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Jackson to deliver spring Mellby Lecture focused on sustainability

St. Olaf College Associate Professor of Chemistry and Environmental Studies Paul Jackson ’92 will deliver the spring Mellby Lecture on April 9.

His talk, titled “Conversations with Neighbors: Shifting the Paradigm of Chemical and Environmental Sustainability from Local to Global and Back Again,” will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Viking Theater in Buntrock Commons. It is free and open to the public, and will be streamed and archived online.

Jackson spent many of his formative years in the rural farming community of Pine Island, Minnesota, where he worked on his uncles’ dairy farms and learned the construction trade from his maternal grandfather. These experiences, as well as time spent in Vermont, Alaska, and Wyoming, solidified his love of the natural world. Raised in the Lutheran tradition, with interests in science and music, Jackson graduated from St. Olaf College in 1992, having majored in chemistry.

He went on to work with an interdisciplinary separations science team at the University of Minnesota, earning his Ph.D. in analytical/organic chemistry in 1997. That same year Jackson became a Camille and Henry Dreyfus Postdoctoral Fellow with the St. Olaf Chemistry Department, and he joined the St. Olaf chemistry faculty in 1999. Currently, Jackson is an associate professor of chemistry and serves as chair of the Environmental Studies Department.

Jackson’s teaching, which often incorporates civic engagement, bridges chemistry, environmental studies, and first-year Conversations Programs. He directs the faculty-led international study semester Environmental Science in Australia and New Zealand, and offers a course in Japan that examines how institutions and landscapes recover from major disturbance.

His professional interests range from chemical analysis and green chemistry to environmental health and sustainability in higher education. Environmental impacts on the material world form a central tenet of his work, which frequently involves engagement with local units of government, NGOs, and citizen volunteers. Jackson directs collaborative research related to environmental chemical profiling and watershed assessment, green chemistry in science curricula, and sustainable living — from mapping to building design to material (waste) diversion. Jackson served on the design team for St. Olaf’s Regents Hall of Natural and Mathematical Sciences and was instrumental in incorporating green chemistry into that building’s construction, which resulted in greatly reduced use of toxic chemicals.

Jackson has been active in the chemical and environmental sciences as a peer reviewer for a number of scientific journals and organizations. His current interests include the use of technology in chemical education; environmental health and education; scientific communication; materiality, art and art conservation; sustainability in higher education; diversity within the chemical professions; green building/home improvement; and interpersonal communication.

About the Mellby Lecture
The annual Mellby Lectures remember St. Olaf faculty member Carl A. Mellby. Established in 1983, they allow professors to share their research with the public. Mellby, the “the father of social sciences” at St. Olaf, started the college’s first courses in economics, sociology, political science, and art history. He was professor and administrator from 1901 to 1949, taught Greek, German, French, religion, and philosophy, and developed the college’s honor system.