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Press Release for Wednesday, April 2, 2014

UNF Chemistry Professor Awarded Endowed Presidential Professorship

Joanna Norris, Director
Department of Public Relations
(904) 620-2102

Dr. Kenneth Laali, a professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of North Florida, was selected as a recipient of the John A. Delaney Endowed Presidential Professorship, which recognizes a professor’s significant accomplishments as a researcher and provides the resources to carry out his or her scholarly agenda.

Laali, a Southside resident, has been awarded $7,500 for the professorship, which carries a full-term appointment of three years this fall semester. Financial support for this award was provided by Joan Wellhouse Newton and her sons, Martin E. Stein Jr., Richard W. Stein and Robert L. Stein.

“Ken is an accomplished scholar in UNF’s Department of Chemistry. An international expert in his field, I am confident that with this professorship, Ken’s planned contributions to the science of organic synthesis will bring further recognition to his colleagues and the University,” said Dr. Earl Traynham, UNF interim provost in Academic Affairs.

Laali came to UNF from Kent State University in 2009 as professor and founding chair of the Department of Chemistry. He is the fourth UNF faculty member to be selected for the endowed presidential professorship. Dr. David Courtwright, a history professor, was named the inaugural recipient in 2005, while biology professor Dr. Greg Ahearn was designated the second recipient in 2008. Dr. Andy Buchwalter, a philosophy professor, was the last recipient named in 2011.

UNF faculty members eligible for the presidential professorship appointment must hold tenure at the rank of full professor at the time of appointment, must have a strong record of significant scholarly accomplishment in the form of publications, grants, collaborations or any discipline-specific index of achievement and never held a presidential professorship at the University.

Laali has a prolific, internationally recognized, research program with more than 195 peer-reviewed publications, four books/monographs and more than 150 invited and contributed abstracts and presentations. His broad-based research program encompasses synthetic and structural/mechanistic organic chemistry and bridges to green chemistry, biological chemistry and materials chemistry focus areas. Over the years, he has trained a large number of undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and visiting scientists in his laboratory.

Since moving to UNF five years ago, he has taught organic chemistry lecture and laboratory, as well as upper-level electives that focus on structure and mechanism, problem solving and organic spectroscopy. He has also taught chemical research continuously, with eight UNF undergraduates receiving research training in his lab to date, working alongside postdoctoral fellows, visiting graduate students and visiting scientists. On several occasions, UNF undergraduates doing research in the Laali laboratory have become coauthors on peer-reviewed publications.

Over the years, Laali has received a number of federal and state grants, including three single investigator National Institutes of Health grants and several grants for major research instrumentation. He has won numerous awards and honors, including the 2013 Teaching Development Award from UNF, the 2012 Japan Society for Promotion of Science (JSPS) Fellowship and the ACS Fluorine Division Award for undergraduate research in organofluorine chemistry—three times.

He serves on the editorial board of international journals and is a regular reviewer for several high-impact research journals. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, a member of the American Chemical Society, the Organic Division of the ACS, the Fluorine Division of the ACS, the American Society for Mass Spectrometry and a JSPS fellow.

With a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Manchester in the UK, and after several postdoctoral stints in Europe (London, Strasbourg, Amsterdam and Zurich), Laali moved to the University of Southern California in 1982 to work with George Olah, the 1994 Chemistry Nobel Laureate, and in 1985, began his independent academic career at Kent State University in Ohio, where he went through the ranks and became a full professor in 1996. 

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