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Donna J. Nelson

Donna J. Nelson

Donna J. Nelson


Research Areas: Organic
Office: SLSRC 3130

B.S., 1974, University of Oklahoma 
Ph.D., 1980, University of Texas, Austin
Postdoc, 1980-1983, Purdue University, Lafayette, Indiana
Visiting Professor, 2003, 2010, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Hon. Sc.D., 2021, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland

Research Keywords: 
organic chemistry education research, science policy, public perception of science 

Dr. Donna Nelson researches the influences of attitude and personality upon learning and performance in the classroom. Students’ beliefs about their ability to improve their intelligence (known as mindset) have more impact on their academic outcomes in challenging learning environments, such as organic chemistry courses. Because little work has been done on the influence of mindset or personality upon performance in these courses, Dr. Nelson’s research determines the impacts of these characteristics by using the corresponding surveys. By comparing pre-course versus post-course survey scores, the impact of course content can be discerned and compared across courses.

Dr. Nelson engages the chemistry community and serves professional societies and organizations, collectively described as work ensuring America's Scientific Readiness. In these activities, she focuses on science education and impacting science by considering its communities. This includes (1) classroom innovations and correcting organic chemistry textbook inaccuracies, (2) increasing ethnic and gender diversity (the Nelson Diversity Surveys) among highly ranked science departments of research universities, and (3) improving the image and presentation of science and scientists to the public. Her impact on the image of science and scientists includes being science advisor to the award-winning AMC television show Breaking Bad and 2016 President of the American Chemical Society, the largest scientific society in the world. More details on her activities, photos taken during them, and her awards won and honors received are available at

Awards & Honors

Royal Society of Chemistry Fellow, 2019
American Chemical Society President, 2016
Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame, 2013
American Chemical Society Fellow, 2010
Fulbright Fellow, 2007
Guggenheim Fellow, 2003