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5 Things About Me: Physical Organic Chemist Donna Nelson

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AAAS member Donna Nelson is a physical organic chemist who also has a passion for muscle cars. (Photo: David McNeese)

Donna Nelson
Professor of Chemistry
University of Oklahoma
Norman, Oklahoma

Background: I am a physical organic chemist and professor of chemistry at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma.

Question 1: Share a story from your past that led to your choosing your field of work.
Answer: I came to love science at a very early age. I grew up exposed to rural, small town medicine from my father and grandfather who were MDs. I also loved the energy which comes from being around healthy, aspiring people, and doctors are always helping those who tend to be feeling their worst. So organic chemistry was my choice, because it is the chemistry of carbon, which is one of the basic building blocks of life.
 
Question 2: What are you most proud of in your work?
Answer: More than anything else in my work, I am most proud of my original research in physical organic chemistry. Over the last 25 years, I have solved problems in additions to alkenes and in analyzing single-walled carbon nanotubes by using NMR, which others had told me could not be done. I am just now finalizing this work.
 
Question 3: Tell us about a hobby or passion outside of work.
Answer: I grew up in the country, where muscle cars were very popular. My first car was a Mustang. Later, I drove a Z-28 Camero. Now, I drive a Dodge Viper.
 
Question 4: What fuels your passion for your work?
Answer: As a kid, I enjoyed solving math puzzles. I now enjoy solving difficult scientific problems, especially those that benefit society.
 
Question 5: If you had to go live on a desert island, what are the three things you would bring with you?
Answer:  Duct tape, WD-40, and a Swiss Army knife.
 
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AAAS member Donna Nelson is a physical organic chemist who also has a passion for muscle cars. (Photo: David McNeese)
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Summer Allen