In memory of Prof. James P. Reilly 1950 – 2022

IU Chemistry’s beloved colleague Professor James P. Reilly passed away on Sunday, 13 February 2022. Jim was a patient and dedicated mentor to his research group, and a gentle, stable pillar of our department, and he will be greatly missed.

Jim was a native of Mt. Vernon, NY. He attended Princeton University, earning his A.B. in Chemistry in 1972. He was the recipient of the William Foster Memorial Prize and the Robert Thornton McKay Prize while there. He spent a year at Cambridge University as a Winston Churchill Scholar after graduating from Princeton.

He completed his graduate studies in Physical Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, working with Profs. George Pimentel and Brad Moore, pioneers in the use of lasers in electronic spectroscopy. He returned to Europe as a Guest Researcher at the Max Plank Institute, where he conducted research on the development of UV lasers and their applications.

Jim joined the Chemistry Department at IU in 1979, receiving the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation Young Faculty Award in the same year. In 1982, he was recognized as an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow, and in 1983, was named a Camille and Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar. He was tenured in 1984 and promoted to full professor in 1987.

Jim served as the Chair of the Department 2007-2010. His time as chair was distinguished by a year during which 5 new faculty were hired, including two women.

Over the course of his career at IU, Jim’s research footprint expanded impactfully from his original area of electronic spectroscopy. Jim and his research group advanced the capabilities and resolution of matrix assisted-laser desorption ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF), and they applied their mass spectrometric methods toward bacterial fingerprinting, protein identification by peptide mass mapping, and oligonucleotide characterization. Results of these fingerprinting studies motivated further exploration of ribosomal proteins by MALDI and multi-dimensional liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry. Jim and coworkers additionally advanced efforts in peptide sequencing using VUV photofragmentation of biomolecules and creating cross-linkers to probe protein tertiary structure. Jim published over 200 papers during his career, and succeeded with approximately 15 patents.

Jim is survived by his wife Mary, and his sons Colin and Austin, who shared his scientific curiosity.

A personal reflection by our Assistant Chair (a former Reilly student) may be found here.