Science & Tech

Texas A&M Chemist Karen Wooley Honored With 2021 SEC Faculty Achievement Award

Wooley, a University Distinguished Professor and holder of the W.T. Doherty-Welch Chair in Chemistry, is being recognized for excellence in teaching and research.
By Lesley Henton, Texas A&M University Division of Marketing & Communications April 7, 2021

Texas A&M University Distinguished Professor of Chemistry Karen L. Wooley has been named a recipient of the 2021 SEC Faculty Achievement Award.

a photo of Karen L. Wooley
Karen L. Wooley

Texas A&M College of Science

The annual awards honor professors with outstanding records in teaching and scholarship who serve as role models for other faculty and students. Each of the SEC universities selects its Faculty Achievement Award winner, and those winners become the university’s nominee for the SEC Professor of the Year Award. To be eligible, a faculty member must have achieved the rank of full professor and have a record of extraordinary teaching and scholarship that is recognized nationally or internationally. Winners receive a $5,000 honorarium.

Wooley holds the W.T. Doherty-Welch Chair in Chemistry in the College of Science, where she also serves as director of the Texas A&M Laboratory for Synthetic-Biologic Interactions and runs the Wooley Research Group. In addition to her primary appointment in the Department of Chemistry, she holds joint appointments in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Department of Materials Science and Engineering. She was named one of Texas A&M’s 24 inaugural Presidential Impact Fellows in 2017.

A member of the National Academy of Sciences — the highest achievement in the field — Wooley is one of the world’s top chemists in the field of materials and polymer chemistry and in creating new materials at the nanoscale level. She is also a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Inventors, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, and the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Wooley joined the faculty at Texas A&M in 2009. Her work has broad impacts toward the diagnosis and treatment of disease, anti-icing coatings and eco-friendly environmental remediation systems. In addition, it influences sustainability, resulting in new bioplastics that have reduced reliance on petrochemicals and break down naturally to produce biologically beneficial and environmentally benign degradation products.

“Dr. Wooley has been called the most accomplished and most promising polymer chemist of her era,” said Texas A&M Interim President John Junkins. “Her research has broad implications in a variety of fields, ranging from sustainability to nanoscience to the treatment and diagnosis of disease.

“In addition to being an internationally renowned researcher, she is also a sought-after mentor to female students and junior faculty, who admire her for her ability to identify their interests, build on their strengths and help them create personalized development plans,” Junkins said.

Mark Weichold, interim provost and executive vice president at Texas A&M, said Wooley’s contributions to her field and the university cannot be understated.

“A member of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Wooley is an internationally renowned expert in organic polymer chemistry and is one of the most influential and innovative researchers in the polymer science community,” Weichold said. “She is also an exceptional teacher and mentor who has greatly enriched the lives and careers of her students and trainees.”

University officials describe Wooley as a highly valued mentor of women students and early-career women faculty, having built a program that is more than 50 percent female in the traditionally male-dominated field of chemistry. She recently served on the President’s Commission on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Texas A&M.

Wooley has received numerous career awards and recognitions, including a Texas A&M Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement Award for Research (2016), the American Chemical Society’s Oesper Award (2015) and Award in Polymer Chemistry (2014), the Royal Society of Chemistry Centenary Prize (2014) and the Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award in Organic Chemistry (2002).

She has served as a technical advisor and consultant for several companies, including Fortune 500 firms. She is an executive editor and associate editor of the Journal of the American Chemical Society and has service to the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health and the Dutch Biomedical Materials Program.

Wooley works to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and form collaborative relationships across her field by organizing national and international conferences. Additionally, she is co-founder and president of Sugar Plastics, LLC and chief technology officer of Teysha Technologies, LTD. She earned her bachelor of science in chemistry at Oregon State University and a Ph.D. in polymer/organic chemistry at Cornell University.

Read more about Karen Wooley and view past recipients of the SEC Faculty Achievement Award.

Media contact: Shana Hutchins, College of Science, 979-862-1237,

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