Past FoC Chair, Keith McDowell, Nominated for Pruitt Award

Past FOC Chair Dr. Keith McDowell Nominated
for the 2015 Malcolm E. Pruitt Award

Each year, the Council for Chemical Research (CCR) bestows on a single recipient its highest honor—the Pruitt Award. This award recognizes “an individual record of outstanding contributions to the progress of chemistry and chemical engineering research by promotion of mutually beneficial interactions among universities, government laboratories, and chemical industry.” ( Recognizing that the purpose of this award perfectly describes Dr. McDowell’s unparalleled career in chemical research and research administration, William L. Poteat Professor of Chemistry and Department Chair, Mark Welker, nominated Dr. McDowell for this year’s prestigious award.

Dr. McDowell, a WFU chemistry alum, pursued his Ph.D. in Chemical Physics at Harvard University, where he studied in the lab of Dr. Martin Karplus. McDowell began his independent research career at Clemson University. In 1983, Dr. McDowell left his tenured research position at Clemson to launch what would become an almost thirty year career in research administration. Dr. McDowell held numerous positions at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), University of Texas, Arlington, and at The University of Alabama. At each distinguished research institution, McDowell made his mark by championing collaborative research endeavors among academic institutions, government agencies, industry, and the community at large.

Dr. McDowell has ignited well-respected and long-standing research collaborations spanning technologies as diverse as the Human Genome Project, the LANL Low Earth Orbit Program, and UTA’s smart hospital designed to train nurses. In both Arlington, Texas and while at the University of Alabama, Dr. McDowell drove the formation of technology incubators that continue to provide critical funding and infrastructure for collaborative research programs. Indeed, the Alabama Innovation and Mentoring of Entrepreneurs center (AIME) has so successfully partnered with industry leaders, that the Licensing Executive Society awarded McDowell and his team its “2006 Deals of Distinction” award for a licensing deal between it and the world’s largest chemical manufacturer, BASF.

Dr. McDowell’s efforts extend way beyond the communities in which he lives and works. In 2005, he testified to the House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Science, State, Justice and Commerce and Related Sciences in support of enhanced funding for basic research and as part of the greater effort that led to the America Competes Act of 2007. McDowell and others were also instrumental in authoring a report entitled Report to the President, Transformation and Opportunity: The Future of the U.S. Research Enterprise.

Dr. McDowell knows that the source of future of research is replenished only by its students, and as a result, he has devoted much of his career to chemical education. In 2000, he was nominated by his students and won the prestigious UT Chancellor’s Council Award for Excellence in Teaching. In retirement, Dr. McDowell continues to teach at Johns Hopkins University. And recently, Dr. McDowell relinquished his position on the WFU Friends of Chemistry Steering Committee after steadfastly serving for 3 years (one year as Chair).

This year’s Pruitt Award recipient will be announced at the Annual CCR Meeting on May 8. From the entire FoC and the Department of Chemistry, we wish Dr. McDowell the best of luck.