Chemistry News

Chemistry Department Wins ACS Section AwardsChemistry Department Wins ACS Section Awards

Two Florida Tech faculty and one Florida Tech student have been recognized for their accomplishments by the Orlando Section of the American Chemical Society (ACS). The Orlando Section of the ACS represents 7 counties in central Florida and member institutions including Florida Tech, the University of Central Florida, Stetson University, Eastern Florida State University, and Rollins College.

Mr. Franklin Thornburgh has been named the 2017 Orlando Section ACS Outstanding Four-Year College Student. Mr. Thornburgh is a senior at Florida Tech with an impressive academic and research record. His research involves utilizing computational methods to predict biological activities of small molecules (i.e., computer aided drug design, CADD). He has also shown leadership in the laboratory by mentoring 6 high school students from Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy in the 2017 Summer Guided Research Program at Florida Tech, as well as volunteering as a Teaching Assistant in Florida Tech’s Physical Chemistry teaching labs. This award will stand beside others that Mr. Thornburgh has garnered including a Florida Tech Presidential Scholarship and the Florida Tech Analytical Student of the Year award. Previous to Florida Tech, Mr. Thornburgh attended Eastern Florida State College where he won the e-Learning Academic Award for Mathematics and an Outstanding Community Service Award for peer-tutoring.

Dr. Yi Liao has been named the 2017 Orlando Section ACS Outstanding Chemist. Previously at the University of Central Florida (2006-2013) and now at Florida Tech (2013 – present), Dr. Liao has developed an internationally recognized research program. He has co-authored 55 peer reviewed articles and 2 patents, obtained $1.63M in research funding, and has been invited to speak at the prestigious Gordon Research Conferences. Dr. Liao’s work has resulted in several discoveries and developments in the fields of photocatalyzed/light initiated chemical reactions and light-switchable conducting/insulating materials. His work has been cited numerous times as other researchers utilize the photochemicals developed by Dr. Liao, and he was invited to write an overview of his work in Accounts of Chemical Research (DOI: 10.1021/acs.accounts.7b00190), one of the highest impact journals in the field of chemistry and is reserved for researchers who are pioneers in their fields. Dr. Liao’s research students have consistently gone on to lead successful careers in industry. Read more about his research at

Dr. Joel Olson has been named the 2017 Orlando Section Outstanding Four-Year College Teacher. In his 15th year at Florida Tech, Dr. Olson is regarded to be among the top educators at the university. In the classroom, he developed a series of classroom demonstration kits that allow Florida Tech chemistry faculty to show interesting chemical phenomena to their students, rebuilt the Analytical Chemistry laboratory course from the ground up to include updated and relevant techniques, developed new laboratory experiments for an NSF-funded freshman nanotechnology laboratory (published in the Journal of Chemical Education, DOI: 10.1021/ed800089y), and participated in the development of Florida Tech’s Nanotechnology minor program. In addition to his normal duties, Dr. Olson has also taught high school chemistry classes as a volunteer, given presentations to local high school chemistry and physics classes on the topic of nanotechnology, mentored several high school student science fair projects (with one of them taking second place at the state-level), and mentored high school students in research via Florida Tech’s Guided Summer Research Program. He has also mentored numerous undergraduate students in research activities, including co-authorship on several research publications. In addition, Dr. Olson’s courses are sought after by Florida Tech’s students for their excellence, energy, and excitement for the chemical sciences, which is why he was also awarded the Excellence in Teaching Award from Florida Tech’s Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society. Read more about Dr. Olson's research and teaching at

Please join us in congratulating these outstanding Panther Chemists who embody the pursuit of excellence in the chemical sciences.

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