Research citations keep growing for chemistry’s Mark Gordon

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Mark Gordon, highly-cited chemist and big-time Yankees fan. Jim Heemstra photo

Mark Gordon will never confuse quantity for quality.

However, the prolific, award-winning Iowa State University chemist – whose research has been published more than 550 times during his long career – has been cited thousands of times by other scientists. That’s quantity and quality.

The focus for Gordon, who holds the Francis M. Craig Chair in chemistry and is a Distinguished Professor in Liberal Arts and Sciences, is on conducting top-quality research, not lengthening his academic vita.

Gordon, who also directs the Applied Mathematics and Computational Sciences division at the Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory, said the citation rate is really a reflection of the scientific work by his research team.

“It is certainly nice that people cite our work. It means that our group has had an impact. Being cited, in some way, is a measure of that impact.”

William Jenks, professor and chair of chemistry at Iowa State, said Gordon’s citation rate is an accomplishment.

“Faculty with large citation rates, such as Mark’s, help raise the national visibility of the department," Jenks said. "This helps recruit other excellent faculty and gets the best graduate students to come to our department.”

Chemistry is an academic department in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Gordon, an ISU faculty member since 1992, is a theoretical chemist. He and his research group have led the development of software applications that allow chemists around the world to compute a variety of molecular properties. In 2009 he was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for "outstanding achievement in the development of new computational models for research and education in the chemical, materials and biological sciences."

Because of his groundbreaking work, journal publishers regularly inform Gordon that his scientific papers have been listed as one of their "most cited" or "most downloaded."

“I’ve had a few papers that have had thousands of citations," he added. "And a paper published in 2012 with the Journal of Physics was the most downloaded paper in that journal [during a period of time], and the top-cited in the first and second quarters of 2013.”

Some other examples:

• A Gordon paper written with ISU postdoctoral associate Spencer Pruitt and two Danish colleagues was one of the 10 most downloaded papers for May 2013 in the Journal of Chemical Theory Computation.

• An article authored with postdoctoral researcher Sarom Leang and assistant scientist Federico Zahariev was one of the most cited papers in The Journal of Chemical Physics in 2012.

• Gordon is listed in the top 20 percent on the latest "H-index" that was published in Chemistry World. The index is a measure of research impact by chemists based on productivity and research citations.

Iowa State does not keep citation rates of its faculty, but Jenks believes Gordon is among the most-cited researchers on campus.

In 1968, with a new Ph.D. from Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Gordon first came to Iowa State as a postdoctoral researcher. Then it was off to North Dakota State for 21 years until he returned to ISU and replaced the retired Klaus Ruedenberg on the chemistry faculty. Gordon soon built a large and successful research group at Iowa State that resulted in "a lot of great research by a lot of great people."

He stressed the importance of the published research, but reiterated that quality far outweighs the quantity.

“I get annoyed when people correlate the number of papers one has written with their amount of research or career experience,” Gordon said. "It’s the quality and long-term impact that are important.”

But for Gordon, writing papers goes hand-in-hand with research. “Since I was in high school, I loved to write. If I wasn’t doing science, I’d be writing.” -30-

About Liberal Arts and Sciences The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is a world-class learning and research community. Iowa State’s most academically diverse college, LAS educates students to become global citizens, providing rigorous academic programs in the sciences, humanities and social sciences within a supportive personalized learning environment. College faculty design new materials, unravel biological structures, care for the environment, and explore social and behavioral issues. From fundamental research to technology transfer and artistic expression, the college supports people in Iowa and around the world.

NEWS RELEASE College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Iowa State University Contacts: Mark Gordon, Chemistry, (515) 294-0452, Katherine Marcheski, Liberal Arts and Sciences Communications, Steve Jones, Liberal Arts and Sciences Communications, (515) 294-0461,