Molecule Maker, Mind Shaper

Chemistry drives the natural world. Put another way, life is a dance of molecules. Chemists seek to understand the dance by elucidating molecular structures and making new ones. One of the five major fields of chemistry is inorganic chemistry, the study of elements exclusive of hydrocarbons and their derivatives and the field wherein Tom Smith, the D.H. Heyl Professor of Chemistry Emeritus, has spent four decades with students and fellow chemists across the planet, teaching, advising, supervising Senior Individualized Projects, conducting research and inspiring the research journeys of others. Tom specializes in transition metals, a small group within the Periodic Table of Elements. In his delightful and lay-accessible retirement lecture (“Reflections on Teaching and Research in Inorganic Chemistry: From Small Molecules to Crystals to Metalloproteins”) Tom describes the enthusiasm, clarity of thought, creativity, and collaboration that inspired him as a chemistry student and that distinguished his 40 years of pedagogy and research. Above all, all he did in the classroom and in the lab involved students, from project conception through the subsequent synthesis and purification of compounds and measurement. And he did all this in the wider context of the liberal arts.