Dr. David Forbes Wins National Alumni Outstanding Scholar Award

Posted on February 20, 2017 by Arts and Sciences
Arts and Sciences

Whether it’s researching synthetic organic chemistry, working in administration or motivating students to be active researchers, Dr. David Forbes outrivals most.

As a professor of chemistry and chair of the department at the University of South Alabama, he maintains a thriving undergraduate research program while serving as a mentor, researcher, administrator and being actively involved in chemistry.

Forbes enjoys the unexpected daily challenges that make his position unique. “Managing time as an independent researcher and addressing administrative responsibilities can often become difficult to balance,” Forbes said, “but I’m always up for a challenge.”

This challenge led Forbes to receive the University’s 2013 Olivia Rambo McGlothren Outstanding Scholar Award. The award, sponsored by the USA National Alumni Association, honors a full-time faculty member of at least five years for her or his excellence and high achievements in an academic discipline.

Between 1998 and 2012 he has published, presented and collaborated on one textbook with a second edition in the publication process, 40 manuscripts and over 140 presentations. His primary research interest is in the area of synthetic organic chemistry and focuses on developing new methods and the application of new synthetic methodologies.

Additionally, Forbes serves on the Executive Committee of the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation Beckman Scholars Program, which recognizes outstanding undergraduate research programs in chemistry and biological sciences. He has taught organic chemistry I and II, general chemistry I, freshman honors experience, senior honors chemistry and special topics covering medicinal chemistry.

Forbes graduated with a bachelor’s of science in chemistry in 1989 from the University of Florida and obtained a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1996. He participated in post-doctoral research at Trinity University in 1997 and at the University of Arizona in 1998.

Since the beginning of his career as an assistant professor at the University of South Alabama in 1998, Forbes has mentored over 50 students in the undergraduate research program, which focuses on the development and application of new synthetic methodologies. Forbes believes that watching a student transition into independent scientists and take ownership of their own projects is the most rewarding aspect of mentorship.

“Having the opportunity to get students involved and pursue the ideas of both my colleagues and myself in a way to see their efforts published and supported by external support is what I love about research,” he said.

Forbes’ students gain much more than knowledge in his class; they gain intellectual fuel for motivation through an engaged learning environment and encouragement to be successful and explore their goals beyond their academic experience. He also loves the truly enriched environment created by encouraging students to gain individualized hands-on experience in his class.

“I enjoy seeing everyone that is involved with research get credit for their hard work and by doing so, be amazingly competitive with their next career move.”

With such dedication to a professional and productive relationship with his students, Forbes has helped develop numerous students into scholars in their respective fields. For example, Derrick Lewis, a past mentee in 1999, was the first researcher under Forbes’ supervision to obtain data on the decarboxylative process. Lewis’ demonstration of the proof of principle was a breakthrough for the department and has received federal funds for over a decade.

In 2009, Joseph Kundukulam, under Forbes’ direction, received the Portz Award given by the National Collegiate Honors Council for his research on polymer-supported suflenylations. According to Kundukulam, “One thing that stood out about Dr. Forbes was his willingness to go the extra mile for all his students, whether it was extra office hours, entertaining lectures that made difficult concepts easier to understand or as a student advocate putting the best interests of the student foremost.”

As chair, Forbes shares the goal of boosting student involvement in research and therefore obtaining more research space for the entire department. His hope is to encourage local high-school teachers and their students to express an interest in the chemical sciences at the university during the summer months.

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