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Robert L. Swofford

by Susan J. Ainsworth
May 24, 2010 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 88, ISSUE 21

Robert L. Swofford, 62, a professor of chemistry at Wake Forest University, died on March 12 at his home.

Born in Charlotte, N.C., Swofford earned a B.S. in chemistry, magna cum laude, from Furman University in 1969 and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1973. He then worked as a research associate at Cornell University until 1977.

Swofford built a career as a research scientist in chemical and applied physics with BP Research (formerly Standard Oil), in Ohio, from 1978 to 1993. He developed instrumentation for measuring crucial oil-field fluid properties and managed a research team that studied laser spectroscopy, molecular dynamics, and thin-film semiconductors.

Joining the faculty of Wake Forest in 1993, Swofford served as chemistry department chair from 1994 to 1996. He was devoted to teaching and mentoring K–12 students in the area’s public schools, as well as undergraduate and graduate students. In 2005, he received the university’s Award for Excellence in Advising.

Swofford was a pioneer in the implementation of cutting-edge educational technologies, including smart phones, clicker response systems, and tablet personal computers. He helped craft the Mobile Computing Initiative at Wake Forest, which began in 1996 and made the university one of the first in the U.S. to provide laptop computers to students. He was an ACS member for 29 years, beginning in 1978.

Swofford was also a wine expert and an amateur singer.

He is survived by his wife of 36 years, Linda; daughter, Karen; and son, Michael.

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