UA Chemistry Professor Among First to Receive New SEC Award
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Dr. David Dixon, professor and holder of the Robert Ramsay Chair of Chemistry at The University of Alabama, has been named a recipient of one of the first Southeastern Conference Faculty Achievement Awards.
The awards honor professors from SEC universities with outstanding records in teaching and scholarship who serve as role models for other faculty and students.
Starting this year, SEC Faculty Achievement Award winners from each university will receive a $5,000 honorarium and become that university’s nominee for the SEC Professor of the Year who will receive an additional $15,000 honorarium and be recognized at the SEC Spring Banquet in May.
As a faculty mentor to many of UA’s top students, Dixon has directly supervised more than 40 undergraduate student researchers, 13 doctoral students, and four post-doctoral fellows since he joined UA’s College of Arts and Sciences in 2004. Of the 24 undergraduate research award winners named at UA this year, seven were in Dixon’s research group, including UA’s recent Truman Scholar, Ryan Flamerich. He also teaches honors first year chemistry and is involved in a Freshman Learning Community.
A noted researcher, his work is presently supported by nearly $1.5 million annually in external funding. Dixon, whose research has been lauded by the Department of Energy, has co-authored an article describing a potentially transformative development for hydrogen-powered automobiles.
The UA chemist has published more than 560 papers on a wide range of topics and is considered a world leader in the application of numerical simulation to chemical problems. As a computational chemist, he uses numerical simulation and high performance computing to solve complex chemical problems.
His research focuses on catalysis and environmental science, including chemical catalysis, actinide chemistry for next generation nuclear fuels, atmospheric chemistry, hydrogen storage for transportation, carbon dioxide sequestration in the subsurface, biochemistry for analyzing proteins and fluorine chemistry.
Complex chemical experiments can be expensive, time consuming to conduct, and, sometimes, even dangerous. Computer simulation of such experiments enables researchers to test theories and solutions in a “virtual” laboratory before proceeding to such experiments.
His work has been cited more than 13,000 times by other scientists in their research papers.
In 2010, Dixon received a Hydrogen Program Research and Development Award for “Outstanding Contributions to Hydrogen Storage Technologies” for his contribution to the overall efforts of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Center of Excellence in Chemical Hydrogen Storage.
Last March, Dixon co-authored a paper, published in the journal Science, describing a method for recycling a hydrogen fuel source. Dixon and his colleagues from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, along with his students, demonstrated that a lightweight material, ammonia borane, can be a feasible material for storing hydrogen on vehicles.
Practical, efficient and affordable storage of hydrogen has been one of the challenges in making the powering of electrical motors via hydrogen fuel cells a viable alternative to traditional gasoline powered engines. Benefits of hydrogen fuel cell technology include cleaner air and less dependence on foreign oil.
Dixon, who earned his Bachelor of Science from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and his doctorate from Harvard, was an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Minnesota for six years before joining du Pont’s central research staff in 1983. He later served as research leader in computational chemistry with du Pont before joining the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in 1995 as an associate director of the William R. Wiley Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory.
In presenting the awards, the SEC becomes the only Division I conference within the National Collegiate Athletic Association currently recognizing university faculty for their achievements, unrelated to athletics or student-athletes. Chosen by a selection committee of SEC Provosts, the SEC Faculty Achievement Awards and the SEC Professor of the Year Award are part of a set of non-athletically related academic initiatives the conference has undertaken through its SEC Academic Consortium to encourage academic leadership and collaboration.
“This diverse group of men and women share a passionate dedication not just for teaching, but for empowering their students with the knowledge and wisdom to make a difference in our world,” said Dr. Bernie Machen, SEC president and president of the University of Florida.
The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.