Chemistry Professor to Serve at NSF

Story posted February 01, 2005

Chemistry Professor Ronald Christensen, Bowdoin's James Stacy Coles Professor of Natural Sciences, has been appointed to serve as a program officer in the Chemistry Division of the National Science Foundation (NSF) beginning summer 2005. During his one-year term, Christensen will help the Foundation administer its current programs in the chemical sciences and develop new programs in support of teaching and research.

Professor Ron Christensen
Professor Ron Christensen in his Bowdoin laboratory.

"It's going to be an interesting opportunity to be inside the National Science Foundation to see how things work," said Christensen, "and this also will provide a broader view of future directions in chemistry. There is a lot of collaboration among divisions of the NSF - chemistry, biology, physics, mathematics, nanoscale science, and so forth - and one of the great attractions of the position is the opportunity to interact with experts across these disciplines and to bring that perspective back to Bowdoin."

Christensen, who joined Bowdoin's faculty in 1976, was given the highly prestigious Award for Research at an Undergraduate Institution by the American Chemical Society in 2003. His recent research areas include the photochemistry of polyenes and the role of carotenoids in photosynthesis. Christensen's many publications on the electronic states of polyenes and carotenoids have included numerous undergraduate coauthors.

Christensen said he sees his stint at the NSF as an opportunity to support the Foundation's mission of encouraging more students to choose careers in science. "During my time in the Chemistry Division, I will be the only faculty member from a liberal arts institution," noted Christensen, "and I hope I can be helpful in developing programs to encourage more undergraduates to continue in the sciences, and chemistry in particular. Part of what I'll be doing is reviewing proposals for funding research projects in physical chemistry and also those involving educational initiatives. This should give me an overview of the best undergraduate science programs, which might provide additional models for Bowdoin."

Recent workshops funded by NSF's Division of Chemistry include initiatives in terahertz spectroscopy, models of thought processes, and cyber-enabled chemistry. The National Science Foundation is a federally supported agency, which is located in Arlington, Va. The NSF awarded approximately $5.7 billion in grants during 2004.

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