St. Olaf College | News

Chemistry professor receives Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award

St. Olaf Assistant Professor of Chemistry Dipannita Kalyani (center) stands outside Regents Hall of Natural and Mathematical Sciences with summer student researchers (from left) Yiming Liu ’16, Eliza Thompson ’17, Noelle Olson ’17, Rylee Wander ’17, Zubaoyi Yi ’17, and Bryce Sadarananda ’16. Kalyani has received the prestigious Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award.

St. Olaf College Assistant Professor of Chemistry Dipannita Kalyani has received the Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, a prestigious national honor that recognizes accomplishment in scholarly research with undergraduates and a compelling commitment to teaching.

The award, given to talented young faculty members in the chemical sciences, provides an unrestricted research grant of $60,000.

Bob Hanson, the Larson Anderson Professor of Chemistry at St. Olaf and Department Chair, says there’s no question that Kalyani’s work in Pd- and Ni-catalyzed C-H bond functionalization — which has been supported by awards from the American Chemical Society, National Institutes of Health, and Research Corporation — is outstanding. Yet what is truly exceptional, he says, is the way she has involved “an enormous number” of undergraduates in that research.

“She believes that any student expressing an interest in research should be given a chance to try it,” Hanson says. “And they do. Students flock to her as a no-nonsense, straight-shooting supervisor and a passionately supportive mentor.”

Kalyani has seven publications with St. Olaf students, and several more on her own or with colleagues from St. Olaf and other institutions. Her first St. Olaf students, now just graduating, are entering highly respected graduate programs.

One of just seven faculty members nationwide to receive the Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, Kalyani will use the bulk of the grant to create a 10-week summer research position for five St. Olaf students over the next five years. In addition to research, the position will include funds for the researchers to travel to a chemistry conference and return to their high schools to deliver a presentation on their college and research experiences.

The Dreyfus grant will also be used to support participation in St. Olaf’s Science Conversation program; provide funding to Student Support Services for the purchase of chemistry textbooks for low-income students; and develop new hypothesis-driven experiments for the organic chemistry curriculum.

Kalyani says she’s honored to receive the award and is excited that it will expand opportunities for students interested in the chemical sciences.

“For these students, hands-on research is such an impactful experience,” Kalyani says. “They are working together, teaching each other, and becoming mentors. I develop the research ideas, but they are really the ones who carry it through and gather the results.”