Chemist Donald Darensbourg Honored With 2023 SEC Faculty Achievement Award
Dr. Donald J. Darensbourg, University Distinguished Professor of Chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences at Texas A&M University, has been named the recipient of the 2023 Southeastern Conference (SEC) Faculty Achievement Award for Texas A&M.
Darensbourg, an organometallic/inorganic chemist and a 40-year veteran of the Texas A&M faculty, is a noted expert in the mechanisms of organometallic reactions — in particular, carbon dioxide insertion into hydrogen-, carbon- and oxygen-metal bonds, for which he previously was recognized with the 2010 American Chemical Society (ACS) Award in Inorganic Chemistry. 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.
“Dr. Darensbourg continues to add to an impressive list of honors earned during more than 40 years of service to Texas A&M, and we congratulate him,” said Dr. Alan Sams, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs. “He epitomizes faculty excellence and this award not only recognizes his pioneering research but also how he engages students in the research enterprise. He demonstrates the transformational education that Texas A&M provides.”
Established by the SEC presidents and chancellors and first presented in 2012, the SEC Faculty Achievement Awards annually recognize faculty from each of the 14 SEC member universities with outstanding records in research and scholarship who serve as role models for other faculty and students. To be eligible, faculty members must have achieved the rank of full professor and have a record of extraordinary teaching — particularly at the undergraduate level — and nationally or internationally recognized scholarship. Winners receive a $5,000 honorarium from the conference and serve as their university’s respective nominee for the SEC Professor of the Year Award, to be announced later this week by the SEC and presented at the annual SEC Awards Dinner in Destin, Florida.
Darensbourg joined the Department of Chemistry in 1982 and was appointed as a distinguished professor of chemistry in 2010. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences (2022) as well as a fellow of both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2019) and the American Chemical Society (2017).
“It is a true honor to receive this recognition, for there are numerous faculty throughout the university who are very deserving of this acknowledgement,” Darensbourg said. “I humbly accept and greatly appreciate receiving this award on behalf of my many former students and coworkers.”
Darensbourg is the fifth faculty member from the College of Arts and Sciences and the fourth Texas A&M chemist to receive the prestigious accolade, joining Regents Professor of Atmospheric Sciences Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon (2013) and fellow chemists Dr. David E. Bergbreiter (2017), Dr. Marcetta Y. Darensbourg (2018) and Dr. Karen L. Wooley (2021), the latter two of whom subsequently earned SEC Professor of the Year honors. Texas A&M and Louisiana State University are the only two SEC institutions with multiple recipients.
“I was delighted to learn that Don Darensbourg has been named to the 2023 SEC Faculty Achievement Award,” said Interim Dean of Arts and Sciences Dr. José Luis Bermúdez, professor of philosophy and the Samuel Rhea Gammon Professor of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M. “Don’s long and distinguished record as a researcher and teacher makes him a most worthy recipient. The award reflects well on him and on the Department of Chemistry. It is an honor for Arts and Sciences.”
Darensbourg’s research, primarily funded by the National Science Foundation and The 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 nearly 450 scholarly publications to his credit, many of which are featured in the most highly ranked international journals in the field, such as the Journal of the American Chemical Society, Angewandte Chemie and Macromolecules. He has served as a past member of five editorial boards as well as past treasurer of the ACS Division of Inorganic Chemistry and a former member of the ACS Committee on Professional Training.
Among colleagues and students alike, Darensbourg is known for a central approach to problem-solving and education in general that always focuses on the positive. His 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), the 2016 Texas A&M College of Science Undergraduate Mentoring Award and the 2019 ACS Division of Inorganic Chemistry Award for Undergraduate Research, recognizing the collaborative work of an outstanding undergraduate student/preceptor team in the field of inorganic chemistry.
In recent years, Darensbourg also 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 engineering.
“I am thrilled that Don has been honored by this selection recognizing his excellence in all facets of the profession,” said Dr. Simon W. North, John W. Bevan Professor of Chemistry and head of Texas A&M Chemistry. “He is a pillar of the department, a leader in the field of inorganic chemistry, an outstanding teacher and a wonderful mentor. In particular, his impact as a role model for faculty and students is unparalleled.”
Originally from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Darensbourg earned his Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from the University of Illinois in 1968. Prior to coming to Texas A&M in 1982, he held faculty appointments at both State University of New York, Buffalo (1969-1973) and Tulane University (1973-1982).