Science & Tech

Texas A&M Chemist Donald Darensbourg Named 2017 ACS Fellow

June 28, 2017

Texas A&M chemist Donald J. Darensbourg is the 14th chemist to be recognized as an American Chemical Society Fellow while at Texas A&M University.
By Shana K. Hutchins, Texas A&M University College of Science

Texas A&M University Distinguished Professor of Chemistry Donald J. Darensbourg has been named a 2017 Fellow of the American Chemical Society in recognition of his outstanding achievements in chemistry and contributions to science, the profession and the society.

Darensbourg, an organometallic/inorganic chemist who joined the Texas A&M Department of Chemistry in 1982, is one of 65 international chemists selected this year to the prestigious fellows program, established in 2009. Darensbourg will be honored along with his fellow Class of 2017 inductees — announced in the June 19 issue of Chemical & Engineering News — with a lapel pin and certificate during an August 21 ceremony and reception in conjunction with the society’s 254th National Meeting & Exposition in Washington, D.C.

Darensbourg, who was appointed as a distinguished professor of chemistry in 2010, is a noted expert in the mechanisms of organometallic reactions — in particular, carbon dioxide insertion into hydrogen-, carbon- and oxygen-metal bonds. His work has led to the synthesis of biodegradable polymers for use in medical devices, including surgical sutures, internal fixation devices for repair of fractures to small bones, drug-delivery devices and dental implants.

Darensbourg is cited by the ACS for “his pioneering contributions to the chemistry of carbon dioxide and its utilization in polymer synthesis.” He is also honored for decades of dedicated service to the ACS as treasurer of the Division of Inorganic Chemistry and as a member of the Committee on Professional Training.

Distinguished Professor of Chemistry Donald J. Darensbourg has been named a 2017 Fellow of the American Chemical Society.

“I am delighted that Don has been recognized by the American Chemical Society for his important scientific and service contributions to the field,” said Dr. Simon W. North, professor and head of the Texas A&M Department of Chemistry. “This honor in consistent with his dedication to teaching and service, and the exceptional quality of his scholarly work.”

Darensbourg earned his doctorate in inorganic chemistry from the University of Illinois in 1968. Prior to coming to Texas A&M, he held faculty appointments at both State University of New York, Buffalo (1969-73) and Tulane University (1973-82).

Darensbourg’s research funded by the National Science Foundation and the Robert A. Welch Foundation spans transition and main-group metals, homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis — including polymerization and biphasic processes — and applications of infrared spectroscopy. To date, he has more than 400 scholarly publications to his credit, many of which are featured in the most highly ranked international journals in the field, such as Journal of the American Chemical Society, Angewandte Chemie and Macromolecules.

“Carbon dioxide chemistry has been a continuous theme over most of Don’s career, and his efforts have led to exciting applications that have attracted the attention of a host of international research teams,” said Dr. Christopher C. Cummins, Henry Dreyfus Professor of Chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a 2016-2017 Faculty Fellow of the Hagler Institute for Advanced Study at Texas A&M University who is affiliated with Texas A&M Chemistry and who served as Darensbourg’s nominator. “From this platform in basic science, Don developed approaches to the utilization of carbon dioxide in environmentally benign or green chemistry, which has had a tremendous impact on the development of synthetic biodegradable polymers. He also pioneered the use of novel, water-soluble, air-stable ligands in catalytic reactions in biphasic media, demonstrating that it is possible to bring such catalysts into aqueous environments and to use them successfully for catalytic processes.”

In addition to the 2010 ACS Award in Inorganic Chemistry, Darensbourg’s excellence in classroom and laboratory teaching at both the undergraduate and graduate levels has been recognized with Texas A&M Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement Awards in both Teaching (1988) and Research (1990). Most recently, he received the 2016 Texas A&M College of Science Undergraduate Mentoring Award. A past member of five editorial boards, Darensbourg consistently is called upon to serve on advisory and review teams and to lecture at conferences and research institutions all around the world.

“The vitae of Dr. Darensbourg is a testament to the service that he has given to the American Chemical Society for the past three if not four decades,” said Dr. François P. Gabbaï, Arthur E. Martell Chair of Chemistry at Texas A&M, in a letter supporting the nomination. “Don’s most prominent contribution to the ACS has been as a visiting associate of the ACS Committee on Professional Training, a function that he has assumed repeatedly for the past 30 years. He helped this committee evaluate chemistry programs at historically black institutions. In this role, he not only connected with the faculty but also succeeded in convincing the administration of the needed investments. Don’s central approach to problem-solving and education in general is to always focus on the positive. This attitude benefited the ACS immensely through his numerous contributions, which also included a tour of duty as treasurer of the Division of Inorganic Chemistry in the early 1990s.”

In recent years, Darensbourg has developed a course in green chemistry for upper division Texas A&M undergraduate students in chemistry and chemical engineering that has enjoyed tremendous success, attracting students from chemistry as well as from engineering. In addition to teaching future scientists how to practice chemistry in a manner that is environmentally safe, this course is helping them become more aware of the environmental dangers posed by chemistry.

Darensbourg joins 13 Department of Chemistry colleagues previously recognized while at Texas A&M as ACS Fellows: David E. Bergbreiter, Paul S. Cremer, Marcetta Y. Darensbourg, Kim R. Dunbar, John P. Fackler Jr., François P. Gabbaï, John A. Gladysz, D. Wayne Goodman, Joseph B. Natowitz, Frank M. Raushel, Vickie M. Williamson, Sherry J. Yennello and Hongcai Joe Zhou.

Click here for more information on the ACS Fellows program and a complete list of all previous honorees.

To learn more about Darensbourg’s research, go to

Related Stories

Recent Stories