Patricia Thiel named Corbett Professor

Carmen Leng

Patricia Thiel, distinguished professor of chemistry and senior chemist with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory, was honored as the new John D. Corbett Professor in Chemistry for the next three years.

“When the chairman of the department, Jake Petrich, came to my office blocking my door, the first thing I thought was, ‘Oh no, what’s going on?’ Then he smiled and said he just wanted to congratulate the next Corbett Professor,” Thiel said.

The Corbett Professorship in Chemistry was created by John D. Corbett, distinguished professor of chemistry and senior chemist with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory. Through his estate, Corbett allowed for funding of three-year professorships for faculty members chosen in the department of chemistry at $100,000 a year.

“I thought it would be important and beneficial for the department, and it is an opportunity to reward outstanding faculty members,” Corbett said.

The Corbett Professorship has been around for five years, and Thiel is the third faculty member to be named the Corbett Professor.

“I am very happy with the people who have been chosen, and the fact that they were chosen was no surprise,” Corbett said.

The first professor to be named Corbett Professor was Mei Hong, followed by Victor Lin.

“[The professorship is] meant to recognize excellence in research and to enable a person to pursue new areas,” Thiel said. “The award provides a little extra freedom that the department wouldn’t normally have.”

Every Corbett Professor decides on their own what they want to do with the money they have received. Thiel is still determining what to do with the money and is weighing two possibilities.

The first option would be to buy a certain piece of equipment the department hasn’t been able to buy that would allow for different kinds of experiments.

The second would be to allow for more collaboration between other groups that have advanced equipment, allowing students to do internships at other locations.

Regardless of what Thiel decides, she will make sure her graduate students will be included, because to her, it is all about the students and their progress.

“I really love teaching, and having more time and energy to spend on that after receiving this honor will be nice,” Thiel said.