Hall of Fame Member Biographies

Donna J. Nelson

Few academicians have been able to pack into their careers the research, the mentoring of students, and the public services as has Donna J. Nelson.  She obtained her Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Texas, and in 1983 the University of Oklahoma had the foresight to hire her as an assistant professor.  Her record since then has been nothing less than awe-inspiring.   For her teaching efforts, she has been awarded the Oklahoma Outstanding Professor Award, the President’s Distinguished Faculty Mentor (twice), and the OU Associates’ Distinguished Lecturer.  Her research area is functionalizing and characterizing single walled carbon nanotubes, out of which she and her students have published one hundred technical papers and one book.  The importance of her work has been recognized by the foundations and high-reputation institutions.  She has been a Guggenheim and Ford Foundation Fellow and has been an invited visiting Professor at MIT, the University of California at San Diego, Rice University, the University of Texas and even the University of Bulgaria. Her research achievements alone merit recognition, but Professor Nelson went far beyond that. Dr. Nelson has devoted her career to America’s Scientific Readiness. To that end, she focuses on (1) science education, which includes classroom innovations and correcting organic chemistry textbook inaccuracies, (2) ethnic and gender diversity among highly-ranked science departments of research universities, and (3) improving the presentation of science and images of scientists to the public, such as serving as a science advisor to the Emmy Award-winning AMC television show Breaking Bad. In these capacities she has given over 200 speeches at home and abroad, and has an international reputation.  She has earned the American Chemical Society Award for Diversifying Chemistry (2011), the National Organization for Women “Woman of Courage Award” in 2004, and the National Science Foundation Leadership Award in 2006.  Indeed, listing the honors and awards she has accumulated in her career would consume the time of this ceremony.  It is with great pride that the Heritage Society inducts Dr. Donna J. Nelson into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame.