Patricia Thiel, Chemistry, named Corbett Professor

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Patricia Thiel, Distinguished Professor in Liberal Arts and Sciences at Iowa State University, professor of chemistry and senior chemist with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory, has been named the next John D. Corbett Professor in Chemistry. This professorship has a three-year term.

The Corbett Professorship in Chemistry was established by John D. Corbett, Distinguished Professor in Liberal Arts and Sciences, professor of chemistry and senior chemist with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory. Corbett made plans through his estate to support three-year professorships for faculty members in the Department of Chemistry at $100,000 per year during each three-year term.

"This professorship is designed to reward outstanding faculty members," Corbett said. "As a former department chair, I’m very familiar with the troubles the Department of Chemistry has had in keeping faculty here at Iowa State. People who do well here get national recognition and are very attractive to other colleges and universities. I’m hopeful this will help in the reward and retention of those current and future faculty members.”

Thiel calls the professorship a “humbling honor.”

“It was established by the generosity of a truly great scientist,” she said, “and, as a recipient, I follow in the footsteps of two colleagues for whom I have the deepest respect.”

Previous holders of the Corbett Professorship include the late Victor Lin, professor of chemistry, and Mei Hong, professor of chemistry.

Thiel’s research group at Iowa State University investigates atomic-scale processes on metal surfaces, especially the way that atoms move and how this motion leads to nanoscale structure formation, or deconstruction.

Thiel said the professorship gives her the flexibility to pursue some avenues of research that aren’t necessarily attractive to funding agencies, but are intensely interesting to her. She plans to use the funds to support graduate students in her research group.

Jake Petrich, chair of the Department of Chemistry, said, "Pat is not only an outstanding scientist who is nationally and internationally recognized for her achievements, but she has also performed outstanding service for the department and the university and is an outstanding teacher. It is wonderful to be able to recognize her contributions and value to the ISU community with the Corbett Professorship.

“We are very thankful to John Corbett for making this professorship available,” Petrich added. “Its stature is measured not only by the monetary award, but also by the name it bears. John is without a doubt one of the most illustrious scientists that the Department of Chemistry has ever had, and there have been many.”

Thiel earned her Ph.D. in 1980 from the California Institute of Technology, where she was a National Science Foundation Predoctoral Fellow, an IBM Predoctoral Fellow and an American Vacuum Society Scholar. She joined the faculty at Iowa State in 1983.

The Corbett Professorship medallion ceremony will take place on Friday, March 4, 2 – 3 p.m. in the Hach Hall atrium.

News Release College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Iowa State University

Contacts: Patricia Thiel, Department of Chemistry, (515) 294-8985 ( Laura Engelson, Liberal Arts and Sciences Communications, (515) 294-7742 (