting me started, as was Bill Miller, the only Physics teacher, and the Science Division Chair.

Joe encouraged me to visit Hank Bagish’s classes. What impressed me most was that, early in the semester, Hank appeared to know every student in his large class, and was friendly to all. As a cultural anthropologist I believe he could have charmed even hungry cannibals… Many of our talents are programmed by our genes.

In 1965 Pat Huglin, the SBCC Dean of Instruction, ran into a tall, debonair, smiling gentleman “just looking around” the administration building. Pat started a conversation. The gentleman was very articulate and had perfect diction. Pat asked him if he was a teacher. Yes, he taught microbiology at an Orange Coast College. Pat mentioned that we needed to establish an introductory chemistry course…The gentleman had a chemistry minor…

He passed the interviews with the science faculty with flying colors… His name is Raymond Francis O’Connor….. Suddenly the chemistry faculty had doubled.

Jim Julca


Very early on I had said to myself: “Jim, never forget that 99.9% of the reason for the existence of SBCC is the students – people!. So the Periodic Table, the equations, analysis, synthesis, are all extremely important, but must now be considered as food, as nutrients for hungry science students.”

‘Dalí’ MacFarland (1963), General Chemistry student, was a talented artist. He donated hours of his time helping me design and arm a beautiful exhibition in the outside display cases on the chemistry floor of the new science building.

A couple of years later came heartbreaking news he had been killed while leading a patrol in Viet Nam. He and his buddies were ambushed.

Young people shot to death!! For what? What to do but grieve. I forced myself to stand in the group organized by Ralph Vernon (Math) to protest the war. We would stand in silence at lunch time in front of the cafeteria. A large billboard presented the latest numbers of dead and wounded.

Don Ion: Top student in General Chemistry in 1982-83. After he had finished a certain test, he wrote a final comment, something like: “….the turn-over numbers in enzyme actions are too high to be explained by simple kinetics… could it be possible that induced polarity plays a part by causing a moiety in the substrate to rearrange its charge, causing nearly instantaneous attraction?” (biochemistry !, electricity !, magnetism !) Don earned an A in the test. . . and a flabbergasted teacher.

Don chose to remain at SBCC as a laboratory technician in physics. He seemed to spend as much time helping students as setting up labs.

He has a library of computer books and magazines. Don is an absolute expert on Macs and PCs, or just about any technical question in a community college.

My own impression: were there a Service per Dollar Earned category at SBCC, Don would rate at the very top.
(Enjoy a video of his lecture on TORQUE : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THQkIYv9LqQ )

The Vintage Year (1983-84)

I had more “A students” than any before or after, particularly in the second semester of Chem 156. There were Craig Lewis, John Richards, John Saad, Eric Wilmot, Mir Merry, Dean Rice, Kelly Abott, Stephen Ask, John Saito….. Regretfully I have no information on any of these outstanding students except for Mir Merry.

Mir Merry (1983-84)      is at present an Engineering Vice President of Applied Materials (Silicon Valley giant). He studied for 2 years at SBCC (1983-5). He earned A grades in both semesters of General Chemistry. He was particularly well organized and successful in the laboratory (due to his training in the Israeli navy ?). He transferred to UC Berkeley where he earned BS and MS degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Robotics. On October 21, 2013, he gave an outstanding lecture on Innovation from a Silicon Valley Perspective, broadcast by the University of California Television Channel.


Zheng Gao (1985)      He asked me a silly question after an early lecture in Chem 156: “Zheng, you had that in Chem 155 !” “I did not take Chem 155…” After talking further with him I decided to give him a break. I kept him in the course, directed him to study the first half of the book, and to see me often. He ended up as number one in Chem 156. Zheng earned a BS in engineering at UCLA, went on to get his master’s in business administration at Harvard University, and then returned to Shanghai where his mother holds an important position

Angela Belcher (1986-1988)      was a “straight A” student at SBCC and winner of the prestigious President’s Scholarship. At present she is Professor of Energy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
* She was recipient of a MacArthur “genius” award in 2004 ($500,000). At UCSB Angie had the brilliant idea of employing viruses to grow inorganic crystals…and then semiconductors. Her early success brought her fame.. She received offers of associate professorships from several top universities. She chose MIT. The Belcher team was able to construct useful devices such as solar cells and nanobatteries… http://electroiq.com/blog/2004/09/mit-researcher-angela-belcher-named-2004-macarthur-fellow/
* Most remarkable was her recognition as Research Leader of the Year 2006, by Scientific American: 50 top leaders were selected world-wide and ranked. Angela was chosen as number one. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/scientific-american-50-re/
* In 2013 she was recipient of Lemelson-MIT “inventor” prize (another $500,000). The Belcher team designed and constructed catalysts for synthesizing ethylene from natural gas. Ethylene is the most versatile of starting materials for synthesis, 140 million tons are used annually. To take advantage of her accomplishment Angie founded the Siluria Technologies company in 2008. Over $93 million have been invested by venture capitalists.
http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2013/belcher-wins-lemelson-mit-500k-award-0604 http://www.aiche.org/chenected/2014/08/saudi-arabia-pays-30-million-prof-angela-belchers-biotechnology
* At present Dr. Belcher is involved in cancer research at the Koch Institute at MIT: Certain viruses are engineered to seek out tumors. http://www.technologyreview.com/article/520191/adventures-on-the-intellectual-playground/

I have had the privilege of teaching chemistry to many other brilliant, committed students: Mike Silvestry, Alan Meisner, Mary Pickens, Jeff Childers, Dana Fong, . . . and many more. I made an effort to keep in touch with former students after my retirement 19 years ago. Little by little they vanish… Except for Angie.


My students have expressed their gratitude in many different ways: See’s candy, photos with their babies, Alfred E. Newman for President poster, Peruvian beer. . . . I know that a teacher is not supposed to accept gifts, however I never turned any down. Not good to hurt your student’s feelings, you know. . . .

Some recognitions were quite unusual…

1. On the day of the final exam in Chem 156, I entered PS101 with a stack of test booklets. Right behind me entered: ¡A BELLY DANCER!… She set down her recorder, turned on the music and started her routine…. A group of students (the conspirators) applauded …¡ BRAVO !!!… A few students groaned… Their instructor was petrified…

After he came to, he searched for his wallet to buy his way out… to no avail… The lady answered with gestures inviting him to dance…. 5 minutes passed and finally a merciful clock-alarm sounded.. The dancer picked up her recorder and smiled… The instructor said “Thank you… I hope your performance will improve the grades”… Then to the class: “I am extending the time, 15 minutes more”…and distributed the test booklets…. It is likely my imagination, but I believe grades may have improved a bit….

2. My Chem 156 class was busy in the laboratory doing their titrations. In comes Bev Ferro, a former student, holding her 1 year old baby. She had been showing him off around the college. She introduced him to me and asked me if I wanted to hold him. Of course I wanted to hold the happy little fellow. . .whereupon Bev proclaimed out loud: ¡¡HE SURE KNOWS HIS DADDY!!!

I broke into cold sweat. . .Carefully I tried to return the baby. . .But Bev responded in a reproachful voice: DON’T YOU LIKE YOUR LITTLE BOY??

The class that had been laughing broke into applause. One voice proclaimed

One by one, others followed suit. The baby seemed puzzled, but was happy to be back in his mother’s arms… I announced: “I am extending the lab time, 15 minutes more”



I maintain contact with SBCC. I visit the gym three times per week… Keeps me alive…. The population is changing. It is still mainly young Santa Barbarans but there are many from other states, and also Europeans, Orientals, Latin Americans, Middle-Easterners….They all get along so well… It is a happy mixture … It is refreshing to be among young people.

I believe that the most valuable benefit that SBCC offers its retirees is the use of the gym via auditing… Not very many take advantage… My latest count is one…

I use the Emeritus Golden Card mainly mit meine Frau, for musical events and plays.

At home I spend time with Google. It is fun to discover what is new in chemistry, particularly Angie’s research…..

I have revitalized my old motto: Extra Chemia non est Vita.


(1961 to about 2011)

Jim Julca.    Hired 1961, retired 1996, thereafter he held post-retirement contracts.

Ray O’Connor.    He was hired in 1965. He met our highest expectations.. On his desk he had a jar with a sign: RELAX !! HAVE SOME CANDY! He had frequent visitors with questions about chemistry and not just for the candy. Students held him in very high regard.

Before becoming a teacher he had held research appointments at Merck, Sharp and Dohme, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of California at Berkeley.

While at SBCC he wrote a chemistry text for the health sciences and laboratory manuals for chemistry and biology. He became president of the Academic Senate, and was chairman of the Chemistry Department and of the Division of Physical Science and Engineering

His colleagues at SBCC selected him as Annual Faculty Lecturer for 1984-5. His topic: Science, Technology, and 
The Prospects for Utopia

Klaus Wills.      He is a brilliant, hard-working, highly organized teacher. He has an extraordinary sense of humor. He would come up with a new name for himself at the beginning of every semester… In the fall it might be Dr. Kim S. Tree…In the spring, Dr. Moe LeCule, in the summer Dr. Uhn der Payde, . . . or Dr. Staff (the catalogue shows hundreds of classes taught by “Staff”).

But he also had a high sense of responsibility. In the late 1970’s there was a thorny personnel problem. At a critical point Klaus accepted the department chair and went through hell until the problem was solved. One summer a fellow teacher faced delicate surgery. There was a strong possibility that his class would have to be cancelled. But Klaus took it over, to the relief of many grateful students.

Students often have a knack for describing their teachers. Here are two consecutive evaluations of Dr. Wills (from “RATE MY PROFESSORS”)

1. I highly recommend Dr. Wills if you’re a motivated student interested in chemistry. He is hilarious! He makes you work hard, but if you use your common sense he will help you during every lab. I currently have a 100% in lab and I’m not a Science major, I just work hard! Arrive on time unless you want to be embarrassed when you walk in late.

2. If you’re a hard worker, you will enjoy his class. If your lazy like me, you will do poorly and he will be very mean and sarcastic towards you. He wrote some very cruel, inappropriate comments on one of my papers because I did exceptionally poorly on it….

Gary Carroll.          My office was right next to the “lecture-area” of a lab, where students gather to hear the explanation of the experiment to be performed. Gary could make even these explanations interesting…Here is one example: “…If you do get sodium hydroxide on your finger it will feel slippery… this is because the sodium hydroxide has reacted with the fat on your skin and changed it to soap…” I could hear the groans…

Angie Belcher had him for organic chemistry. After an early test she was very upset: “He hates us.” But that didn’t last long. Angie’s reaction was to completely master the material. She won the Organic Chemistry Award. When she and Yoky came from their lofty academic institutions to SBCC to initiate the Centennial Celebration, Angie sought Gary to thank him for a very substantial organic chemistry course.

Gary always rated very high in student surveys.

Gary joined the SBCC Chemistry Department in 1976. While teaching full time at SBCC he also enrolled as a full time graduate student at UCSB. After five years of perseverance he obtained his PhD degree, with honors.

In 1981 Dr. Gary Carroll became Chemistry Department Chair. In 1991 he was elected President of the Academic Senate. His colleagues at SBCC selected him as Annual Faculty Lecturer for 1995-6. His topic: The Chemistry of Everyday Things.

Bernard Brennan.       Dr. Brennan joined the Chemistry Department at SBCC in 1982. I shared an office with him for several years. He has a very pleasant, congenial personality. He was committed to student success. He believed in firm, enforceable standards, equally applicable to all the students in his classes.

On Saturdays Bernie would grade papers. He would spread them out on the lab tables, so that he could grade “question 1” on each and every paper before doing “question 2”. This would assure that each question was considered equally for every student. He was apparently stingy on partial credit. He did not like half answers.

To some extent he may have acted like a strict parent. And perhaps he had the expertise: His three children have been tremendously successful – first at soccer (he was the coach of the 2 boys and the girl),… then they all attended medical and dental schools. One is a highly regarded pediatrician at Sansum, another is a successful local endodontist, the youngest is also an MD….

I have the belief that anybody that completed Dr. Brennan’s class would very likely be successful for life.

Sally Ghizzoni.     One of the most impressive characteristics of Dr. Ghizzoni is her determination to try to keep up with the prodigious field of Chemistry. She was euphoric over the visit of Angie Belcher to SBCC a few days after her selection as Research Leader of the Year by Scientific American. She obtained a complete set of compact disks of Angie’s research at MIT… And she was thrilled by the fact that her top student had taken thorough notes of Angie’s presentation.

Sally also makes an effort to keep up with modern technology. She was the local expert that I could consult when I needed to work out something unusual on the PowerMac… Recently she has recorded her chemistry lectures on video. Most impressive is the one where she explains the structure of propadiene, using a huge molecular model….. www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9xi5tTtIO4

Sally joined the Chemistry Department in 1992. She became Department Chair in 1995.


On Jim Julca’s Retirement, 1996

by Ray O’Connor

Jim Julca Retires

When Jim retired in 1996, only Henry Bagish had served the college longer. Yet, “J.J.”, as he is called by those who know him well, characteristically shunned the limelight, as he had for his 35 years in the classroom. He never entered the arena of campus politics, preferring to devote his energies to his students and to committee work. At one time or another he was a member of almost every committee. Along with John Romo, he also served on a panel of community members which explored ways of increasing and retaining enrollment by Hispanic students.

Jim’s odyssey, which brought him to SBCC, began in the thin air of the Peruvian Andes, in a tiny village called Chota — so far off the beaten track that a truck from the coast made the trip only about once a year. His father, a Peruvian, was a minister, and his mother, a native of Santa Barbara, was a missionary nurse.

When Jim was 17, his mother brought him to the States, and he attended Pasadena College, graduating in 1957. His parents wanted him to become a doctor, but J.J. was inspired by one of his teachers to become a chemist. He started work on a master’s degree at San Diego State, and finished it in 1959 at UCLA where he had gone to work at the medical school’s Atomic Energy Research Lab, studying the effects of ionizing radiation.

In the post-sputnik emphasis on science, there were numerous vacancies for teachers, and Jim was hired by Dr. Joe Cosand to be the “chemistry faculty”, with part-time assistance from Dave Williams, a geologist. He recalls that the entire faculty (about 30) used to eat lunch together in a faculty room on the second floor of the administration building.

In his quietly methodical way, J.J. guided several generations of students through the intricacies of chemistry. Students who sought his help came to appreciate his availability and his limitless patience. He was dependable as the tides, taking only a one-semester sabbatical in 1970 to develop a series of experiments which would become the core of the General Chemistry laboratory experience.

Jim is teaching on a post-retirement contract and planning to write about the way of life which he left behind in the Andes.

Faculty Voice, Spring, 1997, p. 8


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