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Honorable Research: Chemistry Professor Malachowski to Receive CUR Fellows Award

Monday, February 10, 2014

USD Chemistry Professor Mitchell Malachowski, PhD, says he’s tried to find a balance between teaching, research and service. And how.

In his 30 years at USD, Malachowski has taught courses, conducted research with more than 100 students, and promoted undergraduate research on the national level. For these achievements and more, he will be honored with the 2014 Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) Fellows Award at its national conference in Washington, D.C. in June.

The award is presented each year to two CUR members who have developed nationally respected research programs involving undergraduate students. Each CUR Fellow is also awarded a CUR Student Research Fellowship to give to a deserving undergraduate at his or her respective institution. This year’s award will also go to Mark Brodl, associate vice president for Academic Affairs and the George W. Brackenridge Distinguished Professor of Biology at Trinity University.

“I am so pleased with the selection of Drs. Brodl and Malachowski as the 2014 CUR Fellows,” said CUR President Julio Rivera. “Both of their careers demonstrate that lives committed to teaching, mentoring and research can have deep impacts on students, peers and their institutions.”

Malachowski’s achievements include leading efforts to promote undergraduate research throughout the United States. On behalf of CUR, he has coordinated and run more than 40 weekend workshops at institutions across the country over the past 15 years.

With a total of $1.5 million from the National Science Foundation since 2006, he has worked with more than 400 institutions and more than 1,500 professors and administrators to develop and enhance their efforts to develop a “culture of research,” noted USD Professor of Chemistry Deborah Tahmassebi. “The impact of these workshops has been enormous. Huge changes have been documented at many institutions as a result of their successful campus-wide embedding of more undergraduate research to promote and enhance student scholarship and achievement.”

“Professor Malachowski is a truly exceptional teacher, a dedicated and inspiring mentor and a first-rate scholar,” added Tahmassebi. “He is most deserving of this award.”

During the last five years, Malachowski’s research has focused on developing metal organic frameworks, one of the fastest-growing areas of chemistry because of the potential use of these compounds for new materials and in nanotechnology. Working collaboratively with his undergraduate research students, he has made significant contributions to the field, including those recently documented in the journals Inorganic Chemistry, Chemical Communications and Inorganic Chimica Acta.

In addition to his contributions to the fields of chemistry and undergraduate research, he has also made great impacts on the lives of individual students since he began teaching at USD in 1984.

He has inspired dozens of students to successful careers in chemistry. Students engaged in research with him have received in-depth exposure to advanced, extramurally-funded projects focused on preparing materials mimicking biological systems and compounds, resulting in an impressive 21 publications with 40 student co-authors.

Eddie Merino, the son of immigrants from Mexico, who is now a professor of chemistry himself, recently recalled how Malachowski helped him succeed. “During the initial years of my undergraduate studies, I was lost and unsure if college was for me,” he said. “Being at a university was especially difficult for me as I was brought up in a low-income neighborhood with few, if any, college-educated role models. Mitch taught me how to function in a university environment through an intensive professional development effort. It is through his efforts and concerns that now, as a professor at the University of Cincinnati, I am able to navigate the bureaucracy of such a large university for both myself and the students I mentor.”

“I’m honored to receive this award,” Malachowski said. “I have tried to lead a balanced professional career with equal parts teaching, research, service to USD and service to the broader community. In doing so, I have been driven by the need to pass on to my students what was given to me some 35 years ago. I like to think that someday in some way, they too, will pass along these gifts to another generation: the gifts of caring, teaching, mentoring and inspiring. As a professor, I like to think, as Newton said, we stand on the shoulders of giants.”

A native of Rhode Island, Malachowski earned his bachelor’s degree in organic chemistry from Rhode Island College and his PhD from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

– Liz Harman

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