Donna J. Nelson
The 2016 President of the American Chemical Society, Dr. Donna J. Nelson is a professor of chemistry at the University of Oklahoma where she specializes in teaching and research in organic chemistry. Her work has been described has having five primary topics that can be sorted into two areas: the first scientific research, the second American’s scientific readiness.
Dr. Nelson’s organic chemistry research has focused on the mechanistic patterns in alkene addition reactions and single-walled carbon nanotubes functionalization and analysis. In studying alkenes she has examined the mechanisms of important addition reactions of these organic structures including hydrobration, bromination, and oxymercuration. Applying this knowledge to further studies, she began examining the effects of substituent upon Single-Walled Carbon Nanotube construction using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy.
Concerned with America’s scientific readiness, Nelson focuses on science education, ethnic and gender diversity among highly ranked science departments at research universities, and improving the presentation of science and images of scientists to the public. As a teacher she strives to find the very best teaching materials for herself and share these with others–including reviews of organic chemistry textbooks for accuracy and clarity and developing visual learning devices for her students to use that have been incorporated into a number of textbooks.
Starting in 2002 and last published in 2012 she has presented the Nelson Diversity Surveys, a collection of data sets that quantify the representation of women and minorities among professors at research universities in science and engineering disciplines. Her findings show that women and minorities are much less represented among professors than degree recipients in the top 50 departments of 15 science and engineering disciplines. These findings, shared for free, are often cited by newspapers, journals, textbooks, and even used as part of a report given before congress.
She is also an advocate for scientific accuracy in the media and was one of the science advisors for the television show Breaking Bad. She has organized symposiums on Hollywood chemistry for the American Chemical Society.
Written by Angela Goad