USD Chemistry Professor to Receive National Award for Lifetime Achievement

University of San Diego Chemistry Professor Tammy Dwyer will be honored on Aug. 21 in Washington, D.C., by the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society with more than 157,000 members. Dwyer was chosen for the 2017 class of ACS Fellows, recognizing scientists for outstanding accomplishments and contributions to science, the profession and ACS.

Dwyer led efforts to make her department and the University of San Diego a leader in undergraduate research and has done extensive work herself on the structure of DNA.

“This award is a tribute to the rise of her department’s academic profile, the success of its students, and her outstanding research,” said Noelle Norton, Dean of the USD College of Arts and Sciences.

Dwyer is one of 65 fellows, including scientists from the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who will be honored at the ACS ceremony in Washington, D.C. 

As chair of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department for 13 of the past 16 years, Dwyer’s “signature achievement,” Norton said, was spearheading the department’s successful application for a prestigious $500,000 Department Development Award from the Tucson-based Research Corporation for Science Advancement.

Matched with funds from USD, the award resulted in $1.1 million to build capacity and infrastructure in support of undergraduate research and allowed the department to institute a research requirement for each undergraduate student while maintaining excellence in teaching.

Being selected as an ACS fellow, “gives me confidence that I’m doing the right kinds of things in the classroom and in the lab with students and faculty and that it can have an impact,” said Dwyer. “I feel very fortunate, blessed and honored to receive the award.”

Dwyer has led a robust research program involving multi-dimensional, high-resolution nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to examine DNA structure and has published 30 papers in peer-reviewed journals, many with undergraduate student co-authors.

A first-generation college graduate from Poway, Dwyer has mentored many students who have gone on to obtain advanced degrees and work in the biotechnology industry. Several have become educators themselves. “It’s wonderful to continue to be involved in their lives and that they want to stay connected to me,” she said.

Brandon Orzolek, a biochemistry student, said Dwyer has been “nothing short of a boon” to his academic and personal success. With Dwyer’s assistance, Orzolek is interning this summer at Cell IDx, a San Diego biotechnology firm, and he plans to earn a PhD after he graduates in 2019. “Without a doubt, she has made a lasting impact on my academic career and future career as a biochemist,” he said.

Dwyer’s ACS award also recognizes the work she has done on behalf of the local chapter of the society, including serving as section chair for two years and education committee chair to promote K-12 science education for five years.

Dwyer earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and a master’s and PhD from UC San Diego. She taught at Cal State San Marcos University for two years before coming to USD in 1994.

Dwyer and her husband, Brian, live in Sabre Springs and have two adult children and three grandchildren.

About the University of San Diego

The University of San Diego sets the standard for an engaged, contemporary Catholic university where innovative Changemakers confront humanity’s urgent challenges. With more than 9,000 students from 69 countries and 50 states, USD is the youngest independent institution on the U.S. News & World Report list of top 100 universities in the United States. The university's eight academic divisions include the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, the School of Law, the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science, the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, and the Division of Professional and Continuing Education. USD's Envisioning 2024 strategic plan capitalizes on the university’s recent progress and aligns new strategic goals with current strengths to help shape a vision for the future as the university looks ahead to its 75th anniversary in the year 2024.