Chair’s Letter Fall 2020

Dear IU Chemistry Colleagues, Alumni, and Friends, 

Welcome to our second issue of our Association of Indiana University Chemists Alumni Journal, released in the bicentennial year of Indiana University.  The world has changed in so many ways since our last edition.  As with the rest of the country and world, the Department of Chemistry underwent seismic upheaval this past March.  A week was added to spring break to allow the department and the rest of the University to adapt all instruction to online formats, something that would not have been possible without the concerted efforts of the teaching faculty, the research faculty, our tireless cohort of AIs, our academic office staff, and the incredibly supportive and resourceful Chem ITG.  Our research labs were sent into hibernation except for the most essential research.  All this tumult was the backdrop to the devastating loss of our most beloved colleague, Prof. Dennis G. Peters.  We still feel his absence, and long for the time when we can gather safely to celebrate his life and decades of research, teaching, and service.  His video tribute remains on our website, for those of you who have not yet seen it.  

Despite all that has happened, we have carried on as a department.  In the past year, we celebrated the well-deserved promotions of several of our colleaguesProf. Tom Snaddon was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure, and Prof. Srini Iyengar was promoted to the rank of full professor Prof. David Giedroc and Prof. Dave Williams joined the ranks of the IU’s Distinguished Professors.  Each gave a lecture highlighting their research.  David Giedroc’s may be found here; David Williams’s may be found here.  We also celebrated the promotions of a number of our incredibly talented scientists who are essential to our research mission.  A number of our colleagues also took on administrative duties:  Prof. Nikki Pohl joined the ranks of College administration, being named the Associate Dean of Natural and Mathematical Sciences and Research, and Prof. Martha Oakley was elevated to Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education.  Senior Scientist Jonathan Karty stepped into the role of Assistant Chair for Administration, and Prof. Charles Dann III is now serving as Associate Chair of the department.  

We have several new faces amongst our excellent support staff.  Jennifer McCloud has stepped into the HR role in the business office, and Talia Anderson took on the challenging Director of Business position.  The department also saw the retirements of several highly valued members of our community, including Rick Hackler, our stalwart pillar in Shipping and Receiving, and Linda Cage, our resourceful purchasing representative.  We thank them for their decades of dedication and support! 

It will come as no surprise to learn that our excellent faculty have continued to be recognized with honors and awards at all levels.  A particularly high-profile example is Prof. Sara Skrabalak’s appointment as Editor-in-Chief of both Chemistry of Materials and ACS Materials Letters.  In addition, on the national level, the late Prof. Dennis Peters received the Roland F. Hirsch Award for Distinguished Service by the American Chemical Society Division of Analytical Chemistry, and yours truly was deeply humbled and very grateful to be awarded the 2020 Francis P. Garvan-John M. Olin Medal.   

At the University level, Prof. Jonathan Schlebach was recognized by the University-level honor of Outstanding Junior Faculty, and Prof. Martha Oakley the prestigious Distinguished Teaching Award.   Prof. Trevor Douglas, Prof. Jonathan Schlebach, and Prof. Ben Burlingham received the 2020 Trustees Teaching Award.  And 13 of our esteemed colleagues were awarded the Bicentennial Medal, awarded to individuals who have broadened the reach of IU around the state, nation, and world.  Recipients include Profs. Ken Caulton, David Clemmer, Richard DiMarchi, David Giedroc, Gary Hieftje, Milos Novotny, Peter Ortoleva, Charles Parmenter, Nikki Pohl, Krishnan Raghavachari, Allen Siedle, Victor Viola, and David Williams. 

One big event that did not make it into last year’s letter was the 46th National Organic Symposium co-organized by Prof. Silas Cook and Prof. Kevin Brown, which was held at IU in Jun 2019.  This event brought a large international cohort of organic chemists to the beautiful Bloomington Campus.  Since then, as one might expect, a number of our annual in-person events were postponed this year.  However, December of 2019 brought in the inaugural Graduate Research Symposium, organized by Prof. Kevin Brown and the graduate student representative committee (ChemGRC).  The 2020 symposium has been postponed to the spring, with the hope of an in-person venue.  This year’s PINDU was successfully held over Zoom, as was our Chemistry Graduation Ceremony held in May, 2020.  Our seminar series has been ramping up on Zoom, and indeed, the virtual platform has paved the way for a wider, more international slate of seminar speakers! 

This issue of the Alumni Journal highlights some of the exciting research of our award-winning graduate students.  In addition, we are very excited to now have an ACS Bridge Program established in our graduate program.  Funded by the ACS, the University Graduate School, the College and the Department, this program provides a bridge to the PhD program for students who might not have considered pursuing graduate education.  Based on Bridge Programs established in STEM departments across the nation, the impact on diversifying our graduate cohort may be profound.  More information on the program is included in this Journal- If you would like to support our efforts to broaden participation in our Department, please consider donating to our Diversity Enrichment Fund.   

Since early July, 2020, our research enterprise has been steadily recovering, adhering to COVID safety protocols. This has been an exceptionally challenging time for the department, with very deep budget cuts and uncertainty about funding from the university, state, and federal agencies over the next few years as the country and world feel the impacts of the pandemic.  It would be impossible to educate the next generation of chemists and keep our department at the forefront of research without your generous support, for which we are profoundly grateful.  Because of you, our undergraduate program remains among the strongest in the College, our graduate program is thriving, and our excellent faculty can continue at the highest level of excellence in research.   

It is impossible to touch on all of the exciting developments in one letter, so I hope you enjoy the full online version of our Alumni Journal, which includes articles covering our undergrads, grads, faculty, staff, and alumni, on topics ranging from the successful new entrepreneurial enterprises, to upgrades to our shared research facilitiesAdditional news updates are regularly posted on the Chemistry website: keep in touch, and once we’re on the other side of the pandemic, be sure to stop in to see us! 

Caroline Chick Jarrold 
Chair, Department of Chemistry 
Herman B Wells Endowed Professor