Two Texas A&M University chemists have been selected to receive 2015 American Chemical Society Awards in recognition of their excellence and achievements in chemistry.

Dr. Kim R. Dunbar, distinguished professor of chemistry, and Dr. Vickie M. Williamson, instructional assistant professor of chemistry, are among 78 North American chemists -- including three from Texas universities -- recently unveiled as ACS Award winners in the August 11 issue of Chemical & Engineering News. Dunbar received the ACS Award for Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Inorganic Chemistry sponsored by Strem Chemicals Inc., while Williamson earned the ACS Award for Achievement in Research for the Teaching and Learning of Chemistry sponsored by Pearson Education.

Dunbar is cited for "outstanding achievements in the field of coordination compounds as magnetic and conducting materials and for extraordinary service in inorganic chemistry." Williamson is cited for "cutting-edge contributions to chemical education research on the visualization of the particulate nature of matter." Each will receive $5,000 and a certificate as part of an awards ceremony next spring in conjunction with the 249th ACS National Meeting & Exposition, set for March 22-26 in Denver.

The ACS Award for Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Inorganic Chemistry was established in 1963 to recognize individuals who have advanced inorganic chemistry by significant service in addition to performance of outstanding research. The ACS Award for Achievement in Research for the Teaching and Learning of Chemistry, established in 2007, recognizes contributions to experimental research that have increased our understanding of chemical pedagogy and led to the improved teaching and learning of chemistry.

"The chemistry department is highly recognized both nationally and internationally for leadership in research and education, as evidenced by these awards," said Dr. David H. Russell, Applied Biosystems/MDS Sciex Professor of Mass Spectrometry in Chemistry and head of the Department of Chemistry. "Professor Dunbar is a leader in her field of research, and Dr. Williamson is equally regarded in her field of chemical education and research, both of which underscore the seminal role the Department of Chemistry plays with respect to the Texas A&M University mission of research and teaching in service to Texas."

Dunbar, an international expert in synthetic and physical inorganic chemistry, is the second female recipient of the ACS's top award for inorganic chemistry in its 52-year history -- the first being fellow Texas A&M Distinguished Professor of Chemistry Marcetta Y. Darensbourg in 1995. Other previous Texas A&M recipients include F. Albert Cotton (1974), Arthur E. Martell (1980) and John P. Fackler Jr. (2001).

Dunbar joined the Texas A&M Chemistry faculty in 1999 after serving a number of years on the faculty at Michigan State University. In 2004, she was named a Davidson Professor of Science and a joint holder of the Davidson Chair in Science, meriting particular distinction as the first female chair holder in the College of Science. In 2007, she was named a distinguished professor of chemistry, Texas A&M's highest academic faculty rank.

Dunbar's use of structure and bonding relationships to explain physical and chemical phenomena has redirected and focused the work of researchers worldwide. A 2011 ACS Fellow, she has been honored with an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship, a Camille and Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, and fellowships in both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Institute of Chemists. She is also a two-time recipient of the Texas A&M Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement Award -- the inaugural Graduate Mentoring Award in 2006 and another in Research in 2012. In 2012 she earned the first Texas A&M Women Former Students' Network (WFSN) Eminent Scholar Award. Also in May 2012, Dunbar was awarded an honorary doctorate degree from her undergraduate alma mater, Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pa., which at the time was ranked first in the nation by Forbes.com as "Best College for Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)."

"I am honored to be selected to join the ranks of the esteemed inorganic chemists and particularly my Texas A&M colleagues who have received this award over the past five decades," Dunbar said. "I share this achievement with the many students, postdocs and collaborators who have generously shared their ideas, passion and insight with me. The award is not only for me but for all of them as well."

Williamson, whose research focuses on visualization in chemical education, is cited by other researchers and practitioners alike, as evidenced by her ACS nomination -- a collaborative effort of three different universities other than Texas A&M. She is the ninth recipient of the ACS's international award to recognize research contributions involving a significant body of work rather than a single project or contribution.

Williamson joined the Texas A&M Chemistry faculty in 1997 after serving a number of years on the faculty at Illinois State University. A member of Chemistry's First Year Program, she has successfully balanced teaching some of the department's largest introductory lecture courses, Chemistry 101 and 102, while conducting research designed to improve the teaching and learning of chemistry, often with undergraduate research assistants.

Williamson served as a keynote speaker at the recent European Conference on Research in Chemical Education and as a chemical education research feature editor for the Journal of Chemical Education from 2002 to 2010. She served on the national ACS Division of Chemical Education Research Committee for two consecutive terms from 2000 to 2005, subsequently chairing the committee from 2011 to 2014. She has worked with the National Science Foundation to fund her own research and to evaluate the mini-grants given at the Gordon Research Conference on Visualization and Science Education. In addition, Williamson has worked with a number of students in the department's former master's of science in chemical education program, directing the chemical education research projects for the degrees and teaching graduate courses in chemical education. She was honored with a 2014 Texas A&M Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement Award for Teaching and has worked with nearly 20,000 undergraduate students during her 16 years. Her student evaluations -- many which cite her skillful demonstrations of chemistry concepts -- are among the best department-wide.

"The receipt of this honored award is humbling," Williamson said. "I believe that learning is an active process in which the individual builds or constructs meaning from experiences and events, which must be integrated into their existing conceptual frameworks. As a chemical education researcher, my job is to investigate strategies that improve student learning."

Click here to see a complete list of 2015 ACS Award winners or learn more about individual awards.

For additional information of the Texas A&M Department of Chemistry, go to http://www.chem.tamu.edu.

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Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or shutchins@science.tamu.edu

Hutchins Shana

  • Dr. Kim R. Dunbar

  • Dr. Vickie M. Williamson

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