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UK Chemistry Announces Susan A. Odom Lecture, Endowment Fund

By Richard LeComte and Jenny Wells-Hosley

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 5, 2022) — This week, the University of Kentucky Department of Chemistry will host the inaugural Susan A. Odom Lecture, featuring Jodie Lutkenhaus, professor of chemical engineering at Texas A&M University.

Lutkenhaus’ talk, "Redox-active Macromolecular Radicals for Metal-Free, Degradable Batteries," will take place 4 p.m., Friday, April 8, in the William T. Young Library auditorium. 

The lecture series was created to commemorate the life and legacy of Professor Susan Odom, a faculty member in the UK Department of Chemistry from 2011 to 2021, and will feature speakers noted for outstanding research in Odom’s fields of synthetic and materials chemistry.

The lecture also marks the start of the Professor Susan A. Odom Chemistry Endowment Fund, which will support a faculty position in Odom’s name, the annual lecture and a named award for an undergraduate chemistry major conducting research.

Odom joined the UK faculty in 2011 and was promoted to associate professor in 2017. She quickly became a favorite among students, winning the “Teacher Who Made a Difference” award in 2012, 2013, 2016 and 2017.  She published more than three dozen articles, received five patents and filed 11 patent applications. She was also recognized with the American Chemical Society Women Chemists Rising Star Award in 2020. She died in 2021. 

“Susan was adept at pursuing new ideas, determining their value and putting the most useful aspects of the idea into practice,” said Department of Chemistry colleague David Atwood. “She really embodied all the best, most ideal attributes of a university professor.” 

Odom’s lab focused on the design, synthesis and characterization of conjugated organic materials for applications that access multiple states of oxidation. She was also committed to mentoring and supporting women in STEM fields, co-founding a group to encourage girls to pursue their academic goals and serving on the Kentucky ACE Women’s Network. 

The Professor Susan A. Odom Endowment Fund honors Odom's legacy of excellence at the university and will support UK Department of Chemistry students and faculty for generations to come. Learn more about the endowment here.

About Jodie Lutkenhaus and the Susan A. Odom Lecture

Lutkenhaus is holder of the Axalta Chair and Professor in the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering at Texas A&M University. Her current research areas include polyelectrolytes, redox-active polymers, energy storage and composites. She has received recognitions including World Economic Forum Young Scientist, Kavli Fellow, NSF CAREER, AFOSR Young Investigator and 3M Non-tenured Faculty Award. She is the past chair of the AICHE Materials Engineering & Sciences Division, the current deputy editor of “ACS Applied Polymer Materials” and a member of the U.S. National Academies Board of Chemical Sciences & Technology. 

Her talk this Friday will explore a promising future battery chemistry — one that contains materials that can be easily sourced with little environmental impact, and bears similar or better storage characteristics compared to lithium-ion batteries.

She will also highlight collaborative work on this topic that was done with Odom.

Learn more about Lutkenhaus and the event here.  

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.