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Three journals, plus consortium in the works

Daron Janzen, 2012–2015 Endowed Chair in the Sciences
Daron Janzen, 2012–2015 Endowed Chair in the Sciences
Photo by Rebecca Zenefski '10.

Daron Janzen, associate professor of chemistry, is newly appointed to the Endowed Chair in the Sciences at St. Catherine University. He has published in three peer-reviewed journals — Organometallics, Acta Crystallographica: Section E, and the Journal of Chemical Crystallography — since his tenure began in June 2012, and there are more manuscripts in development.

In addition to teaching, Janzen’s next three years will involve developing his research, engaging more St. Kate’s students in collaborative projects, hosting a series of interdisciplinary lectures, and getting an X-ray Crystallography Consortium off the ground.

St. Kate’s Endowed Chair in the Sciences was established in 1982 to support an outstanding faculty member and scholar in the natural, mathematical or social sciences.

Below is an excerpt of an interview with him:

Q: What does it mean to hold the 2012–2015 Endowed Chair in the Sciences?
I finally have time to finish projects, pursue some new directions and share my scholarship with the St. Kate’s community. It’s a great opportunity to develop some exciting programs related to science for our students and the general public. I’d like to bring in speakers — with a diverse array of scientific perspectives — to discuss how science intersects with various aspects of the University’s mission. For example, we could explore why there aren’t more women in the physical sciences and engineering.

As Endowed Chair, I also plan to establish a consortium of chemistry faculty researchers in Minnesota who can access the single crystal X-ray diffraction facility in Mendel Hall for undergraduate research projects. The time is ripe for this. The X-ray diffractometer is necessary for numerous areas of research in chemistry, but many colleges don’t have one. We received a National Science Foundation grant last summer to acquire this instrument. (Read more about this.) Thus far, the work of 15 undergraduate  students have involved use of this X-ray diffractometer.

Q: Will you still be teaching?
A: Yes, I have a full load of chemistry courses next semester. Plus, I will continue to advise students and work with them on undergraduate research opportunities.

Q: You recently published in three journals — and your work was also featured as cover art in one of them. What were these research projects?
A: The single-crystal X-ray study that appears in Acta Crystallographica: Section E (September 2012involves research with Dr. Matthew Whited, assistant professor of chemistry at Carleton College, and three of his students. The study in the Journal of Chemical Crystallography (September 2012) was funded by a 3M grant and is the result of a collaboration with my former Ph.D. advisor Dr. Kent Mann at the University of Minnesota and former student Kelsey Skodje ’09, who’s now a graduate student in chemistry at Brown University.

The research published in Organometallics (September 2012) took place over several years, and is a continuing collaboration with my post-doctoral advisor Dr. Gregory Grant at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. We were thrilled when the editors invited us to submit art for the cover.

Q: You collaborate a lot — with undergraduate students at St. Kate’s and faculty at other colleges. Why?
Research collaborations are invaluable. No one person has the magic sword or all the answers. It takes a group to bring scientific research to fruition. If you operate in a vacuum, you’re going to miss something. I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with people who are easy to work with and people who appreciate sharing resources.

Q: So, you’re on a roll with publications. What else can we expect?
A: My goal is to publish at least one more manuscript this year, and then one or two each year through 2015. Right now, I have a number of half-done projects, and I need to focus on disseminating the information. That’s not a fun part for me — once I discover the new and unexpected result, I’m ready to move on.

However, to do science is one thing; to tell other people about it makes it real. If you do experiments and never publish, it’s like you never did it. It’s important to share that work whether it’s earth shattering or not. This keeps others from repeating the same work and wasting resources, such as money and chemicals. I think the most important reason to disseminate your research involves the unintended benefits to the research of others. These sorts of unforeseen applications or extensions of your work cannot be underestimated.

Q: Are you affected by feedback about your work?
Sure, I’d like people to say that my research is good and my methods are sound, but I'd rather hear what people really think. Receiving peer review feedback in the process of trying to publish your work or giving a talk forces you to support your explanation or to realize there is a flaw in your research.

I’ve never done a study that’s really over. I would consider going back to do more research on everything I’ve published. But I’m getting better at putting limits on my projects, especially their depth and the time needed to complete a publishable story. I want to complete enough work on a project in a year or two, when possible, so my work with undergraduate co-authors can provide the maximum benefit for them as they apply to graduate or professional schools, or look for jobs.

Q: When and how did you become interested in chemistry?
I liked math and science in high school, but my interest in chemistry started when a chemistry teacher asked me to help develop some new experiments in class. It was my first experience with research, and I did that for a year. It wasn’t until my sophomore year in college that I knew I wanted to teach and do research.

Q: Will your children follow in your footsteps?
My eight-year-old son Will wants to be a particle physicist, and my two daughters are good at math and science. I think my 6-year-old daughter, Ivy, might become a biologist. She loves bugs and frogs, and is just not afraid to get her hands dirty.

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To learn more about Daron Janzen, visit his St. Kate’s faculty page.

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Video: Students conduct research with professors from St. Kate's

Oct. 24, 2012 by Pauline Oo

See also: Faculty, STEM, Students