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St. Olaf chemistry professor receives NSF CAREER Award

Assistant Professor of Chemistry Dipannita Kalyani (front row, far right) stands with just some of the students who have been part of her research group. Kalyani, who has involved large numbers of students in her research, recently received a prestigious NSF CAREER Award.

St. Olaf College Assistant Professor of Chemistry Dipannita Kalyani has received the prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER Award, which is given to “junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education, and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.”

The $400,000 award will support Kalyani’s research and work with undergraduate students for five years.

Her research focuses on the discovery of greener and more economical processes for the construction of molecular architectures commonly found in many chemicals with applications, including fuels, crop protection, and pharmaceuticals.

“The research Dipa conducts is outstanding,” says St. Olaf Professor of Chemistry and Department Chair Bob Hanson. “She is well respected in the research community, as her group is rapidly extending the knowledge base in the area of transition-metal-catalyzed coupling reactions.”

Kalyani has involved large numbers of students in this research, giving them valuable experience in the lab that has prepared them well for further success in the field. She has seven publications with St. Olaf students, and many students she’s worked with have entered highly respected graduate programs or industrial positions.

“I am truly proud of the caliber of St. Olaf undergraduates. Their ability to take ownership of their research projects and mentor their peers is remarkable,” Kalyani says. “I am so happy to see my group alumni do well in careers beyond St. Olaf.”

In addition to working with students in her lab, the grant will also support Kalyani’s plans to teach a course that educates a broad spectrum of St. Olaf students, including non-science majors, about how scientists perceive and address global economic and sustainability challenges.

She will also partner with the St. Olaf College Upward Bound Program to introduce under-resourced high school students to the exciting impacts of organometallic chemistry in our everyday lives.

This is not the first time Kalyani has been awarded for her work in organometallic chemistry. She received a $280,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health in 2013 to fund her research. Last year she received the Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, a prestigious national honor and unrestricted research grant of $60,000 that recognizes accomplishment in scholarly research with undergraduates and commitment to teaching.

“There is no question that Dipa is a rising star,” Hanson says. “In years to come she will be an absolutely outstanding mentor to students and faculty alike.”