Who We Are

The Southeast Minnesota Region. St. Olaf College, located approximately 35 miles south of Minneapolis and 50 miles north of Rochester, is in the center of a region commonly referred to as southeast Minnesota. Significantly removed from these two metropolitan areas, Northfield is a small town of approximately 12,000 (not including college students). Lying on the Cannon River and surrounded by cornfields, soybean fields and scattered hardwood forests, Northfield and its nearby small towns have a substantial farm student population. Eleven high schools are located within an approximately 20-mile radius of Northfield.

Students. The 2017-18 enrollment of the College numbers 3003 full-time and 32 part-time students representing 49 states and 79 foreign countries.  Graduates pursue higher education or find employment in all 50 states and many foreign countries, with the largest concentration remaining in midwestern United States. The college’s 27 academic departments offer Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Music degrees. The student-faculty ratio is 12.5:1. St. Olaf College is widely recognized for the number and quality of graduates it produces in the area of science and mathematics, including fields of biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, and mathematics. In recent years approximately 250 majors per year were granted in these five departments. This represents about 30% of the majors granted by the College each year. The National Science Foundation’s Survey of Earned Doctorates from 2009-2018 ranks St. Olaf College ranks eleventh among 200 Baccalaureate-Liberal Arts colleges in the number of its graduates who earned doctoral degrees in all fields, eighth in biological sciences, tenth in chemistry, seventh in education, and third in mathematics and statistics.

The Department. The St. Olaf Chemistry Department has a long and distinguished history as a source of chemists. The annual report on approved departments published by the American Chemical Society consistently identifies St. Olaf as one of the most prolific sources of chemistry majors in the country. For over 10 years St. Olaf College has graduated the most chemistry majors of any liberal arts college per year and has consistently ranked in the top few of all educational institutions in the number of students graduating with a chemistry major. Over the period 1999-2008 an average of 41 students per year have graduated as chemistry majors from St. Olaf College. Of these, 31% entered graduate school, 35% entered medical or other professional schools, 17% began a career in industry, and 3% began teaching. In 2008, St. Olaf graduated 40 chemistry majors, 32% of whom were women.

Faculty. The St. Olaf Chemistry Department has eight tenured, one tenure track, and four term appointment faculty members, all of whom hold the Ph.D. degree in chemistry. Over the years, three members of the department, Emil O. Ellingson, Albert E. Finholt, and John P. Walters have been recognized for teaching excellence by the Manufacturing Chemists Association. John Walters has also received the American Chemical Society Analytical Division Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1993, the Carnegie Foundation for Advancement of Teaching Award as Minnesota Professor of the Year for 1997, and a prestigious Camille and Henry Dreyfus Scholar/Fellow Award for Undergraduate Institutions in 1997. Gary Miessler received a Teacher-Scholar Award from the Dreyfus Foundation in 1981. Both he and John Walters have served as mentors to a teaching postdoctoral fellow under Dreyfus Foundation sponsorship. Paul Jackson was one of these Dreyfus Fellows. In 1988 Robert Hanson was named a National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator. This is one of a very few such awards given to a faculty member at a four-year college.

Facilities. The department is located in Regents Hall of Natural Science (add web site linkhttps://www.stolaf.edu/regentshall/ ). In this new facility we have new and improved teaching labs, research labs and classroom spaces as well as informal gathering spaces and offices. We are organized in an interdisciplinary fashion with colleagues from other departments that share similar interests. For example, chemistry faculty members who teach and do research in biochemistry are located near the biology faculty interested in molecular biology. Likewise, analytical chemists are near faculty who teach and do research in ecology and environmental studies.

The central Rolvaag Memorial Library and separate science and music libraries contain more than 525,000 volumes. St. Olaf College historically has given scientific equipment high priority in its special fund raising efforts. In December of 1986 St. Olaf announced a campaign to raise $73.5 million for endowment, capital projects, and increased annual budget support. From this campaign, $1 million was designated for a special endowed fund to purchase and maintain scientific equipment. Income from this endowment has allowed us to keep our instrumentation up to date. In 2003 St. Olaf College received a Kresge Science Equipment Grant which provided funds to establish an endowment for scientific equipment maintenance.

In 2001 we installed a new Bruker 400 MHz Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectrometer (NMR) and in 2003 we purchased a new Bruker Liquid Chromatograph/Mass Spectrometer. A comprehensive equipment l can be found here.