Academic Spotlight
Faculty Research, Performance and Exhibitions

O'Leary Brings Dynamic Teaching, Research to Chemistry Department

Story posted September 02, 2008

Daniel J. O'Leary, a highly respected organic chemist, has joined the Bowdoin faculty, with tenure, as the first John S. Osterweis Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

Dan Oleary

He comes to the College from Pomona College, where he has taught since 1994. While at Pomona, he was a champion of high-level undergraduate research and was awarded the college's highest teaching award three times.

O'Leary's own research uses the power of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to investigate hydrogen bonding and the effect of structural modifications in molecules with biological relevance, such as carbohydrates and proteins. He is also part of a research collaborative, which includes a Nobel laureate, working on a group of newly invented catalysts that have opened up exciting new vistas in materials science and pharmaceutical syntheses. These catalysts are a promising development in "green" chemistry, because they allow chemists to make carbon-carbon double bonds under mild conditions without generating large amounts of waste and toxic byproducts.

O'Leary has published widely in professional journals and has been invited to speak at institutions and conferences around the nation. His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Beckman Scholars Program, and Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, among others.

"I learned a great deal about the power of collegiality at Pomona and I see that very much in evidence at Bowdoin," notes O'Leary, who joins a chemistry faculty that is renowned among undergraduate institutions.

Support for New Faculty

Support for new faculty is a key component of The Bowdoin Campaign, which ends in 2009. This will allow us to deepen and diversify several existing programs, stay competitive, and maintain the close student-faculty interactions that are a hallmark of a Bowdoin education.

"I'm looking forward to continuing my work with motivated, bright students at a place like Bowdoin with facilities that support work their work, which in time elevates to the level of first- and second-year graduate students," he says, adding: "I really like to have students work at a level they wouldn't ever have dreamed was possible."

Colleague Rick Broene, chair of Bowdoin's chemistry department, observes that O'Leary's presence at Bowdoin will be "an invaluable and productive resource for student research. Dan has had 51 students as co-workers in his lab and this work has resulted in 18 publications with one or more students listed as co-author - not to mention the dozens of students who have presented their own work at national chemistry meetings."

O'Leary has an extensive record of professional service, including several positions at the American Chemical Society (ACS), the largest scientific community in the world. He is currently a member of the ACS Executive Director's 2010 Committee and serves on the ACS Scholars Program, which helps under-represented students who want to pursue careers in chemistry.

He earned a B.A. in chemistry and biology from Linfield College, where he has been on the board of trustees since 2004, and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California, Los Angeles. He was a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard University, working with Yoshito Kishi.

The John S. Osterweis Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry was established through the generous support of Bowdoin Trustee John S. Osterweis, Bowdoin Class of '64 to recognize associate professors for their work and support them in their professional research.

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