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ACS Award For Research At An Undergraduate Institution

by Marc S. Reisch
February 16, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 7

Credit: Bucknell University/Robert Landry
George Shields, a professor in the department of chemistry and dean of Arts & Sciences at Bucknell University.
Credit: Bucknell University/Robert Landry

Sponsored by Research Corporation for Science Advancement

George Shields has a well-deserved reputation for involving undergraduates in all stages of his research.

During his career at four different undergraduate institutions, he has seamlessly integrated teaching and research. Although the average number of papers published by investigators at undergraduate institutions is 0.5 papers per year, Shields has published an average of 3.3 papers over each of the past 14 years, all with the cooperation of undergraduate students and not a single graduate student.

“He believes that involving students in research at the earliest possible moment is key to fostering their enthusiasm for science,” a colleague of Shields says. In Shields’s 25 years as a teacher, his research has involved 105 undergraduates.

To support his undergraduate research group, Shields has obtained about $5 million from 26 grants since his first award from Research Corporation in 1990. Funding sources have included the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the ACS Petroleum Research Fund.

Inspired by his resourcefulness and enthusiasm for education, 82% of Shields’s research students have gone on to graduate and professional schools. They include 41 who have gone on for Ph.D.s, mostly in chemistry and biochemistry but also in geology, pathology, and epidemiology. His students have received 31 national awards including four Fulbright, eight Goldwater, and seven graduate fellowships.

“George is one of my personal heroes,” says another colleague. Shields, he points out, founded the Molecular Education & Research Consortium in Undergraduate Computational Chemistry, a consortium of faculty from 14 undergraduate institutions. With Shields’s help, the consortium obtained four NSF Major Research Instrumentation grants for supercomputing totaling $1.3 million.

Shields also established an annual Conference for Undergraduate Computational Chemistry as part of the consortium’s efforts. The meeting brings together undergraduate researchers and their faculty mentors from around the U.S. for two days of networking, scientific exchange, and camaraderie.

Shields, 56, received his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in 1981, 1983, and 1986, respectively, from Georgia Institute of Technology. From there, he went on to Yale University and Howard Hughes Medical Institute for postdoctoral research between 1986 and 1989.

In 1989, Shields moved to Lake Forest College, where he chaired the chemistry department between 1996 and 1998. He joined Hamilton College’s department of chemistry as a full professor in 1998 and served as department chair between 1999 and 2006.

Shields left Hamilton in 2008 to join Armstrong State University, where he was a professor in the department of chemistry and physics and founding dean for the College of Science & Technology. Since 2010, he has been at Bucknell University, where he is a professor in the department of chemistry and dean of arts and sciences.

Shields is a councilor for the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) and is serving his third three-year term since first being elected in 2008. He is a member of ACS, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Association for Aerosol Research, the International Society of Quantum Biology & Pharmacology, Sigma Xi, and CUR.

Shields will present his award address before the Division of Computers in Chemistry.


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