Rice reaches a teaching milestoneBy Steve Koppes
On Friday, June 11, Dongxu Li will become the 100th University Chemistry student to receive a Ph.D. under the supervision of Stuart Rice, the Frank P. Hixson Distinguished Service Professor in Chemistry and the College. The University graduated Rice’s first Ph.D. student in 1960. That was Robert Harris, now retired from the chemistry faculty at the University of California, Berkeley.
Rice’s career demonstrates the intimate connection between scientific research and the training of graduate students. He received the National Medal of Science in 1999, when he was cited “for changing the very nature of modern physical chemistry through his research, teaching and writing, using imaginative approaches to both experiment and theory that have inspired a new generation of scientists.”
Rice estimates that approximately half of his Ph.D. students have gone on to academic careers. One is a dean at the University of Minnesota. Others have taken faculty posts at Columbia University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins University, University of California Los Angeles, California Institute of Technology and elsewhere, both in the United States and abroad.
Most of the others took up posts in industrial or national research laboratories, including General Motors and Lawrence Livermore and Argonne national laboratories.
Some forged new paths for themselves. One now builds financial models and does economical analyses for Fannie Mae, the mortgage finance corporation. Another went to law school and became a prominent intellectual property lawyer, while others have started their own companies.
“People learn how to solve problems, and then they’re in great demand for all kinds of things,” Rice said.
The number of Ph.D. students who train in Rice’s laboratory continues to mount. Now age 72, Rice plans to continue conducting research and working with students for as long as he remains healthy. He currently works with six doctoral students.
“I’ve been very fortunate over the years to have a large number of outstanding students. That’s what’s made it possible,” he said.