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A brick building with the word "chemistry" stands behind a green tree.

Three Department of Chemistry faculty awarded endowed positions

By Hannah Ashton

Congratulations to three Department of Chemistry faculty members awarded endowed positions, recognizing their exceptional contributions to solving major challenges in material science currently facing humankind.

May Nyman is the Terrence Bradshaw Chemistry Professor; David Ji is the Bert and Emelyn Christensen Professor; and Chong Fang is the Patricia Valian Reser Endowed Faculty Scholar.

May Nyman standing in front of shrubbery

May Nyman is the Terrence Bradshaw Chemistry Professor.

Nyman is a world-leading expert in metal oxo cluster chemistry. Her invaluable contributions to molecular oxide chemistry have reshaped the field and led to new classes of molecular metal oxides which are now used in fundamental and applied research.

Metal-oxo clusters are a highly versatile class of materials with applications in pollution remediation and water purification.

Because of her expertise, Nyman has spearheaded numerous high-profile federally funded projects. In fact, Nyman and her team recently secured new grant funding in 2023 for several projects, including rare metal reprocessing, carbon capture and building “soft” materials from molecular bricks.

In 2021, Nyman was selected as one of the leaders of a $24 million federal effort to develop technologies for combating climate change by extracting carbon from the air.

Her achievements include the Humboldt Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany, the Gilfillan Award from the College of Science and the F. Albert Cotton Award in Synthetic Inorganic Chemistry.

Honoring the late Terrence C. Bradshaw, this endowment supports a faculty member in the Department of Chemistry. Bradshaw was born in Canada, but moved to a 110-acre farm near Corvallis when he was 10 years old. He later relocated to Yakima, Washington, then studied at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, before graduating from the University of Washington. An investor and engineer, Bradshaw worked at securities company Harris, Upham & Co.

Bradshaw attended many events at Oregon State and left a portion of his estate to the university’s chemistry, engineering and agriculture departments.

Xiulei David Ji

David Ji is the Bert and Emelyn Christensen Professor.

Responsible for profound contributions in the field of battery chemistry for energy storage, Ji is an internationally known scholar praised for his out-of-the-box ideas. His total citations have reached more than 36,000 according to Google Scholar and Web of Science named him a most cited researcher for four years in a row starting in 2019.

Ji recently developed a new electrolyte that raises the efficiency of the zinc metal anode in zinc batteries to nearly100%, a breakthrough in the development of alternative lithium-ion batteries for large-scale energy storage. He collaborates with HP Inc. and GROTTHUSS INC., an Oregon State spinout company.

Zinc metal batteries are essential for the installation of additional solar and wind farms. They also offer a secure and efficient solution for home energy storage and energy storage modules for communities that are vulnerable to natural disasters.

Ji is also working on developing new, high-energy-density batteries that use water-based electrolytes instead of rare elements like cobalt and nickel. This research is funded by a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

In 2023, Ji received the College of Science Milton Harris Award for his exceptional achievements in basic research.

The Bert and Emelyn Christensen professorship was established by two OSU alumni in honor of their parents.

Bert Christensen joined the Oregon State faculty in 1931, when the chemistry department was housed in Education Hall and had 10 graduate students. He served as department head from 1956 to 1970. While at OSU, he focused on anti-malarial drugs and radioactive isotopes. He received the Service to Science Award of the Oregon Academy of Science in 1970.

His wife Emelyn raised their three children and was involved in making civic endeavors. Among other involvements she was the OSU Folk Club president; a founding member of what became the Corvallis-OSU Civic Music Association; president of the Benton County Mental Health Society; and director to the Oregon Association for Chapters. She was the second woman to be elected to the Corvallis School Board, serving between 1955-1960.

Chong Fang, a man in glasses.

Chong Fang is the Patricia Valian Reser Endowed Faculty Scholar.

Over his 13 years at Oregon State, Fang has excelled in mentorship, research and service. He was recently awarded the D. Curtis Mumford Faculty Service Award and the Excellence in Postdoctoral Mentoring Award.

The central theme of his research is to investigate the structure-function relationship of biomolecules and novel materials, ranging from fluorescent proteins and ion sensors to nanoclusters and metal-organic complexes in solution.

The Fang group has significantly improved the capability of femtosecond stimulated Raman spectroscopy (FSRS), a state-of-the-art ultrafast spectroscopic technique that provides structural information during chemical reactions with high temporal and spectral resolution. Fang’s research provides a map to better interpret and understand the experimental and theoretical capabilities of FSRS, yielding insights into a wide range of chemical reactions. This technology is contributing to significant progress in developing both biomolecular sensors and novel functional materials.

Patricia Valian Reser established an endowment to support a faculty member in the chemistry department. She and her late husband, Al, previously made a $10.65 million gift for the construction of the Linus Pauling Science Center.

Reser graduated from OSU in 1960 with a bachelor's degree in elementary education; she later earned a master's in special education at Portland State. She taught in Forest Grove and Hillsboro, Oregon, before retiring from the Beaverton School District in 1995. Together she and her husband grew Reser's Fine Foods — a family-owned fresh refrigerated food company based in Beaverton — into an international business with 18 facilities in the U.S. and Mexico. She now serves as the company's board chair.